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...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

am I really cut out for this?

I don't know where or what the tipping point is, but there are moments, days, hell, weeks where I think, "How did I get here?" and "Who put me in charge of these angry, screaming, tired, fighting, loud, chimpanzees kids?"
I am exhausted and annoyed. I need five minutes to myself where I am not listening to the caucaphony of children and their arguments as a soundtrack.
I try to be level-headed. Think empathetically. Be calm rather than reactive.....But then Liv starts spraying her brother with the garden hose, the dog knocks Briar over in his attempts to grab the jet of water with his mouth, my camera narrowly misses a shower and both kids are screaming at me and each other that some terrible injustice has befallen each of them. I attempt to breathe and 'get to their level'. I try to sort out how we can find some sort of resolution. Some compromise involving spraying away from others. Putting the dog inside. Helping siblings up when they fall. I attempt to speak quietly over their screams and try to hold back limbs that are aimed for siblings fury-filled faces. I try to be the grown-up. Teach by example. Breathe. Just breathe. Just fucking breathe.
Then I lose it. "Why the hell are you doing that?! Get your bloody foot out of your brother's face. NOW!!!! Stop slamming that door! BE QUIET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
I am not the poster child for NVC. I am not even close to being a 'functional mother'. I watch as Liv stares at me with something akin to contempt while she tells me, "You don't care about me as much as Briar!!! I want my dad back!" and know that this is just the precursor. I know that this train is on the track to kids who spraypaint their bedrooms black and wear olive green long johns and black overcoats for everyday attire. I can already imagine Liv with a pierced eyebrow/nose/tongue and some foreign sounding dark music spewing from her mp3 player. How the hell do I stop this? How do I even educate myself? I spend every moment of every day, awake or asleep, with these kids. I know that those pro-conventional schoolers are thinking smugly, "She belongs in school. That'd teach her. Jackie's gonna have her hands full!"
It makes me want to scream foul sounding choice words at the world. I need help. I need a few minutes to myself that I can count on. I need a break. I need to know that I can take a course in latin or dog training or bowling, for all I care, as long as I can have a minute to decompress.
I truly want to have a compassionate, functioning, and enjoyable relationship with my kids. But, if I am honest, often times, I feel like I am stumbling, tripping and existing as a parent. I was once a totally aware and conscious parent. One who thought out many of my 'reactions' with my kids. One who had theories and words that adopted for calm interactions with my kids.
Is it that I have two kids now?
Is it that I am always taking care of more children than just my own?
Is it that Jeff is dead and I don't have as much time/energy/resources/rest?
Is it that Jeff is dead and my kids are scarred and going to morph into angry goth teenagers?
Is it that I just suck as a mom?
Is it just that everyone feels like this sometimes and I don't really get the depth of their frustration until I am living it and think "No one else must feel like this. I suck!"?
So tell me, do you have these times? Are we 'normal' or completely dysfunctional......

Friday, October 09, 2009

moving on, healing and getting over it

Also posted to Widow's Voice
*Photo by shieken

I'm sure that as widows, we have all heard these words in some form or other. "You'll get over it one day." "You're young. You'll move on." "Time heals all wounds." And the like. I remember the first time some well-meaning, naive person attempted to instill these words of 'wisdom' upon me. I think I wanted to drop them.

The truth is that these silly phrases are....a farce. They are just not true. You won't get over it. You won't move on. Time won't heal it. Before I throw you into deep despair as I go on my little tirade of gloom, I'll tell you my theory.

I liken the monumental loss of my beloved husband, in fact any large loss, to the acquisition of a large, ugly and cumbersome backpack.

When this backpack (aka pain) is thrust upon you, you don't think you will ever be able to stand again. It is so heavy and oppressive that it hurts just to breathe. You can't imagine that one day you may be able to stand.

But each day, you grow slightly stronger. One day, you can drag yourself a few centimetres. Eventually, you can crawl a little ways. That bloody backpack is still there. You can't shed it, but you learn to carry it so that it is slightly more manageable.

One day, you find that you are strong enough to stand. It's hard. In fact, it's exhausting and it may make you feel resentful and fed up, but you do it.

Knowing that eventually you may be able to run or dance again, even though you carry this mismatched piece of luggage upon your back, is an achievement in itself. You are not 'over it, moving on or healed", you are just carrying that blasted thing with you because it has become a part of your shape and part of you. It may not match anything else you wear, but you are stronger than you ever believed or knew you could be.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

as i grow, i learn

Aren't there things that you had heard but never really got until you had grown old/er? I am constantly amazed by how non-concrete we are even as 30 something adults. I feel as if I am still unfolding and unfurling into the person that I am meant to be.

There are things that I wish someone had told me. Plain, silly things that would have made life slightly simpler; such as, don't drink a glass of cold water after brushing your teeth with minty toothpaste. It feels as if you're huffing liquid nitrogen. And big things, undercurrents that no one really talks about in everyday conversation; such as for some reason if you're kind and genuine, often you're perceived as a mental midget. Realizations that would have nudged me slightly forward in the learning that we call 'life'.

I am glad that I have retained some amount of curiousity and wonder as I've grown older. I am still thrilled when I see earthworms mating, learn some new inane piece of trivia or hear a birdcall. But I feel that maybe I could be a 'genius' if I could have retained all this info. I am constantly in wonder of the world around me, staring up at the sky with my mouth hanging open. I am so entranced that I forget so much of what I have 'known' at times.

My children may never read this blog. They may lack an interest or maybe one day, it will be lost in cyberspace. But there are things that I am sure that I will wish I would have told them. Or things that as adults they may want to know. A leg up as it were.

So I've decided that now and then, I may have to write or type these little tidbits of information down for them as a record of things that I hope I have remembered to tell them..."Remember to shake someone's hand firmly, but not break it. If you shake it too lightly, you seem like a sissy push-over. If you shake it too hard, you seem like an overbearing power freak."
"Change your dish cloth daily. I'm not totally sure why. It has something to do with dampness, bacteria and grossness....It just a good idea. Just in case."
"When people watching, if you get busted staring, smile sweetly. Don't look away quickly. You are curious, not judging."

So, if I can think of things, I'll post them on here. Maybe I'll promote my image as a simpleton, or maybe I'll have some nodding their heads in agreement. But, it'll be here if my kids need it....

Monday, October 05, 2009

i dream of Eli

My dreams have been rife with tragedy lately. Dreams of fire, earthquakes, burglars, scary things.....I often wake with the stink of fear still clinging to me and my heart pounding in my chest. But through all the terror that these awful dreams have wrought, I feel an iota of comfort. Eli has been there. He ran with me from a fire in the basement of an old house that I couldn't find my way out of last night. A week ago, he growled and snapped at thieves that were breaking into the house to steal photos of Jeff. He helped me dig a hole....Okay, this one I can't understand, but he was helping me dig.
The security, safety and lack of loneliness I felt was intensely comforting. I know he was 'just a dog' and most likely would scoff myself if reading this elsewhere....But he was my buddy. We had been through all the most important things in my life together and we trusted each other.

When Eli and I found each other, I was ending a long and abusive relationship. Eli had been surrendered to a woman I knew who worked with the homeless. He had been abused too. He was head shy and jumpy, but SO wanted to please.

He stuck to me like glue and was more devoted to me than I knew a dog could be. He never strayed. He never wandered....unless it was to follow me covertly into the grocery store without me knowing a few paces back.

He was OBSESSED with the ball...or a bottle cap or a rock or log. Anything he could pick up became fodder for play. He'd drop it in my lap while I was deep in conversation and stare expectantly at me. Often, it was annoying that I could take him to the beach and play for two hours after our almost daily 5 km walk and he would STILL want to play. As he got older and we both grew less active, he still found huge joy in fetching anything he could get his jaws on.

I knew everyone of his sighs, grunts and barks. He knew by my body language if it was time to snuggle or time to make himself scarce. I knew he hated it when people wore sombreros. He knew I hated it when he chewed cedar chunks into smithereens (doesn't mean he'd stop, however).
He was aloof with those he didn't know and I loved that he couldn't care less about the existence of other long as they didn't try to snake his ball.

I miss him. I long to have his rough coat to pet absent mindedly as I watch tv. I yearn for the comfort of knowing that he would warn me of anything out of the ordinary or hearing the rhythm of his breathing in the dark.

Admintedly, I have been browsing ads for dogs needing homes. I realize that I can't financially afford another addition to our household and that I have chicken, door knob and garbage eating, overly enthusiastic, fur machine another dog But I stare longingly at these furry creatures and wonder what a life containing them would be like. I know that I am maybe searching for Eli and I won't ever find him, but I also feel that I am looking to repay my sweet boy's years of love and devotion by offering a warm, safe and loving home to another big furry heart in need.

I miss you, Snoopy Headed Dude. You were the best dog anyone could ever dream of and I'm glad that you are there in my nightmares to comfort me. I love you, my boy.