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The MomShift

The MomShift

Women Share Their Stories of Career Success After Having Children
also available: Hardcover
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Unworthy Creature

A Daughter's Memoir of Honour, Shame, and Love
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It Starts With You

What Happy, Healthy Parents Know About Raising Great Kids
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Don't Wait

What Will be Your Legacy?
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Buddha's Bedroom

The Mindful Loving Path to Sexual Passion and Lifelong Intimacy
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Living and Loving More
also available: Paperback
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It wasn’t a wedding, but a welding.
For years, I thought I was too commitment-phobic to ever walk down an aisle without running the other way. But on that June morning, as several friends on each side helped carry layers of scalloped printed newspaper that comprised my gown – news stories my partner Adam and I had worked on over the years at the Toronto Sun together as reporter and photographer – I took confident steps towards my unorthodox future.
Several feet away, I could see Adam, beaming while standing in his newspaper vest, and my fiancé Charlie seated in the front row, smiling his encouraging smile, and I knew I had made the right choice to openly and unabashedly love two men.
Our story began as a love triangle and ended with a committed V.
Nearly a year ago, even though the three of us would have categorized ourselves as “monogamous,” we started exploring the possibility of polyamory – being in a relationship with more than two people at the same time, with everyone’s knowledge and consent.
I met my two loves of my life – Charlie, literally, and Adam, romantically after years of friendship – a week apart of each other in the summer of 2013. How’s that for fate?
But because we thought monogamy was our only choice, there was a lot of heartbreak for many years, trying to choose between the two. From the get-go, I was always honest to the two of them about how I felt and looking back now, I think that laid down the foundation for open communication, respect and trust needed in any relationship, but especially poly relationships. Without those, problems rise quickly to the surface and things fall apart pretty quickly.
I struggled with the picture I thought what life was supposed to look like. One partner. Monogamy. I was often told, “You can’t have it all.” But living an ordinary life just wasn’t me. And in society, we are told to be brave, love deeply. That seemed to feel right for me.
Ironically, around that time, I discovered a pre-Hays code film, Design for Living, about a woman who ends up in a polyamorous relationship with two men on a train to Paris, who initially made her choose between them.
What changes towards the end of the story is that both men realize they need her; that they all bring something different to the relationship and as a result, it all balances. That having something is better than nothing at all, but it doesn’t come from a place of starvation or fear. Meanwhile, she chooses a safe, ordinary life and discovers how bland it is, married to this old vanilla guy.
As her two loves and she drive off to Paris to live together, not knowing whether it will work or fail, she kisses one and leans over and kisses the other and the screen fades to black.
And then, at the peak of our dark days of being in a love triangle, Adam approached me in the newsroom and laid out an alternative option.
“What if we tried to make this work with Charlie?” he asked. And he meant it.
It wasn’t because we were jumping on a bandwagon of some hipster trend of hot non-monogamy, but stemmed from our unique set of circumstances (I wanted to be a mom and so did Charlie and Adam was in his 60s and already had a 20-year-old son). But even more powerful than primal biological needs was our connection. Both men knew the connection they shared with me and vice-versa was rare and we were not prepared to waste it.
And that analogy was no better expressed that in the lit-up 11:11 barn board sign hanging at the front of the venue, a symbol of mine and Adam’s synchronicity. We would randomly check our phones and see it was 11:11 a.m. or p.m. and send screenshots of it to one another.
Our ceremony began at the time and I walked towards Adam to Sigur Ros’ Staralfur in four-inch red leather patent Valentinos, my mom linking arms with me on the right and my left hand holding a bouquet of mint and red paper flowers and the leash that pulled my Shih-Poo Wampa from scampering off.
During our commitment vows, I often glanced over at Charlie, dressed with a newspaper bow, who was tightly holding on to my mom’s hand and wiping tears away with his other hand.
I could feel our own connection, standing up there.
In December, Charlie moved across an ocean and moved in with me. I think we all had fears about how this all would work, how we would deal with jealousy, envy and all the other irrational, but inherent, feelings that we would be new at navigating in a relationship that included more than two.
A few weeks before the Welding, I could feel the anxiety Charlie felt about the party, even though we would have our legal marriage the following year. He worried it would feel too intense for him the day of or that him and I would lose out on some “first” experiences together.
But it was surprising – I think for many of our guests as well as ourselves – how natural it all felt.
Charlie was very much included, from our vows to our speeches. The three of us held up Welding masks in photos – cause that’s how we roll. Charlie helped with our Chinese tea ceremony and during our first two dances of Ella Fitzgerald’s “The Nearness of You,” and Tame Impala’s “’Cause I’m a Man,” my two guys alternated being on the floor with me and my mom, laughing and having a ball.
We have a term of this in the poly community – “compersion” – feeling joy that your partner is experiencing joy, even though you may not be the direct cause of it. And boy, compersion was filling the place to the roof that day.
There was a moment after the end of the speeches – some people were still watching, but others were milling about – when Adam and Charlie hugged each other in front of everyone. I was in the middle and touched both of their faces and we were all overcome by emotion. Our photographers captured that joyful moment between the three of us embracing that I will never forget. It encompassed everything about the relationship with the three of us without requiring words.
A friend who was skeptical back in the winter when I first brought up the concept of polyamory found he had to explain the three of us to some of his friends. “It’s a feeling,” he told them. “When you see them in person, you can feel how much they care and love each other.
Again, we’re poly by circumstance. But not in a sister-wives kind of way, though there is definitely a huge element of “family” here. It feels right. It’s all based on love and mutual respect and openness. We have all worked hard and gone through our dark days to get to this point.
Charlie puts it in a way that is so simple: “I love you. You love me. Adam loves you. You love him. That’s it.”
We’re mostly “out” to our co-workers, friends and families.
My seemingly traditional Chinese parents have shockingly accepted our future plans – my mom told me to bring them both home for Christmas dinner. I think they like having two “sons.”
My dad, who is in his 80s and has survived a war, seen some shit, and has endured his own romantic heartbreak, told me: “We’re not like our parents’ generation. We’re open-minded. You’re all adults, whatever makes you happy.”
The Welding wasn’t a legal ceremony by any means – there was no pronouncement, no marriage registration or licence. We stayed away from loaded terms such as “husband” and “wife” and had disclosed our relationship to family members and friends months prior. To make sure we stayed away from any legal hot water of violating any anti-polygamy laws, we even got advice from one of Canada’s most profile criminal lawyers, a Toronto family lawyer and a retired Ontario Superior Court Justice. The consensus was as long as it wasn’t registered and wasn’t presented as a wedding, it should be fine.
My cousin told me some of my aunts and uncles were afraid to tell my grandma on my dad’s side about poly, fearing it may cause a heart attack. I think they underestimated her ability to be open-minded – I mean, this was the woman who cut the umbilical cords of six of her children, she’s hardcore. And guess what? She was totally fine with it. She told my cousin she understood the importance of honouring the relationship with Adam, but also legally marrying Charlie, especially if we were going to start a family.
It was very important to do that in front of our family and friends.
In poly terminology, I’m called the “the pivot” in the V-shaped relationship – the one who balances the emotional weight of the two sides. But honestly, Adam and Charlie balance me. And it only works with the three of us.
Adam said with a chuckle: “You’re doing all the things in life chronologically – Welding, honeymoon, baby. Just with two different guys.”
I am lucky and grateful to have two men I love and who love me. Again, it’s the connection – even though they are different – that tie our bond together. And it is the maturity and respect on everyone’s part, no matter their ages, that allow for all this to co-exist and work.
“I just want you to be happy,” both partners have said. “And he makes you happy, so I can accept and support that.”
Charlie offered our apartment to Adam and I to enjoy for an intimate night, pre-Welding-moon to Venice. When we arrived, he had decorated the place with hearts, flowers and candles with a touching and personal note to the two of us. Later on, Adam and I agreed, it felt right to ask him to come “home” after he was done work just so the three of us could spend time together as a family. Again, unexpected compersion.
It took two years, but the triangle opened up to more love than we have ever imagined. The two even call each other “Co” – as in “co-partners.” But things were never forced, they progressed and camaraderie blossomed naturally.
As one of friends have commented, “You make poly look easy.” But trust us, there’s a lot of hard work involved.
And we’re bracing for whatever wild ride lies ahead, hopefully including the introduction of our first-born and having Adam aboard as “Weird Uncle Adam.”
Mine and Charlie’s wedding next year will be much different from the Welding and will be very unique to us, but still include Adam. And that’s a perfect parallel to poly – it’s different and unique, but in no way takes away from the other.
When we finally let go of perceptions of how life and relationships “should be,” it allows us to open up to a different, alternative way of living that works for us – happily.
Even though our dynamic may be closed – that is, we’re a polyfidelitous V, not looking for other partners – the stories of Canadians opening up and loving more is definitely not exclusive to a small population.
The conversation about non-monogamy is something that is no longer kept between the sheets.

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The Code

The Code

A Book of Wisdom for Men
also available: Paperback
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Why this book?
Technology and feminism have changed everything. Women have undergone a revolution in their thinking. No such revolution has happened for men unless they have taken it on themselves. Most men have been left feeling confused and disoriented by the social changes around them. Their traditional roles have disappeared as have many of their traditional jobs. We need to have conversations about what it means to be a man today and how to live one’s life as a man in a new kind of world.
This book is meant to be a guide for men who would like to live their lives on a deeper level. We live in a shallow culture, and no one is showing us the way. It is hard to be a man today because there are so few good role models. Many men want to think things through, to figure things out, but they don’t know where to start. We feel like we are always making it up as we go along. We all need guides – someone to point the way or at least point out a possible way that we can choose to take or not. It is hard to go it alone. Take this book with you.

How to Read This Book
This book is made up of short passages. Each one stands on its own. There is no overall logical flow or development to follow. You do not have to start at page 1.
There are three possible ways to read this book:

  1. Pick it up when you feel confused, depressed or bored. Open it anywhere. Don’t think about it. Just open it. Synchronicity will lead you to the passage you are meant to read.
  2. There is an index at the back of the book that organizes the passages according to themes and topics. Choose the topic you want or need to think about.
  3. Start at page 1 and read it from cover to cover.

You decide which way is best.

Confusion is the pre-requisite for wisdom. Don’t worry about feeling confused. It is the most natural state in the world. Before you figure things out, you must be in a state of confusion. One leads to the other. So, when you feel confused, have hope – know that the answer is coming. When you feel confused you are motivated to search out answers. That is the great gift of confusion. It leads us to new understanding. Take advantage of those opportunities. It may take a day or it may take years. Trust the process. Bob Dylan wrote, “He not busy being born is busy dying.” There is nothing wrong with confusion as long as you keep working at the questions – trying to untangle the ball of string. The answer will come. Always be growing, changing and learning. So many adults have stopped. They have decided what’s what and there is nothing more to learn. These are sad people to be around. They just keep saying the same thing over and over again. Don’t let this happen to you. Never be done. Never stop growing up.

What comes from the heart speaks to the heart
You can end up living in your head. Don’t lose touch with your heart. When you were a little boy, your heart was so alive, and it felt good. As you grew older, you dampened down your feelings. People want to know what you feel, and when you speak with feeling, people will respond with enthusiasm, and you will feel more alive. When your heart is closed, people can feel it and you can feel it. People don’t respond fully. They feel cautious. They know it’s not you. When you speak from your heart, people are drawn to you because their heart hears yours. Similarly, when you are drawn to someone, it’s because their heart speaks to your heart. Pay attention to that. Move closer to the people you feel speak to your heart.

Courage comes from the heart
Courage comes from the heart, not the guts, not the muscles, not weapons. A person with courage is willing to risk failure, rejection and humiliation. Courage means doing what you know is right, no matter what other people think. Courage means speaking up or doing what needs to be done. Courage is motivated by love for yourself and for those you love. It means being willing to take a risk. We think that a courageous man is invulnerable, but the opposite is true. A courageous man is vulnerable – and yet he takes the risk anyway. A fearful man tries to make himself invulnerable. He puts on a face, shows no emotion, and pretends he is tough. He is afraid of getting hurt. His tough stance is an act, trying to ward others off. He is afraid of others. Have the courage to let other people in. You are strong enough to handle what might happen.

People will take their lead from you
When you are worried about how other people are going to respond to you, remember that the attitude you have about yourself is the attitude others will adopt. If you think well of yourself, others will too. If you think poorly of yourself, others will too. Be confident and strong in who you are, and others will treat you with respect. If you want others to have a certain opinion about you, then you must have that opinion about yourself. You can decide what it will be. I am a strong person. I am a capable person. I am a confident person. If you aren’t there yet, then “fake it till you make it.” Adopt the attitude toward yourself that you would like other people to adopt toward you. It is there in seed form, and the seed will grow when it is watered with practice and experience.

Stay humble
Being humble does not mean putting yourself down or understating your abilities. It means acting on the gifts you’ve been given. It is a mystery why some people are given certain abilities and others not. If you have an ability, you did not create it. It is a gift. If you nurture it, you can be proud of that. Be grateful for whatever gifts you have – and use them. We sometimes say that the opposite of humility is pride, that humility is good and pride is bad. There is nothing wrong with feeling pride about your accomplishments. We just have to remember that we are not the creators of our own gifts. We are simply the ones who develop them. We do not get to decide what we start out with – our parents, our physical and intellectual abilities or the socio-economic situation into which we are born. There are so many external factors that influence who we become. Some people start out with many advantages; others with few. Humility is simply the profound acceptance of who you are and working from there. It is not about being better or worse than others. It is about being yourself – whatever that is.

Karma is real
When you do good, good comes back to you. Be kind to people and people will be kind to you. “Look out for Number One” means look out for yourself first. People who live by this motto might have safe, predictable lives, but they do not get much love from others. When you are generous with your time, your attention, your love and your money, you will get so much more back. Of course, there will be times when the principle of Karma does not seem to be working. You do good and get nothing for it. Your kindness goes unnoticed or seems like it is actively ignored. Remember that the principle of Karma applies to the bigger picture. It is not about being paid back equally for each good thing you do. It is much more subtle and long-term than that. When you are a person who does good, it ends up colouring your whole life. You will live on a happier level.
Take care of yourself
Men are known for not going to the doctor until there is a problem. On average, men do not live as long as women do. Men are conditioned not to take care of themselves. Men are trained to be strong and independent, not to have any needs. The body and the soul have needs. If you don’t take care of them, you will suffer, and perhaps cause others to suffer. Taking care of yourself is good for you as well as for those you love. Taking care of yourself implies that you care about yourself, that you consider yourself worth taking care of. When you don’t take care of yourself, it is an indication that you don’t think much of yourself that you don’t think you’re worth it. You are worth it – to yourself and to others. You are the only self you have. This is the only life you will have. Living it fully means taking care of yourself.

You get what you expect
Expect good things to happen and they will. Our thoughts have a direct influence on our lives. Tell yourself you’re going to have a good day and you will. Tell yourself you’re going to do well in that interview and you will. You have the power to create our own reality by the attitude you bring to it. If you think positively and say positive things to yourself, good things will happen. Why do we focus on the negative when we could just as easily focus on the positive? Some of us grew up with negative voices around us, and we are simply repeating that pattern. You have a choice about how you think and this will have a direct influence on how your life goes. Choose to think positively.

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