Part Two: On Learning to Be

Part Two: On Learning to Be

Surely he must be 7 feet tall. His hairy arms are the size of tree trunks, his shoulders are as broad as barn doors and he carries the brute strength of a grizzly.

His reputation runs community-wide. I think everyone knows.

My grandfather has always been a giant among men. When I was a child, he would saunter down the field, duck through our doorway and call my name.

When my little feet scurried over to meet him, his baseball mit hands would swoop under my armpits, lift me up, tuck my face into his neck and proceed to provide the most soul-filled straight to the heart hug known to the world. My grandfather is a hugger. Friends and relatives travel near and far in the hopes of very nearly passing out to smell of love and Old Spice. His full body squeeze makes the world disappear for a brief moment, mostly due to lack of oxygen.

I’ve spent many a Saturday in my Dad’s boat, ebbing and flowing. He’s not a sailor. His boat was docked in the space between where his body was laying down and the back of the couch. Dad’s boat ebbed and flowed with his deep heavy breaths. The sounds of the ocean were his snores in my ears, blocking the sound of the TV. I would get trapped under his heavy muscled arm with the round scar from his childhood vaccination. I thought that scar made him tough, I always wished I had one too. I would lay down in his boat and try to match the rhythm of my breathing to his hoping my Mom would notice and whisper to herself how much we were alike. Eventually I would drift off to sea beside him. My Dad is a hugger. Sometimes his grandkids will get in the boat, when he can convince them the tide is coming in.

Yes, I grew up not wanting for affection. It was only an arms’ reach away and available with every lonesome sounding sigh.

As an adult, I have now developed a certain reputation.

Perhaps it was formed in my teen years when everything was particularly embarrassing, especially any type of healthy affection. Or maybe it came from my boss hugging me one time. In my awkwardness, I somehow accidentally inhaled her hair. Not knowing how to rescue myself from this situation or having any type of finesse, I just let her hair be in my mouth until the hug was over. She must have walked away wondering why in the hell her hair was wet. Perhaps it was a combination of awkward encounters such as this and others that I’ve surely repressed but I can tell you this: I am not a hugger.

My reputation runs community-wide. I think everyone knows.

I wasn’t really that aware of my reputation until I had my first child and complained to my friend that my baby was a squirmy-non-snuggling thing. My friend laughed at my misfortune and told her mother to which her mother replied, “Well would you expect any different, it is Jodi that’s her mother.” This was a good indication that my non-hugging status was formalized along with relentless complaints from my koala bear of a boyfriend that I’m cold as ice.

Lately, what would seem like a non-issue in everyday living has become a concern thanks to a certain crowd I’ve been hanging around. While I can tell you that I’m not a hugger, I can also tell you this: Yogis are huggers. They hug you for showing up, they hug you for leaving, they hug you for drinking water, breathing deeply, telling them a story, clearing your nasal passages, smiling at them, wiping the sweat from your brow and standing, sitting or laying in one spot. And they hug you for a long time. And don’t let go until they connect their energy with yours. And this makes the world go round.

It’s not that I don’t want to hug you. I really and truly do. I want to put my arm around your shoulders and squeeze you into my armpit. I want to take your gorgeous cheeks and squish them into a fish face. I want to stand you upright, straighten your shoulders, display you like a prize on the Price is Right and in a Parisian accent say, “Superrrr cool”.

But for now, I’m still learning to be. Learning to be exactly who I am rather than who I think you think I should be. So for now, I will gladly accept your hugs because they make me feel good about myself. And when I see you, I’ll let out a sigh and tell how happy I am to see you. A hug with words until I can muster the courage to wrap you up and put a bow on you.


Like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and subsribe to follow the series On Learning to Be.

This Day & Yesterday… 5 Years On

Dear Daughter,

This Day keeps inching closer in a flurry of time I refuse to accept. Much has changed since I first decided to tell you about this day and much has stayed the same. The silver in my hair has already started to shine through.

I wanted for you a sister.

You sitting on your sister under a laundry basket


I got one. I know physiologically that I had no say in this matter, but am convinced I willed two daughters into our lives. She is your opposite and also the other half of your whole. Cherish her, fight with her, challenge and love her. You never know when you will really need her.




Your father is still why I know so much happiness.

Painting with Light Photography

Your Papa told us before we got married that the love we had would change as we changed as people, as we went through things together, as we built a life. I didn’t believe I would ever feel any different kind of love for your father than the excited, delighted, and new love I felt for him then. Your Papa was right (notice how I didn’t say I was wrong). We are now eight years in and this past summer I felt like I fell in love with him all over again. This time it is a comfortable, knowing, and understanding love. We have both changed, because you never stop growing up. Your father sees my ability to fly and every day finds a way to fluff my wings and encourage me to do so. May you find someone to fluff your wings darling.

You challenge me.
You are a wordsmith. Your grasp of language at the age of six, keeps me on my toes. You have a dry wit that makes me laugh daily. We will debate and argue, I welcome your challenge of changing my perspective. I only hope it doesn’t keep you away from me.

I gained weight…
And I am ashamed. I am ashamed of a body that grew two humans. I am ashamed of a body that sits more than eight hours a day and wakes the next to carry two sleepy girls down the stairs to their breakfast. Ashamed of the body that you snuggle into and find comfort in, of the body my mother grew. There are many emotions I should attach to this incredible body of mine; shame is most certainly not one of them.

2009/2017 –  (Yorke Photography)

My job does not define me.
You will spend a copious amount of your teenaged years and those that follow deciding what you want to be when you grow up. Here is a little secret, you will never know. People get hung up on titles, they need to categorize, it’s natural and ok, and it is not who you are. Your job is a side bar, a foot note on what will ultimately be the sum of your life on this planet. If you forget this, life will remind you, this secretary guarantees it.



My hair is still the best style choice I ever made.
It lets me see the wrinkles, sun spots, and beauty of my ever increasing years.

I am chasing my dreams. 


I don’t know where they are going, but I have finally decided to hold my head up high and run after them with all the energy I have. Now, I have a running partner, my sister (see what I meant about never knowing). I have faith in them now and have put work into them, instead of just wishing it would happen. I am excited to know if I caught them by the time This Day arrives.



This Day and Yesterday

Dear Daughter,

Today is the day you become aware of my secret identity. This day is years, if not decades, away. And while you will have known the facts for most of your life, you will still be taken by surprise when this day arrives. It’s an especially difficult day for a daughter.

The day when she realizes that her mother is just another woman, much like herself.

The first day you see your mother without her “mom cape” is like catching her naked. It’s awkward, uncomfortable and makes her incredibly vulnerable. By the time this day arrives for you my sweet girl, my hair will be faded and your grandfather’s heavy brow will sit upon my black eyes. I will be different from the person who is writing you this letter; time will give me no choice in the matter. Should you ever wonder who this person was, I wanted to leave you something of her. Perhaps it will help you to better understand the person you know when this day arrives.

I am happy.

I was once told as a teenager that it is impossible to be happy every minute of every day, and while this is indeed true, I am still trying to prove it wrong. I struggle to accept that I am deserving of the happiness I have. I fear that it may escape me and I will not know how to find it again. Strange yes, but I am working on simply embracing it.

Your father is why I know so much happiness.

His presence in my life still surprises me. He will teach you, dear daughter, to seek out the beauty of simplicity. If you learn his lesson, your heart and mind will remain open. For much of your life he will tell you that it is I who takes care of him. What you will witness is the many ways he takes care of me. How his small gestures have helped me become a stronger, more confident woman.

Yorke Photography


Cutting my hair was the single most brilliant style choice I ever made for myself.

At thirty one I struggle with my self-image on a daily basis. My lack of faith in myself has been my greatest weakness. It has kept me from chasing my dreams and giving myself credit when it has been earned. I often stare at the mirror looking for the person I know in my daydreams. I have two major goals to accomplish in raising you. The first is to teach you to walk with your head held high. It is much easier to chase your dreams if you can see where they are going. The second is that you know a beautiful body is a healthy one and that perfection is only possible through imperfection.

I am an emotional wreck about going back to work.

It’s hard, I have loved my job for the last year and believed that I was good at it, but you are a social little creature. You like to see and talk to other people. I am not worried about you but I am worried that I am making a mistake nonetheless. And I will make mistakes as I go along. I will not know they were mistakes until you tell me about them.

You and Me in NB under the trees

I want you to have a sister.

I am biased in this manner because I adore mine. I gave her a hard time when we were little, but your auntie, my little sister,  is now someone I look up to and admire. She is the person you ask a question to when you don’t want to ask me, especially if it’s about me.  She knows all, mostly because she lived it with me, and she will not sugar coat me. I miss her daily.

Being away from home is hard.

I miss the people, the way of those people, the trees and the quiet of them. It makes me sad to know that my home’s landscape will not shape you the way it did me. New Brunswick is the nation’s wall flower and wall flowers are beautiful. I hope you will love it too and also understand that love kept me from it.



I think you are the most gorgeous creature that ever was.

I will always think this and be proud of it. It is my right. You have surprised me in so many ways already. The biggest being that I got to have a daughter (we were convinced you were a boy). You are a bright and confident little girl. You love to tell stories and make others laugh.

I am excited about the years to come and the adventures we will have. I am loving getting to know you as Mum. I look forward to the day I meet you as Vanessa.



I don’t remember how we got to the hill. Did we walk, did we drive? I don’t remember if she wore snow pants or a toque. Did grown ups do that in the eighties? I don’t remember if her black hair was permed or straight, in fact I can not recall what her face looked like at all. I know she was really young, still in her twenties, but only because I have done the math.

I do remember the wooden toboggan that curled at the top and the rope she put around her waist to pull us. I do remember how only she could get our mittens tucked in just right, so the snow wouldn’t creep up our arms. I do remember her tan and red Cougar boots.

The perfect sliding hill in Turtle Creek was found at the end of the Cole road. From the top I could see my grandfather’s back yard and the hill tops on the other side of the Petitcodiac River. There were trees on that side that silhouetted the shape of a horse against the horizon.


Courtesy Y. Wilhelm

The horizontal slats on the toboggan were spaced apart precisely to fit two small bundled bums and a grown up one. Whoever sat in the front tucked their feet under the curve and was responsible for holding the rope. You couldn’t let the rope slip underneath or it would slow you down.

She always sat at the back. I do remember her boots wrapped around our legs, the red felt tongue sticking out at me, promising to keep me from flying over the top. She pushed us down by digging her hands into the snow, getting us to the tipping point where gravity took over and we rushed to the bottom, trying to avoid the ditch. I don’t remember anyone else on the hill to push us down.

When the snow was fresh; you know that light falling snow that looks like a Creator finely grated diamonds for us to play in; it would blast into our faces. At the bottom she took off her mitten and her warm fingers wiped away the cold sting. I do remember how her hand felt on my cheek.

I don’t remember when I stopped needing those boots to keep me safe. Or when I was big enough to pull my sled on my own, meeting up with cousins and friends for exciting adventures. I do remember feeling brave without her.

20180109_101835And I do remember the day I walked through Winners and saw those boots again. I bought them hoping that my girls too might find comfort in having them wrapped around their legs; hoping they will remember the red felt tongue sticking out at them, my warm fingers on their cheeks and that I taught them to keep the rope tucked up.

I bought them because I do remember that I still need her.

I bought them because, sometimes, I don’t remember I am brave.


“As Long As We Have We”

We stood on the side walk, feet slipping in our boots for the Sobeys bags that wrapped our feet in an extra layer of warmth and warded off any potential leaks. “Girls, stamp your feet,” she told us. “You won’t be so cold if you move around.” We were impatient standing in the cold dark waiting for the parade to start. “Girls, stay back,” she warned through her teeth as the transports with their brilliant lights passed by. The cadet bands paused in front of us waiting for the procession to keep moving. “Ok girls, let’s go,” she commanded as we rushed to the car to beat the traffic. She has always referred to us this way, “girls”, irrevocably inseparable in her mind. While we are two individuals, we are merely two halves of a whole.10368381_10156396809085790_138307728434610021_n

At home the plywood Santa my father cut out and my mother painted was spotlighted climbing our chimney. Inside the Santa and Mrs. Claus ornament with a sprig of mistletoe hung at the top of the entry way door frame. The living room ceiling had paper streamers twisted in celebratory perfection from each corner to the centre where a paper fold out ornament hung. Most years, our Christmas trees were adventures in our backyard, our choices often disappointing once the snow had melted off of them.


16870_370405785789_5631306_nChristmas Eve was snuggling into bed with my sister. Even when our belief faded, we listened to the hurried footsteps in the living room trying to perfect everything. My sister would wake up in the middle of the night, shake me, put her face in mine, and sing until I agreed to “sneak” out to get our stockings. At three in the morning we’d unwrap them, eat the chocolate, fall into a sugar coma and wake again at five am when my mother’s excitement got to her and we’d hear her put on the kettle.


Christmas was never over the top for us. It couldn’t be. Our parents would have given us everything our little hearts desired had it been possible. My mother is prepared to buy my kids anything they remotely show interest in if I allow her. She still has the same pained look on her face that I remember as a child when I wanted something and she knew she couldn’t buy it. A look that believes they are missing out on something. What she doesn’t know is that in the grand scheme of it all, there are only two Christmas presents that I distinctly remember receiving as a child, that’s it.397642_10151081931260790_1439705125_n

The rest is memories of my grandfather’s overheated house on Christmas Eve and our blended families. Six am trips to my grandmother’s house on Christmas morning to watch her open gifts she had already guessed the content of. It is the over consumption of shortbread cookies with a dollop of frosting and quartered maraschino cherries on top, and sweet Christmas lights  that adorned trees and houses and lit up the dark December days. It is whispering and giggling with my sister, the magic our imaginations made.

It was never a lot and my God, it was oh so much.

Dessie’s Place

East of Eden, John Steinbeck

I’m still working through Oprah’s original book club list from 1996. Oprah is a second mother to two generations of North Americans, the gen Xers and the people who won’t admit they’re Millenials. It brings me such joy to see that O sticker on a novel at the library. Saves me from thinking too much. I’ve just successfully made my way through East of Eden, Oprah’s 49th selection. Out of the solid 40 hours I dedicated to this book, the most insightful and precise sentiment that pulled at me was the look inside Dessie’s place.

“It was a sanctuary where women could be themselves- smelly, wanton, mystic, conceited, truthful, and interested. The whalebone corsets came off at Dessie’s, the sacred corsets that molded and warped woman- flesh into goddess-flesh. At Dessie’s they were women who went to the toilet and overate and scratched and farted. And from this freedom came laughter, roars of laughter.”

I have been known to hoarse out what is called the ‘bark laugh’. A laugh so unexpected that my throat can’t quite take whatever hilarious thing was just said and it barks out a sound that can only be matched by your worst winter cough. The bark laugh has only been known to exit when I’m in a place like Dessie’s.

When I’m surrounded by women who have strict come as you are, leggings-only rules in their homes. Where you’re praised for skipping a shower that day. Where you share in the glory of finally being free to rub your eyes and mush your mascara onto your cheeks. Where you compare leg hair growth and length of times between shavings. The one who has gone the longest reigns supreme. Where you can ask if your weird body part is weird and be told that yes, in fact, it is. So you can accept it and stop obsessing. Where you can consult on that thing your body has been doing lately and be advised to either A) seek medical attention or B) carry on as usual because that thing is relatively normal, I think.

Where you can confess all those deep down secrets that bring you shame and knot up your stomach. The things that pop up in your memory every now and again that make your neck shrink into your shoulders. Like that thing you did that made you eat a 2 litre of ice cream straight from the tub. After you’ve had enough of torturing yourself with your own humiliation, you finally summon the courage to share it. And that 2 litres-worth-of-ice-cream-shame brings shrieks of laughter from open mouths that melts your shame away and turns it into a good story.

My parents raised me to have unwavering confidence. My friends raise me to have unconditional humility.  Without so many words, the conclusions reached from these women about whatever it is your self-consciousness is worried about is that you shouldn’t take yourself quite so seriously. They dose out spoonfuls of sugar with the medicine life sometimes prescribes but they also make you gurgle warm water and salt. The bitter taste that you needed to snap you back into place. It’ll do you good, dry out your wounds.

Yes, this is about the extent of what goes down at Dessie’s Place. Freedom that brings laughter, roars of laughter.


– Jodi

My House is Not a Store Front (or 5 Things Christmas is Really About)

I wanted a marshmallow world. As a kid I watched the American movies that always featured some variation of the white colonial and its black shutters. It was decorated to perfection. The stores were magical and had everything a kid could possibly want. When I grew up, I was convinced that I too could create this wonder and magic. I have fallen short every year.

My DIY’s either fail miserably (bucket o’ tree trimmings on my front porch – because as a kid who grew up in the country, I refuse to give Loblaws $50 for the same thing) or take more time than I am willing to dedicate (stringing popcorn takes fooorever). I am always disappointed, annoyed and angry that everything is not just so or as I imagined it to be possible.

And then this year, I finally realized that my house is not a store front, I do not live on a movie set, and my self- imposed expectations were never the point. For anyone wondering, I am ok with the fact that it took me almost twenty years of adulthood to reach this ever so obvious conclusion. Listed below are the five things that, for me, are where the wonder and magic actually live:


Each year our small community held a Christmas Bazaar in the hall at the back of the church parking lot. Most of the wares for sale were handmade items and reasonably priced for a nine-year-old. One year my sister and I managed to get our hands on a few coins, keeping in mind coins never went misplaced in our house so this in and of itself was already magical. We chose to buy some ornaments for our Mom. One was a little worm made of googly eyes and small blue pom-poms. Each year that little worm sat on a branch of our tree. Pulling out the variety of ornaments from musty boxes was my favourite part. Most, if not all of them, had a story. That worm is a gift we continue talk about. It was carefully thought out by children, fit within their budget and was insanely special despite its weirdness.

Glittery Décor that makes a kid say “ooh!”

We never seasonally decorated our home. My mother’s aunts would have guffawed themselves silly if they saw some of the content that exists on mommy and décor blogs. “God already does a fairly decent job, and I have enough to do” they’d have stated incredulously. So Christmas was big. Damp, torn and worn boxes were pulled out from under the basement stairs. Paper ornaments were taped, tacked and secured to the ceilings and walls. My mom painted the picture window in the living room, backwards, so it looked correct from the outside. MOM PAINTED THE WINDOW! This was special.

100-year-old beds

Jodi and Vanessa sharing a bed and living to tell the tale

My daughter sleeps in a bed that belonged to her great-grandfather. It is painted a brilliant, bright yellow and is heavy as all hell. Most nights she shares this bed with her sister so they each have someone to snuggle in the middle of the night. Each Christmas Eve my sister and I would share one of our twin beds. We’d laugh and giggle, sleep in spurts and spats, and try to listen for Santa. When we got too big, we still slept in the same room. I was twenty-seven and newly engaged the last time I did this. They are the memories of Christmas I treasure the most and miss with a physical heart ache each year. This is where the magic of Christmas truly exists. Our girls are creating this for themselves in a hundred-year-old bed.

An Overheated House and Fancy Perfume

Christmas Eve was spent in my grandfather’s over heated house with a very large blended family. Boyfriends were ushered in and out to pass an unspoken test. It was not for the faint of heart. Every year there was grace before anyone could even think about putting a mash potato to their lips or on the cheek of the person sitting across the table. The grace, delivered by my grandfather, always centered on gratitude.

The next morning my mother, sister and I would rush to my grandmother’s house at six am. Every damn year she received a gift box set of perfume from my step-grandfather. My grandmother was allergic to perfume. We rushed so we could watch her open said box of perfume. Her annoyance made us gleeful. She would then make a terrible cup of tea, we would eat shortbread, talk and laugh, help her get things ready for dinner later that day and our Mom would enjoy her newly acquired perfume.

Boney M and Kenny & Dolly

Dolly_KennyI overheard a conversation between my daughters the other night and they reminded me of why we mark this day on our calendar. In my fretting, list making frenzy, I had buried this information under the glitter. We are being asked to celebrate love and kindness. Our planet was once populated by a man full of love who delivered some pretty important messages for humanity. He delivered faith. When Boney M sings of Mary’s Boy Child, sing it out loud, clap, be joyful. When Dolly and Kenny sing about Santa, they are singing about faith in kindness.

Celebrate, clap, be joyful.


Part One: On Learning to Be

I’ve recently discovered that the unfortunate precursor to self-actualization is self-exploration. What a chore. You have to do “the work” before you get “there”, they say (insert eye roll emoji). So in my very new age quest for self-actualization, I’ve been getting to know myself (insert my Dad’s eye roll emoji). Here, I present Part One in the series On Learning to Be.

In my day job, I’m very interested in predicting personalities and finding tools that will allow me to understand how people work, interact and handle everyday situations. I’ve recently done some of these personality indicators for myself and as it turns out the damn things are eerily accurate. Keep reading


I grew up in a matriarchy. The women of my world doled out both punishment and reward. They were strong, brave and, in my eyes confident. They knew all and they were always right. They did it all, they organized life. If you got in the way, you were shuffled away with a swipe of their butt. Their female voices a constant nattering buzz around my head.

They baked cookies, squares, jellyrolls and bread; the cornerstone of any social gathering. I know how to kneed bread from watching my grandmother throw the entirety of her thin, frail frame into the heels of her hands. So many conversations happened over the ingredients of these baked goods. Yet, none of them taught me how to make biscuits.


Biscuits are finicky things to make. Keep reading