These days life itself can be a little overwhelming and now, particularly at this time of year (I can’t believe I’m saying this), Christmas can be a little much. All the incessant cheerful music and sparkly decorations and gooey commercials can sometimes leave you feeling like you have been beaten over the head with a candy cane. So, to cleanse your palate of the sugar high let us take a glimpse into the not-so-sweet side of Christmas legends and lore.

We begin right here within Canada. Although we may not hold the same kind of ancient history as other parts of the world we can look back to our Nation’s roots and thank the Inuit for this first contribution of Christmas creepiness.

It is the eve of Old Christmas day in Labrador, January 6th. Nalujuk Night. It’s very cold and dark and the community gathers anxiously to await the arrival of The Nalujuk. A Nalujuk or many Nalujuit, arrive from the eastern coast on the sea ice carrying crude handmade weapons, are clad from head to toe in traditional furs and seal skin boots, and their faces are covered with masks made from animals skins, cloth, or more modernly – store bought masks. Through the town they chase the children, moving quickly and quietly on snow covered streets in their seal skin boots. Shrieks of terror, singing and laughter echo through the cold of the night as children, once caught by the Nalujuk, must sing a song to be freed  and are often given candy to quash the trauma .

Well that sounds like fun and not terrifying at all.

Singing is an integral part of our Christmas traditions. We have carollers and choirs belting out the same joyful tunes we know and love. Songs of peace, joy, and happiness. It is said music will calm even the savage beast but will it be enough to make a zombie horse leave your house? Next time we pop on over to Wales and see what the Welsh are up to – and *spoiler* it’s weird.

I could blame a lot of my forgetfulness on the fact that my brain is overloaded with lyrics of songs, especially Christmas carols. I know them all. Church hymns, crooner ballads, and even all the gibberish I made up to Feliz Navidad which I’m sure makes a complete mockery of the Spanish language. Songs are a large part of the Christmas culture, we rejoice through song but what if one night during the holiday season you answer a knock at your door and find yourself, not serenaded by a group of jolly carollers in period garb, but instead you come face to face with a bedazzled horse’s skull shrouded in a bed sheet singing to be let into your house for a little nosh and to drink your booze?

Meet Mari Lwyd.

Mari Lwyd is an old folk custom originating from South Wales with the first records dating back to 1800s. During the time between Christmas and New Year’s in the manner of “wassailing”, the tradition of going door to door singing Christmas carols in exchange for drinks and snacks, a decorated horse’s skull affixed atop a stick, held by a some lucky individual that is covered with a sheet or tarp to give an air of vintage village ghost, would arrive at your doorstep looking for a challenge. In a battle of cleverness through song and rhymes the home owners must counter each rap the zombie horse throws down. In the event that the homeowner can no longer fend off entry to the horse through rhyme they must allow the horse and all it’s handlers to enter and provide them with alcohol and food. As one would assume, allowing a horse to enter your abode, zombie or otherwise, creates it’s own veritable chaos by frightening children and surely adults as well.

Today is December 21 – the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and the longest night. It is also the start of Yule. In pagan history the winter solstice is the night when the veil between the living and dead is at it’s thinnest and therefore a prime opportunity for mischievous spirits to enter your home. To keep evil spirits at bay and invite the return of the sun the Yule Log was lit and burned through this, the longest of nights.


Beginning on December 12 and for the next 13 nights leading up to Christmas, kids in Iceland have the opportunity to cash in on some tasty treats if they’re good little boys and girls. If not? Well, the could end up being boiled alive and eaten by an ogress named Gryla.

And if you thought the Elf on the Shelf was creepy, meet her children – the Yule Lads. The Yule lads are festive yet freaky little sprites that reward well behaved children each night with treats in one of their shoes that they place on the windowsill before going to bed. If the child happens to wake up with a rotting potato in their shoe then that’s an indication that some self reflection could be required. Allowing these guys into your home invites it’s own kind of special festive hell if you consider their names, which are pretty self explanatory to their character traits.

  1. GLUGGAGÆGIR – Window Peeper: peeps in windows.
  2. ÞVÖRUSLEIKIR – Spoon Licker: licks your spoons – gross.
  3. GÁTTAÞEFUR – Doorway Sniffer: has a big nose apparently.
  4. BJÚGNAKRÆKIR – Sausage Swiper: steals your sausages and hot dogs. Lock down your Top Dogs- those aren’t cheap!
  5. POTTASLEIKIR – Pot Scraper: preemptive washing. Thank you little feller.
  6. GILJAGAUR – Gully Gawk: hangs out in gullies (?) waiting to scare passers-by. Not nice.
  7. SKYRGÁMUR – Skyr Gobbler: eater of your favourite high protein yogurt. Hands off!
  8. KERTASNÍKIR Candle Beggar: back in the day he would eat candles because they were made of fat. Now I suppose he may favour soy based products over the Yankee variety.
  9. STÚFUR – Stubby: the runt of the litter, but also has the biggest appetite favouring the crust from pans. Ok.
  10. KJÖTKRÓKUR – Meat Hook: yikes! He has the scariest name but only steals your smoked lamb. Whew.
  11. HURÐASKELLIR – Door Slammer: you guessed it, he slams doors.
  12. ASKASLEIKIR – Bowl Licker: again with the licking.
  13. STEKKJASTAUR – Sheep-Cote Clod: the first of the lads to visit the village. He likes to tease your sheep and I’m assuming when sheep may be lacking, dogs or cats might work too.

It would seem that these visitors are generally harmless considering the family they come from. Ogres as parents that eat children but apparently not their own, and like most families, they also have a family pet. A big (I mean BIG) black cat with the catchy name of JÓLAKÖTTURINN, otherwise known as Yule Cat.

This is my favourite Yule character. He’s a giant black cat that roams the countryside looking for people that did not get new clothes for Christmas and he eats them.

Simple and to the point.

But why, you may ask. The tradition started as one last push for workers to finish processing the autumn wool before Christmas. The ones who worked this overtime would be rewarded by their employer with new clothes and those lazy guys that did not help got nothing and were definitely now cat food.

There really is no better incentive than threat of a horrible death by giant Icelandic cat.

Iceland is full of weird and wonderful traditions and lore, and much of it about killing and eating people. The Elf on the Shelf doesn’t seem like that bad of an idea now does it?



Eternity lives in moments.

In the most desolate and desperate situations, hope can shine and miracles do happen. Know this and be well.

I remember the details with perfect clarity of that evening of Dec 23, 1997. Amanda and I were returning home on a snowmobile from a overnight cabin trip with friends in the middle of Labrador, our home. It was a lengthy trip over the frozen lakes and we had left in the mid afternoon with another couple of friends but got separated along the way because we had to make a stop to switch gas tanks. Not long after we started on our way again, I was sitting comfortably and listening to music on my Walkman when Amanda yelled “look out! We’re going in!” Through the ice we went, Amanda went to the left of the ski doo, I went to the right and immediately submerged into the frigid December waters of a Labrador lake.

Time did not stand still. It simply did not exist. The whole world, my world, was eternal. There was no beginning, no end – just that moment.

I can still feel that sensation of weightlessness from falling into the water, like a dream where I’m flying. Then I felt a pull, dragging me down, like icy tentacles grasping at my legs as my clothes started to weigh me down. I was enveloped in absolute terror trying to keep my head above water, then utter hopelessness with ice breaking under my arms over and over and over again as I tried to get out of the water. Light turned to dark, day to night, and then miraculously I was out. I have never been able to recall that instant other than exactly as I described – fighting to get out of the water and then *poof* I was sitting on the ice. I remember feeling like I woke from that dream to find myself sitting there. Not knowing how I got there but knowing I was given a new chance. I can feel the ice underneath me as I crawled to Amanda and we remembered enough from survival lessons in health class kept our distance so as not to break the ice again. We argued. I told her we would not give in, that was not an option. Together we made our choice to not give up, then we screamed for help. We screamed. I can still feel the ripping in my throat. Jagged, tearing screams into a clear and quiet night, reaching nothing. You could see for miles and there was nothing. No one. Time did not exist. I could see the lights from the iron ore mine, I was trying to determine how far they would be if we had to crawl that way to get off the ice. I could feel nothing of the cold, even for being soaked to the core with layers upon layers of soaking wet clothes. I knew the threat of hypothermia would become imminent as well if our situation didn’t change soon. Then another miracle, first a distant sound of a rumbling engine, then a bright light staggering in the distance. How, I will never know. It defies explanation how our screams were heard over the roaring engine of s snowmobile. How we were seen in the middle of the lake when we never should have been there. But we were.

There, the 3 of us, rode to the highway on a snowmobile meant for one. I was on the back, barely holding on, screaming again inside as I felt the ice breaking under my feet as we drove off. We arrived at the highway to flag down anyone that would stop and take us to the hospital. And so there, once again, a miracle, after a few hours of observation, tightly wrapped in warm flannel blankets, once the shaking subsided, neither one of us had hypothermia, no one else from our party had been in trouble (which was my fear) and we were released to go home. I tried not sleep that night. I felt I had just squeaked past death’s hand too many times that evening that I was not going to be given any more chances. Eventually though, sleep took me.

I may not have gone on to change the world, but my world was changed from that moment. And from there I’ve helped create 2 new precious worlds and with that I know, without a doubt, miracles happen. Miracles are real.

I am disentangling myself from my marriage.

Since the news hit my public domain I’ve had many responses such as “you’re so brave” or “you’re braver than I” and all of those comments have been from women. Women I have known my entire life and have endured private turmoil that I never knew about. Some say, “I wish I had done the same thing years ago. I wish I was as brave as you. “

I’m not brave. I am supported. I am supported by all these women who have called me brave. They’ve given me strength during my life – some in small ways, some in very big ways, but ALL in ways that have counted and mattered and have been recognized and appreciated.

To all those women in my life who have listened to my words, my hopes and fears, to those that have endured my anxiety, depression and tears, to those that show up, that remember me and say proudly “I know her!” – each and every one of you have given me the strength and have shown me with your own bravery to make the changes I need to make in my life. Your hands have helped me up, consoled me, hugged me, healed me, welcomed me, and wiped away my tears. Your hands hold me up and have carried me to where I am now.

So I want to say thank you to each and everyone of you. Your support, your love, and your friendship has always given me the strength I need to be brave.

Some days, with a neuro-diverse kid, this is the scenario – you never know which one you’re going to get. This morning was very apparent we had Mr. Hyde here for a visit. And how did he come into being? Apparently the secret formula was a mix of about 1 litre of Root Beer and an entire sleeve of graham crackers at 5 am. Days like this are really tough.

It’s almost noon now and Sully is currently sleeping off his transformation into the “evil” Mr. Hyde. He was absolutely wild and erratic for this holiday Monday morning when all I wanted to do was sleep in. There were words – bad words, loud words, regrettable words. And then, silence.

Parenting a neuro-diverse kid is challenging on most days and on days like today, they’re downright exhausting. They make you question every decision you’ve ever made – am I giving him too much screen time, am I getting him enough exercise, am I giving him enough individual attention, am I giving him too much attention?? Every single day I wonder if I have made the right decision and the real shitty part is that I will never know if I’ve royally screwed up or not until it’s too late.

Her name was foreign

Upon the tip of my pen

Where once it had been fluid.

It wasn’t that I had forgotten her, but that I had forgotten to remember her.

His voice carries an authority,

An air of confidence spiced with pipe tobacco

I woke up late to a confusing sound. My alarm radio was set but it’s usual music didn’t wake me, there was just a lot of talk. I was camping out on my sister’s living room floor as I waited for residence to open up at my first year experience at the University of Guelph. An impulsive and regretful decision brought on by the death of my father the previous year.

On the radio I heard words of disbelief and anger and confusion but no one was saying what actually happened. I was scared. I didn’t know what was going on and I couldn’t get anyone on the phone to explain it to me.

It was all over the news when I got to school. In the cafeteria I stood numb, crying unabashedly at the scenes that unfolded over and over again. The plane crashes, the fires, and the collapse of the towers that took my breath away. I was left hollow. I have never felt so alone and I was terrified.

I had a class that evening, philosophy, and I could not understand how everyone could continue on about their lives like this was no big deal. Sure, we were far enough away from the States, but this act of terrorism affected everyone. We should be talking about it. We should be crying about it. We should be acknowledging it. But no. This class didn’t matter. Not today. However, that feeling remained and I feel into a deep depression that semester. The only semester I would attend. It didn’t matter.

Still, the memories of 9/11 haunt me and I was never directly affected by the tragedy. I didn’t lose a family member or friend. But I do feel we all lost a little bit of innocence that day, and that is trauma.

If this year has taught me anything it has been humility. Time and time again I’ve been proven wrong. Wrong about what could happen. Wrong about the possibilities in my life. Wrong about my capabilities and wrong about my limitations. Everything I have thought to be true, etched in stone and unwaverable has been shown to be inaccurate.

If I could take away anything from this experience I’ll take away this – anything can happen. And that, that is both exciting and terrifying.

I have always hated the word “normal” and now this term has become ever more cringeworthy. In the news we are inundated with the turn of phrase “the new normal” and you cannot have a conversation without saying “when things get back to normal” in an effort to make future plans. But here’s the thing, normal was never and should never be the desired state of outcome for our lives. Normal is a sad excuse of maintaining a status quo, without making any trouble. Well look around, we finally got into trouble. Big trouble. And the beloved normal is to blame. Normal is lazy. Normal is boring and stagnant. Normal is devoid of creativity, progress, and evolution.

We need to move forward with the idea of being better, so let’s strive towards not getting back to normal life, but moving ahead to an exceptional everyday life. Throw away the outdated and dusty ideals associated with normal. We are better than that. We have to be.

Take this from someone who has spent the better part of the last month grasping for any minutiae of information regarding Covid-19 and I can tell you this, it doesn’t matter how much we read or listen to the news we, as a collective layman society, know nothing more about Covid-19 and can offer no new insights to the scientific experts and decision makers leading us through this pandemic. This is NOT the DaVinci Code that, only by watching ALL the news and Tweets and Facebook stories and Instagram posts, you’ll amazingly figure it all out. You, me, and my neighbour Walter are not going to solve the puzzle of this disease. Why, because we are irrelevant. Unless my buddy Walter here was an infectious disease expert but alas, he is not.

We have been told repeatedly the job we have to do and it’s quite simple – Stay home. When you absolutely have to go out, you keep at least 2 metres of distance between your own germ carrying vessel and others.

Any other time I would be tooting the horn of civil liberties for the populace but right now I’m with the government in releasing only “need to know” information. I don’t feel we’re owed all the transparency that’s being called for. Why? Because our collective working class opinion doesn’t matter right now. And, we have displayed that even with all the harrowing information out there about the disease and the simple rules to stay home, we still don’t listen. There are still people gathering in groups, hanging out at Walmart and the grocery stores. So no, I don’t think the government is obligated at all to release the projections they have been given to guide their decision making during this situation. If I thought it would solidify the degree of seriousness in those people that weren’t already abiding by the rules to stay at home then yes, by all means release the data. But I don’t think that. The same people who aren’t taking this seriously are going to take that information and look for loopholes, and the other spectrum of individuals are going to use that information as a means of placing the blame from here on out upon those that delivered that information. Because it is SO much easier to place blame, then take on the responsibility yourself. The Prime Minister has said repeatedly, the magnitude of impact the pandemic will have on our country and the lives of it’s citizens depends on YOU and YOUR BEHAVIOUR.

So, I’ll put this simply: I don’t care about your “need to know”. I don’t care if you think it is within your rights to have transparency. What you need to do now is listen to the rules given to you by the big brains in our country and worldwide to STAY HOME. Wash your hands. Distance yourself from other Germbags.

Let the government with all their advisers do their job and you do yours. Trust that everyone wants the best case scenario for all of us. Trust and have faith that once this storm passes, and it will, what’s left over will show how well we pulled together or how horrible we fell apart.

I have spent this last week in grief. Grieving the loss of what life was, what life is, and what I thought life would be. We’ve lost huge, massive foundations of our life – security and safety. We’ve witnessed the fragility of humankind and the environment, but we’ve seen the absolute persistence of both as well.

So yes, I’m sad. I’m sad to hear of all those people that have lost family and friends.

I’m mad. I’m mad at all those fucking idiots that don’t listen to reason and warnings to stay inside.

I’m anxious as all get out, because that’s really my default setting. I’m worried about someone I know getting sick or myself getting sick. I’m worried about the unknown – where do we go from here??? I’m worried that my children will be afraid. I’m worried for friends with small businesses, friends that have been laid off, friends that are alone, friends that are immune compromised or have children that are.

But, as with everything in this diametric universe there is the flip side. I am relieved to slow down. I am thankful for a job that has supported it’s employees through this time. I am grateful that my friends and family are in the good health. And I am beyond thankful to all those first responders, hospital staff, and essential services workers who still do a job every single day for the benefit of all of us.

I’m still a hot mess, and I can pretty much guarantee I’ll be like this for awhile. But in the meantime I’m keeping my eyes wide open to see those small glimmers of hope, those moments where memories are made and miracles happen.

I thought I had long ago dealt with the trauma I experienced with Fitz’s birth. It’s not something I need to explain, it was personal and subjective and I don’t need that experience validated by anyone. I realized today, though, that that fear, which I thought was gone, is actually very much still here. It had disguised itself so well as a rationality that I didn’t even realize it had been a major player in my life for the past 4 years.

I realized it through a conversation. Through noticing my choice of words. I used the words ‘pain’ and ‘hurt’ more than once along with ‘afraid’. Even though I was saying, “I like and expect a challenge when pushing my physical limits”. I was even confusing myself.

It wasn’t until I was back in my car, obsessing over what I said when I realized “holy shit, I’ve been avoiding any physical challenges for the past 4 years because of my child birth trauma.”

For the past 4 years I’ve let a few hours experience determine how I live my life, or don’t live in this case. I gave up on things that were huge parts of me. I gave up on trying, experiencing, and even just showing up. Because I was afraid – afraid that what happened before, would definitely happen again.

All this from one conversation.

Take the time to not only listen to others’ stories, but also, really take the time to listen to your own. Your version. Your words. Your story. You just might learn something about yourself.