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The Happy Tech

February 21, 2017 — 15 Comments

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Just over two years ago, I went for an ultrasound.

I was nearly 8 months pregnant with my son, Connor, and things were going exactly as they should. I was round, I was comfortable, I was excited. This ultrasound—a purely precautionary measure recommended by our midwives after a very slight fender bender—was to be done at the walk-in clinic just minutes from my house. The clinic was, as almost all walk-in clinics are, unremarkable. Beige and windowless, never without the pall illumination of fluorescent lights overhead.

But when I think back to that ultrasound, I don’t remember the beige or the bland. I remember the Happy Ultrasound Technician. He was a small man, with wirey hands and thinning hair, but his eyes were bright, and his smile was big. From the moment the ultrasound began, The Happy Tech beamed. While the whole process was old hat by then—brace for the cold gel on my stomach, place the pillow in the small of my back— the man beside made that beige room light up.

“A Christmas miracle!!” He said.

“…Oh gosh, I hope not!”  (I was, after all, a good month from my due date).

“Even better then! A New Year’s baby!”

“Haha, let’s hope.”

“Such a blessing, such a blessing.”

Looking back, he didn’t diagnose anything, of course. That’s not what ultrasound techs do. But his warm congratulations, the way he ushered me out of the office, and his parting smile as I went on my way, reassured me that all was well. And it was.

I remember telling Matt about The Happy Tech. Commenting on his sweet demeanour, grateful for his pleasant presence. But the cynic in me had to wonder, just a little, why he was so happy. Was it his first day on the job? Did he have a baby coming himself? Maybe he just got a raise! Or ate a really good breakfast?

Nearly two years to that day, that question got its answer.

On January 3, the Happy Tech conducted a very different ultrasound. He did not greet an 8 month-expectant mother. He did not see a soon-to-be-born baby summersault across the screen. And he did not talk of Christmas miracles.

Instead, he greeted an 8 week-expectant mother. And things went very differently. He had to look closer, and search longer than he expected for what he wanted to find. In the end, he could only note not where things were, but where they should have been. He offered no blessing. He gave no smiles. He only looked away, as the woman beside him barely disguised the panic in her voice.

“…but everything is OK, right?”

“I…well…you will have to discuss the results with your doctor.”

He could not wish her well. He could not smile. He could only go back to his office, and listen to the muffled sobs of a confused conversation between the woman and his receptionist.

“But…when will I know?

The Happy Tech was not happy that day, of course, because he already knew.


1in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. These are the statistics you never bother to learn until you join the ranks of the 1. And only once I had, did I realize that that technician must encounter anxious eyes and empty screens almost as often as he does the opposite. At first, this made me tremendously sad. Comparing our happy meeting with the one that confirmed our miscarriage only heightened the sense of loss.

But that is not what it does for The Happy Tech, and that’s not what it’s done for me since.

Because here is what I’ve realized: It is only because of the darkness he must encounter, and the heartbreak he must bear witness to, that he is able recognize the wonder when he sees it. On that day two years ago, as he caught a glimpse of Connor rolling around the screen, he knew, more than I did, that the ultrasound monitor was a window into something miraculous: a mystery, a marvel, a blessing.

Of course our miscarriage broke our hearts. Of course it altered the vision of our family. Of course we grieve it still. But as I do that, I will try, everyday, to be a little more like The Happy Ultrasound Technician. I will not be defined by the dark days, instead, I will freely talk of miracles when I see them. I will fervently thank the Lord for grace he’s already bestowed. I will recognize the blessings in my life and remind myself to not take them for granted, not for a minute.

I will try, as he did, to make even the beige rooms bright.



Wrapped in Courage

November 7, 2016 — 4 Comments


Hey guys!

I’m back. And this time with something legitimately important to write about. I don’t blame you for not immediately buying that, because I’ve been know to treat cheesy dips and Netflix binges as issues of EXTREME importance. Really, this blog is an extended version of “The Girl Who Cried IMPORTANT.”

But this time? I actually mean it. This is important.

For the next few weeks, I’ll be participating in the #WrapHerInCourage campaign, organized by Missions Services. What’s that mean? It’s simple: All November long, you can buy a purple scarf from me, just like the one I’m wearing here, and 100% of what you spend will go directly to Inasmuch House in Hamilton, Ontario.

Inasmuch House a part of the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses, and devoted to giving women who have experienced violence and abuse a safe place to stay while they rebuild their lives and return to the community. Their goal isn’t just to house women, but to help them regain the confidence and strength to live a healthy and independent life again. Through this campaign, you can participate in this truly-life changing work just by purchasing a $15 scarf.

If that alone isn’t enough to move you, here’s the context in which Inasmuch House operates every single day:

On average 20-30 women a year are murdered in the province of Ontario alone. It is the number two reason for calls to the emergency police services. Additionally, it overwhelmingly affects children in the areas of: focus at school; relationships with peers and adults; increased risk of participating in high risk behaviours such as substance abuse; and increased risk of anxiety and depression.

 During the month of November, everyone across Ontario is invited to participate in showing abused women across the province that they have our support. The United Nations has designated November 25th (the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) as the first of 16 days of Action to eliminate Violence Against Women across the world. We are asking Ontarians to wear our purple scarf especially on these days to show your courage to abused women and their children that their community supports them and they are not alone.

The issue of women abuse beyond hard. It’s beyond complicated. But the Wrapped In Courage campaign gives you an easy and simple way to support these women, and seek justice for those whose lives have been marred by abuse.

If you’re local to the Hamilton area, and interested in purchasing a scarf, please get in touch with me! PM me on Instagram. Message me on Facebook, or even just write your email address as a comment on this entry, and I promise I’ll be in touch.

Thanks for reading, and I hope to hear from you soon!

– Julie

New Frontiers

August 16, 2016 — 1 Comment

Internet Exploring

Alright guys. I’m going to try something here. It’s bold. It’s brash. It’s!…not really any of those things, but should be a mighty good exercise. I’m going to post a weekly internet roundup. And call it Internet Exploring. (Get it? GET IT?) This really *is* exercise for me because I’m very bad at deadlines, and not much for routines, either.

Here’s the deal: every Wednesday, I’ll pop in here with a little summary post of some of my favourite things on the Internet. The world certainly doesn’t need another roundup post, but I really do want to get back into writing/blogging more regularly, and this seems an easy way to do just that. Plus, it means all the time I spend looking at my phone might just benefit somebody else! Every week, I’ll share links in the categories below.

So stop in once a week to see all the things Julie Van…

Can Read: This will usually be a long read of sorts. An article, essay, or reflection that was worth my time, and hopefully worth yours.

Can Laugh at: The internet is full of funnies! Who knew?

Can Follow: A person I think you should follow. Might be a snapchatter, might be a blogger, might be a writer (…is probably a snapchatter.)

Can Cook: I solemnly swear to share recipes I’ve actually made more than once. They will probably not be gluten free. They will probably involve cheese.

Can Stream: Really, this is when I’ll just pass along all the good podcast recommendations my sister Adele gives me.

Can Buy: I don’t online shop much, but when I do, I’ll blog about it!

Can Meme: This is where I will participate in whatever might be the internet fad of the week. Like when everyone made those dancing elf videos! Or posted no-makeup selfies! (Which, BTW, won’t ever happen here, because those high school acne scars are DEEP.)

Alright then! Heeeere we go! Well, not yet. But heeeeere we go tomorrrroooow!


OH AND ONE MORE THING: I think I’m going to make segment this a Tiny Letter too. I don’t know entirely how they work, but it seems like all the people I like best on the Internet are doing it. This has been, so far, very good advice to follow, with the exception of those weird three weeks when people said Ello would be a thing. It definitely was not a thing. Although, ack, I don’t know if people reuse their blog content for their Tiny Letters…whatever. Sign up here and we will figure it out together!

Gray Gardens

March 16, 2016 — Leave a comment

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A few weeks ago, I finally made it to Florida.

I say finally because, growing up in cold cold Canada, Florida was like some mythical, magical utopia. The lucky kids in our class would take off a few days before March Break, and return with sunburns and t-shirts with neon boats on them. The really lucky ones would come back with burns, shirts, and stories about Disney World. Well, I never made it to Disney world. I didn’t even get close.

But on March 3, to Florida I went. And on March 9, I came home with a sunburn, a t-shirt, and something else: a whole bunch of gray hair.

That’s right: I went gray in Florida.


Alright. That’s not technically true – but it makes for a good intro doesn’t it!

Now here’s the real deal: Of course I didn’t go gray in Florida. Old people aren’t contagious! Well, some of them are. But not like that. More accurately, a few weeks ago, under the blinding fluorescent lights in our Florida condo bathroom, I realized that I am no longer going gray: I’m gone gray.

It wasn’t really a surprise. The surprise came almost a year earlier, only a few weeks after Connor was born. There were only a few strands back then, but they were each of them undeniably silver. A quick trip to the Googleator revealed that sprouting a few gray hairs was a common occurrence after rough labour. A more involved Google search suggested a link between trauma and silvery streaks. Regular readers will recall I had both. Two points for Gryffindor!

rogueI developed a slight affection toward those colourless curls. I came to view them like the shock of gray Rogue gets at the end of the first X-Men movie: Hers, a result from being hooked up to a bunch of machines while some guy basically sucks years off her life. Mine, the same! Har har. But really, they were almost like visible representations of the battle my body fought to bring Connor into the world. And that’s kind of cool, right?

Anyways, despite the pride in my mutant locks, I eventually made my way to a drug store and picked up a box of the same colour dye I’d used for years: (Loreal Preference Medium Ash Blonde – 02!).

And that (as it was every year since my second year of university) was my routine. Every couple of months, right around the time my hair started to enter unruly-triangle-head phase, I bought a box of dye then went to get a cut, hoping my hairdresser wouldn’t scold me for being too cheap to dye it at the salon.

But this winter, for whatever reason, I got a little lazy. I let my very mousy roots crawl a little further down my head.

stormAnd that brings us right back to that fluorescent Florida bathroom. While the dull deceptive Ontario clouds let me believe my hair was still mostly just a dun-blonde, the bright beating lights of The Sunshine State allowed for no such denial about my roots: I’m not Rogue any more. I’m Storm. Well, I’m Storm on a cloudy day. But still.

The fact remains, my gray hairs are no longer a contained postpartum fluke. They’re the new normal. And you know what? I don’t care. Like, at all! I’m sure going gray before 30 would freak out a few of us. But I’m surprisingly chill about it – and I owe some of that to Florida.


Here’s the thing about Florida: In Florida, everyone is gray. And yet, there is colour from corner to corner. There are blue skies and pink buildings, rainbow beach umbrellas and orange beach bods. There’s something kind of lovely about the idea of gray haired folk deciding that, while their hair is no longer polycromatic, there’s no reason their surroundings can’t be. They don’t need highlights in their hair anymore: the highlights that bounce off a shimmering ocean at sunset will do just fine.

Basically, looking over my photos from Florida: my conclusion is this: who the heck cares what colour is coming out of your head when you have a world that will always be bursting with rainbow brightness?

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Now, were I to give this post an equally …DRAMATIC… conclusion, I’d tell all of you that I’m fully embracing my lovely lacklustre locks, and will proudly hashtag all future selfies #grayhairdontcare! But that, too, wouldn’t be technically true. Technically, I’ve got gray hair. I know it, you know it. But as my Snapchat followers also know, (username is JulieVanCan. Follow me!) I’m still planning to ride the boxed blonde wave a little longer.

If, and when, I decide to go gray all the way, I’m sure I’ll have no problem finding colour somewhere else. Ideally, somewhere very near a heated pool.

Have a colourful day, friends!


Honouring the Weird

January 13, 2016 — 1 Comment

My family liked weird kids movies growing up.

We liked some non-weird movies, too: the usual Disney fare, a J.T.T. joint, lots of good family fun. But also? Weird movies: The Last Unicorn, Never Ending Story, The Electric Grandmother. Just weird. Maybe it was because they were the only children’s movies available at the library. Maybe it was because they were never rented out at the convenience store downtown. Whatever the reason, the only things that may have spent more time in the VHS player were my dad’s reruns of Star Trek TNG and a pirated copy of Casper.

Other kids in my class didn’t really watch these movies. They liked, I dunno…Wishbone? And so, when my slumber-party birthday rolled around, I thought it might be fun to watch one these weird movies with my friends. I selected a personal family favourite: The Labyrinth.

…It wasn’t well received. They didn’t like it. They thought it was creepy (to be far: it is), but they laughed for the wrong reasons, and we didn’t finish it. And that was that, for a time. Not too long after, though, a friend who was at that party came over again. As we plotted out how to spend the rest of our day, she asked, almost sheepishly “…could we watch that goblin movie again?”

That moment was significant, and is, in some ways, the official start to a friendship that would go from grade school friends, to high school besties, to college roommates. It started there because that’s when I realized “this person likes weird stuff too.And you know what? That’s a big deal.

We watched The Labyrinth together that day, and many times after. We’d sing the songs, we’d recite the dialogue, we’d draw silly pictures of Jareth in the margins of our school notes. We fully embraced the wonderful weirdness of that movie—and in each other, really—for years to come.

As I read over the tributes to David Bowie on my Facebook timeline, so many things came through: his innovation, his artistry, his boundless creativity. But for me, it’s his legacy as a Conduit of Weirdness that I’ll forever treasure. Before the internet made it all-too-easy for other weirdos to find each other, David Bowie was there to light the way. And now that light has dimmed.

For a hot minute back in 2013, I did yoga. Like any good yoga class, most would end with a communal Namaste: “The light in me honours the light in you.” As the rest of the world bids goodbye to Bowie, something very similar is rattling around in my brain to sum it all up: The weirdness in me honours the weirdness in you, good Sir. Thank you. ❤


Oh hey gang!

My cryptic notice from a few days ago heralded this announcement: I rebranded (INSIDER SECRET: Rebrand is a fancy word for “new name!”).

So, what gives?

For those of you that were fans of my old site, We So Thrifty, you’ll recall that I was once a fairly consistent second-hand style blogger. In fact, my blog was devoted solely to first-hand tales of second-hand style (I still like that tagline). Over this last year, however, I’ve had less of an desire to parade around in front a camera. That’s probably due to the child-rearing, but also just a general desire to expand the topics I tackle.

Don’t get me wrong, there will still be parading! I love a good parade! There will just be other things, too. There will be posts about thrifting, but there will also be posts about design, about parenthood, about what I’m reading (OK, fine: what I’m watching). Basically, if I can do it, I might just blog about it.

Also, since the internet is no place for shame, it would be so nice if you gave this blog a follow. I surprised myself by managing to import all my old blog content, and redirect people from the old site to the new one, but I did manage to lose all the followers I’d amassed at the old site. There weren’t many, but enough to feed my ego when I had a a bad hair day. Just re-enter your email on the sidebar to get e-mail updates, OR (and?) you could like my Facebook page. So many ways to cyber-stalk!

Alright. That takes care of most of the house-keeping around here. I’m off to try to create some content for this thing. Thanks, as always, for granting me some time in front of your eyeballs!

Van Can't