Vivid

Nights used to comfort me, but something shifted a few weeks ago and now every evening as the sun sets I find myself gearing up to do battle.

It is somehow easier to be busy and occupied. But after Olive goes to sleep the stillness descends and my mind starts turning over and over, this perpetual motion machine that simply keeps churning away even as I lie there, willing to give almost anything to be blissfully unconscious.

The days knit me together and the nights pull me apart.

Everything looks different in the dark, shadows form and things become magnified and distorted. I am finding it painful. I don’t feel like saying more than that. I know vague blogging is generally frowned upon, but I also feel in my bones that there has to be some measure of grace in this whole thing. There must be some willingness to offer space and support without requiring a bloody sacrifice in exchange. So I am trying to parse out what is helpful to say, and what is not.

So far, all I have got is that it feels as though it would be helpful for me to say that right now I am struggling to accept something very painful. I want to acknowledge that because to not do so feels duplicitous, but also I think I need to simply admit it. Why is it so hard to admit that things aren’t easy? That pain happens and life disappoints, we experience unimaginable loss and we struggle? We all do, at some point or another, but a large chunk of our lives seems wrapped up in slavishly constructing elaborate artifices to prove to everyone that we are fine.

I’m fine!

Perhaps because we so desperately want to be. Or maybe because we don’t feel that things should be this hard at times, or we believe that they are not this hard for others (because of all the artifice and “I’m fine!”-ing, you see), so we sit alone in silence, we shoulder the blame and lie there, stomach clenched and thoughts churning, night after night.

It’s not always easy, it’s just not. And would you want it to be? This place I am in feels desperately uncomfortable, but it also feels like stretching and breaking and reaching. It is not a fun process, or one I would have chosen, but I am trying not to run from it because as prayer-hands as it sounds, I think I can learn a lot more if I choose to feel everything and go through it, rather than around it.

I am reading a book written by Pema Chodron that speaks to this directly, how our hunger for stability and safety does so much harm to us, because nothing is ever safe or stable.  You think something will bring you happiness, but it might not. You feel like something will break you, but it might be a beginning instead.  We expect things to unfold in an orderly manner in the way we planned, but being a mother the first time around I quickly realized that you can not plan life. It is easy to trick ourselves into thinking we can, and are, with schedules and investments and five year goals, but we have no idea. We have no idea.

The tighter we hold on, the more painful it is when we do experience loss or upheaval. And man, was I white-knuckling this thing.

I feel like life is cyclical and perpetual and it comes in waves. I had some rough years in High School, and then a chunk of many many happy, easy, exciting years, and now I feel that I am coming out of the tail end of a few challenging ones.

Quotes  have come to mean a lot to me right now. You know, all the old favourites:

The darkest hour is just before the dawn.

The world breaks everyone, but afterward many are stronger in the broken places.                                                                                                     (Hemingway. Of course, right?)

All that is gold does not glitter/ Not all those who wander are lost. (Tolkein)

Sleep helps you win at life (Amy Poehler)

At this rate I am probably three days away from sticking motivational post-it notes on my bathroom mirror. I always said I would never be that person and now suddenly I woke up and I might be that person! Because I might need to be. And I finally understand why those people were those people and now that I may be one of them too it finally makes sense.

Unlike this post. Which I am writing to postpone going to bed. Ha.

I am going to take Amy Poehler’s advice (one should always take advice from Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, and Caitlin Moran), take one of these magical sleeping pills I have procured (because it is okay to ask for help sometimes), and hopefully start sleeping again and therefore winning at life (and winning doesn’t always mean doing battle, sometimes [like right now] it simply means surrender).

Namaste, y’all. Namaste.

The agony and the ecstacy

IMG_2270.JPGEarly (verrry early. Like, 4:30 am early good lord) Olive and escaped the winter wonderland of Edmonton and took a plane to come bask in some balmy BC weather. We are staying with my mom in Victoria for a bit, and then taking a trip to see Adam’s family. Thank god for spontaneity and seat sales, right?

Olive is currently in Nana heaven, having been gifted with a tutu and a new (to her) pair of shoes. She refused to take either off all day yesterday, so it appears that the solution to having her remain in a fully-clothed state is to funnel clothes through my mother in some sort of elaborate scheme akin to money-laundering. But with socks and pants instead of dolla dolla bills y’all.

I think that possibly the best accessory in the world to a tutu is a little pot-belly, and I really think that ballerinas everywhere should really consider it. I mean really.

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Also occupying top spot on her love-list right now is my mom’s cat, Oliver. She hugs him, pats him, kisses him and smooshes her face next to his and repeats “We the same!” (I…have no idea? Is it their names? The mutual love of all food and snuggling? The unifying factor here eludes me for the moment, but I am going with it.)

He is being remarkably patient with her, for an elderly cat, even yesterday when she had him by the neck, gently but firmly pushing him to the floor whilst muttering excitedly “I make him lie down!”

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This is the face she makes virtually every single time she is near him. I actually want this face tattooed on my face. This is the face of sheer, unbridled, violent glee.

So far we are quite enjoying being able to feel out extremities when outdoors – what a novelty! Today we are taking O to a museum, and on the weekend we plan to hit up the circuit of gingerbread houses, tree displays and the lighted truck parade, of course. Maybe even a visit to the big guy himself.

Posting might be light for a while during all of this Christmas chaos. I hope you and yours are gearing up for a fabulous holiday, whatever you choose to celebrate.

Surprise!

The lovely owner of The Sugar House Shop (creator of the advent calendar I am currently sequin-ing my way through) contacted me and asked me to pass on a code for 20% off anything in her shop – just enter SWEETMADELEINE at the checkout :)

My internet ramblings are now now saving you money! You’re welcome.

And thanks, Jennifer!

‘Tis the season

Hello, world. It’s been a bit strange lately.

Radio silence is never a good thing though, so let’s get back into the swing of things, shall we?

First of all I have been balls deep in sequins lately. The reason is CHRISTMAS! of course.

I am not a particularly crafty person. I enjoy painting the odd piece of old furniture, or a wall here and there, and I can crochet a bit, too, but that’s where the talents end. But I am so excited for Christmas this year because it is the first year that Olive kind of understand what is going on. We have been getting books about Santa from the library, decorating our house inside and out, and I have been going a bit nuts coming up with a list of things I want to do with her to help make this Christmas a special one.

So far it includes such aspirational projects like baking cookies (using cookie cutters no less), making a gingerbread house, finding an alternative to a Santa Claus parade to go see because apparently they don’t have one here because it’s too cold (Seriously. Where the hell have we moved to when it’s even too cold for Santa?) and the favourite – going sledding as a family and then coming in for hot cocoa with rosy cheeks and wet ankles.  

Oh, and this.

That is an advent calendar. That I am making. Well, making with the ever-so generous help of my little sister who, to her credit, didn’t even bat an eyelash when I sent the pattern to her two weeks before December and was all, “So…hey there! You probably have TONS of free time right now (doesn’t everyone?) so how’s about we make something beautiful?”

She is tackling the base and I have been staying up until 2am painstakingly stitching tiny beads and sequins onto equally tiny ornaments and I have to tell you, it is already worth it when I imagine Olive’s excitement upon waking up each morning and getting to hang another one.

That is what I have been reminding myself when I jab myself in the thumb with a minuscule (yet painfully sharp) needle for the eighteenth time, anyway.

I love that child more than anything, and I’m so excited to be able to give this holiday to her. She will be so excited to wake up in the morning and run to our tree to see what Santa left, and her eyes will go wide when she sees he has eaten the cookies we left out for him. And then the stocking! I mean really, how can you resist?

Adam and I aren’t travelling for Christmas this year as we normally do. We were trying to make travel plans and find time off work for him and plan how to make the best use of three plane tickets and a handful of days off and what to do with Gus and it just seemed to be really chaotic and expensive and stressful. It’s our first year in our little house, and Adam really wanted to celebrate here. Thankfully our families were understanding and have forgiven us (I think?) so this will be a far smaller celebration this year, and I think it might feel a bit strange too. My mom will be here so Olive won’t miss out on too much familial devotion, but I am really looking forward to this mini-Christmas, and to creating new traditions for our family.

(Can “Madeleine stays in bed until 10 am while Adam cooks breakfast, cleans up, and then wakes me with a kiss and a cappuccino” be one such tradition? Think of the special memories!)

I know that the holiday season can often be challenging. Especially if you are in crisis, or have recently experienced a loss. Right now I understand that more than you can imagine. But I think it is also a chance to pare everything down and focus on what is important. Seek out those you love, bring joy to them however you can, and fill your photo album with happy faces to look back on for years to come.

Wow, sorry, I got a bit sappy there! Balls! Swears! It’s the exhaustion talking, I promise ;)

I painted another thing!

Our room this time.

I have never done a dark paint colour. Grey is as far as I’ve ventured. I am now kicking myself for that because a navy bedroom is the best thing I have ever done with my life ever.

Enough jibber jabber, lets get to the goods. Please insert the requisite poor-photograph quality apology here.

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Here is the before before. When we bought our house. Fancy wallpaper and wall to wall carpets and custom drapery and everything.

Then we trashed the place.

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We took up the carpet and tore down the wallpaper to reveal a lovely lavender paint job in some places – and huge swathes of chipped paint in others. Hm. We lived with this sexy flophouse look for a few months. Then I got the hankerin’ for navy. I don’t know from where, but I now consider it divine inspiration.

AFTER! AAAAAFTERRRRRR

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I mean COME ON. It’s so delicious!

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The one drawback of a darker wall  colour is that it is much less forgiving to paint with. Any uneven lines or smudges immediately pop out, as do the uneven wall textures that seem to be so common in old houses. It’s hard to notice in person, but imperfections seem to pop in photos unfortunately.

Also: lets discuss the window trim. I didn’t paint it, and don’t particularly want to. Adam is pro-window-trim-painting (easy when you’re not the one actually doing said painting, hmm?) and although I know that it would probably look better white I just….can’t? I don’t know. Help. Is it bad to have mullet-trim like this? Is mullet-trim a word? Tuxedo trim? It defies explanation.

When I posted a shot on Instagram, a few people messaged asking if it made the room feel darker or smaller. Smaller, no. It feels more expansive I think because the colour is so deep. It does feel dark, but not dim, if that makes sense. The colour doesn’t suck all of the light out of the room, the window is so big that it still feels super bright, but also really cozy and rich. And fancy? Is that weird? I feel fancy in there now. Everything looks crisp and suddenly makes sense.

Our room felt a bit hodge-podgy before, but it now looks a lot more cohesive. Like we planned it!

I rescued that sunburst mirror thing from under the porch of a house my sister was renting in Victoria a few years ago. Adam hates it, so naturally I have hung it over the bed in each of our last three houses. One of my other sisters is concerned it will fall off the wall in the night and impale someone. Yet recently I painted it gold, and, concerns about nocturnal impaling aside, doesn’t it look like it was just meant to be there? The mirror above my dresser was my mom’s and I’ve never been able to find a space for it before this house. Even the old white and gold dresser left behind by the original owners looks like it belongs in here, and I had been thinking of it as a sort of “make-do” piece until we could find something better secondhand. It might be a keeper, now.

Oh, navy. Is there anything you can’t do?

Anyway, I’ll shut up- it’s just paint Madeleine!

(The colour is Hale Navy by Benjamin Moore, matched in Behr. And if you are thinking about a navy room or a navy hall or a navy accent wall, DO IT, I say. DOOOO IT)