Tag Archives: life

The everyday

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A year of firsts – the first time for everything to happen without my mom and uncle. We still have a lot of big firsts to get through, Easter, Mother’s Day, birthdays, and what would have been my parent’s 44th anniversary. A lot of people reach out on those big days, and for that I am so thankful. They are hard days, and I’m sure they will be for a long time. But, for me, what hurts more than those big days are all the other days in between.

The hard times are when we’re in the car and Maddy says something hilarious, and I pick up my phone to text my mom. When the clock hits 3:30 and I have a moment of excitement that my mom will be home from work soon and I can call her to talk about nothing… and everything. Every morning when I wake up to face another day without my mom, and every night when I climb into bed with the knowledge that I survived another day. The helplessness of seeing so many others with the one thing I desperately want, but having no power to make it my reality.

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The tough moments are when we run into issues with our house and I want to ask Uncle Rob what he would do. Drinking a Pepsi and thinking about how Uncle Rob and I always fought on the same side of the Pepsi vs Coke debate, making jokes about our superior taste buds. Emailing photos and videos of the girls to extended family, the absence of my Uncle’s email address on my screen so glaringly obvious.

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The enormity of forever.

I am constantly balancing two worlds – while my body is physically present, my mind frequently wanders in and out of that physical world, thinking of my mom and uncle more times than I suspect many realize. It’s a daily battle with grief, managing feelings of sadness, anger, shame, and loneliness, while working to not get bitter or resentful. It’s processing a feeling, only to have it resurface again and again.

When I have the energy, I fight to make connections with those who are willing to connect, even though I am often simultaneously feeling anger towards them for a number of irrational reasons. I am actively forgiving those who don’t get it and who unintentionally create additional hurt. I am determined to not allow my grief to shape me into a person that I don’t want to be. I am working towards forgiving and being kind to myself.

The hard in-between-the-big-days days are a balancing act of facing my feelings head on, openly admitting them through a variety of activities to take the pressure off, and giving myself a break. Protecting my heart and saying no when I need to, while also challenging myself and saying yes when I think I can. Searching for beauty, while wrestling with the fear that seeing beauty somehow diminishes my loss. Reminding myself to trust that my soul knows what it needs to survive this loss, and blocking out what the world thinks I need or what I should or shouldn’t do.

The everyday is Eric’s soft voice at the end of the day telling me he’s sorry…. because there is nothing else to say.

 

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The three things you can learn from my preschooler

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My three and a half year old preschooler said three of the best things tonight. Three things that we could all use a reminder of, and three things that make me think that preschoolers have got it way more together than us adults.

1. Saying good night to her wee sister, Ella, Maddy said, “I love you just the way I am.” Sure, she got a bit mixed up, but we know that Maddy was saying that she loves her sister just the way she is. Isn’t that the way it should always be? Loving one another for exactly who they are? For all of their amazing qualities and all of their messy parts?

2. When we were doing our nightly “highs and lows” during our bedtime routine (our favourite and least favourite parts of the day), I shared with Maddy that my least favourite part of the day was when someone said something to me that hurt my feelings. Maddy immediately said to me, “You should have told him/her not to say that, that it hurts your feelings.” Yes, babe, that’s exactly what I should have done.

How much easier life would be if we all were able to communicate with such simplicity. Something we should all strive for – being open and honest with one another when we are hurt, and being open to the constructive criticism when someone shares with us that something we have said or done has been hurtful.

3. Also during bedtime routine, we talked about Great-Grammy, Grammy, and Uncle Rob, and how much we miss them in heaven. Maddy told me that they must all wear their clothes all of the time so that when they are allowed to come back home they will be ready right away.

After I reminded Maddy that they will never be able to come back home (goodness, I’m looking forward to age six when she will understand the permanence of death), we were talking about how we can feel sad and also still be okay. And, more importantly, that we can feel sad and be okay even when the world wants us to just be happy. We talked about how we can be okay sooner if we honour our feelings than if we ignore our feelings. Then Maddy said to me, “I can like a movie while I watch it, and still like it when it’s over. So, we can still love Grammy when she’s in heaven. We can look at pictures to be happy again.” Yes. This. Thanks, kiddo, for simplifying for so many why mourning is okay.

I am a very proud mommy tonight. More than anything I’m thankful to have had so many people in my life who loved me just right, so that I have been able to love Maddy just right.

I hope that Grammy, Mom and Uncle Rob are looking down on us tonight and wrapping Maddy and Ella up in that same love.

Big, scary feelings

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We use the term big feelings in our house to talk about strong, overwhelming, or scary feelings. When Maddy is having a tough time we acknowledge her big feelings, label them as best we can, and try to help her manage them. We talk about how everyone has big feelings, even adults. We work hard to have her understand that big feelings are okay to have, that we can learn to work with our big feelings instead of against them, and most importantly, that she can trust us to help her with her big feelings for however long she needs us to.

Since the accident, I am the the one having non-stop big feelings. Grief is overwhelming, consuming, and can be downright scary. Right now, I am messy and broken. I have felt messy and broken before in my life… but not this kind of messy and broken. This is new territory for me. I sometimes feel like a shell of my former self, just trying to get through the day, or sometimes the moment. Grief is unpredictable. Emotions wash over you at unexpected times… sometimes contradictory emotions that feel difficult to reconcile. Grief can be irrational, and even though you can identify the lack of rationality in your thoughts, you can’t control the feelings that surface, you can only work with them so that you can continue to heal.

It’s scary to not recognize yourself, to not know who you are anymore. Who am I now that I don’t have a mother? How does my family fit together without the glue? Where do I fit in the world now? I will always miss my mom and uncle, and the world will always be a different place after this experience. I woke up as one person on October 18, and fell asleep as a completely changed person. I am traumatized, grief-stricken, forever changed. I have become, and for the rest of my life will be, a motherless daughter.

Sometimes I feel shame as a grieving parent. I feel guilty that the girls have to live in a house so full of sadness, and anger; that their mom is irritable, sluggish, and pained. I feel guilty thinking that my mom and uncle would want the girls to live in a happy home. Even though I can recognize my mom as an imperfect, but wonderful mother; I feel as though my imperfections, so apparent while I’m grieving, are failing my family. I can tell myself that my mom and uncle deserve to be grieved, and that they would understand, but guilt is a sticky emotion.

I have worked through this idea of being an imperfect parent before, finally accepting that showing your children that you’re human is of huge service to them… because they too are human, and need to accept themselves as the beautiful, unique people that they are. Our family anthem is pretty much Secrets by Mary Lambert. But, I have never felt as imperfect as I do right now. I am not present with my girls in the way that I’d like to be. I am doing my best, but it feels like it’s not enough.

Tonight, while we were driving in the car, I began to cry. After some time, from the backseat we hear Maddy say, “What’s that sound?” There was a pause. Eric responded, “Mommy is crying. She’s feeling really sad thinking about Grammy and Uncle Rob. It’s okay to cry when we’re sad.” Another pause. Then my sweet child said, “Mommy, I want to hold your hand. I want to help you calm down.”

The next time I feel shame creeping into my thoughts, I will think of this moment, of those words. Despite what I want, my girls will one day feel messy and broken. Maybe it won’t be the result of the early loss of their mother, but it will be something. Life gives everyone their knocks, and one day, hopefully a long time from now, it will be Maddy and Ella’s turn. When it’s their turn, I want them to be able to be loving and kind to themselves. I want them to feel as comfortable as they can with those big feelings. I want them to allow themselves to show their messy selves to the world.

Grieving will not just expose the girls to sadness and anger, it will expose them to an imperfect mother who keeps putting one foot in front of the other. A mother who works through big, scary feelings, who shares her big feelings with people she can trust, and who asks for help when she needs it. I hope that it will one day show them that despite all the heartbreak, we can heal into a new version of ourself. Life might break us sometimes, and we might accumulate more life experience than we may have ever wanted, but we can be our authentic, real, imperfect selves.

My sweet Madeleine, Grammy and Uncle Rob would be so proud of the thoughtful, kind, and caring little girl you are becoming. I am so very proud to be your mommy.

Too soon to say goodbye

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I was 30 years old, and 37 weeks pregnant on October 18th. It was a lazy Saturday afternoon at our house. I was sitting on the couch in our living room when I got the call that forever changed my life; changed who I am.

My Mom and Uncle Rob were killed in a car accident that afternoon. My Uncle was declared dead at the scene, my Mom hung on for 3 hours, and was air lifted to the nearest trauma centre before she was declared dead. I lost my breath, my centre, and my heart that day.

The world is not the same to me, it feels unsafe, unpredictable, and confusing. I am not the same. I don’t know who I am anymore. I don’t know where I fit in the world.

There are no words that I can use to help anyone close to me understand the pain that I feel. The deepest, darkest pain I have ever felt in my life. I can’t tell you what I’m feeling… because there are no words. No words that could paint a picture even remotely close to how I feel. I try, and will continue to try, but the right words just don’t exist.

I lost my closest Uncle and my Mom in the blink of an eye. No chance to say goodbye. I was not finished needing them. I was not finished being mothered. My kids were not finished needing them.

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For now, I will leave you with what my sisters and I wrote and shared at the celebration of life ceremony:

While it is difficult to sum up in a couple of minutes, we hope that what we share will give you a glimpse into the profound effect our Mom and Uncle have had on our lives, and what special people they were.

Uncle Rob was more than an uncle to us. He was so incredibly involved in our lives, spending more time with us than typical of an uncle. Over the past couple weeks we have described him as a second father, and an additional grandfather.

Our uncle had a great sense of humour and a quick wit. He was thoughtful, generous and kind, always thinking of others. He was someone you could call for advice – especially if you wanted a perspective on cars, or home renovations. No offense to our loving dad, but in most cases, Uncle Rob was the go-to person on these topics. He would always set aside time for us, and it never felt as though you were intruding or asking too much. No matter our need, Uncle Rob could always be counted on.

He was a collector – in his own life seeking toy soldiers, die-cast cars, model tanks, old currencies, and parts for his 1950 Chevy. This is a passion that he shared with us. Attentive and in-tune with our individual interests, he scoured the internet for hard-to-find items we enjoyed, including Betty Boop figurines, cow collectables, and the more difficult to find Disney Cars cars.

Uncle Rob was affectionate and loving. As we became teenagers and then adults, he showed his affection through different means, like marking our first mothers’ day with bouquets of flowers, and showering our children with love. He wasn’t shy about calling or sending us an email to express pride in our accomplishments.

Our uncle absolutely adored Logan, Madeleine, and Chloé, as well as the family dog Loki – and the feeling was mutual. He shared a particularly strong bond with Logan. Logan spoke of Uncle Rob so frequently his daycare providers confused him for Uncle, rather than Great Uncle. Always wanting others to feel special, Uncle Rob would let Madeleine paint his nails with the purple nail polish he had given her for Christmas, and had a piece of Logan’s handmade Cars artwork framed for Logan’s room.

In the last few years prior to our Grammy’s death, Uncle Rob demonstrated many attributes that we admire. He was strong for Grammy, always showing care and compassion. Without ever complaining, Uncle Rob drove Grammy to and from her medical appointments, and always ensured that she was well cared for. Uncle Rob made sure that Grammy had every opportunity to see family, including those out in New Brunswick.

It is easy to see that mom and Uncle Rob were brother and sister. They shared many admirable traits.

We have always admired our mom, not just as a mom, but for who she was as a person. She was family focused – the super mom of moms – but also a Girl Guide leader, an active church member, a sewer, a lover of the colour pink, but best of all, someone we could always count on. Mom was a very sensitive, warm, loving, generous and compassionate person. She centered her universe around taking care of others. She led by example and unintentionally influenced many of her children into various careers that help others. She was a wonderful listener and we always knew that we could call her any time.

Growing up, even though she had her hands full with four kids, Mom supported us all in our individual varied interests including dance, swimming, music, and many team sports. It didn’t matter how we performed. Even if we made mistakes, whether little or big, Mom just knew how to make us feel that effort was all that mattered, so proud of everything we all did. As adults, she watched us cross finish lines, fundraised with us, and helped us paint our homes.

Mom has given us a strong example of how to be a caring person not just within a family, but also within a community. She has shown us that the greatest blessing in life is to connect and support others, that we are all stronger together. In our most vulnerable moments, we knew that we could always count on Mom to be gentle and kind. Mom fearlessly gave unconditional love, loving people for who they were, not for who she wished they would be. This allowed her to provide each of her kids and grandkids with the support and love that they needed to thrive. Mom always gave people the benefit of the doubt, took a situational approach to understanding others actions, and ascribed to the philosophy that kindness could heal. She instilled in us the importance of building others up, and the values of family, education, and work.

Of course, mom had her share of endearing quirks, like not allowing us to load the dishwasher, filling the ice-cube trays from the Brita, picking out all of the Cheetos from the Munchies mix, and not letting us sit in the living room. But, she was lighthearted, and showed us through example, how to accept ourselves quirks and all.

Although she didn’t have dad’s sense of humour – some might say thankfully – she was fun to be silly and joke with. We can recall many fun moments when we teased her for her singing, or jokingly told her that one of us was pregnant when we weren’t. We made her Facebook profile one Christmas without her knowing, jokingly focusing the profile information around her love for Logan. We had no idea how much she would eventually use Facebook to stay connected with family and friends.

Mom has always been a role model for us as mothers. She has always lit up with the presence of her kids and grandkids, not just with pride in the things we’ve accomplished, but out of pure joy of our existence. No matter what was happening in Mom’s life, she always managed to make sure we knew that we were among the most important things to her. She supported us in the paths we chose in life, never questioning our motives or abilities. She gave us confidence to pursue all of our career goals and other life aspirations.

Mom adored her grandchildren, Logan, Madeleine and Chloé, more than you can love life itself. The day Mom learned that she was going to be a grandma, she had tears of joy. Both the grandmother and the teacher in her loved to hear every little accomplishment the kids’ made, no matter how small. We can only believe that she will be watching over the arrival of her newest grandchild in just a week.

Mom was a caring, kind, fun-loving woman, who has left a huge mark on the world that she has left behind. She made our world a calmer, safer, and better place.

To Mom and Uncle Rob – thank you for the years of support, and guidance you have given us. Thank you for filling our lives with love, laughter, and irreplaceable memories. We will forever remember you both as two of the best cheerleaders we have been blessed to have in our lives.

 

 

Bittersweet Baby Blanket

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I started this baby blanket back in July during a mid-summer cold spell. The chilliness of the air inspired me to pick up a crochet hook – something I hadn’t done in over a year. I searched on ravelry for the easiest crocheted baby blanket I could find. I found the Marble Baby Throw, and given it’s easy rating, decided to start it on a whim, without checking to see if I had enough yarn to finish it.

When I started, I thought it wouldn’t be good enough to keep, so the thought of running out of yarn didn’t really cross my mind. I was surprised to find that as I progressed, it was looking okay. With a few trips to the store, and help from my crafty and kind sister-in-law, I was able to find a second skein of each colour.

I finished the edge with a simple border.

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Finishing this blanket is a bittersweet moment for me. I’m happy to have finished my first crochet project, but more than that, I am so sad that I won’t be able to share this with my grandma, who passed away this summer. My grandma was very talented. She knit, crocheted, did needle point, among other things. My sisters and I have been blessed to inherit her crafting materials so that we can forever create with our grandma close to us.

When I started this blanket, my grandma was still with us, and I made the conscious decision to not tell her about it – I wanted to surprise her with it once I’d finished. She left us quickly and unexpectedly, and I never did get that chance. I hope that she is able to look down and see how she has inspired me with her talent.

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I started this blanket on a whim, and that means that it doesn’t have a destination. When my grandma passed, I decided that I would keep it, at least until I find the perfect place that it was meant to be.

 

 

 

It’s all about mama

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I’ve been in a funk lately. An I-don’t-want-to-leave-the-house-or-socialize-with-anybody kind of funk. I have plenty of reasons to be in a funk: the typical stressors of balancing work with family, the added stress of Maddy’s challenges, the non-stop appointments that cut into my work and home time, the recent passing of my grandmother (who, despite being 92 was way too young to leave us and caught me totally off-guard… and boy, we are missing her so much), constant pop culture and news stories that, frankly, have me not wanting to be part of this planet some days, friends going through tough times, working 15 months without  time off, all topped off by the self-inflicted over-scheduling of this summer.

My list might look different from yours, but I’m sure you’ve been there. I think that funks are part of the universal human experience.

As an INFP, I am prone to these funks. As an idealist and perfectionist, I’m constantly battling the fact that things just don’t measure up the way I’d like them to. I easily absorb what is happening around me, whether it be others’ moods or what I hear on the media (let’s be serious, it’s usually the portrayal of the status quo in the media that gets me). It can be overwhelming, and sometimes I need to escape the bombardment of my inner self.

I sometimes feel like I’m sitting on a pendulum, swinging about widely, not sure exactly where it is that I’m hoping to land. And you know what, when you don’t know where you’re trying to land, or what you need to land safely, it’s hard to meet your own needs. The first step of meeting your own needs is knowing what it is that you need.

I have spent two years, with some success, focusing most of my mental energy on figuring out how to meet Maddy’s needs. But it has become very apparent that I have been neglecting my own needs (yes, yes, I know… even with all the reminders from my lovely friends and family). These last couple of weeks I have been trying to explore what it is that I need in my life to de-funk-ify…. and really, nothing earth shattering has come to me. I think there is a lot more that I need to understand about myself… I’m just not sure where to find it yet.

I do know a few things though. I know that I picked the absolute perfect partner in life when I married Eric. He gets me. He gets me. He gets me like nobody else gets me. I assume this to be true in most partnerships, so I trust that you get what I’m saying. He is so patient and supportive, and even though he might not understand exactly what happens in my mind, he loves me unconditionally, and helps me navigate when I need the help. He is also quite receptive to, “I don’t want to talk,” or “can you leave me alone?” on particularly grumpy days, which I am truly appreciative of. I am also very lucky that he lets me be my ridiculous and silly self from time to time… because, hey, that’s just who I am.

I also know that a cup of hot tea and a good book are comforting to me. I know that dancing, biking, pilates, yoga, and a number of other physical activities make me feel whole. I know that putting my feelings out into the universe take a load off of me (and I know it’s a lot easier for me to write my feelings than talk them out). I want to help people. I love learning, have a lot left to learn, and want to keep learning. I want to be challenged. Knitting (and more recently crocheting) are relaxing for me. Sewing is a nice way to spend a few hours when I’m feeling motivated. I like to curl up and watch movies. I want to challenge the status quo. I like spending time with friends. I like to be alone, too. I feel better after I cry. I feel even better after I laugh. I want the world to be better than it is.

I need to learn to turn my brain off – to eliminate the awful things I hear on the news, to forget about that project at work that has got me stumped, and to be present, really present. I need to learn to embrace my vulnerability better. I need to find balance in my life, and find a way to maintain that balance. I need to pace myself.

I’ve done a lot of thinking, and I know a few more things than I did a month ago, but I know it’s just the tip of the iceberg. I anticipate that one’s measure of happiness is a constantly moving target, and so rediscovering how to meet your needs to maintain optimum happiness has to be a work in progress.

The one thing I am still really struggling with is what is the best way to find meaning in my life – through work? volunteering? hobbies? family? And, how do I prioritize these things in the optimal way so that I feel that I’m using my talents to make the world a better place, while at the same time nurturing myself and my family? How do I push forward to try to make change without burning myself out? Where is that elusive perfect balance, and how do I achieve it?

Eric told me a long time ago that he once read that INFPs are pre-disposed to a life of dissatisfaction, because of their idealism. I think he also said that at some point, INFPs just realize that they have to settle in life and so they do. That totally freaks me out in a that’s-too-overwhelming-to-consider-and-so-I’ll-just-continue-to-ignore-your-comments-and-shoot-for-the-stars kind of way. But, I do think that one way to battle the constant let-down of the ideal visions I have somehow conjured is to meet my own needs better. One day at a time…

It’s a Festivus miracle!

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I was feeling pretty stressed heading into the holidays this year. I planned for the worst, just in case. Our sensory survival kit was put to very good use, particularly the earphones. We had several very chaotic, busy days where we bounced around to various homes (as per our usual routine), but Maddy did amazingly well.

Christmas daySome of my favourite moments of the 2012 holidays include:

  • Seeing how mesmerized Maddy was by the Haines’ family annual Christmas sing-a-long (accompanied by piano and cello). After every song, Maddy repeatedly asked for more until the next song started.
  • Watching Maddy warm up to her second cousins at the Haines’ family Christmas. She sat on one of her cousin’s laps for most of the sing-a-long.
  • Spending a week with her cousins, Logan & Chloé (and of course her Aunt Lindsay and Uncle Jérôme). It was such a joy to watch Maddy run, giggle, dance, scream, and tear around the house with Logan. We’ve never seen her play in our own home the way she has with Logan here (and we’re hoping some of it might stick beyond Logan’s visit).
  • Maddy hugged and kissed me a couple of times!!!! Yahooo!!!!!
  • Enjoying a delicious (and quiet) New Years Eve dinner of duck confit after all three kids were in bed.

sleeping beautyBoth Eric and I took a full week off over the holidays – and it was oh, so wonderful to have a week at home with Maddy. One of the most relaxing parts of the week was not having to drive to therapy. We’ve been at therapy with Maddy 2-4 times a week for the last 10 months and it was really nice to have the break.

One of the reasons the week was so relaxing is that we had no demands on us. It didn’t matter if Maddy didn’t want clothes on – we didn’t have to work through a fit to get them on, because we were home, and she could just be naked. If Maddy didn’t want to eat or napped late it didn’t matter. We didn’t have to worry about her not sleeping at all if she didn’t eat all day, because we didn’t have to wake up and go to work in the morning, and we could alternate naps during the day. One night we watched her run around the house until 10:30pm because we couldn’t get her down for the night, and it didn’t bother us in the slightest. Consequently, our emotional reactions to some of her behaviours was a lot less, and I’m sure that impacted Maddy as well.

When life is on hold, a lot of the daily struggles aren’t a struggle, because they aren’t impacting our work, Maddy’s therapy, our sleep, etc. The reason they become so frustrating, is because of their ripple effects and the constant emotional reactions they create in us.

I’m looking forward to 2013 – we’re starting off with a bang by attending an SOS feeding workshop for problem feeders, offered to us by Thames Valley Children’s Centre, and seeing a specialist to work out if there are any medical reasons for Maddy’s lack of ability to sleep (also recommended by TVCC as Maddy’s sleep patterns are atypical for her age).

Happy New Year to you all. I hope your holidays were as enjoyable as ours were.