Easter Accompanies the Suffering Heart with Hope

When I was in the depths of grief after losing my baby daughter Josephine five years ago, I found it was very hard to go through holidays that focus primarily on being joyful. The pressure to be happy was too much. Christmas is cosy and lovely and normally a huge favourite of mine, but not when the pain is still too raw. In times of struggle, I prefer Easter.

Why? Those of you who know me might be thinking of one thing: chocolate! All the chocolate without all the work of Christmas. I am definitely a believer chocolate’s ability to comfort and to express affection when given. I almost always include some chocolate in the grief baskets my friend Julia and I make for bereaved moms, along with my baby loss poetry book and other encouraging books and self-care items, but no, chocolate isn’t the reason.

Although these days, when things are extra stressful around the world, there are times when I’d like to simply bury my entire face in a Tuxedo chocolate layer cake, there is something chocolate cannot do: accompany me in my suffering. Share my grief. Give dignity to my tears, by saying, “I, too, have suffered. You are not alone.” This is something God can do. This is something Jesus does from the cross.

“There is no evil to be faced that Christ does not face with us. There is no enemy that Christ has not already conquered. There is no cross to bear that Christ has not already borne for us, and does not now bear with us. And on the far side of every cross we find the newness of life in the Holy Spirit, that new life which will reach its fulfillment in the resurrection. This is our faith. This is our witness before the world.” – St. John Paul II

Despite all the wild and crazy things that happen in a complex world where there is human freedom, and also the realities of pain and death, we can be consoled by knowing that we do not suffer alone, for we have a God who is compassionate. As I would tell my kids in homeschool, compassion comes from the Latin “cum” (with) “passio” (I suffer). But why would God want to enter our mess, instead of remaining “aloof in icy splendour,” as the archbishop of Toronto poetically asked yesterday?

Love. A personal love for each person ever created. A tender love for you and for me individually. A desire to accompany us in our hardest moments, and to help us bear them.

I have experienced this same desire myself. After losing Josephine, I had an intense desire to be with others who were in pain, to accompany them in their mourning, to hold their hands on the long road to recovery. I could not make their pain disappear, but I could feel it with them, and let them know their grief was valid–was in fact a beautiful sign of their immense love for those lost.

So if you are in mourning this Easter, I encourage you to reach out to the source of love through prayer. God truly cares about your struggles, and wants to help you carry your crosses, as once he carried his own: with blood, and sweat and tears, but also with the dignity of one who gave his life for others freely, out of love. By reaching out to console others in pain, you, too, share in the healing power of God’s generous love, a love stronger than death.

Bad Day Mama Blues

Sometimes when you’re tired it feels like the world is ending, even though everything is actually ok. So this is a shout out for all the moms out there who had a bad day, or even a bad week, and don’t want to feel alone. If you’re tired of airbrushed social media images of perfection, this post is for you. 

So it all started with running out of coffee. Think alarm bells and

Code red, code red: mom down, mom down!


A disaster of epic proportions…leading to an immediate need to at least consume extra chocolate. So how ’bout you join me? Here’s a chocolate quiz. Eat one chocolate for every time you answer yes (chocolate chip or chocolate bar? That’s up to you!).

  1. Did your baby spit milk on you within 3 minutes of getting dressed? (Hey, good job getting dressed!)
  2. Was there a civil war at breakfast over who was looking at whom, followed by the building of a cereal box wall?
  3. Did you have to chase your naked toddler around the house to get his or her clean diaper on, right before you had to leave?
  4. Did you wonder if climbing the piles of laundry counted as a homeschool sport?
  5. Did your dishes magically reproduce the second your back was turned?
  6. Did you daydream about hammocks and drinks with little umbrellas in them?
  7. Did you feel inadequate or incapable…especially late in the afternoon, during that “witching hour” before dinner?
  8. Are you getting a toothache yet? 🍫🍫🍫
  9. Did your kids run screaming or getting suddenly faint and ill when you mentioned chores?
  10. Did it take three tries to call your child by the right name when correcting them?

Well, my friends, you’re not alone! Hope you’re munching something yummy, and ignoring those little ugly voices that sneak up when you’re tired and tell you you’re not good enough. If you’re worn down and feel like you have nothing left to give, it’s likely because you gave it all already. Like a fireman, you’ve been putting out fires all day…so the smoke and dust are a sign you’ve worked hard. Battle scars!

Motherhood is a tough job, and requires all your strength and all your heart. Chances are you’re doing an awesome job…not perfect, but awesome, so keep it up, and here’s to moms everywhere, struggling to love their little ones and make their homes happy, even when disaster strikes, and the coffee runs out! 

Nesting, nesting, 1, 2, 3…

It’s nesting time in the Eastland household, with less than a week to go until baby! I’m really happy to report that I’ve been able to do some of the normal things to prepare for baby…and that I’m actually feeling generally ok. After losing little Josephine in labour last time, I haven’t been able to even let myself imagine this baby too much…but I’m starting to! I think the prayers of loved ones have lifted some weight from my shoulders, and I’ve managed to do a bunch of things on my baby preparation list:

1. Stock up the house with groceries. My dear friend Cheryl watched the kids for me (and cleaned the kitchen!) while her husband took me grocery shopping. He kindly put up with my crazy preganancy shop and helped me fill two enormous carts of groceries, and bring them all home after. They just had their own rainbow baby a few months ago, and wanted to do something concrete to help support me as I prepare for mine. Doing this normal pre-baby thing made me feel more calm and optimistic.

2. Clean the house. I know it sounds like a funny thing to do so far ahead, when my house is a constantly evolving circus of art projects, blanket forts, and imaginary castles, but what I mean is that I stayed home from mom’s group to help my paid cleaners do a little extra…pull out the beds to vacuum and mop underneath, replace light bulbs, dust the window ledges and lamps etc. Many dust bunnies and long lost objects were found!

3. Pack the hospital bag. This was a big one. It meant acknowledging that this baby is coming for real. And soon. That it’s not all a dream, and that I’m actually going to need his little outfits to come home in this time. That I will get to use my nursing cover this time…that there will be a baby who suckles and cries instead of being silent. The fact that I could prepare the hospital bag without getting upset was for me a surprise and a tiny miracle. 

4. Get out the newborn clothes and diapers. This was also a biggie. I’m really happy that I actually enjoyed sorting through the little boy clothes, and filling the drawer with cute things for 0-3 months. “Why did you do it, Mum?” my 9 year old asked me, “We might not need the newborn diapers. We might get two saints.” “I know honey, that’s true, but I’m hoping for the best. And didn’t open the package of diapers, so we could always give them away if we had to.”  Gotta love the brutal honesty of children. My 5 year old told me cheerfully, “After the baby comes, we will have a party at Holy Family, right? Either a baptism or a funeral?”  “Yes.” My four year old was sweet at bedtime prayers…”I pray baby brother will come out and snuggle us and suck on my finger.” She knows what babies like!

5. Order new homeschool supplies. I thought it would be a good idea to order some new books now, so that a few weeks after that baby comes, fun parcels will arrive in the mail, and the kids will be excited to read new books and work on new workbooks…even if Mummy is still generally horizontal with baby!

But the icing on this layer cake of baby nesting activities was certainly a special pre-baby party my awesome friend Kate organized for me last Saturday, called a blessingway. Rather than a big early birthday party with tons of baby gifts and funny games, this was a beautiful evening of good company, nice food, emotional support and special prayers for baby’s safe arrival.

I got spoiled with beautiful flowers, as Kate had the idea everyone should bring some at reminded them of me. Most were gorgeous coppery red ones, rather like my hair and glasses…cheerful gerberas and  feathery tulips, but also a poignant white rose from my friend and midwife Terry-Lyn, and a white and greenish bouquet from Kate…with cabbages in it for her veggie friend!  

Fancy chocolate, nice coffee, cosy slippers, homemade lavender bath salts, a cosy homemade crocheted blanket for baby, and generous gift cards also arrived with sweet cards full of encouraging words. This beautiful quote was in Terry-Lyn’s card: 

It’s not just the making of babies, but the making of mothers that midwives see as the miracle of birth.

Barbara Kate Rothman

Can you see why I love my midwives so much? I even wrote a piece for the anthology Love Rebel: Reclaiming Motherhood about midwives and the mystery of motherhood.

There was also a special appearance by my dear old friend Fr. McDonnell, whom I’ve known for nearly 15 years. We used to go to Tim Hortons and Boston pizza together to chat with friends after Mass and compline evening prayers when he was still ‘just’ Brian. It’s so lovely to have him back in town again as one of our parish priests. He made everyone laugh by showing them old pictures of nearly teenage me on his phone. “She never changes,” he said sweetly. 

Fr. McDonnell came to give me the beautiful blessing for a safe labour, and to bless the candles and holy cards of St. Gerard that everyone would take home to light and pray for me these coming days. It is a comforting thing to have special traditions for expectant mothers, and to even have a patron saint for them.   

Thank you to everyone who has helped me prepare for baby so far, and who is holding me close in prayer as the big day approaches. Because of my usual late pregnancy liver condition, colistasis,  we plan to deliver three weeks early, on November 2nd. This is safer for the baby, as this condition has a slight correlation with stillbirth which increases as time goes on. Happily in an ultrasound a few weeks ago, the cord was no where near the baby’s neck like last time, so that is at least a huge relief.    Starting this Friday, the midwives will do stuff to get things going, like a stretch and sweep, and on Monday morning I’ll be downing a charming labour cocktail of protein smoothie with castor oil, and which has always worked in the past to get babies out. Then another sweep. If baby needs more coaxing to come out, my OB goes on call Monday night so she will do the rest. 

Sorry for the rather long update…but I finally found some quiet moments, deep in the night, with only my iPad and heartburn for company, so I thought I’d seize the chance to write before there is a little nocturnal creature wiggling in my arms! Less than a week to go!

A Recipe for Trancendental Chocolate Bars

I’ve been reading some philosophy lately, so my head is filled with funny terms…what better to do with them when I can’t sleep than turn them into a delicious recipe?  

                  🍫🍫🍫Trancendental Chocolate Bars🍫🍫🍫

  1. Pour 2 cups existential questioning into an empty bowl. 
  2. Add 1/2 cup human knowledge and 3/4 cup yearning for the infinite.
  3. Mix with 3 tsp humility and a dash of wonder. 
  4. Add liberal amounts of certain proof for intelligent design (ie chocolate).
  5. Stir until you are satisfied with its finite existence. 
  6. Bake at 350 until it exudes its essence. 
  7. Cut in pieces small enough to fit the human mind and enjoy with coffee and conversation about the transcendence of being. 
  8. Forgive me for being silly at 2 am! 😋

Brainless No-Bake, No-Measure Cookies

Perfect for a quick snack on a lazy afternoon! Ready in 5 minutes…so you can please your low-blood sugar critters before they eat each other up…even if you forgot to plan their after-school snack!

Here’s the basic idea…but feel free to ask for more details in the comments if you like!

1. Warm about a cup of peanut butter in a pot on medium heat. 

2. Add some apple sauce and stir.

3. Throw in some chocolate chips and mix to help them melt. 

4. Pour in a bit of (almond) milk and stir till creamy. 

5. Dump in some ground flax. 

6. Mix in quick oats until the whole thing sticky but fairly solid. 

7. Remove from heat and drop by spoonfuls on a cookie sheet. 

8. Let cool a few minutes or until little fingers grab ’em! 


Simply Delicious Sandwiches

Do you ever need something quick and easy, but still fresh and delicious to feed your loved one or yourself after a long day at work? Here are two lovely sandwich recipes that will make your evening a little picnic in Italy.

The Tomato Bocconcini and the Feta, Basil and Sweet Pepper Sandwiches


Slice half a baguette in half. Drizzle both sides in a homemade dressing made from olive oil, balsamic vinegar, dried basil, dried oregano, fresh pepper, and a clove of crushed garlic. I always eyeball it, but it’s about 1/3 cup olive oil, a tablespoon or so balsamic vinegar, a tablespoon of basil, and a teaspoon of oregano, a small garlic clove and a few twists of pepper.


Then layer one side of the baguette with sliced tomato, fresh basil leaves, and bocconcini (the pre-sliced medallions make this easy). Drizzle a little more dressing on top.


Or, as an alternative use the same dressing but layer with fresh basil and sliced sweet pepper, and top with crumbled feta. This is for fussy ones like me who don’t like raw tomatoes. 😉 It’s really delicious, too!


Turn the oven to broil on low and heat the sandwiches for about 5-8 minutes until warm. If you’re afraid of burning your creations, warm in the oven at 400 C for about 10 minutes instead. The idea is to make the cheese slightly gooey and the bread warm, and to make your house smell delicious.

Serve with olives and grapes on the side if you desire, and with a refreshing drink of some kind, be it sparkling cranberry juice, white wine, or even a Starbucks Refresher, my husband’s favourite.


Enjoy! La vita e bella when you’re eating Italian!

Finish with chocolate if you like…our favourite is Ritter Sport.

Of course, all the nuts in it make it extremely healthy! 😉

The Grace to be Present

I saw this quote online and it made me laugh to think how true it is:

Worrying is like praying for what you don’t want.

Sometimes we think that it is a noble thing to worry, that it is somehow more responsible to worry than to trust. Perhaps we know that we shouldn’t really worry about whether or not a new haircut will turn out perfectly, but we fall into the trap of thinking that it is right to worry extensively about the things that do really matter, like whether or not we are a good enough parent. Surely in this matter we are justified in periodically raking ourselves over the coals…right?


While it is responsible to spend some time in reflection and planning, in setting goals and making small changes, this kind of beat-yourself-up worry can easily be more self-indulgent than useful, because it can lead to apathy and despair, instead of hope-inspired action.

Furthermore, while worry removes us emotionally and mentally, gratitude helps us to be present, to really experience the moment and the people we are with. Worrying when you are with someone is like the mental equivalent of texting at the table. How about instead of sitting worrying about whether you are a good enough parent, spouse, or friend, give your loved one a hug? The love of an imperfect person goes a really long way; after all, we all are!

5 things to do if you catch yourself sliding into a worry spiral:

1. Get up and do something. Take one small, concrete step towards the issue troubling you, and then try to let it go.

2. Work up a sweat. Go for a brisk walk, get down and scrub the floor (it’s hard to worry when huffing, puffing, and making your house shine) or get down and boogie. A little living room dance party does wonders for the soul.

3. Read something uplifting. Remember all the beautiful things happening in the world. Give thanks for what is going well, and try to trust that there is a good plan behind the things that, in your limited view, are not.

4. Call a friend. Ask them about their day. You’ll remember others have struggles, too, and yours will become a lot smaller. Just voicing your fears to a confidant will help them become less ominous, and you’ll likely receive the emotional boost you need along with some good laughs. Also, friends are good at telling you the things you already knew but forgot, and needed to hear from someone you love.

5. Pray. There’s no harm in asking for help, in letting the things beyond our control out of our tight grasp, in letting go so that something good can happen, something better even than what we imagined. Remember, “worrying is like praying for what you don’t want,” so instead, pray for you heart’s desires, for peace, wisdom and joy, for the hope to begin again each day with trust. As Anne of Green Gables’ lovely school teacher Miss Barry said, “Tomorrow is a new day, with no mistakes in it…Yet.” Just remember, making mistakes doesn’t disqualify you from being loveable, but worrying about your mistakes can prevent you from loving. Remember to be gentle with yourself, and that gentleness will extend to others.

And if all else fails, eat some chocolate and watch a funny movie! Or maybe do that part anyway…