Category Archives: ah, marriage

a new chapter

I’m happy that in a few hours 2014 will be in the past. It has been one of the more difficult years of my life so far.

My marriage ended in August. It was and continues to be a profoundly sad and heartbreaking backdrop to a lot of other things that, on their own, would be cause for celebration.

I spend a lot of time thinking about what might have been, if things were different, if I was different – but they’re not, I’m not. Slowly, those thoughts are becoming less persistent and are being drowned out by feelings of gratitude. I have experienced real love. I was half of a truly wonderful marriage that just wasn’t meant to be – through no fault of his or mine. The way that Mr. Butterflies and I handled our separation, the way we continue to support one another is something I’m incredibly proud of.

Obviously, a new chapter in my life has begun.

And as usual, that leaves me wondering about my next move. Historically, moving to a new city has been my go-to solution for all of life’s challenges. When I’m not happy with my surroundings, I seek out new ones.

Professionally, it’s been the best year of my life. I co-authored a book, spoke at conferences around the world, and tripled the client base for a software solution we built to automate a methodology I designed. I’m growing my team and am confident about the direction our company is going. Imagine my delight when my boss told me he’d support me if I wanted to leave Toronto – that my job would come with me if I decided to go.

Suddenly my biggest problem was choosing where to go next: back to Amsterdam? San Francisco? Portland? Somewhere entirely new? I was paralyzed by the sheer volume of possibilities.

Life transitions tend to make me introspective, as I’m sure they do for most people. I asked myself why I was leaving, and what I needed to make me happy in a new city.  Mr. Butterflies lovingly suggested I consider whether I was running from something or toward something, and as sound as the advice was, I kind of hated the answer. So what if I was running from something? It’s what I do.

The other thing I do is make lists.

Reasons to stay in Toronto:

  • I have formed very important friendships that I couldn’t possibly live without. I’d be back often though…
  • I’ve been in Toronto for five years – that’s longer than any city since childhood. I’ve been here long enough to develop a routine.  It may sound silly, but if you’re even a little bit of a nomad like me you know how exhausting it can be to find a new hair salon, doctor, yoga studio, etc. With the very memorable exception of being convinced to get bangs (ugh, why did I listen?)- I’m happy with all of the above. I do miss proper cobb salads and unsweetened iced tea though…
  • I own a parka, two pairs of snow boots, and a heaping pile of scarves in every fabric/colour combination you can think of. I can’t think of any other major cities where I could continue to get as much out of the significant investment I’ve made in cold weather gear. Maybe Chicago though…

Reasons to leave Toronto:

  • It would be nice to be closer to friends and family in Oregon, or to go back to my expat life in Amsterdam. But then, I’m lucky enough to have a life that lets me see them more often than some of my friends who live just a few blocks away…
  • I need to get out of my comfort zone. I need to push myself to grow. But staying put seems like the most uncomfortable and challenging thing in the world sometimes…
  • It’s freezing cold here in the winter, and in the summer I get whatever the opposite of Seasonal Affective Disorder is, because it’s so hot and humid I am miserable and just want to stay indoors and whine. There are places with much nicer weather. But when I was in San Francisco I distinctly remember missing the seasons…

My simple list of pros and cons quickly turned into a Rubik’s cube. Or maybe a Venn diagram: every single rationale seemed to fit in the overlapping space as both an argument for staying and one for leaving.

I didn’t know if I should stay or go, I just wanted to be somewhere I could feel whole – somewhere I could silence the nagging feeling that my life is missing something. Sometimes traveling drowns out that feeling, other times it is yoga. Often I escape it when I’m laughing with my best friend, other times when I’m taking a bath and listening to Norah Jones.

Without a clear answer, I decided to give it some time. I say “I decided” like it was a conscious effort to just trust that the right path would reveal itself to me in time. But really, there was no trusting the universe, no patience, no certainty. It was a very uncomfortable few months. But as they tend to do, things worked out. The universe did indeed reveal the right path.

I’ve decided to stay here in Toronto, and to continue on the healing journey I started almost a decade ago. I founded the When You’re Ready Project, a community for survivors of sexual violence (including me) to share our stories and find strength in one another. The Project has a long term vision to create a sexual assault registry so that we can combat the problem using reliable information. I feel like everything before this led me here: my unfortunate experiences as a young woman, my choice of a career in a field focused on innovative uses of data and protecting the privacy of individuals, and making my way to Toronto which is the birthplace of many inspirational and like-minded movements and initiatives.

That nagging feeling is silenced for now, I know what I need to do and where I need to be. I’m about to take a bubble bath, listen to some Norah Jones, then get ready to spend the evening with a dear friend.

In a few hours I will say goodbye to 2014 and gladly ring in the new year feeling thankful for everything that has led me to where I am right now. Years ago, a very special friend shared this poem with me. I’ve carried it with me and read it often, and nothing seems more fitting.

The City by Constantine P. Cavafy

You said: “I’ll go to another country, go to another shore,
find another city better than this one.
Whatever I try to do is fated to turn out wrong
and my heart lies buried as though it were something dead.
How long can I let my mind moulder in this place?
Wherever I turn, wherever I happen to look,
I see the black ruins of my life, here,
where I’ve spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them totally.”

You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore.
This city will always pursue you. You will walk
the same streets, grow old in the same neighborhoods,
will turn gray in these same houses.
You will always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere:
there is no ship for you, there is no road.
As you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner,
you’ve destroyed it everywhere else in the world. 







up hill both ways

I write this post from the edge of my seat. The edge of my seat at this time being the terrace of a Bed & Breakfast in Cape Cod (the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, which is fantastic, by the way), wine at my side.  I’m here on a mini-honeymoon/ birthday getaway with Mr. Butterflies.  Today we saw a humpback whale fully breach, bought a light house fridge magnet, shared a lobster roll, and called it a night.  We considered going “out” but all the places the guidebook suggested sounded like they’d probably be loud or crowded or expensive. So we came back to the B&B for a glass of port and some lovely conversation with an elderly couple from upstate New York.

In the last six weeks I’ve felt like I’m in one of those rom-com movie montages.  You know what I mean… star-crossed lovers go their separate ways due to a huge someday-we’re-going-to-laugh-about-this misunderstanding but each of them keeps having little moments (accompanied, of course, by sentimental music) that eventually lead them both to realize they’ve made a mistake and go running through an airport, weaving through traffic, or some other dramatic and triumphant situation which is literally NEVER possible in real life. Have you ever tried to  run through an airport? I digress.

Anyway, back to my montage. My montage hasn’t made me feel like I’m missing anything or making any huge mistakes and I won’t be running through an airport any time soon (for several reasons).  Life is wonderful and I wouldn’t switch its course for anything. My montage has made me realize I’m aging. I know, I know – I’m not old. 28 is not old, 30 is not old, 40 is not old, I’m not even sure if 50 is old.  Put that on my list – I now think 40 is young.


Twenty-eight year old woman wearing sensible shoes* and carrying a purse containing band-aids, hand sanitizer, and a wallet full of coupons walks into American Eagle. She winces at the volume of the music and shakes her head at the silliness of the song lyrics…why can’t they play some Norah Jones?

I went to American Eagle in search of the brightly coloured jeans that all the kids seem to be wearing these days, pleased to find a pair of bright red ones right away. I tried them on. The fit was not quite right, so I asked a charming young lady whose shorts covered less skin than my bathing suit if she could get them for me in a higher rise fit. She raised her eyebrows, smacked her gum and said, “We don’t have any, but you could try Sears.” I know, right? Sears? But the worst part: my first thought was “who does this sassy brat think she is, smacking her gum at me? When I was her age I had two waitressing jobs and would NEVER have smacked my gum at anyone, let alone a customer.” I thanked her through clenched teeth and left the store. I didn’t go to Sears.


Empty handed and lost in thought, pondering the likely reasonable price of jeans at Sears, woman wanders into store selling hundreds of varieties of bottles promising eternal youth (priced accordingly).

Not yet ready to head back outside into sticky hot Toronto summer, I decided my trip to the mall wouldn’t be entirely unproductive if I picked up some of the moisturizer I was almost out of. I didn’t find it so I asked a girl who might have been Gum Smacker’s younger sister. She let me know they were out but suggested I try another product. I’ve been using the same lotion for over 10 years (put that on the list – saying things were “over X years ago”) but wasn’t completely opposed to the idea. She squeezed a small amount onto the back of my hand and squeaked, “I think you’ll really love this. It’s the one my Mom uses.” A comic book BAM! appeared in a starburst above my head.  I left and went to Sears.


Woman, in same sensible shoes, carrying same oversized purse (contents of which now also include sunscreen and some Tums) walks on the arm of a handsome gentleman who patiently explains to her that Gary Busey is not Nick Nolte. She is confused.

These days, opportunities for Mr. and I to ask each other “what should we do today?” are coming fewer and farther between. So when we get one, we relish it.  We started this one with an impromptu brunch with another couple, met up with a few other friends downtown, and as the sun went down were patting ourselves on the back for leaving the laundry unwashed and the mail unopened and getting out to enjoy the day. It was just after 7pm when Mr. asked if I’d like to see a movie…

Mr.: Would you like to see a movie? We’re right next to the Rainbow Theatre. I like that one because its old and teenagers don’t go there to hang out.

Me: Ugh, me too. Tweens are the worst. What should we see?
Mr.: Expendables 2?
Me: That sounds a little violent…plus, I didn’t see Expendables 1.
Mr.: ParaNorman? That’s a kids’ movie…
Me: Is it in 3D? You know I can’t watch 3D.
Mr.: What about Dark Night Rises?
Me: Is that Batman?
Mr: (Sigh) Yes.
Me: Is Batman Christian Bale or Tobey Maguire? I hate Tobey Maguire, he’s the worst.
Mr.: (Sigh) Christian Bale is Batman.
Me: Good, I hated Tobey Maguire in X-Men First Class. Yes, let’s see that one.
Mr.: That wasn’t Tobey Maguire, that was…never mind…Dark Knight starts at 8:15pm.
Me: WHAT?! 8:15? I can’t stay up that late, you know I’ll fall asleep.
Mr.: Sigh.
Me: No, you know what? Not today. Today is Spontaneous Sunday and we are going to go to the movies.
Mr.: You can sleep on my shoulder.

Where are we on our list? Here are the top ten ways I know I’m getting older:

  1. 40 seems young.
  2. Young people think I seem old.
  3. I start thoughts and/or sentences with, “When I was that age…”
  4. Anything after 8pm is late.
  5. I sleep through movies and wake up part way through to “whisper” loudly while other people glare. I order water because I can’t drink caffeine after 3pm.
  6. Music is too loud, crowds are too crowded.
  7. Prices seem absurd. I say so.
  8. People have started using “for your age” in a new way.  What used to be “you’ve accomplished a lot in your career for your age” is now “you’ve got pretty good skin for your age.”
  9. I say things like “I watched a YouTube” and “she Twittered about it.”
  10. I know how fortunate I am.

Aging, so far, has been pretty good to me. I wouldn’t trade my comfortable shoes for low rise jeans and I wouldn’t trade quiet nights in with my husband for anything.

*Minnetonka Moccasins are the BEST SHOES EVER. I don’t care if they’re not fashionable, they’re great. I’m starting a list of of the wonderful things about aging. Put this one on my list: people not only don’t care, they expect you to wear ugly shoes.

Update: Blog post is finished. Husband is snoring sleeping peacefully next to me in the bed. The best thing about growing older is doing so with someone wonderful. And older. Put that on the list.


Mrs. Butterflies

When I log into the edge of my seat after several months without posting a blog entry I typically read through the last several posts and ask myself “what has happened since?” This time it is hard to answer, there are so many things. I’m not so narcissistic as to think you care about all the details but just enough to think you’ll be interested in the highlights.

A few weeks after we got back from Europe, Mr. Butterflies proposed. Everything about it was perfect and romantic and magical. And it started in motion a series of events that have gone by in a big blur of awesome.

We spent the first few weeks of our engagement getting used to the word “fiancé” (which is fun to say on a few different levels) and talking a thousand miles an hour about wedding plans. It has to be fun, and classy but not uptight. And there has to be good food and we’ll source it locally, and we want people to dance. And we’ll serve awesome beer. A short ceremony, with a little bit of humour – sentimental but not cheesy. The venue will be unique and interesting and somewhere that is special to us. It will be vintage meets rustic, and the perfect balance between masculine and feminine. I bought magazines and subscribed to blogs like Green Wedding Shoes and Style me Pretty and pored over the photos, bookmarking ideas. We made spreadsheets to compare venues and set recurring appointments to block off time to meet vendors. Recent brides are never shocked to hear that the fun of wedding planning began to wear off after a few weeks.

Fast forward through a few jaw-dropping realizations about the cost of a wedding in Toronto and the politics of formulating a guest list…hearing ourselves say aloud “we won’t be buying a house any time soon, we have to pay for the wedding” was the final straw. So we decided to do what made sense for us: split the wedding into two events.

We got married on a Saturday evening in the wine cellar of Splendido, one of Toronto’s nicer restaurants. There were only 13 guests, and I didn’t even buy new shoes. After dinner we met a few friends at a dive bar known for a great beer selection (The Rhino) and stopped for some late night falafel on the way back to our suite at the Gladstone Hotel. Sunday we nursed hangovers with Thai food and trashy TV and we were back to work on Monday.

Saturday we became husband and wife. I’ve already started going by Mrs. Butterflies and hoping the adrenaline rush I currently get from calling him ‘my husband’ never fades. Our ‘real’ wedding is this summer, and we’re inviting our friends and loved ones to share in that special day. We have the same aspirations for our wedding as before: It has to be fun, and classy but not uptight. And there has to be good food and we’ll source it locally, and we want people to dance. And we’ll serve awesome beer. Only maybe not classy. Advice from married friends tells us that seven months into our marriage will be an opportune time to reaffirm those promises we made.

People ask me if I feel any different as a married woman. Not yet. Being engaged felt different, and being married feels like an extension of that. I’ve started feeling like a ‘grown up’ for the first time. I developed a sense of invincibility as a teenager and held tight to it through my twenties. No matter what happens, I’ll figure it out. I’ll be okay. What’s the worst that could happen? But when I promised to spend my life with him I realized that the ‘with him’ is only one part of that promise. Taking care of him and taking care of myself are one in the same now.

Everything has taken on more meaning. Like what? Like how we LOVE Value Village. There is one in our neighbourhood and we often stop by multiple times a week. And now it is not just something to do, it is a thing. Our thing. One of our many things. A thing that someday we’ll look back and say, “Remember when we moved into our first place together and used to go to Value Village three times a week?” We’ll tell our kids about this and they’ll roll their eyes.

We use this logic to make ourselves feel better about the crappy place we’re renting right now. When the neighbours’ dogs are barking incessantly or their arguing keeps us up at night we think, “Someday this will be a memory” and it seems more funny than not. And this, I’m coming to realize, is the amazing thing about marriage. All those moments can be a thing if you let them be – for the best or for the worst. And as long as we stay on the same page we’ll either be happy together, sad together, or somewhere between things together.