Guardian Angel (or, don't leave your wallet on top of your car)

I put my wallet on top of the car so that I could take a selfie at the gas station. That’s stupid, I told myself as I did it. You’ll regret that. Don’t do it.

But I put my wallet on top of my car, anyway, and took the photo and posted it, before gassing up before hitting the road to Winnipeg, where Elan and I had decided to meet for the weekend to work and play and eat great food and wander streets and hang out and go to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and have long, blue-sky conversations about the Future of Work and Life and Anthology and Everything. And then I got into my car and I drove off. 


And then I realized within a minute exactly what I had done. By the time I got back to the gas station — remembering to inhale and exhale and drum, drum drumming my hands on the steering wheel during the agonizingly long red light between me and my fears — my wallet was gone. Not on the ground next to the pump. The attendant inside hadn’t seen it.

And so I stood in the parking lot of the gas station for a moment, trying to figure out my next steps. I had a car and a full tank of gas, but now no driver’s license or credit card or bank card or cash. So, really, I wouldn’t be able to make it to Winnipeg, would I? Not really. Not legally, or easily, not without a Guardian Angel to bankroll me, in cash, now. Did I have a Guardian Angel?

I was just processing all this fallout when a man drove up in a red truck.

“Are you looking for something?” he asked.

I don’t think I’ve ever actually uttered the words “Bless you,” before in my life (at least, not anyone who hadn’t just sneezed) but I did, then.

(It didn't even occur to me to open my wallet, check to make sure that everything was there. Because I knew it would be. And it was.)

And then I got on the road, and I drove, listening to Cheryl Strayed read from Tiny Beautiful Things, and that book is my new religion. I still need to reread it at a couple of million times and process it, but I'll take this lesson from it, for now: that little voice in your head? The one that says, That's stupid? The one that says, You'll regret that. Don't do it. Listen to that voice, and then also listen to it when it says, Do that thing, that thing that you're so scared to do. Because that thing will save your life. And also: You are surrounded by Guardian Angels. You just need to meet them, and also be one when called.


PS: Elan and I stayed in Winnipeg courtesy of Executive Suites by Roseman. The accommodations were lovely — comfy beds, fully appointed kitchen, easy-on-the-eyes decor. I'm guessing our Winnipeg digs were one reason why it took so much effort for us to actually venture out into the city; it was too easy to stay in and just hang out. Roseman put us up (thank you!), but I'm not otherwise compensated for this post, and all opinions are my own.

Hello muddah, hello faddah

I re-read my 1986 letters to my parents from summer camp, and I didn't barf.

Sandra Boynton, obviously.

Sandra Boynton, obviously.


In a fit of decluttering last week, I came across an envelope that contained some of the letters I wrote to my parents during the year I was a CIT (or, as we called them, LITs, for leaders in training) at summer camp. Which was also known as 1986. Or the summer I was 14 years old.

I read through them all, and they didn’t even make me feel like throwing up, which is what happened when I tried to read my diaries from first-year university. I guess the existential angst hadn’t settled in yet. Or maybe there’s a difference between the letters you write to your parents and the words you keep private because they’re so full of doubt and hope and misery and embarrassment that decades later they leave make you dry heave after two paragraphs.

But, no. These letters are downright cheerful. I am resolutely upbeat about being put into a tent with my nemesis from the previous year (“… We aren’t going to get into any fights this year. We’re going to be friends (<-- positive thinking)” and, later, “actually, it’s not that bad with her. I am TOLERATING her and NOT LETTING HER GET TO ME. I UNDERSTAND THAT SHE IS INSECURE AND ACTS THE WAY SHE DOES TO COVER UP FOR IT. Aren’t I learning?”). Unsurprisingly, I am sick all summer: “My strep throat and ear infection are much better.” I write at length and fairly openly about social dynamics, who likes whom, the way the little kids look up to us and how cool that is, the evening program we planned (a giant murder mystery). “Could you send a GQ magazine?” I ask my dad. “It’s a man’s magazine with all these gorgeous male models in it. I need something to put up in our tent.” In one letter, I am thrilled about how my audition went for Grease (one of the counsellors, “told me privately that I was her first choice for Sandy, and that she loved my voice, so I was really excited”), disappointed to be cast as Marty Maraschino (“‘Like the cherry’”), elated to find out they were giving me a song after all (“Freddie my Love,” which never made it into the actual movie but was a solo nonetheless). I troll unremittingly for letters and gum and care packages.

I’m fascinated by my own handwriting, by my unabashed use of exclamation marks, and by how guilelessly open I am with my parents. (Of one of the girls in a younger unit I write: “She’s changed [since last year]. She’s punk, a slut & into drugs, and she was forced to come to camp. She’s going to try and get kicked out. Get the picture?”). I thought of myself as closed off, despondent, in my own little universe where parents weren’t allowed. I think I was wrong.

I wonder about my own boys, and whether they will ever send letters home like these to me. I hope they do. I’ll probably keep them forever.


How the Internet saved my life (when it didn't nearly kill me) OR Elan Morgan and I are launching an anthology project!

The current background image on my phone is a fairly crappy photo of a lit candle.

See? Crappy. No Instagram filter is going to make this into a Pinterest-worthy image.

But of course, there’s more to the story, the thousand (or thousands of thousands) words behind the image, the narrative always in progress. I snapped that sub-optimal photograph at the end of a conversation with a good friend, a conversation in which we shared some of our deeper hopes and fears, in which we met each other and talked about the ways in which we’re vulnerable, the ways in which we’re trying to embrace difficulties and learn from them, even when that learning hurts. Even when it’s raw. We talked about noticing, and breathing, of sitting with certain feelings and also gathering the strength to delve into them in all their messy, visceral glory. We spoke of diving into the wreckage and the muck and coming up with, well, wreckage and muck, and what you do with that? We interpreted dreams.

And then she asked me — as though I were doing her any sort of favour — to indulge her in a small ritual.

“I’m a visual thinker,” she said, closing her eyes and rubbing them as though to bring the image into words, “and through all of this, the visual I’m getting from you is of light: of this small, strong, bright light at your very core that is going to deepen and grow.”

And she fetched a candle, and some matches and a candle holder, and lit the flame. And we watched it for a while, that little flame, until we had to go.

“I wish there were a way that you could take it with you,” she said, gesturing toward the candle.

And I took out my phone (the phone I had been carefully ignoring in favour of being present in the flesh-and-blood conversation) and took a picture of that lit candle. And I set the photo as my phone’s backdrop, so that every time I look at it, I am reminded of light and strength, friendship and kindness, warmth and care.

So. On the one hand we have a series of intense, real-time events and emotions. On the other, recordings of them, images of them, their digitized interpretations. Does it cheapen the moment, make it any less real, to carry a memento of it on the cold metal interface of my smart phone? Or does that flickering candle as my backdrop humanize my digital experience, make it more compassionate? Are the two mutually exclusive?

I’m asking these questions for a reason. I’m doing it all wrong, because I should have told you this at the very top of this post (but hopefully its title clued you in), when you were still interested in reading it, that I have a new project in the works: 

Elan Morgan and I are launching an anthology of essays (here, and also on her blog) on the ways in which the Internet has saved our lives — that is, when it didn’t nearly kill us.

In fact, that’s the title of our book-in-the-works: 

Read more in our call for submissions. We’d love to hear from you. We want your stories, be they about romance, mental health, creativity, family, addiction, identity, money, politics — or something else altogether. Your stories can happy, sad, or bittersweet. The only thing we ask is that they be true and that they not be previously published. 

We’d love for you to spread the word about this project. We have an informal lineup of some fantastic bloggers and writers contributing their stories to this project (really, that lineup gives me so much joy — these are some of the best and most insightful wordsmiths I know of and I am beyond honoured that they are interested in being part of this), and we’re looking for additional contributors to complete the book.

(Also, I can’t imagine how you wouldn’t know of Elan Morgan, but she’s a dear friend who has come into my world precisely because of blogging and the Internet (oh, and she designed this website). She’s also a pretty much perfect example of the ways in which people can build meaning and communities online and off — and I couldn’t imagine a better partner in this project.)

So. I am, at my core, good and bright and safe and warm. I’ve got my light — in all its backlit, pixelated, sweet glory. And you, if you’re a writer and blogger with something to say about this topic, may just have your work cut out for you. We look forward to hearing from you.