Monday, 25 March 2013

Time Flies

March is disappearing before my eyes, and I can hardly believe that the day that F meets my new boyfriend is right around the corner. Sometimes I feel as if it was yesterday that I walked through the doors of my Public Relations class at Eastern College. Other days, it seems like it was only yesterday that I held F for the first time. Time is slipping by so quickly I feel as if I'm constantly playing catch-up

Neither one of them are babies now.
The hardest part of being away from F over the last few months was the uncertainty surrounding when I will see him again. Nova Scotia winters can be treacherous and unpredictable (much like myself, actually), and the drive is long. I haven't seen him in almost 3 weeks, and it's absolutely killing me. It's with the support of amazing friends, the beauty of technology and a lot of mind-busying tactics that I've survived thus far and I'm sure I'll rely on them in the future, too.

When I was a girl, my parents often lamented that time goes faster as you get older and I think they were on to something. The days have turned into months and into years so fast that memories blur together - or are we just too busy to slow it all down?

I'll never pretend to be an expert on anything, really. I'm not the world's best mom, friend, daughter or anything else but I know how much it hurts to miss moments you can't get back. I've spent the better part of the last three years wishing I could turn back time and spare that extra moment to give my Papa a hug and tell him that I loved him before I left his hospital room that night. I wish I could go back and say the "thank-you" and the "I'm sorry" to so many people that should have been said in that moment. Now it's too late.

I'm guilty of sitting at my computer or looking at my phone when F wants me for something. I'm guilty of letting precious moments escape me, allowing time to fly by taking memories along with it. I'm guilty of half-assing storytime, distractedly building a puzzle with him and pretending to listen to his story while I do something else that is way less important than what my little boy is telling me about what has just transpired between his stuffed animals and the train set.

Time isn't going to slow down. Life isn't going to wait, but we can.

We can make the choice to unplug. Slow down. Relax.

Over the past two weeks, I would have given my left arm to have a few minutes of blissfully uninterrupted time with F and I've realized that I too often let those moments slip out of my grasp. He's never going to be 3 again. He's growing up so fast I can't keep up with him, and the moments I've let pass me by are never coming back.

When I go home this weekend, I'm going to unplug and slow it all down. I'll turn my phone off. I'll leave my laptop in my bag. I'll read every book F wants to read, complete with funny voices. I'll take pictures of him. I'll kiss his fingers, his belly, his toes and his little ears as I help him dry off from his bath and get dressed. I'll have crazy dance parties in the living room, build a fort under the blankets in bed and I'll even sing the Barney song with him. I'll take him outside when he wants to go out and play. I'll roll around in the snow.

And I'll make a pile of memories to make up for some of the ones I've missed out on.

Sunday, 24 March 2013


Having a boyfriend is different than it used to be.

Once upon a time, having a boyfriend meant that I would have to go through the (sometimes) awkward process of introducing him to my family and meeting his. It meant mingling with his friends, while I slowly eased him into being around the wing nuts I call my girls. Now, though, there's a real twist to the whole thing.

I have a tiny, absolutely precious, little toddler heart to look out for.

I'm really lucky in that Red and I have known eachother since the beginning of time. In fact, I don't ever remember not knowing him - it's a different, kind of weird dynamic but I like it. In addition to knowing him forever, we've also always known eachothers families. He's sat in the gear shed at the wharf with my Dad drinking beer after a day of fishing.  I'm not sure if it makes it easier or harder to start a relationship with someone when you know each other's families so well (especially since our Dads are pals) but I do know that this relationship has come easier than probably any that I've ever had in my life.

But I still have to "officially" introduce him to F, and there's just no amount of mental preparation to get me ready for that one. Even though Red has seen F around the wharf and around the community, F will have no idea who he's meeting and they've never spent any time together. It's not really something I ever anticipated doing, introducing my child to a boyfriend, but it's a week away. I'm see-sawing between the excitement of seeing F with Red and dreading it, because F is a handful at the best of times.

I knew dating was going to be a horse of a different colour these days, and I feel pretty damn blessed to have found someone who totally accepts me for who I am and how my life looks, all messy and half upside down sometimes.

I wrote in the past that a Mom doesn't introduce her kid to a guy she's dating unless she really likes him, but the truth is that I won't let F meet someone who I'm not genuinely serious about. I've kind of surprised myself in being serious about someone, but it's a great surprise. 

And I have a sneaking suspicion F is going to love him. I know I do.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013


I am indecisive.

All of the proof to support that statement can be found at 7:00am in my closet, as I stand in my underwear ripping clothes off hangers and walking back and forth between my wardrobe and the mirror. Occassionally, I pick out my clothes the night before - laid out neatly on a chair. Even more rare than that kind of organization is that I feel like wearing that particular outfit come morning. Some mornings are a two or three outfits kind of event, while others are a closet-destroying fiasco. I'm just not very good at making decisions - whether pairing pants and shoes or narrowing down a meal for myself.

I guess that's why I'm so surprised at how easily I came to decide that I would come back to school. I knew it would be a hard year. I knew I would be tired, that I'd be sick of the travel and I knew - without a doubt - that I'd miss F more than I could comprehend.

So far, I'm three for three: I am exhausted, I hate traveling back to Cape Breton and the thought of waking up without F brings a tear to my eye. Being away from him has resulted in a dull pain in my chest that just never goes away. I both look forward to and dread weekends, knowing I'll enjoy my time with him but that leaving (or watching him leave) will break my Mommy heart again.

There have been many moments when I've found myself wondering what the Hell I'd been thinking when I signed up for this year, but as time goes on I'm finding myself feeling more and more at peace with my decision. Even though I'm missing moments I'll never get back, I know I'm setting up the stage for many great memories in our future.

I guess some decisions are easier to make than others.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Be Happy

I used to believe strongly in the notion of being lucky or unlucky, and I felt that I fell into the lot of "unlucky" in the world. Whenever bad things would happen, I would sum it up to having bad luck and on the occassions that things seemed to be going well, I'd wait anxiously for the bad news to hit me. Kind of like when my stuff went missing or the time I found my car had been backed into.

The truth is that I'm neither lucky nor unlucky. Shitty things happen all the time to all kinds of people but good things do too. It's one of those circle of life things, and I'm really, really hoping that there's some kind of limit to all the nonsense because I'm looking forward to not having grey hair and wrinkles any time soon.

The truth is that my life really is a circus, but then... whose life isn't a circus from time to time? I make monumental messes that need cleaning up, and I trip over my own feet and make an ass of myself pretty regularly but I'm not alone. And things are really only ever as bad as you let them be, but this goes both ways.

You can't be happy if you're not willing to let yourself be happy.

I know this just as sure as I'm sitting here with a ridiculous grin I can't wipe off my face and a great big bowl of half-burnt popcorn. And it's not just my love of popcorn that has me so giddy. A little over a month ago, I decided that it was OK to let someone in. It's OK to peel away the layers and let my guard down. It's OK to be happy. After hanging out with a very handsome redhead a few times, I decided it was time to stop trying to pick him apart and give in. Around the time I made that decision, the ridiculous grin I just eluded to was painted across my face and it's been there ever since.

And I've never been so happy.

It's the feeling of being totally safe and totally vulnerable at the same time; it's being comfortable and completely out my element; it's feeling completely on edge and entirely relaxed and I wouldn't trade it for all the tea in China because it's the best feeling in the world.

When I decided to let go of the fear of getting hurt and the cyncisim that told me I could never be happy, I found happiness in a navy polo shirt offering me a glass of wine (and we all know how I feel about wine). After a week of trying to convince myself that I couldn't be happy, I took my Mom's advice. And, as she sometimes always is, Mom was right.

"It may be today or it may be tomorrow, it might be six months away, but there will come a day when you'll find someone who makes you happy again... but if you keep your blinders on, you'll never be able to see it."

She's a real philosopher, that Deb.

Be happy, stay positive and pour yourself a big glass of wine!



Wednesday, 6 March 2013


Does knowing your weaknesses make it easier to improve yourself?

I’ve known, arguably forever, that I put an exorbitant amount of pressure on myself in all aspects of my life – from school to my personal life, I’ve always felt a need to be the best. In many ways, it’s been the reason behind my success but I can honestly say it’s been my downfall more than once. It’s often impossible for me to keep up with myself.
For years, I beat myself up over not doing well enough in this or that. I refused to admit defeat, and don’t even get me started on the process of swallowing my pride and asking for help. My stubborn nature and independence has led me down some slippery slopes, but I think I’m finally figuring out how to keep it together.
It took a long time for me to be able to admit to my “crazy”, partially because I felt like it made me a failure. The sense of impending doom that lived in my chest was exhausting and the ups and downs were giving me whiplash. I spent many days feeling like I was stuck – kind of like when I was a kid and I decided to walk in the muck behind my great-grandmother’s, only to lose my boots in the process and need to be rescued. I didn’t like it.

I don’t feel stuck any more.

After weeks of not sleeping, sluggishly dragging my sorry ass to school, struggling to keep my eyes open at work and many tearful phone calls with my Mom I went to the doctor. In spite of my overwhelming desire to deal with my anxiety on my own terms, I just couldn’t do it anymore and waving my little white flag has been the best decision I’ve ever made.
I still get anxious when I’m working towards a deadline or if traffic is heavy and I’m late, but I don’t get anxious about taking the dog outside any more than that’s a wonderful thing. I’m still putting a lot of pressure on myself, piling my proverbial plate so high I can barely see over it but I probably always will.
Even armed with the knowledge that I’m often setting myself up for burnout, I jump at the opportunity to get involved with various organizations and squeeze things into my schedule knowing full well I’ll be scrimping on sleep and rushing to get things done. I’m so tired most mornings the bags under my eyes are bigger than my boobs, but I’m sure I’ll slow down someday
…right after I run the Bluenose 5K with the Autism NS team, organize a breakfast for 400 people, work on the Autism Golf Ball, go to Aqua Zumba every Thursday and squeeze in some time for the boys I love to squeeze. Oh, and get my hair done, paint my nails and walk that thing I call my dog. After I get all of those things done, grab a coffee and pick up some new shoes I’ll slow down.


Sunday, 3 March 2013


Lately, I’ve been thinking about making a cape for myself.

It would have one of those cheesy MOM in a heart tattoo images and the word Super Ashley written in fancy, schmany cursive. I would wear it with my brown,  4 ½” heeled Steve Madden ankle boots and a mini dress. Or maybe with my brand new, size 0 jeans and a backless top. Either way, I’d feel hawt.
When I found out I was pregnant, I foresaw running shoes and high-waisted tapered jeans. It was pretty bleak, in my opinion. It was exasperated by the extra thirty pounds that settled between my upper thighs and collar bone, squishy arms and roll-y tummy post-baby. I’d given up the idea of being more than wife and Mom, and while it was a hard pill for me to swallow, I did it and I made the most of it. I had a beautiful son, a wonderful family and my husband was going to provide for us. From an outsider’s perspective, I was living in my perfect little world.

Imagine my shock when my world shattered.
I worked my ass off, quite literally, and shed over forty pounds of emotional and physical weight. I bought high heels, dyed my hair, put on some mascara and hit the town. I decided to go back to school. After spending three years focusing on being a parent, almost five years spent focusing on my relationship it was time for me to have my time and so far it’s been the time of my life.

It hasn’t been easy, but then no one ever said it would be. They just promised it would be worth it, and even in the moments when I felt that I couldn’t take another step, pressing on led me to beautiful places. I’ve found love. I love myself. I’ve never felt that way before. How could I have ever expected to have a successful relationship when I didn’t even love myself?

I’ve found friendship. I’ve found my passion, my creativity and strengths I didn’t know I had.
It’s amazing what you find when you take the time to look.


Sometimes I happen across an image that makes me laugh. Or furious. Or both.

This image just so happens to be one of them. The minute I saw it, I saw J in my mind's eye holding up his new phone and talking about how fantastic it was. Anyone who knows him knows exactly what I'm talking about. J went through phones the way that most people go through socks. One year, he had five phones. Five. 5. That's almost one every two months. Meanwhile, we could barely afford the rent at our apartment. I should have clued in sooner, right? (Don't answer that)
After everything else has been said and done, the only thing that really bothers me is that J still doesn't support F - or make any effort to be in his life. That's beyond my realm of comprehension, because F is the best thing in my life by far.

I remember the day F was born so vividly I can almost feel the contractions to this day. At (barely) 22, I was just a kid myself – a first timer, terrified of what lay ahead. Labour was frightening enough, but to raise a child is a horse of another colour. I remember feeling such a sense of relief at J holding my hand in the delivery room, promising me that I was doing just fine. I can still see my mom’s eyes – filled with tears – as she told me how beautiful her new grandson was. J and I barely slept that first night in the hospital as we watched our newborn sleeping quietly, fighting back the urge to hold our son in our arms all night. We talked about all we would do as new parents and our future together, as a family.

That was over three years ago, and as it stands right now, J hasn’t seen our son since before New Year’s 2013.

Nobody tells you how hard parenting is – and if they do, they never manage to include the part that your heart will never belong to you again. When F is sad, I’m sad and his laughter ignites my own. I never imagined that I would be in the position I’m in today – the good, the bad and the hilarious. Sometimes, it’s all I can do to NOT pinch myself when it occurs to me that I’m living what I believed would be my biggest nightmare and that, in spite of all the hurt, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.
Except for the part where my son’s Dad turned into a deadbeat.

You see, I’m a big girl. I’m not perfect. I’ve done things that I shouldn’t have done, some things I’m not always proud of. I’ve said bad words, hurtful words and I’ve told a few lies over the years. I can pick up the pieces when I need to, let things roll off my back and I can truck on. I don’t necessarily think that I’ve done anything to deserve some of the things that J put me through, but I’m old enough to deal with it. F hasn’t done anything to anyone. He deserves all of the love and care in the world, especially from his own father.
There is nothing that J could ever do that would possibly hurt more than neglecting our little boy. Every week that passes where I don’t hear from him, every month that he “forgets” to send child support, every weekend F spends here in the city – a five minute drive from J – that we don’t get a text breaks my heart a little more.

I’m luckier than most in that I have the greatest support system anyone could ever hope for. My mother and father have bent over backwards to help me get back on my own two feet – steadying my wobbly legs and whispering words of encouragement as I go. F is blessed to have loving grandparents who would do anything for him, and I’m proud to say that I have friends who keep a smile on my face when I can’t be with my little boy. Even with all of that, the hurt remains... all because of one, simple truth:

J had every opportunity to be a great Dad, and he pissed every one of them away because having fun was more important than having his family.

Nothing hurts your Mommy heart more than watching the father of your child turn his back on them. Regardless of the state of your own relationship, the feelings you harbour towards him, the history you share or the future you're facing, every time he lets your child down he's really letting you down... because when you're a real parent your child is an extension of you - not just someone you see when it's easy or convenient.

And for the record, F is way cooler than the iPhone 5.

Saturday, 2 March 2013


It's amazing how quickly things can change.

Back in October, I wrote about my feelings on being adopted. Just a few days later I shared the excitement of knowing my birth mom had happily received my letter. When I first wrote my letter, I didn't really know what to expect. It was emotional, to say the least, and terrifying every step of the way. I anxiously prepared for the worst, and I am thrilled at the way things have turned out.

It's been two weeks now that I've been in constant contact with my Birth Mom (BM), my siblings and one of my uncles and I've never felt so at ease - though the fact that I'm on anti-anxiety medication may play a role in that. It's weird to go from feeling unsure of who you are to feeling complete so suddenly. Learning about the quirks I share with people I've never met has somehow given me and understanding of who I am and the power to become who I really want to be.

It's even more amazing how, in spite of everything that goes on in our lives, that any of us can remain the same.

A few friends have expressed concern that I might suddenly change - or have a total meltdown, which admittedly could happen - as my world begins to catch up to speed in the aftermath of finding my birth mom. By my own admission, I've been hiding in the woodworks for the past week or so just trying to catch my breath and steady myself. But I'm still me. I'm still all of the things I was before.

I'm still a MacInnis - unless I plan to have that expensive, ghastly-scar-leaving tattoo removal - and I will always be a MacInnis. It's kind of like a gang. There's no getting out! (Just kidding - we're so awesome, people keep trying to get into the clan)

In spite of wearing high heels and living in the city, I'm still a rubber-boot wearing girl who snorts when she laughs and prefers beer and lobster over pasta and wine. Well, unless the pasta includes lobster. And I've never turned down wine before.

Although I've been lucky enough to gain a whole new family, I like my old family just fine and they are irreplaceable. People like Mom and Dad, my grandparents, aunts, uncles and some (alright, all) of my cousins are few and far between in this world.

Friday, 1 March 2013


I always wanted to be a writer.

I've spent most of my life writing - diaries, short stories, poems, letters. Before I had the words to write stories, I would draw them out (just ask my parents - I'm sure they spent a small fortune on notebooks and pencils for me). I just love it. I love words. In spite of spending hours and hours writing, I never considered myself a writer.

Now I do.

Since my first steps back in September, I've pitter-pattered down the path to where I am today. To being a writer. To finally being me. A year ago, I couldn't see it but now it's all I see. Words.

I remember being a teenager - maybe even a pre-teen - and telling Dad I was going to write a book. He recommended I go all J.K. Rowling and become a household name. I swore I was going to, but that conviction walked out around the same time my belief that I was going to marry Brad Pitt left. A hundred times, I've sat down and typed out pages but I've fizzled out, losing interest or direction. Years passed, and I didn't care if I wrote again. After churning out academic papers in university, I lost my love for writing. It had become a chore.

When I started writing again, the fire that I used to feel was reignited. The urge to write a book came back, and while I often joke that I can't write it as long as Mom and Dad can still read, the truth is that it's coming. In fact, it started 24 years ago when a then 18-year-old woman kissed me goodbye.

I don't know how long it will take, but you can safely hold your breath. It's coming.


Imagine being 25 years old and hearing your mother's voice for the first time.

I lived that last week and it was as incredible and indescribable as you might imagine. Even more incredible has been learning how much we're alike, from taste in music to favourite wines, the way we drink our coffee and even having similar tattoos. It's been nothing shy of a dream come true. We even look alike.

Communicating with my brothers, my little sister and my uncle has been one of the most amazing experiences I will ever have, falling only behind F's arrival. I can't wait to meet them, hold them and see them face to face. I have played it over and over in my mind my whole life, but now I have images to go with it.

I am the oldest of seven kids, aunt to two nephews and niece to two uncles. Though it has been a bit overwhelming, I feel complete now - at peace, even - that I have this knowledge and this new connection with people who are a part of me. It is still surreal, my excitement is still electrifying and I don't think anyone could beat the smile off my face.

I have lived a very blessed and privileged life... In fact, I have been totally spoiled by two selfless people who have given me all I ever wanted and more (except for that pony, but they did fund many years of riding lessons). While many people live their lives without support - with no family - I am now fortunate enough to have two families of which I am a part of. My son has earned 4 additional uncles and a beautiful aunt, a new grandmother and her husband. He has two new cousins to grow up with.

The process of the adoption disclosure was long and tedious. After two years of waiting, a phone call changed my life. I laid in bed on the weekend F turned three and browsed her photos, fingered the writing on her letter to me... When we connected online last week, the world stopped turning and it's not quite up to speed again. And if things never go back to the way they were, that would be just fine.

From being the fake kid, to being Darlene's daughter I've come to believe that fairy tales do come true.