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.