Searching for home

The time is coming fast for us to move on again, and while I am busy questioning my own wisdom in suggesting this whole endeavour, the boxes continue to be filled and we approach the time to drive away. So, why? What is it that we are looking for, anyhow?

I have moved a lot. But don’t imagine for a second I come from a nomadic family. Heck no. My parents have lived in the same house for more than 40 years. My father moved from his family farm to a house from which he can see his family farm. So close that my grandparents called if one of us didn’t get on the bus in the morning. They would watch out the window, and if the bus didn’t pick up two kids at the end of our driveway they got on the horn to see who was sick. My mother moved from her family home to a house one community over. My parents’ cottage getaway on the river is one kilometre away from their house. And my brother moved out of the family home straight into his marital house, a 20 minute drive away. We are a family of stayers.


That is where we stay.

But. Since graduating from high school and gaining on adulthood, I have moved 20 times. I have packed and unpacked and hauled 20 times. This move will be 21. I have lived in five provinces, in dorms, rented rooms, cookie cutter apartments, houses and townhouses.

When I headed to the wild west after university and college, I went for a job and ended up married to a west boy. We joke about how it would’ve been much less complicated if he had married a nice Cariboo girl who knew what to do with game meat, and I had found a nice Island boy who could shell lobsters, but we both know that was never meant to be. So what did I do? I dragged him back east of course, to a 250 year old house on a tiny island off the coast of Cape Breton Island. The wind howled so hard that first winter, it felt like we were protected by windows with no glass.

When Dan and I had our first daughter, we felt the nesting urge and I felt the call of home shouting me back. So we found home in a century farmhouse back on Prince Edward Island, my dream house. And that was home. We embraced it and all its quirks, painted and gardened and made jam and had wine parties and book clubs and chatted with the neighbours and raised our daughters within reach of lots of family. I honestly thought my wandering days were past, and life was mapped out on that grid of Island roads all leading to the ocean. My kids would grow up as I did, barefoot on the beach.

What a shock to realise life is never predictable. Circumstances are not static, and after 8 years we had to leave. Landed on the prairies and spent the last three years trying to let go of my dream of settling forever in that farmhouse. And let me tell you, it’s hard.


I have worked and worked on my idea of “home,” telling myself it is wherever my partner and my daughters are with me. It does not matter where we live, as long as we are together, living this amazing, privileged life we have been given. Don’t get me wrong, I still hear the siren call of the ocean hard and long in my head, and I always will. (See previous post Oceans apart) I get sad, and I miss the security of having that longterm circle of friends and family around us, that easy comfort and support.

The prairies have been good to us, and we have found places here that we love and to which we hope to return. Our girls have grown and flourished, and we’ve done work that has changed our outlook, and feels meaningful. But we’re still searching.

Next stop, the Koots. Or the Kootenays, to non-Koots-igans. Not sure that is really a word, I just make things up sometimes. So, I am about to put my own self-imposed hippy granola touch-feely organic fair trade free range ideas to the true test by living in a place that can possibly out-hippy-granola the real hippies. Sorry, is that a generalisation? Anyhow, the Kootenays are known for their free-spirited outdoorsy individualist nature, not to mention their ACTUAL nature, like the lakes and mountains and Columbia River. And bears and cougars. Apparently folks bike a LOT. And hike and back-country ski and rock-climb. And all who know me know how into that stuff I am. Meaning NOT AT ALL but I aspire to be.

So, will I find my own pack there? I really, really hope so. Will we find home there? Yes, as long as our family is together. Leaving the absolutely unbelievable horizons of Saskatchewan behind will not be easy, but as we see it in our rear-view mirror we will slowly feel the anticipation build for our first view of the mountain valley we will next call “home.” I have reframed the whole scenario as a wonderful learning opportunity. Our girls will have seen more of our vast country than I had seen in the first 20 years of my life, and we will embrace the changes in the only way we know how. As a team, where home is where we are.



Oceans apart



When I close my eyes and listen hard, I can hear the ocean.

It has been three years since I last lived by the sea, but it’s kind of my earth. Rather than being grounded, I prefer to float. I guess being born and raised on an Island where we could run to the salt water in ten minutes makes it inevitable I would have salt water in my veins. It makes me laugh now that when I was away at university in Fredericton I fretted about being so terribly landlocked. It was two hours away from the coast. Now, I am not sure if we could actually get any further away from an ocean. Pacific Ocean, about 1700 km away. My sea, the Atlantic, more like 4000 km away.

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Levitating beach kid photo by Dan Wall

The prairie has its charm, and second to the ocean I like the roll of the open land best, mostly because the horizon is always visible. When we are driving out on the prairie I squint my eyes just so and pretend the grain fields are the ocean. It really works. Large Summer-Beach-Quote-10lakes also do the trick for a quick fix. Lake Diefenbaker is a huge manmade lake with something like 250 km of coastline surrounded by sand dunes so I also go there and squint it into a pretend ocean. The sun glinting off the lake gives me some satisfaction even though it smells wrong and there aren’t enough seagulls or shells or rotting kelp. But if I focus hard, I can conjure the smell of the sea in my head.

When I meditate, I hear the waves and the wind in the pines behind the dunes. In the dentist chair, the happy place I go to is always the same. The hot sand whispering through my fingers, the sun on closed eyelids, the sound of the waves crashing on the shore and the gulls crying overhead. But it is the smell I miss most, that incomparable tang of sweet salty air rolling in from the sea and filling my lungs with a sense of all that is right and comforting and wild and dangerous and timeless all at once. It has a power, an irresistible pull on all of us who grow up beside it and watch the tides go in and out.

If I am away from it too long, I start to wilt like a plant deprived of rain. It is weird, I know, and lots of coastal people live inland and barely bat an eyelash but frankly I never was much like everyone else. The Pacific will do nicely as well for recharging my sea legs, although it smells different and there is a weird absence of lobsters. It does give me joy even without the lobsters. But still, the lobster would add to the joy quite substantially. And no, I have no problem dropping them live into boiling water. Such is the destiny of a lobster.


Definitely no swimming allowed. Which we all ignore.

It  makes me happy that our children are part selkie as well, and as both were born near the sea they are also destined to have salt water in their veins. Like me, they are happy to dive into the depths, knowing that they will pop back up like corks to the surface. Some people sink like stones, some people float. It’s quite a good analogy for humans. But somehow I think that if everyone spent some time by the sea, they would realize they too can float. Humans may not have the wings to fly but next best is to lie on your back in the ocean, ears under water listening only to the peace of the depths, face up to the sun and the blinding blue sky, letting the waves carry you into shore. Watch out for the undertow. Make sure the tide is coming in. And just float.


*All photos by Daniel Wall. He’s not from the coast but he takes darn good pictures of it.


Space. The final frontier.

Space really is the final frontier for me in some ways. Not outer space but the space in which we live. These tiny house people make me feel strangely envious, as I imagine how simple their lives must be with so little stuff, such easy cleaning, such um, extreme coziness. Of course that “small footprint living” only works when you have no children, and when it is early enough in your partnership that you still crave being really closely together every minute.

Anyhow, it has been certainly a small-er house scenario for us. We went from having 2400 square feet with 12 rooms to 1000 square feet and six rooms. What I have learned from that exercise is we all have a whole lot of stuff we really don’t need, and getting rid of it is a constant battle, to the point where “decluttering” is an industry. Pretty sure decluttering was not an issue for our grandparents. We just love stuff, buying new stuff to replace the old and finding places to put it all.

This is not an option for us anymore. We got rid of an absolutely astonishing amount of goods before we moved across the country, and frankly there is none of it that I miss. It is kind of freeing to have less space, because sometimes we literally have no place to put something, so we just don’t buy it. It does make decisions easier.

Living in a big century house made me into a voracious reader of house porn like Canadian House & Home or Country Living magazines. I have dumped that habit, replaced by a love of online pages like Apartment Therapy . Great articles on stylish and mindful small-space living, organisation, DIY and useful stuff like toy rotation systems. (!!) The other plus of course is that I read it online and it takes up no shelf space.

IMG_9116Speaking of shelf space, books are one thing we can hardly cut back on, but we do try. Book space is a priority for us, but we have become choosier about what we buy and what we actually keep. A charity book sale I organise twice a year keeps us under control as I make sure we shift out a couple of boxes to donate each time around.

I am just as much of a thrifter as ever, but what I buy has changed. Last year I scooped a grandfather clock for $10, only to get it home and realise I bought it for our old house. It did not fit in at all with our all-white condo. Plus it had a truly hideous jerry-rigged red clock face. To make the best of it, I ripped out the clock and now the whole thing is a tower bookshelf. Score! Now I just need to paint it white.

As much as we buy, we must get rid of, so it means we have stuff constantly moving in and out. If things don’t “fit” with our lifestyle now, out they go. Oddly enough a painting of antique wooden potato mashers fits much better in a big country kitchen than in a modern condo-sized one. Here it just looks weird.

Sometimes when we visit friends, I look around and observe their stuff compared to ours. I can’t help it, everybody does it so don’t pretend you wouldn’t. It is kind of fascinating. Some friends have a big house but are quite minimalist, with actual empty space in their home. I’ll call it “room to breathe.” Others have so much stuff, every gadget, game, toy, movie, appliance and recreational aid I can possibly imagine. I look at it and I feel a little envious, sure, but I also feel better about what we own. I feel like if I had all that extra baggage, it would stress me out. Sure, maybe our kids would love all that stuff. But they also really love what they have. We have ENOUGH.

Such a big word, enough.

Sure, I would take an RV. A second bathroom is definitely in our future but I will never go back to having three to clean. I won’t say no to a dishwasher. (two years and counting without that) An unlimited book budget would be lovely, but we kind of have that already with the library. A wee bit more room and we could squeeze in another cat and maybe even a dog. (Husband screams “Noooooooooo!”) But honestly, we have enough.

It is enough for us.

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Do you feel buried in stuff? How do you know when you have enough?

Not another annoying list

RIMG0583It has been ages since I have written here, and if you ask me why I don’t even think I have an answer. It has been a long three years, to be honest. And ironically it is also three years since I let my mind wander here. It is three years since I left my island (metaphorically and literally) and landed in this landlocked wind-swept prairie place. If I really wanted to bore everyone I would make a grand list of crap I have learned in these years. But let us not go there.

I started this blog in 2011, when blogging was still a Big Thang and I was an avid follower of some really good ones. I had a 6 year old and a 4 year old and needed a creative outlet where I could spill my guts and sometimes even interact with other adults in a virtual-reality-kinda-way. I wanted to be funny and crafty and crunchy-granola-mama like the other bloggers I read who eventually went on to get book deals and make a living just by living and blogging about it.

When I look back at my posts I realize my whole blog persona was tied up in raising kids in a big old draughty beautiful farmhouse with a big messy garden and amazing neighbours and an ocean five minutes away. I grew vegetables and made jam and upcycled stuff into cool but probably under-appreciated gifts partly because subconsciously I knew we couldn’t afford to buy gifts due to the absolutely stunning amounts of money it took to keep a big draughty farmhouse heated in winter. Still, it was sweet how naive I was. And occasionally a bit twee as well.

Once we got replanted on the prairies, I did try to keep blogging but it hurt to change so much. Living in a housing co-op doesn’t inspire the same way, and I made a stab at a few posts in my ill-fated attempt to monetise the blog at  but my heart was never in it and I deserted my post pretty quickly there. So what is different?

It’s a new year. And once again I need an outlet. I am inspired by a blogger whose house-reno site I loved, who now just writes for the sake of writing and it is great gut-spilling real stuff. You can check her out at

So, my original purpose here was “Life, Family, Books.”

Well, all that and a bag of chips is ongoing. Life is very different from when I started. My girls are growing up fast, so fast I blinked and one is almost as tall as me and has bigger feet. We could share shoes but she says my clogs are not worth borrowing. Books are the constant in my life, always have been and always will be. I am still reading British fluff non-stop but I am thrilled to have gotten one of The Bloggess Jenny Lawson’s books for Christmas. Now THERE is a blog overflowing with brutal honesty and lotsa swear words well-said. While my vocabulary certainly has diversified in the past couple of years (thanks, co-workers) I cannot match Jenny’s level of foul-tongued hilarity that hurts.

Anyhow. Just to demonstrate my complete lack of focus, this post was supposed to be about what I learned in 2015. So there you go. I’m back, and my mind does wander as much as it ever did.


What is it about school?

Heading off into the world…

There was one moment when I just wanted to grab her hand and pull her back to me.

Unfortunately, that would be quite embarrassing to have the entire busload of kids laughing at the mom who couldn’t let go, so I backed off and moved back up the driveway so she could get on without a desperate mother clinging to her little hand.

What is it about school? Friends have told me and told me, “Oh, once they start school time just starts to fly, and they just move further and further away from you all the time.”

Good God, there is something really sad about that, until you realize in many ways they are just moving further and further away from you from the moment they are born, from the minute they eat their first solid food, the second they take their first steps. Is that sad or is that joyous? I feel a bit of both. It is the ultimate in bittersweet, really. I rejoice in every first in my babies’ lives, and yet I feel a twinge of sadness. Last week I finally hauled all of the baby gear and sweet wee clothes out of every closet and from beneath every bed and got rid of all of it. Other babies are using it all now. This was due in no small part to the fact my youngest child was about to start kindergarten and is clearly far from being a baby anymore. But it still hurt.

It is a letting go like nothing else I have experienced in my life. I am no longer a parent to babies, or toddlers, or even pre-schoolers. I am out of that club. I can offer wise words as someone who has been there, but a new parent would probably think to themselves, “Oh, she is not HERE where I am, so she does not KNOW.”

So here I am with two schoolgirls. I am the lunch maker, the form-signer, the one who tries every afternoon, like a dentist trying to pull teeth, to extract some meagre nugget of information from our children about their day at school. After years of spending most hours of the day with her, it is hard, really hard, to be relegated to this seemingly secondary role. Yikes, could I be taking it personally? Yes, other than sleep time, a teacher now spends more hours a day with my child than I do. Who knew that could be so tough to swallow? Even when the teacher is wonderful and caring, it still burns.

When our kindergartener comes home from school, she is exhausted and exuberant and bursting with all the new experiences. I try to see it all through her eyes, all the glittering freshness of being out in the world on your own for the first time. Every thing we take for granted, it’s pretty darn thrilling to her, bus rides, lunch kits, recess, a whole class full of other children who she just knows will be her best friends.

I smile and I enjoy the moments when she bursts out with some little story about her day. I look into her eyes and I see the baby that she was just a short while ago, the way she used to look at me when she was tiny and her parents were the centre of the universe. And I see that we are still her centre. Her universe just keeps getting bigger and bigger.


 When I was a kid, I was not popular. I might have been a bit odd, eccentric perhaps and maybe annoyingly brainy. You know those kids. Anyhow, I struggled. I had a wonderful friend who stayed next door with her grandparents for the summer, and we spent every day together, blissfully running restaurants, hotels and doll daycares, or just running wild in the woods and fields. I also had a best friend who was a grade ahead of me, so while we spent many nights having sleepovers and playing with her far-more-exciting Barbie gear, we didn’t get to play together at school.

As I got a bit older and arrived at high school, it was a glorious realization for me that there were other kids who were just a little off the grid of sunshiney perky high school student council cheerleader athlete types. (not that there is anything wrong with those types, I just would never be mistaken for one.) The smartest thing I ever did was join the band, where I found a loyal troupe of people that stuck together in the face of all that high school perkiness.

Still, I would never be the popular kid and there were times even as an adult that I was a bit at a loss in how to make friends. So imagine my surprise at this point in my life when I find myself with many friends, people who I can turn to, talk to, drink cold wine with, who care enough about us to check in regularly, who offer to watch our daughters, who feed us.

There are so many levels of friendship. There are those who have been with us since childhood, who we have watched grow up and turn into the amazing adults they are today. There are others who went through the awkward years of high school with me, or the slightly drunken days of university. They know our whole histories.

When we first became parents, we turned inward, our world shrinking to the size of our own house and that tiny person who had come to rule it. When I suffered from postpartum depression, I withdrew to the point where I could not reach out to anyone for help. It was a lonely time, one that today prompts me to ask new mothers who I barely know if they are doing alright, if they are getting out of the house enough.

 Now I have a group of friends who have been with me during the past six years of growing children. We all had young children, we all needed to get out for a glass of wine and some adult conversation. In some ways I feel like I grew up with these women. I grew into the parent I am today, and I counted on them to make me feel that whatever I was going through or what odd phase my children were dragging us into was just normal. When I was suffering from another bout of depression, I would drag myself out to our book club meetings and actually find myself laughing for the first time in weeks.

 I have learned that to make friends, you have to open yourself up to it, be prepared to make the first move, and to reach out to people when you need help. Too often women are fooled into thinking that everyone around them is doing a better job of parenting than they are. We get intimidated by images of perfect moms who make organic baby food and never yell at their offspring. But if you look more closely, you might see a look in her eye that is just a little bit wild, a little bit unhinged by lack of sleep or depression or just the puke-stained stress of parenting young children. Those are the ones you want to invite for coffee or the always-neutral ground of book club, because they might be just the ones who need a friend the most.

View from the back door



Who Has Seen the Wind?

By Christina Rossetti

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

There is something about the wind in a wheat field…it is irresistible, fluid deliciousness. So happy to say the field out back is in wheat this year, rather than dependable, utilitarian but not very pretty potatoes.