Wednesday, December 30, 2009

christmas come-down

This season is insane. I am not normally a fan of this season, and although this Christmas wasn't as black and bleak as last year, the numb mechanized motions of new and fresh grief weren't as present to help me slip through these last few weeks.
I have found that the build up to the big day has, as always, been tense and fraught with stress. The day itself a tad anti-climatic. And the work involved in making sure that everyone is visited, acknowledged and gift-endowed over the holidays strikes me full with worry, lack of sleep and an acute sense of anti-consumerism.
It hasn't been all bad. I really am not a total Scrooge. I have enjoyed seeing friends and family. I have so loved the look of joy on my kiddos faces when opening their 'Santa' gift. I have savoured the apple cider, the Muppets Christmas Album and our live rented Christmas tree.
I am tired though. I want to lay down on the ground, as though at the end of a race, and take deep breaths. I want my house to regain some amount of organization after the onslaught of toys, clothing and festive food. I would like to be able to fit comfortably in my jeans again. I'd feel great if I could contact everyone who has phoned, written or emailed over the holidays only to receive 'dead air'.
All this craziness and chaos has made me wonder if I can handle yet another 'dependant' (Cedar the puppy). Oh, how I love him! What a great, gentle, smart, quiet and sweet dog he will be...But he is so very strong.....He has learned so very much (not to jump up, to stay out of my room, to not eat off the table, to sit, to lay down, etc. etc. - this from a dog who had NEVER been in a house before....Oh, and he has never had an accident inside!!!!) but he is so strong that when we are walking, he can literally pull me into traffic and Briar along with me as we are holding hands. I would train him myself but when do I get time to do this? When can I take him to puppy classes? He is SO brutally strong that all the lessons he should have learned when he was knee-high are now hard for me to address with a three year-old, seven year old and a dog with separation issues (Freckles) in tow. But I do understand the gentle giant. I look into those eyes and see such a soft soul. I feel a connection with him that I never have felt with Freckles (is that just creepy to talk aobut a dog that way?) He wants to please. He wants to be loved. And he wants to play. What have I gotten myself into?
Is this just a sour mood or the Christmas hang-over??

Friday, December 25, 2009

this day

As you wake this Christmas morning, you may feel alone lying in your bed. You may feel far from your beloved that you've lost. You may cry and feel sorry for yourself. You may watch your children open their presents as tears roll down your cheeks.
But know that we are not alone. We are all facing this together. Your loved ones are with you, if in spirit, memory or in your children, whatever you may believe.
I know that, for me, knowing that you are experiencing a similar morning is enough to make me not feel so sorry for myself. I am not really alone. You know. You understand. You are facing the same day as me.
Try to find the light and joy in the day. Be thankful for all that we do still have left. Find joy in remembering all that we have had and the memories that we keep so close to our hearts. Remember to make new joyous memories.
I am thinking of you all today. Merry Christmas!!!!!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

a new addition

We've adopted another dog. We've named him 'Cedar' (although I think that 'Wookie' would be a more appropriate name...the kids aren't up on their Star Wars trivia). He's between 6-9 months and one heck of a Heinz 57 (although he does look mostly chow, he doesn't act like one at all - THANK GOODNESS!)
Freckles seems to enjoy Cedar's company and hasn't (heavily knocking on wood here) destroyed anything in the house since Cedar's arrival (although this could also be due to the large increase in Freckles meds since his last massacre of household openings to the outside elements).
But Cedar is a happy guy. He's big, sweet, mostly very gentle and fluffy. He is afraid of the chickens thus far (yay!) but has an intense fondness for the cat...and the cat does not share the love.
He'll be attending puppy classes to learn some manners as he believes that his enormous paws are fabulous when used as boxing mitts with which to knock every animal and child down within his vicinity when he is outdoors. He also needs to learn that human food, although it smells good, is not for him.
We got him up in Ukee when having Jeff's plaque installed. I've been hesitant to mention him as I have been trying to get up the courage and a list of cons that would allow me to not keep him here. The plan had been to keep him overnight as we got home so late and then bring him to the SPCA....Yeah, well, what can I say?! I'm a sucker. And I am justifying our new addition by thinking that if Freckles is less lonely, maybe he can come off his $60/month antidepressants, thus making a new furry friend more affordable....And I think I'm already a tad head-over-heels.....

Look at this face, though...Could you say 'No'?

Friday, December 18, 2009

life without a mirror

Photo by h.koppdelaney
Also posted on Widow's Voice

I had a dream that I found Jeff. I was so totally overjoyed and so excited that I attempted to jump into his arms. The shock and confusion, even hostility, that he looked at me with was horrifying. He didn't recognize me. He didn't know me anymore.
He scooped up our little ones in a tight embrace and laughed at how they've grown and who they are. They snuggled into his chest and glowed.
He ignored me. He didn't know who I was. I was a stranger. I was outside his embrace. I was no longer 'his'.

Losing Jeff has changed me. I am stronger, braver and more capable....I think. But without him to act as my mirror, I can no longer see myself through the eyes of someone so close who loves me so dearly. Part of the reason we love our spouse is who they see and believe us to be. Without that rose-tinted reflection, I often don't know who 'I' am.
I see myself as horribly blemished. Terribly scarred. A monster at times. Wiser but angrier. More able but less patient because I have SO much more to do. More capable of standing up for myself but louder because of the necessity to be heard.
I know that he would laugh at these neurotic thoughts that plague me. The thoughts that I am unsuited to be a mother, a sister, a friend. I can feel without a shadow of doubt that he would roughly snuggle me close, kiss the top of my head and tell me that I was the 'sweetest, most loving person he has known'.
But with only a memory of these statements and the knowledge of my metamorphosis into 'widow' and all that entails, I wonder if his kind description would still stand.
Would he know me? Would he love me? Would he still want me?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

snapshots of peace and tranquility

Every now and then, I find myself living in 'the now' for just a moment. A moment long enough to soak in the true beauty and wonder of life. This afternoon, I find myself experiencing one of those blissful moments that last such a brief amount of time.
The dog is asleep by my feet. I watch the snow blanketed marsh from the living room window with a cup of peppermint tea clasped in my hands. I can see Liv making a variety of snow creatures in the yard. Briar is playing cars quietly in his room. The lovely relaxing smell of nag champa incense wafts through the air warmed by the woodstove. Tristan Prettyman plays on the stereo.
Life is quiet. Simple. Slow. I feel at ease. Relaxed. Although there are an avalanche of chores/jobs/errands to do, I can push these thoughts away for this moment and just enjoy the quiet.
Oh, how I wish I could master the creation of these moments....But maybe they would be less coveted if they happened often. Instead, these brief seconds of bliss are something rare and wonderous.

my little maniac

Briar and I were snuggled up in his cozy little bed the other night. His soft, pale pink cheek was gently pressed against mine. His small hand was laying across my chest as he dozed.
Quietly, he said to me, "Mama, I'd never hurt you."
"Thank you, my sweet boy", I replied.

"And Mama? I'd never break you," he whispered sleepily.
"Thank you, my love", I said.

"And I'd never shoot you," he said.
"Um. Thanks...", I said with my eyes now open.

"And I'd never cut your head and feet off," he said as if this was very unremarkable.
"Oh", I managed to hiccup.

"And I'd never eat you, Mama."

That night as he fell asleep I wondered if my son was....going to be an ax murderer when he grew up.
But then, I realized that this whole conversation was due to recent conversations that Briar and I have had regarding guns, animals for food and violence. With his sudden interest in guns, I had explained to him that guns are tools. Violent tools that are used to hurt or kill. And although they are used to hurt people at times, they are often used to kill animals for food. I had explained that I don't feel that toy guns are appropriate for play in our family as we are pretending to kill our friends....I know that this is quite a 'hot topic' among parents.
I find it interesting that as a parent, I put so much stock in the conversations that I have with my children. Always gleening for hints at what they may be like as adults. And then I find, my kids are so much better at living right now than I am. Their conversations reflect our everyday life and the replay and understanding of things that go on around us.
I am just going to have to wait and see if Briar is going to be an ax wielding maniac....but I doubt he will be. I just have to remember that he is learning and growing. And like me, he is changing and forming. Who he is and what he enjoys now will not be the same when he is 25....(except maybe for Lego.)

Friday, December 11, 2009

a place for you, my love

Also posted on Widow's Voice

I've struggled this past year and a half to find the 'right' words to mark Jeff's life and his person on a commemorative bench on the West Coast of this island, in a the small fishing village where we met, fell in love and started our life together.
I needed to find something that would bring 'him' to life in a phrase for those who knew him and for those who didn't, a taste of who he really was. I poured over letters and cards he wrote me, his favourite songs, poems, common phrases, even his funeral program. In frustration, I asked our very good friend, Jimmy (aka Dad) how he would describe my love. Without hesitation, he said, "Jeff Chandler - A Truly Loving and Irritating Man"
In those brief words, he summed up Jeff for those who knew him. He hinted at his persona to those who didn't.
I was concerned that some may feel offended or feel that Jeff had been insulted. I called his family for their feelings on it. Everyone laughed. Everyone remembered Jeff as he was - 'loving and irritating'.
He was a pest. Those he loved, he loved ferociously and protectively. He laughed often. He joked always. He was full of hugs and kisses (and licks to the face) even for his buddies who hated it - and he loved that they hated it.
I am pleased that those of us who knew him will conjure these images when we read those words and sit upon his bench. I am so glad, as well, that those who didn't know this kind, loud and humourous man will read the inscription, laugh and wonder. Even in his death, he is making others chuckle....And I think that is right. I think that it so fitting.
So with a fond smirk and eternal love for the man who could love and irritate like no other, a bench has been placed upon a point of land overlooking the sea that he so adored. I hope that it offers some solace for those of us who are missing him and a giggle for all who read the inscription.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

being a big girl

I attended a Christmas party recently where I sat next to a wonderful and interesting woman who had just turned 60. During the night, we laughed and talked about light and heavy subjects and I enjoyed her conversation immensely.
At some point in the evening, the subject of growing up and becoming 'who we really are' came up. I mused that I still, in my thirties, don't feel like an adult. My personality and feelings remain maleable and not completely formed.
I was slightly embarassed about this revelation that emptied from my mouth (if you know me in person, you know that I am unable to hold much just skills out while I think it - making me very honest but often quite sheepish afterward). However, I was shocked when she stated that she too has these feelings. She told me that she has thought that you begin to 'feel' like a grown-up when you hit your
70s. 70s!?!?!?!?!?!
I was at once both soothed and horrified by the thought. I felt comforted that a 'real adult' has the same feelings that they have more to learn, more room to grow, more need for change. But i felt horrified that I will be unsure and second-guessing so many of my actions into life as a septagenarian. I had thought that my formation as a grown-up would be complete LONG before then.
This one conversation has given me so much to think on over the last few weeks. It has given me new lenses with which to look at people in my life - my mom, my old teachers, the elderly woman working at Tim Horton's, my grandfather. What are or were they thinking? Do/did they have these thoughts? When did they feel that they had grown to capacity and knew how they felt about so many of life's issues? Do I and my neighbour at dinner just lack confidence and security in our decisions/thoughts or is it all of us who are feeling our way through life much past the teenage years as I had previously thought?
This revelation has me amused pondering what I look like from the outside. Do I look like I have it all figured out? Do I look like a grown-up? I must. Especially since I have recently stopped using the term "When I grow-up...." after Liv informed me that I AM a grown-up. I have replaced it with "When my kids go up...." So now my pie-in-the-sky desires reside in a time after my children are able to care for themselves, I have time to rest when I need it and I can eat chocolate in front of my kids without worrying that any shared pieces will ruin their appetite for dinner or damage their ideas about healthful eating.
Don't get me wrong, I find motherhood the absolutely MOST fulfilling and enjoyable occupation I have ever had or expected to have. But it also the most exhausting and all consuming endeavour I have ever embarked upon. It is still nice to have some plans for the future - a future that is mine. A grown-up me. A me who knows what I want. 'Cause I am still mostly in the dark. Here I come 70!!!

Friday, December 04, 2009

plumbing prowess and other miracles

Also posted on Widow's Voice

Tonight, as I attempted to turn off the water to the tub, I was hit with a major plumbing emergency. Initially, as I was unable to shut off the water to the already very full bath, I thought, "Oh, *^%$#. WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?!!"
Turning the knob to the left did nothing. Turning it to the right had the same undesired effect. Saying my most favoured and shocking swearword, unfortunately, didn't help either....
So I took a breath. I stopped. I thought (really, really quickly). I unplugged the tub. I got a screw driver, a pair of vice grips and an adjustable wrench. I took off the tap with the screw driver, I turned off the water with the vise grips and I removed the cartridge with the wrench.
Before Jeff died, I may not have known how to conquer this house's plumbing monsters. I didn't know where the water shut-off was. But even if I did, I still probably would have let him deal with these things. I wouldn't have believed in my abilities to fix these dilemmas correctly or I would have just allowed him to do 'his job' in the variety of household repairs that spring up. It would have seemed daunting and overwhelming.
But tonight, I didn't panic (much) as I performed my plumbing magic; because I now know where the shut-off for the hotwater tank AND household water is if I need to shut the whole thing down.
Although this is post sounding like a plumbing how-to, it isn't. It is a testament to the strength and growth we experience and gain after surviving any tragedy. It is a statement of how, although we think we may not be able to make it, do it, survive it - we can. We learn how. We grow. We grudgingly troup forwards.
All of us have this in us, it is just forced to the surface when you find yourself suddenly alone. Suddenly solely accountable for everything that occurs in our household. The strength and courage rise to the surface whether it is a major minor plumbing issue or a catastrophe involving our loved ones and our lives.
This, I believe, is one of the blessings of grief.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


This year, instead of our usual seasonal tree advent calendar, we've decided to change things up a bit. We'll still be keeping our trusty tree painted on our living room window; but we'll be using it for other seasonal decorations (snowflakes, winter birds, gnomes, etc.)

At Liv's farmschool recently, they made paper cups from folded squares of...well, paper. Liv has become very interested in origami and drinking from these folded pieces of wood pulp. After finding dozens of these things around the house, I had an AHA! moment when thinking about our advent calendar. (And then I found that someone truly fabulous had had this AHA! moment before me and had already made them, but oh well, today I celebrate my own AHA!)

Instead of the long crafty day of creating a variety of winter and Christmas decorations from construction paper, we just gathered up a plethora of these cups, folded a few more, wrote numbers on them and hung them with clothespegs from the fishing line we have hanging through the living room (good for hanging art work on when all the bulletin boards and fridge space in the house is full!).

I still had the list of Advent activities saved on the computer. After a quick search of the local Christmas events, I added a few to our list (make sure to only add a 'few' or you may get tired out. Also, have one or two low-key standins for days that you find that although you had some parade written in, someone is vomiting on the couch, thus dashing your plans.) Also, put on the things you would be doing anyhow. I know this sounds like 'cheating' but, man, the holidays are so crazy and busy that just GETTING the tree is an event worthy of the calendar!

Anyhow, here is a quick list of things that we have done on our countdown to Christmas:

Santa Claus Parade
Christmas at museum
Read a Christmas book
Write letters to Santa
Make paper snowflakes
Face painting
Get Christmas tree
Put up Christmas lights
Decorate Christmas tree
Candlelit bubble bath
Family game night
Donate gift to needy kids
Make bird food pine cones
Go skating
Moonlight walk
Christmas train Cut down tree
Dinner by candlelight
Make gingerbread cookies
Watch Christmas movie with popcorn
Christmas light drive in jammies
Christmas carols
Donate food
Homeschool Christmas concert
Make snowflakes
Wrap presents

Please add to the list in the comments section if you can think of any!!!

Friday, November 27, 2009

musical memories

Photo by Misspiepie

Also posted on Widow's Voice

Today, as I scanned through my CD collection in search of something mellow yet fun to listen to while doing housework, I found that every. single. bloody. CD had some memory intertwined in its' melody.
I found myself sobbing due to the fact that I am the one now, the ONLY one, who remembers dancing in the wheelhouse of the boat in the middle of the night to Van Morrison with my head upon his chest. The one who can recall playing "Smooth" in my little truck on the way to Port Hardy and singing at the top of our lungs. The one who has stored in my head the long ago deleted messages of Jeff singing Jeff Healey's "Angel Eyes" for me to find in the morning on the answering machine.
Each of these memories are sacred and terrible. I love them. I want to keep them. But they pain me with a new and fresh pain.
I had been shying away from these memories. Hiding them in the bottom of my brain's sock drawer. So now at 20 months out, I can either play the music, have a big ole pity party for myself that will last god-knows-how-long...or I can buy some new music.
So tomorrow, I am heading to the music store. I need a soundtrack that'll make me light on my feet, not heavy in the soul.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

pride is a bad thing?

Look at my little girl....
We worked together all last week making 'fairy house Christmas ornaments'. We found the wood at the side of the road, cut it, whittled it (resulting in a few bloody injuries for my poor, brave girl), drew in widows and doors, glued bark for the roof and twine for the hanger.
Liv attended a craft fair with my mom in the hopes of selling all 31 of her creations. She was selling them for $2 each (allowing many counting and money lessons).
She sold EVERY one of them. EVERY ONE! Her little grin when I arrived to pick her up was beautiful.
With her $62, she has decided to split it in thirds; 1/3 to the bank for saving, 1/3 for spending on needs/wants, 1/3 to charity (1/2 to SPCA, 1/2 to foodbank).
Lessons like this are my favourite. The ones that come easy and are filled with pride and excitement are the best.
I am so proud of you, my little love. You and your brother make life worth living and fill me with unexpected smiles. I love you, Bean.

stopping the treadmill

I've been away. Mentally. I am overwhelmed. Too much on the brain. The faster I run, the faster the treadmill goes.
I realize that I'm a person who is constantly on-the-go, never can sit still for long and always has a project or five; but I am finding that my poor old neck isn't liking the crazy schedule, my sleep just can't get slept with all my thoughts running through my cavernous nogging like elephants, and my ears are stick of all the noise and thumping going on...
The doctor suggests time alone. Time spent on my own. I do get this occasionally. Mom takes the kids overnight now and then. My sister watches the kids when I have non-kid-friendly errands. Friends take kids for playdates periodically.
My issue is that I can't STOP. If the kids are away, I am either feverishly painting, cleaning, organizing, wrapping or mowing OR I am getting in the adult socializing I need as well.
It is a endless circle and question. Do I value having things 'done', time with friends with whom I can use the 'f' word, or quiet blissful relaxation more? Unfortunately, I let rest or relaxation slip....EVERY time.
I need to remind myself how to rest. How to take a breather. How to calm my mind and still my thoughts. Is this avoidance? Is this me trying to hide from uncomfortable and unpsetting thoughts and emotions? I don't know for sure, but I do know that it is reaking havoc on my stress level, my tone of voice, and my neck muscles.
Tea seems to be a bit of a relief. I never really drank tea, except in social situations...much like drinking booze. hmmm......Anyhow, now I find if I just brew a cup of tea, I don't even have to drink it. It just makes me feel like I am doing something for myself. Calming. Quiet. Zen-like.
Lighting candles, turning off all the household lights and staying away from my computer helps as well.
Practising talking quietly does wonders.
So, I am thinking that I am going to try to practise shutting my loud and obnoxious brain up. Maybe meditation. Maybe exercise (which I SO miss). Maybe yoga. Maybe just sleep (now there's an idea). But I need some self-care. I need to rest me as I would rest my kiddos. I need to put my mental health first for a bit.
How do you rest? How do you recharge? Please give me hints. I need them.
~ A chronically crazed person.

P.S. Reading "Raising Your Spirited Child" has made me realize a lot of things about both my child and myself. SUCH A GOOD BOOK!
I have also read "The Omnipotent Child". Awful, terrible, horrible book. Don't read it. You will be convinced that your child is a horrible deviant, manipulative, self-centred, miscreant that needs professional help.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.

~ Scott Peck

on the brighter side

In a bid to exercise positive thinking, I have borrowed an idea I read on another widow's blog (unfortunately I can't give the widow credit as I cannot, for the life of me, find were one of my midnight rambles through the blogosphere took me - If it was you, please let me know, so I can give you credit!) and list some of the better positive ....not-so-crappy things about widowhood and the experiences that have happened. I DO, however, wish with all my heart that I weren't a widow. That Jeff were here holding me now and that my children and I hadn't had to go through this. Anyhow....

1. I am 'glad' that Jeff died in my arms. I was there with him. I held him. He knew he wasn't alone. I know what happened. There are no questions for me and no hazy details that cause more agony. (This was the heavy one. The others are much more...vacuous and light-hearted, I promise).

2. I am glad that I now have the insight to know reasonably well what is 'small stuff' and what is 'just crap'. I thought I knew before. I didn't. I still have difficulty at times staying 'above' the ruckus. But I often have the realization that the issue won't last or even be remembered later that day....If I breathe, I can let 'it' go more easily than before.

3. As with all marriages, our identities were intertwined. I loved this. I loved being a unit, a team, husband and wife. Although now, I find I often feel that I am standing naked in a crowd; I also find that the fear and confusion of being alone is off-set with the feeling that I can reinvent myself. I can release what I didn't like about myself or my life before and start new and fresh. I can try on new hats, use different words and exercise internal muscles not used in such a long time. I loathe the necessity to change because I am only 'one' now, but if I look in a slightly different light, I can feel a slight excited tingle in "What can happen now?" Maybe the kids and I will travel (one can dream, right?), maybe I will write a children's book as I have always wanted, maybe I will cut the firewood myself this year, maybe I'll be able to support the kids comfortably on my own.....It goes on and on

4. I can load the dishwasher MY way. I can tuck the sheets into the bottom of the bed. I can get a goat if I want to. I can feed the kids tofu. I can have not one dollar of this household go to cigarettes. I don't have to listen to WCW in the background as I sew. I can buy organic food without justifying why organic strawberries are better for the kids. The small stupid things that caused tiny ripples in our household, now not only mean so little, there is also no one to bicker with them about. Bittersweet.

5. ................Okay, I am done. I am trying to find more positives. I am trying to BE positive. But it's hard. Number Four was hard. It made me think of those times that I listened grudglingly to WCW as I sewed. I could see Jeff in the reflection of the window above my sewing table elbows on his knees in rapt attention. I'd snort and scoff at the phoney throws and pins. I'd say, " I CAN'T believe you watch this!" He'd always say, "I know it's fake, but you're wrecking it!!!....And besides they are amazing athletes to be able to do any of this stuff!" Now, I miss the childlike wonder with which he watched it. I miss his laugh and his unconscious eating of some snack. He'd eat fast when the match really heated up. Slower when they were circling and cat-calling. His buddy, Finnegan, and he would call eachother mid-match, "Did you SEE that?" They were like two little boys. God, I miss him. I so miss what he brought to me, to our family, to this home.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

post of pictures

I have had this sitting in my draft box for a few days....Forgot to post...

contents of pockets

Every now and then, I see a quiz go around on Facebook about the contents of a woman`s purse. You`re supposed to write what is found in your purse for all to see/read. In all honesty, I find it slightly dull and monotonous to read these lists perpetually containing lip gloss of various brands/ingredients, wallets, cellphone and other standard purse fare....although, I must admit that my contents list included a container filled with mouldy cheese last week - not so standard.

I feel that more interesting is the would-be list of the contents of a child's pockets. Before little ones 'need' to have certain tools and adult paraphernalia toted around with them, they carry a variety of found 'treasures' that give us a glimpse into their personalities and minds. Like crows, they adore all things shiny. Objects not found in their natural surroundings are also intriguing. So are the unusual, the beautiful, the see-through.

While unloading Liv's pockets the other day as I prepared the laundry, I found myself smiling at the little person who was displayed in these contents.

Her treasures included:

  • a grey feather with white tips

  • the plastic head of an unknown action figure found on the beach

  • a heart shaped stone

  • a variety of found litter

  • a pair of glow-in-the-dark fangs

  • a baggy containing mouldy pumpkin seeds

  • The feather and heart-shaped stone now reside in our 'nature collection'; after years of being reprimanded for putting some of her more nature based findings outside, I started a basket filled with chestnuts, snake skins, feathers, bark, animal fur, old nests, etc. Goodness knows it's contents are most likely not hugely hygenic, but I will risk it in the hopes that these special things remain someplace safe and will continue to ingender a love of nature within my children.

    The head of the action figure is rather creepy in my humble opinion, but Liv thinks it's pretty cool. It shows up in remarkably strange places and gives me a little thrill of creepiness everytime I find it unexpectedly. I find that my kids, and most likely all kids, keep objects that are 'special' for reasons unknown to us adults. The problem is that I often don't know where the fine line is between 'junk' and 'treasure' - especially since she loves to collect garbage as well. I often attempt to dissuade her from doing this when I worry about what types of germs are residing upon these oft soiled food recepticals. I always promise to carry a bag with us on walks for just this purpose (and intend to bring gloves as well), but forget so very often...and then find myself cleaning garbage from pockets yet again...

    The pumpkin seeds are signs of my daughter's green thumb and love of nurturing. She loves to grow plants, raise animals, cuddle babies. Unfortunately, she has also inherited my genes for have great intentions (such as collecting seeds from an extremely large pumpkin only to forget them in your pocket causing them to mould beyond viability) but less follow-through when distracted.

    And the fangs, well, the fangs are just fun. Kid fun. A sign that you can still enjoy life and all its' silliness. I am hoping that as I grow and learn and remember how funny life CAN be, I will be able to carry a pair of these things around in my purse as well....

    Friday, November 13, 2009

    mine. all mine.

    Also posted on Widow's Voice
    I wonder how many decisions we make a day on average. Five? Fifty? Five hundred?

    The small ones have never been of much consequence. Brush my teeth or not? Wear pink high heels or brown loafers? Watch The Nature of Things or 22 Minutes?

    The larger ones are the tough ones. As a teenager, they were pretty easy. Hear what my parents had to say...and do the complete opposite. In my twenties, I winged it, thinking I was invincible, capable and brutally independent. But when I became part of a pair, a marriage, I began to forget my desire to make plans on and of my own.

    I grew to need the sounding board and the agreement from my husband. The comfort in knowing that I was not the only one who thought I was 'right' was immense. Even when we didn't agree, I was able to voice my feelings and listen to the pros and cons from someone I trusted.

    Now, learning again to make decisions alone is daunting and uncomfortable. I want someone else's agreement, validation and support. But who do you ask for this? Your parents?! You friends? Your neighbours?

    I am just beginning to feel the exhilaration of 'choosing' on my own. I am still frightened and nervous, but I am feeling again that glow of confidence in myself and the choices I make for our family. I am secure in my knowledge of Jeff's morals and views on many things. I can use these remembered traits to guide my decisions....or I can do it how I want.

    For now, I take comfort in following the path that we had chosen together....But I am thrilled to be able to load the dishwasher how I want to and leave the car in the driveway begging for gas.

    Since Jeff died, the largest decision I have made alone was the choice to trade in our car for a mini-van (something he was loathe to do). I am proud of myself....and I think he would be proud of me too (once he got over the shock of driving around in a 'mom-mobile').

    I am working my way up to bigger and better things. One day, I am sure I will make a decision that I have no guidance from him through my memories. I will be flying solo. And those choices will be mine. All mine. Terrifyingly, excrutiatingly, possibly excitingly mine. And I know he will smile down on me as these rusty wings of mine fly again.

    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    magic mud

    Just because I haven't posted any crafty or creative goodness lately, I thought I'd stick a quick note up about magic mud (a favourite around these parts).

    I remember playing with it when I was a child and how it confounded me. It has two essential ingredients - cornstarch and water. We often include food colouring and/or almond extract for a bit of excitement. ;)
    Put a few tablespoons of of cornstarch in a small bowl. Add water one teaspoon at a time until (this is the tricky part to explain) it is runny when you pour it but hard when you apply pressure. It's an amazing consistency when you get it right! You can roll it in a ball and then let it run through your fingers.
    The kids love to play 'dirty cars' with it. It makes an amazing mess if it gets out of the bowls....but I prefer to clean up later as long as the kids are enjoying themselves now.

    Monday, November 09, 2009

    my kiddos and me

    Lately, when I look at the photos of 'before', I am struck not just by how innocent and naive I look, but at how pure and happy the kids look. I know that this may be just a natural consequence of aging for them, but I am concerned that my sadness, anger and general 'inward turning' has affected them in negative ways. I want to repair this. I want to heal what I can in their little hearts. I want to return to the parent that I was before....
    So I am striving to be more patient. To again trust my children. To play as I once did. To not lash out when I am stressed as often. To take a breather and to let the kids know when I need that moment to myself and why.
    I have been immersing myself in appropriate parenting books and with people who exhibit the parenting behaviour that I would again like to employ. If I had the balls, I would have tattooed on my wrist "YOU are the adult. ACT like one." to remind me to curb MY temper tantrums. I want our home to return to some semblance of calm. I know it was never perfect and neither was I, but it was damn sight better than it is now.
    It is amazing to me just how stress can effect ALL aspects of your life. Briar will ask for one more cracker and I bark at him, "No! I don't have time to get it!" while thinking that he should be able to see that I am attempting to get the bills paid online with only enough more to pay three of them. (Just to remind you he is three....I doubt he even knows what a bill is.) Liv will merrily dance through the house with her cowgirl boots tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tapping away. I will bite my tongue. I will furiously try concentrate on the task at hand......Then, after one truly exuberant flurry of foot stomping, I'll yelp, "What is going on?! That is TOOOOOOOOO loud....and TAKE YOUR SHOES OFF IN THE HOUSE!!!!!!!!!!!"
    They both seem to regard me as the 'Lieutenant Commander No-fun' and if there are happiness and giggles to be squashed, I will be the one who does it.
    I can't do this. My role as mommy has been THE most important and sacred thing to me. I cannot let go and allow my children to flounder just because I am grieving and I am exhausted.
    So, I am now reading:
    Raising Your Spirited Child
    How to Talk so your Kids will Listen and Listen so your Kids will Talk
    Siblings Without Rivalry
    Hold onto Your Kids
    Let me know if there are other parenting books that you have found help and value in....

    So, here we go. I am going to work on myself and my relationships with my sweet, little kiddos. Wish us luck....

    Friday, November 06, 2009

    the hardest part

    Also posted on Widow's Voice

    As a widow with young children, the worst thing about parenting now is NOT watching fathers whirl their delighted little girls around in the air or push their little boys on the swings. It is NOT arriving to your child's dance recital alone and wishing that someone was there to experience the joy and pride with you. It is NOT that you are now the only one to remember the day of your little one's birth or what their first word was. It is NOT the strange and uncomfortable silence when your child announces to the check-out clerk that "daddy is dead". No, the worst thing about being a widowed parent is that you can't fix that their other parent is gone....forever.
    All parents want to fix their children's injuries, soften their disappointments, explain any misunderstandings and replace what is broken. But no matter how hard I've tried, I cannot bring him back. I can't make it better. I cannot take the pain away.
    Nineteen months since my husband, Jeff, died and our seven year old daughter still cries for him often. I can often tell when it's coming. When missing him has overwhelmed her. She becomes angry and combative. She screams and yells at any small injustice, whether it be her three year old brother adding his own embellishments to her drawings, my requests that she keeps her fingers from my nostrils (she is a true pest - like Jeff was).
    When the crash comes, she sobs. Her little shoulders shaking as she asks me for the millionth time why he died. She rages at the way things are and screams that 'it's not fair'. I feel helpless. I want to soothe her little heart. I want to offer some remedy for grief, a magical elixir.
    Last week, she asked me if Jeff and I really did have Santa's phone number. I was confused by the change of direction in our tear-filled conversation. I misunderstood. I thought she was tired and just saddened by the world in general and had a desire for some toy. But no. Our little Bean wanted Santa's phone number because Santa "knows everything" and Santa would know Heaven's phone number. She wanted to talk to her daddy.
    That night, I tucked her into our bed, with his shirt swaddled around her little body, the necklace containing some of Jeff's ashes clutched in her hand and a hotwater bottle nestled into her back. She fell asleep with tears on her I did - not just for the loss of Jeff, but for the sadness that my little ones bear.
    What I have learned in these last nineteen months is that the best, and really, the only thing I can do for her is to be here. To let her lean on me. To hold her hand. To bring her tissues and hot water bottles. To hold her on my lap and listen as she cries. To assure her that we will smile again and that I will be here whenever she needs me.

    Tuesday, November 03, 2009

    pictures and junk drawers

    Some nights, after the kids are in bed and the house is quiet, I find myself aimlessly looking through old pictures. I am never truly conscious of a time or event that I am searching for...But when I find it, I know... I've found you.
    I find myself staring into your eyes. Imagining what we'd say to each other. How we would cling to each other. Remembering every physical feature. Longing to hear you laugh. Craving just one more moment with you.
    I miss you so ferociously. I want to hear you voice and your opinion. Feeling the comfort of being with you. Connected to you. Just us. Only us.
    I can't clean the junk drawer or open your sporadic mail without sobbing at the forgotten memories, silly arguments, secret jokes, and broken plans. I keep thinking that all the firsts 'should' be over by now. But new ones keep cropping up.
    This sisyphean cycle continues as I quietly pine for you alone. I find you everywhere and no where.


    Liv as Laura Ingalls. Briar as a 'super nippled' Superman/Diego.

    Briar as a devil, bunny, dragon snake.

    Liv as Laura Ingalls.

    Friday, October 30, 2009

    growing up

    Also published on Widow's Voice

    In the first days after being widowed, I was much like a young child. Oblivious to the world around me. Completely in my own little realm - though not one of wonder but of grief and fear. My existence was confusing. I didn’t understand what had happened. I relied on others to care for me. To make sure I was fed, clothed, and essentially, breathing.
    As those fuzzy and half-remembered early days passed, I began to realize that there were others out there. Other widows. Other people who had endured various other forms of terror and grief. And these people amazed me. I was in awe of them.
    Even if they had been widowed a few days, weeks or months earlier than I had, I saw them as veterans. I looked up to them, much as a ‘tween’ looks up to a teenager. I thought they knew it all. Had mastered all their grief and easily morphed into their new lives. But I was bumbling and dorky child-widow.
    But now, when I meet other ‘younger widows’, I realize that some of them are looking to me for confirmation that they too will make it. That one day will pass into the next and they will still be standing as the widows before us are. That as they watch my journey, they can see that they will have a journey and they too will learn and grow from it.
    But, so very often, as I stare at myself in the ‘mirror’, I think, “Who me? Really, we are all just groping in the dark. I am no more wise than you.” I feel like everyone else has more of a handle on all of this stuff than I do.
    Other, more rare times, I am able to give myself more credit. “Yup, I am entering widow teenage hood. I am wiser than I was as a child widow. I am pimply and awkward and don't know it all, but I have a grasp on a few things. And if my growth and vertical position gives you the hope and strength you need, I understand. And I can tell you, I know you can make it at least this far."
    One day, a child widow will look to you for confirmation that they will be able to smile, even briefly, again one day. And they will be grateful that you have gone before them and the hope that you provide as an 'adult widow'.

    Monday, October 26, 2009

    Gnome-body loves me

    I want to admit something. I love gnomes. Garden gnomes. They make me happy. I love their jolly little faces. Their jaunty red hats. Round cheeks and bellies. I want to be a gnome - live in the forest. Help the forest creatures. Have pet mouse that I can ride on long journeys....Now that I sound that I have ingested a few toadstools, I just want you to look....

    Don't they make you grin too???

    When I was a child, we had a book that I adored called Dutch Treat. The author also wrote this book that is a favourite around our house. Such fun!!!!

    Friday, October 23, 2009

    not feeling it

    Also published on Widow's Voice:

    There are many days, weeks and months that the grief that was born after Jeff's death has crippled me. Days that no matter what I do, the sadness and loss steal over me and infect every thought and movement with pain. Weeks where I can feel nothing but the ache that has accompanied this journey and months in which the sorrow manages to reek despite all my attempts to banish it.
    But I also have days where I am stuck, floating, unsure of any feeling at all. I know the pain lurks somewhere below. I am aware that I am hurting and broken. But I am unable to feel.
    When the topic of Jeff's death comes up for the millionth time to some stranger, I rattle off the 'statistics' of his death with stoic, eery calm. Often, the listener is in tears as I stare at them with the eyes of an emotionless observer - head cocked and wonder why they are so sad. I am a Vulcan.
    For some reason unknown to me the painful stabs of loss don't slice away at my heart at these times. I feel like an automaton moving and functioning but without a heart. I wonder if something is 'wrong' with me. I worry that people will mistake my bland and expressionless face for uncaring. I feel guilt for not feeling.

    Is this a 'normal' part of grief? Do others have these moments where pain, and happiness, escape them? Is this is way to give my heart a rest? I'm not sure.

    I do I know that I relish and abhor these moments simultaneously. To not have to hurt is bliss. But to not be able to feel sucks.

    Who would ever think that I would wish for pain?

    Thursday, October 22, 2009

    peeping Jackie

    I adore going for walks in the evening. The fresh, crisp air on your face. The stillness in the air....and the glimpses into other people's lives through their open curtains. I always feel grateful yet sheepish when I pass an unclothed window. I try not to look. I try to 'mind my own business', but the curiousity nearly kills me.
    I love looking into a cozy looking room and imagining sitting in the chair in the corner, curled up with a book. Or talking while washing dishes in front of the kitchen window with someone while they dry.
    I am always sort of shocked when I see rooms where people are sitting in the dark with just the tv for lighting. I feel slightly dismayed when I see a room that isn't 'loved' or comfortable looking.
    Tonight, I glanced into a window as I drove down the road and saw a toddler in a diaper dancing on the washing machine in front an adult who was dancing too. This quick glimpse filled me with joy and wondering. What were they dancing to? Is life in this household always so happy and carefree? Was the washer on??
    It made me wonder what people must have thought yesterday when they looked through our front window to see a large white dog on his hind legs tearing down a pair of curtains, gnawing on the window latch and tearing the wood trim away. I'm sure I would have stopped and stared....maybe thrown a rock or two to see if he'd stop. Maybe I'd worry that this dog had some amount of intelligence, akin to Lassi, and was trying to warn others of impending danger or of a tragedy in action.
    But, no. It was Fuckles. Destroying and maiming. Not some wonder dog about to save the world. Just one tweaked and depressed dog with serious issues with all openings to the outside world. What the HELL am I going to do with him????

    liv's talking

    Liv has a blog now. She's been asking me to add certain things to my blog off and on for ages. She's now decided that she'd like to have her OWN blog to put hwat she wants on it. I figure it'll be a great space for her to practice typing, spelling and punctuation with the added bonus of expressing herself and creating something that is just hers. So check out her blog. I am sure she'd be tickled pink if you left a comment occasionally....

    Tuesday, October 20, 2009

    mama knows some stuff....

    • Treat cold sores with tea tree oil. straight up as soon as you begin to feel it, dab it on numerous times a day. It works better and faster than any storebought remedy.

    • Hot water bottle is a balm for many an ailment, including sadness and hurt feelings

    • Sitting too close to the tv will turn your eyes square and suck out your imagination

    • 'Second hand' is awesome - just another way to screw 'the man'.

    • We would die without dark chocolate.

    • In the grand scheme of things, dirty socks, mixed playdough colours and chipped paint don't matter. at all.

    • Although it is hard to remember in the moment, talking things out works much better than screaming them out.

    • Your body is a beautiful, amazing, awesome piece of matter what it looks like.

    • When you feel stressed, a tidy space can make life feel less chaotic.

    • Jealousy is a truly difficult emotion. You can use it to hate yourself and the object of your jealousy or you can use it to work on yourself and where/who you want to be.

    Thursday, October 15, 2009

    photos of Fall

    Our two stinkers...
    Gifts from the 'girls'....
    Some of our garden's bounty...
    More of the harvest...
    Moe, the wonder cat....
    Sun rising in the foggy marsh...
    My little fashionista...
    Creating something groovy...
    Sunset in the backyard...
    Tromp through the fields...
    Bee curious...
    Beautiful shapes and colours on the water...
    One of my partners in 'grime'...
    Water waiting...
    Briar with my brother...
    The boy likes motorbikes. Can I cry now?
    The 'girls' checking out the bugs in the back lawn...
    Spike and his buddy, Briar...
    The amazing maize maze end....
    The beginning (yeah, I know they're out of order. I just don't have the energy to sort it all right now after downloading 25 pictures to blogger...bit of a pain.)....
    Their harvest at the corn maze...
    Blue and yellow, one of my favourite colour combinations...
    One of my little pumpkins...