Carrie Cotton

Just a Girl In The World Sharing The Ups and Downs of a Messy Life

Let me tell you right off the bat – I love my kids. More than words can express. I love my kids. I love their uniqueness. I love their quirks.

What I don’t love is the stuff they don’t prepare you for.  I don’t love the struggles. The battles. The head to head competition.

My youngest signed up to play soccer.  Meaning – we the parents, paid a LOT of money to sign her up for soccer.  She had been hounding us for a while, so we gave in and got her signed up. Thinking it was a good thing. She would finally be doing something that didn’t involve a tablet or technology. My husband was thrilled that one of his daughters was finally going to get involved in the world of sports.

Four games into the season and last night she refused to go. We could have forced her to go. I guess? Is there a “right” answer here?  Make her go. Force her to play. After all “we paid a lot of money”.   Enforce the “it’s a commitment and you can’t let your team down”. Yes, we played that card too. Aside from tie her up and drag her there, what is a parent to do? Take away the phone? Make the one thing she wanted to do for FUN become a punishment of sorts?

Let me tell you, it’s super easy for others to judge and say “I would do this” but it’s just not that easy. I’m not sure parenting always has a one true, 100% correct answer, and that in itself is a bit overwhelming at times.

You feel helpless sometimes as a parent over the smallest of things. You feel so alone. And sometimes, in the smallest of situations, you wish someone would swoop in and save the day.  Why can’t there be easy answers? Where is the guide for parents to follow? Why DON’T they come with instructions?

This morning her class was off for a school trip. A friend of hers picked her up for the early morning departure. I stood at the door, sad that I wasn’t needed. I wasn’t “wanted”.

That was my conversation. My thought process. “Oh my God. She doesn’t even want me to drop her off.”

You want to teach your kids everything. You want to be their cheerleader and motivator. You want them to be good human beings.

But then it feels like in a moment, they turn on YOU.  The ONE person in their corner.

The most rewarding job in the world is not without struggle and judgement and fear and frustration. None of us are doing it right all the time.  We have to love on our kids fiercely and keep on doing the best we can.

Nobody ever said it would be easy.




I used to think I knew what love was, and my thoughts were big and bold and grandiose.

They were stereotypical.  Driven by big Hollywood movies, and magazine articles.

I was insecure, and lacked confidence to begin with. So when I got into a real relationship, I had some pretty unrealistic expectations.  I was afraid of being alone, and afraid of not being good enough, and at the same time I wanted my husband to make me happy.

I wanted what I saw in the movies. I wanted to be swept off my feet.  I wanted to feel loved, safe and secure. I wanted a lot. I expected a lot. I gave little in return.

I was a broken individual when I met my husband.

I put a lot of pressure on one person to make me happy.

I thought to be enough, I had to be like someone else.  I wasn’t being true to myself, but didn’t realize it until it was almost too late. I tried to be like the magazines told me to be.

And I wanted my husband to be like the man in the magazines and the movies.  I expected him to “fix me”.  Fix my brokenness.  I pushed to be different. I pushed him to be different.  I questioned. I criticized.  I compared.

All that I thought I was doing to be a “good wife” almost cost me my marriage.

I thank God daily, because I believe with all my heart, it was through prayer, and a faith in the impossible, that our marriage was saved.  Not only saved, but strengthened, and I have been forever changed.

I stopped pushing and expecting and comparing.

I started giving and doing and appreciating.

I saw that love wasn’t about those grandiose gestures.

Love is putting ketchup on the fries.

Let me explain.

A date night recently, my husband (who now suggests date nights more than me) suggested we go out to eat.  We ordered.  When the waitress brought the plate of fries to the table – my husband reached for the ketchup.  He opened the bottle, and started squirting the fries with ketchup.

I said to him, in surprise “What are you doing? You hate ketchup!”

To which he smiled, and softly said “I know. I do. But you like it. ”

In that moment, all these years later, I felt so loved.  Unbelievably, unconditionally – loved.

To me, that was the grandiose gesture I had been craving.  Beyond the Hollywood movie, or magazine article.

Ketchup on the fries.

It’s a moment I will never forget, and when I think of it, I always smile, and I always feel loved.

Love isn’t about the flowers, or the money, or how much you spend, or what can you give me.

Love is in the gesture, the actions, the everyday stuff. Like ketchup on the fries.

I think of just how close we were to the end of our marriage, and today I am oh so grateful and oh so thankful that we got to the point where my husband puts ketchup on the fries.


Oh I had it bad.

As Joyce Meyer calls it – a case of “stinkin’ thinkin’ “. I was totally caught up in the negative.

It didn’t take long either.  A quick comment from a friend that came across as negative and judgemental toward me, in an awkward situation where I was already feeling unsure and insecure and uncomfortable, left me feeling even more alone.

A few emails from someone, each feeling like a missile attack.  Sharp, cruel, and meant to destroy. At least, that’s how I took it. That’s how it felt. Words sting.

It was a tough couple of weeks with shots firing all over the place.  I took the offence.  I felt under attack in a big way.  I couldn’t help but wonder why and what the heck is going on?

Our church service this weekend, was a reminder, that as you grow in your faith, you will have opposition and it could come in many forms.  Like criticism. And when it comes you need to learn to dust off the dirt, move on, and “shake it off”.

It was like a big light went off. I had that “AHA!” moment.   After everything that had been happening over the past few weeks, this message could not have come at a better time. Shake it off.  Three words and a message that has come at me through so many different sources lately.

I thought about how I have been doing just that.  Praying in the morning, with my morning coffee.  Leaning in to God.  Playing my worship music in the car. Having a little church service every morning on the way to work.

I was back to coaching, and working on my health and fitness, and feeling really, really GOOD about myself. My marriage, my kids – everything was GOOD.

I shouldn’t be surprised to be attacked. But I felt it. Everywhere. And my focus was on the negative.

I found myself getting stuck in the stinkin’ thinkin’.  I was reacting in a negative way and I didn’t like that I was doing that AT ALL. I was not proud of my behavior.

The message kept coming. In a Zumba class on a Wednesday night.  “Haters, gonna hate hate hate. Shake it off”

And let me share this – and I believe this is how God works in our lives – before Sunday, before I did any shaking or dusting – I went to a workout class.  I wanted to work through the emotions and get still with myself. I wanted to go to a place where the negative didn’t exist and I could drown everything out. Before the workout even started, here’s something that happened that I didn’t realize until later (in an aha moment), that was such a huge blessing.

Someone who hardly knows me, stopped me to compliment me on my health and fitness journey. To compliment me on my strength and determination and drive.  To compliment me on my results and my attitude.

Yeah.  That happened.  And it changed my world.  In a second.

It helped to drown out the negative.  And that person probably had no idea in that moment how very much I needed that positive reinforcement.

God works in mysterious ways through different people. We don’t need a burning bush to believe.  Sometimes it comes through a few words from a near stranger.

The next day I was determined to stop focusing on the negative words that had been spoken over me.  It was time to take back control over my thoughts, stop worrying about a few comments, and get back to me.  Shake it off.

I bought myself a new workout shirt “Fierce – Focused and Fearless”.  Bright colour. Bold statement.

It was a reminder.  Shake it off. Focus on what is true about you.  Not what someone says or tries to make you believe to be true.

I also used the moment to give back. I dropped off some food donations to a charity fundraiser that was happening in our community to help homeless teens. Let me tell you, when you get yourself off your mind, and make an effort to do something for someone else, no matter what that is, it changes your perspective in such a positive way.

Add to the list, one more person came forward and spoke such encouragement over me in such a powerful way, it was incredible and unforgettable.  As she spoke words of affirmation over me and my life, a butterfly made it’s way between us.  It lingered.  Flittering and fluttering back and forth and all around us.

Another blessing.  An acknowledgement. A reminder.  “You are not alone.”

I was so stuck in my stinkin’ thinkin’ that I didn’t see the blessings all around me in such a big way. I didn’t see what was right in front of me.  I do now.  And I am so incredibly blessed.

That’s how you get back at the enemy.

Not today Satan.  Not today.


There’s a quote I love that says “God is up to something or the devil wouldn’t be fighting you this hard.”

I think God must be up to something really big, because it feels like the whole universe is against me.

My sixteen year old pushing boundaries, just being a teenager who wants to do things, and stay out late, but I feel like I have to put my foot down.  She hates me and I hate that.  It’s so hard to be hated.  My mom used to give me the silent treatment – I remember it well.  And I’m doing that to my own daughter.  Funny how we repeat behaviors without even wanting to.

A few people in my close circle have made a few remarks in the last few weeks that have been quite hurtful. It’s been hard to let go of the negative energy that comes with it.  It’s been a surprise to read or hear words spoken to you in a condescending, belittling way. So unnecessary.

I’m usually pretty good at shaking it off.  This week has proven difficult. I feel like I’m being attacked at every angle and I can’t catch my breath.

I’ve taken all the remarks and comments to heart. It’s made me question who I am and what I’m doing. It’s made me doubt myself.

A recent conversation with a long time acquaintance brought up a moment in time I’d rather forget.  Something so long ago, but the mention of it is like ripping open deep wounds, that had only finished healing.

It shook me to know that someone else, outside of MY CIRCLE knew that part of my story. The part where my husband and I had real struggles. The part where our marriage was being tested in a huge way.

I am so thankful for our struggles because I know I needed them to grow. It doesn’t make it easier to be reminded of it.

All these things coming at me and it’s been hard to keep my head above water. It’s been a struggle.

What do YOU do when life is coming at you?  When it feels like the universe wants to destroy you?

I thought it would be fun to go to my favourite Zumba class. Sweat it out.  All the built up frustrations. Safe place.

Good idea or a very bad one. I haven’t decided yet because I ended up leaving the class in tears. Not able to say goodbye to anyone.

All those doubts swirling in my head were brought to the surface as I tried to figure out some new dance moves, and remember the others. I tripped over my feet. I got frustrated. I watched the other girls in the class who were so good at all of it. They knew the moves ahead of the instructor.  Which only amplified how I was feeling in that moment.

The build up of doubt.  The negative comments. The feeling of inadequacy.  The presumption I wasn’t capable of the simplest of things. Piled onto every other life event.

It was too much.  Exercise is so therapeutic, but you’d better be ready for it, because it will take you down without warning.

I thought Zumba was my “safe space”. Where I didn’t have to deal with any of the “stuff” that was being thrown my way. Little did I know that an hour would bring it all to the surface in a healthy, “let it out, let it go” kind of way.

What’s worse, as I felt the tears start, I immediately started talking down to myself “Oh great, way to bring the energy down for the WHOLE CLASS.  Nobody needs you to be the Debbie Downer”.

I’m known for being “positive”.  Sometimes that title is too much to bear.  Sometimes – even the ones who always seem so positive need to step away from that word and the enormity of it.  And not be positive.  Sometimes we need a safe space to just BE in the moment. Negative or sad or angry or all of the above. Without the pressure of being positive.

I thought I could take my mind off all the “stuff” with a few dance moves.  I thought I could escape for an hour and not think about anything other than the words in the songs, and the direction of my feet.

But my struggles did not want to be contained. They did not want to be buried.

I danced.  I struggled. I worked through it.  And all the way home, I listened to a few songs to help me process all that I was feeling and it was so good.

Cyndi Lauper – True Colours.  A reminder to keep being true to myself.  Haters gonna hate hate hate.

Lauren Daigle – You Say.  A reminder that even if those voices in my head tell me I’m not enough. Those lies that I will never measure up.  I know that God sees me as perfect.  He’s my strength. He’s my power. With Him I am enough.

So remember. If you feel like you are in the middle of the storm and it’s dark and you can’t see what’s coming, and the winds are strong and the rain keeps hitting your face – maybe something really big is coming your way and you’re just in the middle of another test.


wavesWatching the waves tonight at the beach was mesmerizing.

Strong. Powerful. Forcing their way onto the shoreline. Wave after wave.

Releasing it’s mighty strength, building up with a mighty roar, before crashing against the sand.

Powerful. Yet peaceful.

Alarming. Yet calming.

The sound draws you in. It comforts, but keeps you alert, wondering what danger might come next.

The water is amazing to me in that way. It can be so calm and relaxing one minute, and as blue as the sky, then dark and choppy and threatening.

To stand there, with the waves crashing in all around and the winds howling and strong – it’s a reminder of life. It’s a reminder you are just as strong.

Those storms can come out of nowhere.  The waves high.  They can knock you down. They can try to pull you under.  You can fight it, lose your balance, get pulled under.

Or you can stand in the midst, use the strength and power as your own, and appreciate the beauty that surrounds you and find peace in the midst of it.


I spend so much time staring at this picture.


On the day my world was rocked to the core, I find myself staring again.  29 years ago half my family was killed in a car accident.  29 years ago, and this date still has the ability to shake me.

29 years ago, a Saturday.  My mom, brother and sister went for dinner and a movie and never came back.

There were no goodbyes. In a matter of seconds.  They were forever gone.

I look at this picture, which was the last family picture we had.  The six of us together. I love it. I love that it reminds me of our childhood home. I love that my mom and dad are dressed up. Hair done.

It was a wedding. My brother was in it. We were all dressed up and ready to go.

What I love the most about this picture – I see my mom’s hand resting on my shoulder. I focus in on that because it reminds me that my mom was always there for me, always supporting me, and always loved me.

It’s a simple gesture.  But to me, all these years later, it has such a huge impact.

Her hand is on my shoulder.  Reassurance.  Safety.  Like a promise to always be there.

29 years later and I miss that reassurance. I miss that feeling of being looked after, taken care of, and yes, loved. But that pictures tells me, reminds me – it’s there.

I struggle with talking to her. I know other people who have lost loved ones, say they talk to them. I’m not sure why I can’t or don’t.

I don’t see signs and wonders.  But I believe I don’t need to SEE anything to know she is around. I believe she is part of who I am.  I believe she is in my laughter and joy.  I believe she is in everything I see and do.

I want to believe that I am the very best of my mother.  And I pray that my kids are as well.  And every so often, I see a bit of my brother and sister come out in my kids which makes me smile.

I try to talk about them all to my husband and kids. I try to share as much as I can remember about who they were, and what they liked to do.

29 years later. Hard to believe.

I’m so thankful I have this picture. This reminder of just how much my mother loved me.


It’s coming.

I can feel it in my soul.  I feel it everywhere.

That date on the calendar that I absolutely dread.

July 14th. It’s just a date. Nothing special, but to my family it’s the day everything changed.

Even if I don’t acknowledge it, my heart remembers. And it’s hard.

It’s the day my mother and brother died. It’s the day someone ran a stop sign and took half my family away.  The difference a second makes still boggles my mind.

My sister was on life support in hospital. She died two days later.

I never got to say goodbye.

An ordinary Saturday that turned into the worst Saturday of my life and I never got to say goodbye.

As the date closes in, the memories come back. There is something about this time of year that brings it back. Summertime. Long days. Vacation. Sunshine.  It’s odd.

I don’t dwell on what happened.  Time does heal.  You do learn to adjust to the new reality.  God has worked in my life in a very big way and I’m so thankful for the healing over the years. It’s not something I see as my identity anymore.  It doesn’t have the same power over me like it did.

But that date has a way of taking me back to the day it happened 29 years ago.  To the minutes leading up to finding out the worst.  To the 18-year-old girl in her room listening to Madonna on cassette, after setting the table for the dinner they had gone to pick up.  Stopping it halfway through a song, wondering what was taking so long.

Looking out the back window and seeing the flashing lights.

The phone rang. News was, our car was in an accident.

Seconds later, the sound of the police car racing into our gravel driveway. My dad running out of the house, and collapsing at the side of the car, before they took him away.

The waiting.  The hours and hours of waiting.

Sitting at the table set for six. Playing solitaire.  Waiting.

Family members started to show up. My aunt, my great uncle, a cousin.

Then, THE phone call, from my dad.  “Mom is gone.  Mom died.  Kyle died.”

I couldn’t breath. I couldn’t think.  I didn’t know what to do.

I ran outside and stared at the sky. The stars. The moon.The emptiness.

My cousin had followed me out, and held me as I cried and cried.

It was too much. It was such a shock. It couldn’t be happening.

But the table was still set for dinner?  I couldn’t even begin to understand.  It didn’t make sense. This can’t be our reality.

We didn’t sleep that night. Nobody did. We stayed up and watched TV. Or pretended to, I guess. We played cards.  In a daze. Numb.

More people came to the house.

All a blur.

Shopping for something to wear to the funeral.  Picking out caskets and flowers.

All a blur.

Friends coming to console me.

All a blur.

Two days later – no sign of improvement for my sister. The decision was made to take her off life support.

I couldn’t breath.

The funeral was huge. Endless lines of people with apologies and sympathies expressed.  People from everywhere.  Endless lines of people. So many faces.  With that look I will never forget.  That look that reminded you of what was happening.  That look of incredible sadness.  That look you didn’t want to see when you were trying so hard to hold it all together.

And then it was over. People left.

We were alone in a house meant for six. Me, my dad and my brother.

All a blur.

It’s been 29 years.  My dad is remarried.  My brother and I have families of our own.

Life has been good to us. We are healthy and happy and love life.

But, when the calendar flips to THAT DAY – we remember. Every detail. Every sound.

As much as people might say “don’t dwell on that day”, it’s hard not to.

It was a day of extreme sadness.

It’s also a day that we remember.  We remember just how lucky we were to have been part of that family of six for as long as we were. We remember how much fun we had. We remember all that was good.  We remember just how many people were there for us in our time of need. Humbling.

I won’t stay broken and sad.  But I may just keep to myself for a bit.  I may just be a little more quiet and reserved.  I may just seem to not want to be around anyone.

I don’t want sympathy. I don’t want anyone making a big deal of it. I just want to be alone with my thoughts and memories.  Play Wind Beneath My Wings (a song that played at their memorial) and just acknowledge the day that changed our lives forever 29 years ago.

Grief is nothing to be ashamed of.  If you are missing someone, don’t ever let anyone tell you to “get over it” or to make you feel like missing them is wrong.  It isn’t.

My mom, brother and sister were my family. An important part of who I am.  And they always will be thought of that way, and I will forever miss them and everything that we missed since the day they left us.




I caught myself staring at my legs recently.  More accurately, the vericose veins that decorate them like a road map.

“Uggg.  I wish I could get rid of these. “  Then I remembered, my mom had them too. It’s a way of feeling connected in some strange way. I still wished they weren’t quite so visable.

These last few months have been a real struggle for me.  I’m not quite sure why.

Back in January I did something I’ve never done. I learned to dance.  I danced in front of a few hundred people, in the name of charity.  It pushed me through all sorts of emotions.  My confidence dropped.  I was forced to look at myself in the mirrors of the practice studio.  I felt defeated.  Not only did I not know how to dance, but I was dealing with feeling so uncomfortable in my skin. I didn’t like how I looked. And the more I hated on my reflection, the worse I felt in everything else I did.

It was a struggle, even if it was an amazing experience.  The night of the show I felt like Cinderella at the ball. Hair and makeup done. Not one, but two, beautiful dresses. Sparkly shoes. We almost won. The flowers, the compliments – the ATTENTION.  It was amazing.

When it was over, the adjustment back to real life was a bit tough.  The downward spiral continued.  I was losing myself.  I felt out of control.  Disappointed. Frustrated. Lacking in everything. Invisible. Forgotten.

I wanted to feel good about myself again, but felt so far away from that point.  Exercise didn’t seem to be working. It wasn’t enough.  Maybe it just wasn’t enough for me.  Maybe it wasn’t enough because I was searching for something I would never find.

Searching to be like someone else.  Searching for someone else’s results. Searching for someone else’s dream. Someone else’s goal.  Someone else’s life.

It’s a pattern with me that I am just starting to break free from.

It’s taken a lot of years.  At least now I am becoming more aware of what I’m doing.

I remember starting high school, and wanting to look like a girl I loved watching on TV. Anybody remember Degrassi JR High? Yep. I had a picture. And I took that picture to the hair salon. I just KNEW that if I could look like her life would be different. Right? I could be one of the popular girls. I would fit in. I would be pretty.

A lot riding on one hair cut.

My hair cut was devastating. It was so awful. Seriously. So short. No style. Nothing like the picture. Nobody chooses this on purpose.

grade nine

What a way to start a brand new year of school. Not to mention we had just moved from the big city to the country, and I was already the one everybody picked on. Now they just had one more reason. Or so I imagined.  It took forever to grow that out.

As high school went on, I wanted curls like the other girls had but I was stuck with straight hair. I would spend so much time with the curling iron trying to get it to look like “them”. It never worked. It was always straight before I even got off the bus.

As I got older, I would compare myself to the women on the magazine cover. I followed the fad diets.  I analyzed relationships.  Always trying to be like someone else.  Thinking, if my relationship wasn’t like it said it should be, I was a failure. If only I could be like HER. If only.

I nearly cried as I sat in the hair dresser chair, hoping the next cut would help me look like someone else. Anyone else. Just not me. Always disappointing when I still had my same average face.

I made myself so unhappy in doing that. I just wish I’d realized it sooner. It would have saved me so much stress and frustration.

So today I am a work in progress. I still have my moments where I start to wish for something else. Someone’s hair, or lips, or perfect legs. Ones without the veins. (smile)

But I quickly remind myself that I am who I am.  Grey hair.  Belly.  Vericose veins.  I’m embracing the imperfection. The self perceived flaws.  I’m allowing myself the freedom to be me.  I’ve slowed down the search to be someone else and it feels so good.

I’m kinda excited about this new journey I am on. I’m excited to be excited again!  Excited to feel strong and determined and focused on just being ok with being me.

It’s a combination of things.  Embracing the flaws. Ignoring the negative talk in your mind. And doing things that make you smile and laugh and love life.

It’s a beautiful freedom I never expected and it feels so good!

pant suit




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