When my mother was a young child the Nazis occupied the Netherlands.

When I was a young child I longed to be a writer. My dream job.

She watched them take away her sailor-philosopher father.

She helped her mother hide other Jewish children. They lived.

Her father was eventually released from the camp. He lived too, though forever changed.

I think about survivor’s guilt sometimes. And wish I had asked my mother about that before she died.

My mother lost her first born child at age 8. He drowned.

My oldest son is 8 now.

I am terrified of my children drowning.

My mother lost her first born daughter, too. She died in child birth. A preventable outcome.

I cannot write these words with dry eyes.

As a child I felt afraid of the deaths that wove themselves into the fabric of my mother’s being. My fear muted all the words. I listened and sometimes looked away. Though I had questions I never spoke.

I am a mother now. I too have lost babies. I am no longer afraid to feel her pain, sense it intermingling with my own. I cannot look away.

The questions do not matter anymore. Besides, every answer is a lie.

My mother left the Netherlands to start a new life shortly before my brother and I were born, in Canada. She was, as I understand it, desperate to start over. To pass go. To collect $200. And to leave across the pond that unspeakable grief. To stop seeing all the reminders, I imagine. To forget.

We never forget.

But my mother was a pragmatist.

I suppose she had to be. What else was there? She was the oldest of 3 girls when the occupation began and her father was stolen. Her mother had a small business to run and children to save. Pragmatism meant survival.

“You will starve” she said of my childhood literary aspirations.

We had some lean years while I grew up. Nothing like what she or my father had experienced, mind you. But enough to frighten me.

I grew up believing her. I would never make a living as a writer. I needed a real job.

I make a living writing now. But not literature.

I write for judges. I write to and on behalf of clients. I write to other lawyers.  Sometimes I am a decision maker; I write decisions.

I am not starving.

Though sometimes I hunger.

Sometimes I wish I had not worked so hard to prove my worth to others.

When she died, my mother loved me. She saw me. She respected and trusted me.

We did not start out there. Generations of trauma and institutions founded on power and hatred made sure of that.

I have wished, on occasion, that I wasn’t the good daughter my mother never wanted. Yet I hold fast to having become – finally – the good daughter who was wanted when she died.

I feel pathetic for a moment, making these admissions. An ounce of pragmatism might cure that ill.

2020 was a catapult. The sort you might find in Angry Birds. (Does anyone still play that game?)

Sometimes it takes a lifetime to unlearn the effects of tragedues that predate our time on earth.

Committing to non violence is not enough. Words are not enough.

I have traveled a long road to find love and respect for myself. To trust me.

Even though in times of distress I still act as though the only person to do what is needed, the only one I can count on, is me.

This, too, is a learned behaviour.

I have learned.

Trauma and fear of abandonment are educators. We may not like their teachings. That is irrelevant.

We learn.

We can unlearn.

I spent 2020 unlearning.

Words – in my head, on a page, in a therapist’s office (or, 2020 style, over Skype, Zoom, name your poison) – and the spaces, the silence, between them let loose my spirit from the shackles of mortality.

Words are free. They cost me nothing. I owe them everything.

Words are my super power. May I use them wisely.

Here you are, 2021. I have been waiting for you. It is about time.

I am ready.

Me and my words.

And then she was gone

Yo peeps! It has been a while. I am alive. Miracle Baby and Azulito are alive and well. Life is strange. Work is madness. I miss you all.

I am going to write for me this year.

Just not here, under my secret identity. Enough with the closets!

Maybe I disclose my identity and keep writing here? What do you all think?


Stone cold he glared

in the face of my

unseasonably sunny

“Good morning!”

He glared,

the disdain

– nay, seething –

riveting me in place

but a moment.

I paused,

taken aback


recognizing the shift.

I broke stride

but a moment

then carried on,


your loss.

I am not alone

in thinking:

It did not need

to be this way.

These were

your choices,

the fruits of

your labour,

of the harm

you wrought

and sowed.

I am not sad

to see you go.

Waiting, inter.generation.ally

So much of my life

has been spent





I am waiting for change.


I am waiting

for others to see

that I am making change,

whether they like it or not.

Sometimes I am waiting

until the churning in my stomach,

the spinning in my head,

the grip around my lungs


just stops

while I adapt

to the change.

Oh, so much change.


the waiting is patient.


it is not.

There is good waiting,

your flesh anticipating,


the next touch.

And there is bad waiting,

for test results

and news you wished

– afterward –

you had never received.

My child,

one of my children

– a living one –

is not good at waiting.

He reminds me

of my impatience

with life

with all of its complexities,

its annoying details,

its patent ireverence

for how we feel

what we want

when we want it

and why

we feel as we do.

This child of mine,

who is not mine,

for he is already

at age 4

very much

his own person,

this child

is teaching me

about waiting.

He is teaching me

about impatience

and how impatience

can be painful




He is teaching me

about a world that

does not wait,

does not want to hear

that he needs

more time

that he cannot not rush

that he does not like to walk

prefers to run,


all of the time.

This world was not built

for this child.

Nor he for it.


I wonder

whether this world

was built for me.

Or me for it.

He is teaching me

and I am waiting.

I am impatient to learn

every lesson,

even when

I am wishing

I didn’t have to learn any more.

Even when

I grow weary

of waiting

for a world in which

we fit,

this child and I.

Yikes… been MIA

So. It’s been kind of a crappy, emotional roller coaster November so far and, without making excuses I note that I finally slipped under the surface of the water. Whoops. Failed at keeping up with NaNoPoblano on a daily basis. Threw up from anxiety and my broken brain. Demonstrated some spectacularly pathetic parenting skills amidst more respectable ones. Got a runny nose. And so on.

Please read someone who writes beautifully and is an inspiration even when wracked with loss and grief: Ra, aka Rarasaur, aka Ra Avis, who birthed this NaNoPoblano business. ❤

healing: kindness


Triggers, goodbyes and gratitude

Like a tornado she came to me. Thrashing through my sleep. Piercing me with grief. Hurtling debris strewn in her wake.

She came to me one year and 10.5 days from when she left, her heart arresting for the third time as I sped to reach her, to hold her, to share a last farewell.

I didn’t make it in time.

Her heart arrested. Again.

The phone rang.

You lost her, didn’t you?

I am so sorry.

She didn’t make it.

I didn’t get there in time.

She left behind a hole.

A cavity I cannot fill. A grief I cannot swallow. A guilt that rears its head and reminds me, in the middle of the night, how I failed her. How I fail me.

The night before she awoke.

She heard my voice and rallied. She worked at breathing on her own, replacing the machine’s labour.

I stayed until she fell asleep. The middle of the night. They let you do that in intensive care if you’re a paying customer.

I left her intubated. She could not breath on her own once she fell asleep again.

The next day her heart arrested.

Again and again.

Until it could not.

I didn’t make it in time.

She didnt make it.

And so my day started. In the middle of the night.³

Then I read what it takes to make an abuser go away.

My chest ached around my racing heart. I wanted to throw up. I could not breathe on my own. There was no machine to do it for me.

It costs a great deal to make an abuser go away. The bounty is too high.

I miss her.

And the pieces of me the horror that took her stole from me.

Go away, bully liar manipulative fuck. I stood alone, voting against you, motioning you exit.

I am so grateful.

So grateful this week is over.

So grateful I have other memories, happier memories, of her.

My body says no

I am a good listener. To everyone but myself. My body has protested the wrongs it has witnessed. And I have:

– pushed through

– worked harder

– been resilient [to the point of maladaptation]

– survived

– succeeded

– routinely felt like a failure

I started reading When The Body Says No by controversial west coast Canadian MD Gabor Mate. Okay, listening. My broken brain/eye needs less reading. It has been a self-reflective and jarring ride.

My body has been saying no for a long time. I was about to write “I’ve only recently really started listening” but that doesn’t feel truthful.

The truth is, I trust my gut in work and parenting a child whose needs and challenges are special, high, whatever we call them. I trust my gut most of the time in friendships.

I don’t listen to my body tell me no. Enough. Stop. You are good enough.

I cannot seem to hear those messages, or couldn’t until my brain and eyesight broke in September. Now I have little choice but to listen. And more than that – I want to listen.

Starting over at this age and stage seems so misguided. Sad, really. Yet here I am, ever the late bloomer.

Early riser

Each morning we awake

to a new day

a new opportunity

to open doors

close some

create new memories

rework others

May today

be brighter


less thorny

than the darker ones

the ones that I

– that we –

long to forget

I go to bed

some nights

filled with the need

to put the day

to rest

awake early


for more from life

for less

for peace.

Go Team Peppers!

Western medicine

That the doctors do not have

all the answers

that there is so much

they do not yet know,

may never know,

is disconcerting


all you want

are answers

to the swirl of questions,

the whir of unknowns,

the worry of not knowing.


And yet


– some days –

“we really don’t know why”


[we believe]

“we know what it isn’t”


“now we can operate”

is as good as it gets,

offers up

a buoy

way out here,

far from shore,

in the sea

of what-ifs.

* * *

Thank you for reading. Go team NaNoPoblano2019! https://cheerpeppers.wordpress.com/

Ode to absent mindedness

Oh absence,

I long for you

your simplicity

your freedom

your utterly,




a blank slate,

I idealize you

when the monkey mind

is jacked

as if

on amphetamines,

when the pace

won’t slow


in sleep

in sleeplessness

I cannot say

how it is

that I have never

thought of you,

of your good fortune,

like this before

But today

dear absence of mind

you are my hero

the object of my envy,

my longing

for peace.

Go NaNoPoblano2019! https://cheerpeppers.wordpress.com/

Less drama, more LOVE

Occasionally I want to run away from all of the things (and humans), to live in the desert in relative solitude.

I suspect I’m not alone in this longing.

Connection is not an antidote to misanthropy.

I find it hard to endure people some days. Damned hard.

Guess I’m an introvert after all, notwithstanding the courtroom, boardroom, backroom advocacy and public speaking.

My life was simpler when it was just me and my dog living alone in a foreign country. So much simpler.

I miss simple.

I miss the joy of embracing a random moment, of not being pulled in 47 directions at once, of chasing a small, neurodiverse human with remarkable capacity for self endangerment, of not wondering where the love in my life went and how it got replaced with periodic drama and distress.

I miss love. Not Hollywood schlockery. Not the head over heels stuff. Love. Finding joy in the little things – favourite socks, clean teeth, crisp morning air, the first signs of Spring, random acts of kindness. Random acts of love.

I am done with the negative, the naysayers, the demands and the drivel. Done, I say.

Down with drama. I stand with LOVE.

(Re)learning to blog, community style

I miss blogging. And I need a space to be my current muddled, wonky-brained, visually impaired self. I’d like a safe one, but we take what we can get some days.

So… starting November 1, I’m joining the NanoPoblanos and committing to blog… maybe 10 days of posts, 10 days of commenting and 10 days of reading/sharing, or maybe 30 days of blogging, 10 or more days of commenting, reading, sharing. We’ll see what I can manage.

Here’s the inspiration and back story, if you want to take part too or become a cheer pepper: https://rarasaur.com/2019/10/14/10-10-10-new-format-to-our-nablopomo/

Worst Birthday Ever

The day before my birthday (in early September) I spent 8.5 hours at the emergency after 45 minutes with my usual eye doctor who could not stop my eyes from seeing double, occasionalily triple and more. My optometrist said he was fairly certain it was neurological and told me I should go to emergency at the local hhospital where eye emergencies, surgery and specialist care are handled.

Sure, he isnt an MD. Still, I started to cry. Then I got a ride to ER.

The wildly blurry, nausea and anxiety inducing vision changes started after I caught some virus that made my head hurt so badly I could not get out of bed and took gobsmacking doses of painkillers for several days. I had never had such bad headaches except quitting caffeine and these were way more intense.

The ER doctor of course had no idea what was wrong with me and chastised my optometrist for sending me to Emergency instead of calling an Ophthalmologist. I nodded, not explaining that the optometrist had said if he referred me I’d be waiting weeks at best, even on an urgent referral.

Ah, public health care. Time sensitive it does not do well. (More on that below.)

ER doc made a call and gotvme an appointment the next day with the on call Opthalmologist at the specialist eye clinic in the same hospital.

In the Uber on my way to that appointment the next morning, my driver asked why I was going to hospital, visiting someone? I said no I have to see an eye specialist. He asked why. I said, simply, I have double vision.

He immediately described symptoms that sounded identical to mine after having said that he once had terrible double vision all of a sudden. I asked if he saw a doctor. He had. I asked what had caused it. A stroke, he said, but he had no other symptoms. His double vision cleared up in it’s own a week later.

I’ve had this for about a month now. It got progressively worse over the first week and hasn’t changed much since.

It is neurological, said the Ophthalmologist after many tests and various visits from an Orthoptist and another eye clinic technician whose title I forget.

He referred me for a CT scan of my brain and orbitals (eye sockets), although he has since called me to tell me: (1) I have a CT scheduled for March 2020 that he is trying to get changed to October); and (2) that an MRI would be bbetter but he referred me for CT because the wait for MRI would be even longer. I’ve asked about paying privlately. It is complicated but last week he said we can look at finding a private neural-radiologist if he cannot get an earlier date than March 2020.

Meanwhile… 6 hours into day 2 of my tine spent at hospital earlier this month, I was given (and have to pay for) and still have a fresnel prism in the right lens of my eye. This is a plastic film with dinosaur-like ridges or lines that create a prism to help my brain see one image blurrily but not 2, 3 or more. The Orthoptwist at the eye clinic in the hospital installed it after the Ophthalmologist told me:

(1) I have a partial palsy (paralysis) in one of the six nerves connected to my right eye and mild strabismus, in both eyes but worse in the right one; and

(2) I need to take a low dose aspirin every day until we know why.

I immediately asked if he suggested the low dose aspirin because he thought I’d had a stroke. He said “we can’t rule that out so until we know you should just take it.”

Between the hospital and my regular doctor, Multiple Sclerosis, Myasthenia Gravis, Diabetes, kidney disease and hypertension have been ruled out. Stroke (transient ischemic attack or mini stroke, to be more precise), aneurysm, tumor and other brain injury are still on the table as potential causes. I’ve had no recent blows to the head or other head trauma.

When the lab technician at the hospital who drew my blood after this news was delivered (to check kidney function and rule out kidney disease causing stroke, if I understood the Opthalmologist correctly – I was pretty stunned by then) wished me a happy birthday, I burst into ugly tears. His distress – like my own – was palpable. It had been a really bad day.

I have been struggling. I cant drive safely as I cant see well and my brain gets tired trying to do so. I am scared. I had requested mental health support. It would be an understatement to admit that doing so has not been a good experience.

At one point I considered how great it would be if I could do graduate research and a thesis on how the medical profession in my country and maybe others renders professional, articulate women invisible. If you can explain clearly and haven’t fallen apart completely yet, you must be fine.

I hope to find out this week that I either have a CT scan booked within the month (which may lead to a MRI r down the road) or a referral to a private, competent neural-radiologist for a MRI and report to be paid for at my own expense (I have been told my insurance likely wont cover that cost).

I am trying to stay afloat. That is as good as it gets for now.

They learn while we do

So… my two kids found defunct cell phones I kept for them to play with. They’d been playing around for a while when I overheard the elder child reciting exactly what the younger one is wearing and describing where he had last been seen.

I stop what I’m doing. I listen and, finally, I ask “are you calling the police to help us find your brother?”

The answer was yes.

They are learning while we are doing. Even though I know this, the realization floored me.

I hope I never have to make another one of those calls.

The loneliest job

I have come to the realization that parenting in the post modern, imperialist, consumption-crazy part of the world in which my family and I live, with a special needs child, whilst juggling a demanding professional job and another sensitive child whose needs may or may not be getting met… is lonely.

So, so lonely.

I had to call 911 again yesterday when the dozen plus people (and me, and Miracle #1) could not find Baby A (who just turned 4). He was found, afraid and red hot, buried underneath a big bean bag chair where I can only assume he was hiding initially to be playful but which ultimately almost became suffocating (and yet he doesn’t regulate himself enough to just get out from under it).

But until then – until he was found, almost an hour later – it was heart stopping.

He has been approved for one on one child care subsidy at his daycare. But they haven’t hired anyone yet.

The bean bag and suffocation hazards did not feature much on my radar before last night. Now fear and the scope of potential sources of suffocation for a sensory kid who loves compression and small spaces into which to cram his lean frame feels overwhelming. I feel the panic rising and an anxiety attack gurgling up just writing about it.

I was not alone when this happened. Other parents, their children – all of whom know Azulito and that he is special in his own way – and some of the daycare staff were there and were helpful. Some were simply amazing.

But the LP wasn’t there and I never did reach him. And when he came home late I didnt even want to talk about it. What for?

What I feel – beyond fear and the tidal wave of anxiety yesterday’s madness has evoked – is lonely.

So, so lonely.

I’ve said it before. It bears repeating. Parenting is hard. Parenting special kids is hard.

So, so hard.

Diagnoses: the good, the bad and the ugly

We waited almost a year for the appointment. I started out suspecting Baby Azulito (now preschooler Azulito!) may be on the autism spectrum. But since he began to receive state funded supports for his former severe speech delay and them for various other symptoms/ issues (separation anxiety, sensory seeking and defensive behaviours, hyperactivity, inflexibility to change/ new/ different/ unexpected/ unscheduled, social anxiety) his symptoms began to shift somewhat and I wondered where we would end up.

This past week Azulito was diagnosed with severe Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and anxiety. The specialized psychiatrist who assessed him offered to follow and treat him. I accepted. I told his child care providers the following day, with a plan to include them in the recommended path  forward once we have our first private meeting with the new doctor in a few weeks.

Two days later they told me he had to leave the child care centre unless he attended with a full time one on one Aide, claiming they were not equipped to handle his needs.

And so it begins.

The Unthinkable

Yesterday our large very sweet and mild mannered foster dog who was on psychiatric meds for anxiety and whose background was a void bigger and blacker than she was attacked my senior smaller dog and tried to kill her.

I intervened every single way I knew how. Over and over. The sweet lovable foster dog was unstoppable. She lunged under and around my body as I tried to form a human shield, when all else failed.

I have stopped many dog fights. This was nothing like that. I’ve never seen anything like it. A switch had flipped and she could not hear me, see me, or stop.

I screamed and screamed – as loud as I could, not caring who I woke – for help. Nobody came.

Eventually I threw myself over my senior dog, leaving only enough space to avoid crushing her and elbowing the big dog in the face. My old girl bit me, not knowing it was me, fighting as she was for her life.

I got off easy. I have a number of wounds (a foot, a hand) but no stitches and a prescription for antibiotics that should prevent any further physical harm befalling me.

My senior dog needed emergency surgery we cannot afford. I charged and borrowed to do it anyway as the vets had stabilized her and things looked promising if only she could have and recover from the surgery. Then she didn’t. She’s now on life support. I don’t know if she will live.

Other volunteers with the rescue have chipped in, their kindness precipitating more tears.

I’m having trouble living. Breathing. Eating. Sleeping. The lump in my throat is hard and sharp, my nerves jagged and jarred into action every time my phone rings.

Please don’t let it be the vet. Please don’t let it be more bad news.

Everything I thought I knew is in question. I am in question.

The grief is undulating though never softer in pitch than the roar of a stormy sea. I feel… I don’t even know anymore.

I feel at fault.

And here’s the thing. I did – nay, we did (the rescue, professional trainers, vets, vet techs) – everything, literally everything, to avoid this, never anticipating it could happen, this attack, unprovoked, nonsensical. Not by this dog. Unthinkable.

The day before this happened these two dogs were chumming on the couch together. I took a picture as the big dog gave up room so the senior could be comfortable.

I never saw this coming.

And I could not – despite it all – make her stop.

It is hard to keep breathing.

Autism spectrum?

Today I took my beloved Azulito to his paediatrician and received a referral for an autism spectrum disorder assessment.

The palpable judgement from other parents in the room whose kids were capable of sitting and waiting quietly was soul crushing as he struggled through a vast array of “symptoms”.

The wait is 6 to 9 months to even walk in the door.

I love this child. So much.

I haven’t cried like this or felt so shattered in a long time.

This chapter in life is tough. And very lonely.


Gosh. I am so sorry for not writing. Ever.

Life has been busy. So busy. I’m parenting my crazy boys, fostering rescue dogs and working full time. The sleep deficit is at an all time high (low?).

But that’s not what brings me here.

I am stricken with an irrepressible urge to cry. A big ugly tear stained face and puffy eyes style cry.

I just ran into a colleague who has been off work for more than a year after being diagnosed suddenly with advanced and aggressive cancer.

I wanted so much to say “you look great”. I couldn’t. I wanted to cry. She looks and sounds like death. It took my breath away. Tears filled my eyes, my heart leapt to my throat, I could barely choke out “how are you?” Seems such an idiotic thing to ask. But it fell out of my mouth before I could shut the damned thing.

I walked back to my office to regroup and sort out the flood of feelings. I had this overwhelming sense of sadness. I felt afraid for my colleague. I missed my Mom. I felt ashamed of my shock and feeble question. Most of all I wanted (and still want) to cry.

Gosh. I hate this merciless disease.

Rescue Me, Rescue Her

I did it. I hemmed and hawed for ages. Then I submitted an application with Boxer Rescue. I followed the story of a three year old Boxer whose issues looked daunting, despite being almost entirely training-based. 

The LP objected. He relented eventually and said to do what I wanted. 

So I did. Yesterday I drove three and a half hours to pick up that wild child. And over three hours back home with her. 
I slept on the hardwood floor (in a sleeping bag built for a 5 year old) beside her xpen last night so she would settle. Ouch. She stopped crying and barking and stayed put. 

This dog needs work. A lot of work. She nips and jumps. High. She is very strong and huge for a female. She wants to play and play and play and believes (I think) it’s all harmless as nobody ever taught her four on the floor. At all times. 

I wanted to cry last night, asking myself what the heck I was thinking when I signed up for this. Then while I was trying to work from home (for her and our smaller, senior dog) earlier today she showed me that she can be very gentle and sweet. And afraid. She doesn’t want to be left alone. Who can blame her? This is pit stop number 3 for her in the past 2 months. Anxiety or an aversion to separation was to be expected. 

We have the dog on a “shutdown” of at least 2 weeks to ease her into our lives and to allow our resident dog to get acclimatized and reassured of her importance at the same time. I can’t take the rescue on leash walks outside our home/yard yet and she has to be in the xpen or leashes with me at all times (or in a crate but I haven’t yet decided if I am going to buy a crate, though she is allegedly crate trained). She broke down her xpen and figured out how to unlatch the gate on our fence (smart! scary!) already this morning so we aren’t off to the greatest start.
I have asked myself along the way why this dog and this business of taking in a new rescue called to me. Sure I want to help a dog in need. But it isn’t just that. This is about me too. My last rescue Boxer taught me so much – better said, we schooled each other notwithstanding our (my) countless mistakes. 

Rescuing this dog is also about reclaiming some part of me that feels lost or missing. I haven’t found the words yet to name that piece but I feel it in my bones. For one thing I have a deep need to take up space and time in my own life for me and my passions.  I’ve gone back to running. When it became clear our senior small dog is not able to manage longer runs anymor, another Boxer as my running companion seemed a natural next step. I also felt and feel strongly that I want my boys to learn about rescue animals and perseverance and the rewards of both. 

Am I in over my head? 

Probably. At least for the immediately foreseeable future. 

That thought struck me like an anvil yesterday as I prepared for the drive to pick  her up. It returned last night and early this morning. Then something shifted and hope returned. 

Need I remind myself my last rescue Boxer had never been socialized, was a wild thing with coprophagia (ew – look it up!), was severely malnourished and neglected and suffered from terrible separation anxiety for years? And that despite all odds she turned into an incredibly balanced and relaxed friend who spent 13 years with me?

Yep. That thought keeps my feet on the ground and hope in my heart. Never mind the tooth marks and scratches or the dog hair all over the place. I’m going to give this neglected girl my best. And see what happens. 

Stay tuned. And wish me luck. Please.