The Internal Interview.

When I was a kid, I used to pretend I was being interviewed by somebody. Usually Oprah Winfrey. I read celebrity magazine interviews and marveled at the gravity of their experiences. As a reader, I was captivated by their words, the seriousness of their sharing. It was the 90’s so Drew Barrymore was recovering from her wild childhood, supermodels were exploring acting and Jennifer Love Hewitt was down-to-earth personified. I memorized key phrases like ‘no regrets’ ‘creating happiness’ and ‘stronger now than ever before’. Everything they said felt like truth published.

At 38, I am proudly embarrassed to admit that I still have these private interviews with myself. On dog walks, in the car, in my bathroom mirror. I listen as this omniscient voice gives mature recognition to my opinions or actions. Of course I challenge the conventional role of mother/wife/woman I speak from a slight angle. The camera loves me. I hold the audience in the palm of her hand. I recreate the way these celebrities nail the right intonation, convey the severity of their conviction,  and hold my willing audience captive, ready to clap their support. I craved, practiced and emulated.

Over the years this secret practice has become a coping mechanism. If I can’t be quietly interviewed, I try to write. Always needing an audience to validate and witness. A way to process my experiences and feel heard. Whispered quietly while walking the streets or mouthed silently in the shower, these internal interviews allow me space to feel personal conviction and marvel at my experiences, celebrity status be damned.

And thank god I have one voice in my head that takes my shit so seriously. Somebody has to stand up for me, and back my choices, back my life and nod at my severity. It has become a voice that helps me process my life.

The confident voice. The voice that gives eloquence to my fears, my mistakes, my wickedness. She stands behind them, she isn’t afraid of rejection. Having the same need to be seen as celebrities, my writing is posted for the sole purpose of going viral. The audience is key, otherwise the exercise doesn’t work. I have wrestled with this shameful truth, and have come to sometimes tolerate it as part of the creative process.

I have learned that if I don’t allow myself these internal press conferences I bury myself under the weight of my toddler emotions, my hair trigger sensitivities. I slyly take myself further into deep water and then watch myself drown.

I need her in order to survive, but as of late, she doesn’t get a lot of air time. Life has insisted she shush and take a back seat to what is demanded of me. There are fewer moments to be interviewed and talk out my experience. I can feel the pressure building and my left shoulder is so tight it’s worrisome.

This is my truth, published.

(a new project. open to comments)

The woman was born in Toronto.

No. The baby. The baby was born during a storm. The night of the birth the rain came down like it had something to say. It was loud and unyielding, coming in waves that ended in exclamations marks. The baby was born in the darkness and warmth of candlelight, wrapped now in a towel printed with umbrellas. The birth had been uncomplicated and the midwives were tending to their paperwork and tea, and the woman lay in her bed cradling her new son.

The rain came down hard, filling the room with its song of pitter and patter and the woman closed her eyes while thunder outside rumbled away. The storm was moving on now, had only visited long enough for her know that there was great power outside while she had found great power inside to bring this baby home.

She pushed the towel away from the baby’s head to observe his wet hair. She longed to fluff the wet matte on his head with her fingers but stopped herself. Instead she breathed in the scent of him, knowing it was mixed with the inside of her. She breathed in the scent and held it as far down her lungs as she could before exhaling. She gently touched his forehead with her lips and thought about his body being half her. His smell, his hair, his blood was full of her. She replaced the towel to cover his head and rested her own against the wall, looking away and choking on emotion.

She had decided long ago to give up her baby. It was a decision she had thought of, given weight to, but that she had also accepted as the only option for a woman in her situation. Her situation meant not much of anything. No money, no job, no man, no family, no friends, no education, no direction. No No No. You don’t have a baby when everything is No. Even she was smart enough to know that.

Giving up the baby was the only thing she felt she was doing right. Getting pregnant had been wrong, being alone had been wrong, being conflicted had been wrong. Giving the baby away made sense and made the world comfortable and sympathetic to her. She received a few extra smiles at church and a few concerned words of wisdom from talkative strangers. For the first time in a long time, Laurel was included in the world, at the expense of the expulsion of her unborn.

Laurel looked around her bedroom. Her bed was a mattress on the floor. Pictures sat on a shelf across from her that she had constructed out of a board of wood and two cinder blocks. Some were in frames, most were not. Most were taped to the wall, all in an attempt to be level to each other, but were left wanting. A single lamp was in the corner to her right, too far away to turn off while in bed, so it rarely got used. A closet stood menacingly in the adjacent corner, now filled with everything she could shove into it, in preparation for the comings and goings of her midwives over the last couple of days. To have opened the sliding door of the small storage space would have meant to see everything from clothing to books, to shoeboxes filled with albums, calendars, medication, bibles, chocolate bars, unfinished hobbies, unopened letters, government documents and a barrage of coupons.

Laurel stared across the room at the shelf of smiling out at her. Some smiles were genuine, like the one of her sister holding a puppy. At 8 years old, Margot had been ecstatic to finally have the puppy she’d been begging and pleading for. Laurel had been 12 at the time, and was far more interested in showing the boy next door the colour of her training bra. The puppy had been a relief for Laurel, a way to ease the constant attention Margot seemed to need to pay her. She took the picture herself, caught up in the happiness of her sister’s moment and didn’t even need to say ‘cheese’ to produce the ear to ear smile beaming at her. Laurel stared at Margot’s face and then forced herself to look away. Sometimes a genuine smile is too painful to look at.

Beside Margot was an old photo taped to the wall, it’s corners bent and the colours faded by years of exposure. Despite it’s age, it still captured the dark eyes and tight smile of Laurel’s mother. This smile was not genuine, but was rather accompanied by an echo of instruction as though one could hear the crisp cracking of a man’s voice demanding a performance. The young woman in the photo had turned the corners of her mouth upwards, but everything else about her was dragging down. Her shoulders slumped inwards and her chin begged to be out of view. Dark eyebrows furrowed together and her energy poured into the ground – not like Margot’s buoyant smile that seemed to lift her off the earth. With upturned lips and downturned everything else, only her mother’s eyes stayed level. Black eyes that pierced through her father, through his camera, through the paper and landed right in the back of Laurel’s throat. Those eyes that survived the cracking whip, the crisp commands, the dark nights of her childhood stared into Laurel and she stared back until her eyes stung.

In the Neighbourhood – Red Flags Part 3

Insisting on the removal of sugar seemed to work at first. Although it was replaced with something much sweeter and more powerful. I began to hear the conversational tones to that of tweens, the kind of back and forth that 15 year olds use, only the tone was between an adult woman and a 6 year old. I would overhear the two of them converse like giggly besties and instead of asking for my permission on important matters, Maria was asking my daughter as though she was the one with the authority to approve or disapprove. 

Clever move, really. If you can’t win ’em over with lollipops and fruit loops, whip out some equal status and any child will follow blindly. The problem with this method of manipulation is that as soon as the real adult pulls rank, it destabilizes the stability you’ve tricked the kid into feeling, and ultimately it confuses them about how the world works. Maria’s son is constantly given the reigns of power because he’s her ‘little man’ and then the rug is yanked out from under him when she decides that she is boss. His ability to make and maintain friends at school is challenged to say the least, and finding a babysitter is nightmarish. His relationship to the school yard and his protest to her leaving him with a sitter seems logical to me. She cries on my couch and wonders why he gets into such trouble at school and why she hasn’t been able to go out in 3 years. 


Once I noticed the bestie behaviour, I had some good talks with my daughter about why it’s important that she check with me before she makes any decisions that she knows an adult should consult her on. Ironically my daughter has a more instinctual sense of responsibility than Maria does and she has proven on more than one occasion that she can sense when she’s presented with a situation beyond her 6 years. 

So. Sugar: check. Equal status: check. 


The next red flag was when Maria came over to inform my husband and I that she had gotten mad at our daughter. In 4 years, she had never come to announce that she had disciplined or been frustrated with my toddler turned pre-schooler turned kid. And in 4 years there is no way my daughter wouldn’t have required discipline or induced frustration, so Maria’s proclamation of her strong words directed at our child was shrouded in red, shaped like a flag. 

It happened about a week after my son was born. My daughter had been playing over at her apartment and when the conversation turned to the new baby, Maria declared that the new baby was also her new baby, as well as her son’s new baby brother. When my daughter corrected her with logical facts and told her that was impossible, Maria unloaded on her. She unleashed emotional baggage on the 6 year old about how the two of them are friends, and they share everything, including the baby, and if she doesn’t like that than she can go home and stop coming over. I sat in my living room, holding my newborn and listened to a woman try to rationalize crazy. She polished her argument with words like ‘family’ and and gave it shine by explaining that she saw us as such. My husband and I listened and nodded and exhaustedly thanked her for telling us. It was as she turned on her heel to leave that she informed us that this had made our daughter cry, but not to worry, ‘she’s eating popcorn now and feels much better. ‘

The fact that my daughter had cried upon being reprimanded by Maria, about such an insane conversation made my skin crawl. My daughter cries for an endless amount of reasons. Bumps and bruises, fatigue and frustration, and when being disciplined, usually she cries because she feels as though she’s been caught doing something she’s not supposed to it. Or because she feels so confused about the situation that she weeps from a place of surrender, promising she won’t do it again. 

Either of these reactions, to an absurd non-truth, brought on by her own rightful, confident correction to a false statement, made me furious. While tucking her into bed that night, my husband had a long quiet conversation with her about how she had done nothing wrong, and that sometimes adults react to things that they feel strongly about, even if it means they react poorly. 

What comes after a red flag? Cannon fire?

In the Neighbourhood – Part 2 (Red Flags)

A red flag is a good thing. A moment of furrowed brows and a pausing to try to piece a moment together can give you insight into an intuitive moment and possibly save you from energy needlessly spent. It can also just be a red herring, but I find if I pay attention and keep track of the red flags, well, you end up feeling stupid when you look back and realize you didn’t listen to them and change course. But you might end up with a good story.

The first red flag, when I started to get a sense of the bigger, dysfunctional picture, was when I noticed that Maria was not heeding my instructions about my daughter. I had repeatedly asked that candy and high sugar snacks not be given to her after dinner. You might find it interesting to know that I know my daughter exceptionally well, and have come to observe that sugar before bed made her hyper, leading to a frustrating night which led to a tired morning. I also know that keeping a schedule is highly beneficial for her personality and have taken great care to ensure she eats, sleeps and learns well. This cannot be said of my neighbour who feeds her son at 9pm sometimes, lets him stay up until 2am if he’s ‘not tired’ and hasn’t been on time for school in two years. Structure and scheduling are not part of her world.

Frequently I would go to get my daughter for her bathtime and find her downing a bowl of ice cream. At first I didn’t say anything; just dealt with the energy of a hyper child. But after voicing my request for a no sugar evening, and still finding ice cream, Fruit Loops, cakes, popsicles, and more, one of us was sure to snap, and on this occasion, it was my husband. He had gone over and to retrieve our daughter and yet again found her mouth full of something bright and sticky and came back to monologue in the hallway about how she may not care about structure, but this family does and I don’t know how many times we have to say it clearly for her, but it messes with bedtime and I don’t want her going over there if everything we say having to do with our daughter is blatantly ignored!


So when I went over to bring our daughter back home, I put on my manager voice and said as directly as humanly possible that my daughter was not allowed to have sugar after dinner, and if she is eating it, then she has come to get my permission first.

That seemed to work a while. Until Maria replaced sugar with something so much more wonderful, so much more exciting that it was easy to forget that little pesky red flag. I was too busy trying to make out the next one. It was bigger and much more red.

In the Neighbourhood – Part 1

My neighbour. My neighbour across the hallway, from Brazil with a son the same age as my daughter. Proximity means playmates. Playmates for playdates. So many. So many until it was clear this just wasn’t going to work out. It’s not me, it’s you. We need to break up. Neighbour break ups are hard. They include the children, they include belongings (‘you left this Tupperware at my place’) they include awkward handoffs, run-ins, and long pauses between sentences when speaking. Neighbour break ups are not as intense as a divorce, but sometimes I think having a legal document to end the relationship would actually make things easier.

My neighbour. We’ll call her Maria for privacy reasons. Maria from Brazil who is chaotic in every way. This is no secret. She basically introduces herself using that adjective. Her accent is thick and never-improving, and she speaks as though she were already engaged in heavy conversation with you. She is a mid-sentencer, a mid-thoughter, and is unapologetic. These tactics are coy and plotted, all to appear to have as many best friends as possible. Once while walking down the street with her she engaged in half-conversations with every single person we passed. I got home and wondered how anybody could possibly know everybody in the neighborhood. Turns out nobody does, least of all Maria; but she is a master of passing friendships, casual-to-the-point-of-intimate hellos, and it works. It worked on me. For awhile.

I caught her. Or rather, I was witness to her faulting in her game, and when I saw her game clearly, I felt like I had caught her in her own act. I decided it was time to break up. Not just for my sanity, but because my daughter was spending enough time with her that there was no way her gimmicks and devices weren’t rubbing off on her, as I saw them rubbed smoothly all over her son already. Being a passing friend, a neighbour with two doors and a hallway to separate us means we don’t need to have the break up conversation. Having a 6 year old that doesn’t need to be introduced to the complexities of adult social behaviour means I don’t need to have the break up conversation. One day, I will explain to my daughter why I put so much distance between us, even though at this age she sees this woman as her hero. My move to slowly and carefully eradicate my neighbour from our lives has been a journey, and warrants a story.  

Parking Lots

There is something so trashy about seagulls in parking lots. I’m not sure if it’s the bird or the landscape, but I know that combined, they form a depressing mix of low income, forgotten dreams and clothing worn too tightly. The scavaging, both on the part of humans and gulls is unnerving. Trolling for food, trolling for parking spaces. Fighting over found crumbs, honking for a stolen parking spot. It all makes me so depressed. The movement of the birds adds to the scene. There is no calm; only swooping, jutting, jabbing, strutting, squawking. They’re not white, they’re grey on light grey. These are seagulls turned into citygulls. These are the bikers, sporting their thug inspired strut and challenging anyone to grab that piece of french fry. They laugh at the thought of their cousins soaring on the wind currents above the sea, mocking their sense of freedom. Freedom for these guys is fighting for what’s yours; in this case, a french fry. Freedom is owning your space among the bipeds, who think they own everything. Freedom is shitting on their cars, laughing from above as they cower for cover in Wal-Mart.


She Writes Lists


She makes a list of everything she remembers fondly from her memory, in the hopes it will convince her that new additions to the planet are worth while.

1. being wet as pajamas are tugged onto my body after a dusk swim, and feeling dry but mostly safe as my body warms on the couch.

2. the sound of adult voices as I drift off to sleep. Deeper tones than I’m used to, words I don’t understand like ‘government’, indignant’ and ‘crisis’. Words that carry weight and that I wonder if I will ever learn about.

3. a cackleing fire as I pretend to read a newspaper, while my grandfather reads a novel thicker than my thigh.

4. hoarding books off the bookshelf and setting them on a table, then charging a dollar for each book that is bought back by my parents.

5. faking sleep.

6. crying, and knowing that I will be comforted by adult.

7. high stakes while playing hide and seek.

8. drinking orange crush and checking to see how stained my upper lip is.

9. calling a best friend to see what she is wearing so that we can wear the same thing on the same day.

10. filling a back pack with items I deem important and grown up; like pencils, books I can’t yet read and a make up bag.

 She stars at the list and liks that it’s a list of 10, but wonders if she’s missing anything important. It would take some effort to make the list 11 or 12, wouldn’t sit well with her organized mind, but trusts that it is a list that is complete.

She wonders also if it’s worth making a list of things she remembers contemptuously, pissed-offedly, hatefully. She worries though that that list would be longer, faster to write down,  with too many memories to choose from, and thinks better of it. Maybe another day. Maybe on a day the good would certainly outweigh the bad. When dealing with such delicate issues like whether to have a baby, it would probably be best to wait until the sun is shining right above her, and everything smells of roses. Yes, life would look much more realistic through the eyes of a happy young woman. She would hold off on the list of sour memories.

She folds the piece of paper containing the happy words and tucks it into her back pocket.


The Dilemma of Free Time

Everyday, come nap time, my blood pressure rises. What do I do? Nap (there is always an exhausted self waiting to be indulged)? Clean (the kitchen counter is cluttered and once it gets too bad I avoid it altogether out of fear)? Shower? Write (in my exercise book, or on this site, or in my email to people I need to respond to)? Decompress and put on some music? Maybe TV? Maybe I should do some exercise, get myself moving and breathing and stretching. I never know when the next nap will be, so my morning Free Time is extremely stressful. I also never really know how long it will be. Maybe an hour, but when it’s over at 40 minutes, it’s hard to face the day with any sense of gratitude. Sometimes the phone rings and I stare at it wondering if I should risk picking it up and end up spending my free time talking. Maybe I should eat?

Everyday, the negotiations that take place in my head are of high stakes, great value, and… in my head. It’s confusing, tiring and makes for many circles to think in. Sometimes I wonder if all stay-at-home parents have this, wrestle with it and feel like they lose to it. Sometimes I wonder if I’m developing OCD, that the lists in my head are becoming too important, too encompassing to move forward.  Sometimes I remember the loving words of my mother who said ‘Just don’t be hard on yourself, rest, you have an infant’ and I almost fall for it, almost lie down; then remember that I put the laundry in the washing machine and have to get it before some klepto in the building decides to steal my underwear. Sometimes, on the really bad days, I’m in the process of deciding what to do, and he wakes up. Typically, it’s all downhill from there. Nothing gets done, the apartment gets messier, my timing is off, my shoulders round inwards, I worry more about all those things listed in my brain, I get cranky with my 6 year old, I get annoyed at my husband, and I watch the clock tick away until Bedtime.

So the morning nap is crucial.

If I were to write a book on motherhood, if I could add that to my list of things to do, I would include a chapter about the Dilemma of Free Time. As a single, childless woman, free time is a gift that is used without much weighted thought. Got some free time? Head to the mall, see some friendsImage, read, go to the gym, get some beers with some ex-boyfriend, do some self caring, spend some money, have a JAWS marathon; the list is just as long, but the weight behind the decision is not as Olympic. As a mother, each moment of free time is like a bomb that must be treated with care because of the possibility that it will explode in your face. This chapter on Free Time would include coping techniques, emotional validation when you start to feel like you’re going crazy, and maybe some reassurance that you are not the only one. But I’d have to do my research, because right now, sitting here, choosing to spend my Free Time writing on my blog, I am 99% sure I am on the road to some serious mental breakdowns.

Art For All


This is a poster that hangs in the studio of artist and inspiration Marie-France Nitski. She’s in her 70’s, but can out-energy 20 year olds. She wears painted sneakers and speaks to you in both English and French, mostly French, even after you’ve told her you don’t understand it. She’s from France, where she takes pictures of the poppy fields and lives in Chelsea Quebec where she walks everywhere. She loves when children come to her studio to paint on her walls. She knows me now, but used to only recognize me after seeing my eyes, and would exclaim ‘ah yes! You! You with the eyes like blue ice!” I told her I wanted to buy one of her paintings, but that I may not be able to afford it. She launched into a speech about art being affordable, about how everybody should wake up with a piece of art they love on the wall, and that you shouldn’t have to be rich to enjoy art in your living space. Maybe. Half the speech was in French. I pointed out the one I wanted, and she said ‘take it. Pay however you can. If it takes 5 years, it takes 5 years. If it takes longer, who cares?”. And so everyday I get to enjoy art. And I think about her poster in her studio, and I hope that one day I can speak in half English, half French about why art should be affordable to everyone.

I can’t figure out how to create tabs. I feel the same way I did when I couldn’t add Big Numbers. Like, Other people could do it, why couldn’t I? It seemed simple enough on paper, in the school yard, and yet when it comes down to staring at the piece of paper on my desk, I can’t do it.

I want to create tabs so that people aren’t cursed with having to read nonsense; or having to read things they are not interested in. I want a tab for MEMORIES. I want a tab for CONVERSATIONS WITH SHELAGH. I want a tab to vent and celebrate my observations on Motherhood and the rest of domestic life. I want a tab on secrets I only Write, and never Speak. I want a tab on Life Revelations.

At this point, I will have to contact the support team from this website, because I have exhausted every click and button I know of. Please by patient.