This is 35

IMG_7373.JPG
My Birthday Cake!

Something about turning 35 didn’t sit right. In the weeks leading up to my birthday I wrestled with feelings of getting older, feeling older, and realizing that I would soon be closer to 40 than 30. For the record, I don’t think 40 is old and that is not what this is about.

For the first time in my life I had a weird feeling about hitting the next number. I hadn’t felt that before. I’ve always felt like your age is just a part of you, in no way does it define you, and so it’s never bothered me – I’ve certainly never had negative feelings about the number on my cake.

I was excited to turn 30! EXCITED!

Why wasn’t I excited to turn 35?

Maybe it’s because there I sensed it wasn’t going to be much fun being 35.

The day of my birthday I forgot my tea on the counter (my fault for drinking tea 😉 ) and left my keys in the lock in the front door. I almost drove away with them IN THE DOOR! Too bad I didn’t realize my tea was on the counter until I was almost on the highway and it was too late. Since then I have forgot my coffee more often than remembered it. Oops. At least I haven’t left the keys in the door again.

I spent most of the last month sick or taking care of a sick kid. We were doing SO good this winter and then the house turned into a germ-factory and it’s been one sickness after another since. I know I’ve been sick the most, thanks 35 year old immune system!

Between sick days and snow days it feels like I haven’t even been at work. I have, just mostly at home. Having the flexibility to work from home is a bonus when these crazy times hit, but it doesn’t make it easier to get work done. Most of the days were harder than they were easier. It was a busy month running between offices and that didn’t help. I didn’t feel grounded. I didn’t feel in control. I have breathed and talked myself out of more than one potential panic attack. I was losing control of work and home. Why wouldn’t those damn germs just die? If they would die and I was healthy again I would regain control!

Instead I could feel that I needed a break because I was breaking. I finally took a break and crashed. Thanks to a migraine I slept for an entire day! Nothing makes you take a break like a migraine. Then I got sick again and then my car went haywire on the highway. Being stranded on the side of the road was a perfectly awful way to end the month and a perfect metaphor for the month. The car had been making a noise and I said I needed to take it to the mechanic and had planned to call that day, but I pushed away the warning signs and boy did that bite me on the ass!

I had a bit of a chuckle on the side of the road when I realized the similarities between me and my car. The chuckle may have sounded more like sobs to someone else, but there was a chuckle in the somewhere…

 

So I think my negative feelings towards turning 35 was more of a sense of what was coming. It was a shitty month. A lot went wrong. I was a wreck emotionally and physically. It seemed like nothing could go right and I was stuck in such a negative place it felt impossible to see the light. It would be so easy to only focus on those things but now that I’ve come out of it rather unscathed, albeit with a lighter wallet, I feel ok about it all. Not great, but ok. Every moment I felt like I couldn’t go on, I somehow did. I didn’t always find the light, but sometimes it found me. And now that I reflect back on the month there are so many more positive things that come to memory. And that is how I keep going.

It turns out maybe I’m not the pessimist I always thought I was.
Or maybe the mindfulness training is paying off!

Patience and Grace

joanna-kosinska-414555-unsplash
Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Christmas is here! There’s really no comparison for the joy and good feelings the holiday season brings out in people. I’ve noticed it more so than ever this year. Maybe because I’m paying more attention to it, or maybe because people are jollier than ever, maybe because I’m trying to be more positive, who knows. Either way, I love it. Closing a shitty year on a more positive note is welcomed with open arms.
2018 sucked and I spent way too much time letting the darkness win.

As Christmas has approached I’ve found it easier to find the light. This is the first Christmas since Melissa died that I haven’t been filled with dread. I am more happy than sad. I have been able to enjoy our celebrations without an overwhelming heavy feeling.
Grief is still there and I’ve broken down a few times, but that was inevitable. Grief doesn’t give you a holiday. Instead it usually crashes down harder than ever during the moments that should be happiest. Sometimes it’s hard to predict when, where and how hard grief will hit.

Maybe for you it hasn’t hit and you’re wondering when it will. Maybe it hit harder than you were expecting and you don’t know how to handle it.
However you’re dealing, grieving, or not, I see you. I get you. My wish for you this Christmas season is a wish for patience and grace:

I wish you patience as your grief comes and goes, sometimes without warning.
I wish you patience in understanding that it won’t always be this hard.
I wish you patience with those who may say or do the wrong thing, or do nothing at all.

I wish you grace for the moments when you want to fall apart but instead choose to keep it all together.
I wish for grace for those around you when you choose to fall apart instead of keeping it all together.
I wish grace for those around you who don’t understand grief and won’t know what to say or do.
I wish you grace for the moments you just can’t handle.

If you are missing a piece of your heart this year please take care of yourself and know that however you’re dealing or not dealing is ok.
If someone you know is missing a piece of their heart, letting them know you’re thinking of them is the greatest gift you can give! And it’s free!

*The echoes and silence, patience and grace
And all of these moments I’ll never replace
Fear of my heart absence of faith
All I want, is to be home
All I want, is to be home
People I’ve loved, have no regrets
Some might remember, some might forget
Some of them livin’, some of them dead
All I want, is to be home

*Home by Foo Fighters
Check it out on YouTube – It’s not from their official site, but it’s a great video that captures the raw emotion this song evokes.

The Middle

Lately I’ve been seeing heart shapes in strange places – chicken nuggets, rocks, clouds, puddles, wood chips. It’s getting a little weird.
It probably means nothing.
I’m probably searching for these hearts.
That’s what I thought until last week when I came across this heart in the path while walking the dog.

Heart
Photo Credit: Me!

I stopped in my tracks.
When I saw this heart in the path I felt like I was supposed to be seeing these shapes. I wasn’t looking for them, they were looking for me.
Now that butterfly season has passed I can’t help but feel that this is Melissa reaching out to me. At a time when she knows my heart has been heavier than usual, she’s been trying to get my attention. I think this is her way of reminding me she is still with me and sending her love. A comfort I didn’t realize I needed until I felt it when I saw that heart in the pavement.

Whatever the reason for all the hearts, I’m thankful for the moment of reflection they brought. I was overdue to take a look inside and reflect on what’s been weighing me down, what I can and cannot control, what I can do to help myself. I was overdue to take stock of all the love I have in my life.
Sometimes I feel so stuck and it seems like the scary part of the ride will never end.
Sometimes I need a reminder that everything will be all right.
So, Melissa, thanks for the reminder and thanks for the hearts ❤

*Live right now
Just be yourself
It doesn’t matter if that’s good enough for someone else

It just takes some time
Little girl, you’re in the middle of the ride
Everything, everything will be just fine
Everything, everything will be all right
*The Middle by Jimmy Eat World
Check it out on YouTube!

Three

Melissas Birthday Candle Holder

Three is full of sass and attitude.

Three is full of the best bear hugs that get stronger and better each passing year.

Three is for discovering more and more about the world around you.

Three is for more independence.

Three is realizing the terrible twos were just the beginning.

Three is amazing, frustrating, hilarious, hard, fun.

Three is too long to be missing you.

Enough

Have you noticed how different you treat yourself versus those around you?

If you’re like me, you try to support and lift up those around you, but are so harsh on yourself, even when it comes to the same situations.

alvin-mahmudov-619847-unsplash
Photo by Alvin Mahmudov on Unsplash

 

Recently I had one of those “a-ha” moments when it really hit me how mean I can be to myself. Being so hard on myself was beating down my confidence and taking a serious toll on my overall happiness. The only one in control of that was me and that needed to change. When I first thought about how much harsher I judged myself, I started noticing it more and how natural it came. It became even clearer when I started asking myself what I would say to someone else…

New Job – I started a new job a while back and was getting down on myself and thought about throwing in the towel because I wasn’t picking everything up right away.
What I told myself: I was no good. I would probably get fired because I didn’t know what I was doing. I was a fraud and would never figure out what I want to do with my life.
What I would tell a friend: You can’t compare yourself to your colleagues who have been doing this for years. It’s only been a few months and look how much you’ve learned already. Celebrate the wins you’ve made so far. Believe the positive feedback.

Parenting – Sometimes I worry I’m not good enough and my kids deserve more than what they get from me.
What I told myself: I’m not present enough when I’m with them. I’m too short-tempered; I don’t do enough; I should feed them healthier foods than I do.
What I would tell a friend: They are fed and clothed, and they like the choices they have and feeding a picky kid sucks. Kids are great at pushing buttons, especially when they sense stress. The kids are happy, look at how they look at you – they love you. Take time for yourself, you need and deserve it!

Body image – No matter what I do or where I am this will always be a tough one.
What I tell myself: I will never look good enough. Stop being so lazy. Stop letting emotions control what/how I eat. How did I let myself get so fat and lazy.
What I would tell a friend: Don’t let yesterday dictate today. Celebrate every win, no matter how small. Don’t expect results instantly. How can I support you? You’re beautiful, even when you don’t feel like you are.

It’s so easy to genuinely react in such a positive way when I hear friends talk negatively about themselves, so why is it so hard to react the same way with myself?
I’ve been working really hard at treating myself better. It’s working. I feel much happier when I’m not so critical of myself. I’m finally starting to believe the things other people tell me. I have more moments when I look in the mirror and don’t fixate on all the things that need fixing.
While there is always room for improvement, I am finally starting to feel like I am enough. All it took was asking myself “what would you say to a friend in this moment?”
 

*So can we break this mold
And set in motion something new
Forgetting what we know
An evolution overdue 
Fight the current
Pull the ripcord
Get away!
Are we not good enough?
Are we not brave enough?
To become something greater
Than the violence in our nature?
Are we not good, good enough?

*The Violence by Rise Against
Check it out on YouTube!

15

Nova Scotia - On The Rocks
Once you get married that original anniversary date doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. What is more important: the day our relationship started or the day we made it “official” by signing a paper and partying with family and friends? I think both deserve to be celebrated.
Today is our 15th anniversary. 15 years sounds like a lot, but it really doesn’t feel like it’s been that long – our relationship is almost old enough to drive!
To celebrate our 15th dating “anniversary” (as I apparently put it into my phone’s calendar) I have compiled a list of 15 memories that make me smile.

  1. That first time we hung out and our coffee date lasted for hours because I couldn’t get a cab. I didn’t mind because I kinda liked you 😉
  2. That time we went to a haunted house and you made sure I ended up in a room by myself and only slightly terrified…
  3. Those times we went to Detroit to see the Bears. Remember the turkey leg? The amazing hotel with no hot water, no heat, and no sound barrier? The parking attendant who knew we were “not from around here” while wandering the streets of Detroit at night? The excitement of my first football game?
  4. That time I dressed up as a beer wench (and ended up quite literally being the beer wench) for the best Halloween keg party ever! That band!
  5. That time you made me trudge through the snow (while wearing shoes) to find you because you found the perfect place to propose.
  6. That time we drove to Nova Scotia to visit friends and the car stereo broke so we got stuck listening to CCR way longer than anyone should be subjected to. Remember walking along the rocks while the tide was out? The Tim Horton’s where no one was rushing or being rushed?
  7. That time we got married!
  8. That time you dressed up as a wacky-inflatible-tubeman for Halloween because I’m terrified of them. That’s *ahem* love…
  9. That time we moved into our first home and we ate pizza picnic-style and slept on the floor in a sleeping bag. ← THAT is love
  10. That time I had my friend bring over a dog that needed a home and said dog and I convinced you our home needed him.
  11. That time I convinced you our dog needed a feline friend and she turned out to be the devil! Oh the damage she did in such a short period of time.
  12. That time we went to the Grand Canyon and you convinced me to sit on a horse. It wasn’t as scary as I thought, but I was way more nervous than comfortable.
  13. That time I woke you up way too early on a Saturday morning to tell you I was pregnant because I can’t contain my excitement. You went back to sleep. I did not.
  14. That time we brought our first baby home from the hospital and had no idea what we were doing. I still feel that way most days.
  15. That time somewhere in the last 5 years when we enjoyed a cup of coffee together in peace. I don’t remember that one either…

    So, wanna grab a coffee and reminisce?

Broken

kelly-sikkema-530092-unsplash
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

I am 1 in 4. I have lived life as a loss Mom for a little over 2.5 years. I made it through a pregnancy after loss. I made it through 9 months of sleeping not much more than 2 hours at a time (thank you, Peanut). I made it through going back to work.

Life was starting to feel good again. I was really starting to feel like more and more of the old me was coming back.

And then I became 1 in 4 again…

I didn’t have to wait the 2 minutes, the line showed up instantly. Pregnant again. Number 4, here we go!
Before I had time to start celebrating things got serious. I had a lot of bleeding and some pain. I had no bleeding in my first 3 pregnancies so this was worrisome for me. Two ultrasounds and a few weeks later and everything looked good. The bleeding had stopped, baby was where it was supposed to be, was on track with growth, and my hormone levels were good.

I cautiously started celebrating and planning.
I shared the news with a few people – I’m not good with secrets and I knew I wouldn’t hide a loss if it did happen.
I had shirts made – I haven’t even picked them up yet.
I wrote the news in birthday cards I was getting ready to send – sorry, those cards are probably going to be late.
I even gave the baby a nickname – Little Bean.

Despite having 2 ultrasounds I didn’t have a due date so I went back for another. This time everything was different.
She didn’t mean for me to see the screen, but I did. The dates didn’t match, they were 2 weeks apart.
She told me to wait for the Radiologist to come talk to me, but wouldn’t say why. Then she told me to go home and call my doctor later. I pleaded with her to tell me something. She gave me a hug and told me there was nothing she could say. Her eyes and her hug told me all I needed to know.

It felt like forever, but I finally got a call from my midwife confirming the news. Little Bean had stopped growing at 8 weeks and there was no heartbeat. I should have been 10 weeks along.
She went over the options, none of them ideal.
We headed to the hospital to get medication to move things along since my body hadn’t responded to the loss. My body is stubborn and even with medication it took a while before anything happened, but after 24 hours the physical part was over.

The emotional part is going to take a lot longer to get over.
I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.
I wasn’t ready to break again.

Though I didn’t get a chance to know you, Little Bean, I promise that I loved you, and I always will.
Goodbye, Little Bean.

*’Cause I’m broken when I’m open
And I don’t feel like I am strong enough
‘Cause I’m broken when I’m lonesome
And I don’t feel right when you’re gone away

*Broken by Seether
Check it out on YouTube!

Forever Friends

Beach Day

Not all friendships are equal.
I count myself lucky that I have a forever friend.
She is someone I have known for almost 30 years (yup, we’re getting old!).
She has seen me at my best – she stood with me on the day I got married and visited me on the days my living babies were born.
She has seen me at my worst – through tough stuff as a teen, complicated family stuff, and she has been a major source of support since Melissa died.
She lets me ramble on for an entire visit, she checks in without checking in and, despite what she thinks, she always knows just what to say.
To top it off she is the greatest Aunt to my kids and they absolutely adore her! Not just anyone will come babysit at 6:30 on a Saturday morning or invite your kid over for lunch and a swim!

In honour of her birthday I decided to take a look back at how we became friends and some of the memories that stand out to me.

Grade 1
I was the new kid. No friends at my new school. I sat at a table of boys because it was the last spot available. As I worked to fit in, I found my place in showing off my smarts to the teacher and quickly becoming a teacher’s pet. I was good at math, so pocket math was my favourite – I could show off. Until another girl started showing off too. She would purposely wear pants with lots of pockets and she was good at math too. I wasn’t sure if we should be friends or enemies. I don’t remember which I chose. I do remember going to her birthday party, so maybe I chose friends, or she was nice enough to invite the whole class.
At some point we became friends. Grade 1 was a long time ago, so most of it is a blur. I don’t remember much detail, but I do remember becoming friends and being sad when I found out my friend was moving and switching schools. But kids in second grade are resilient and I moved on.

Grade 5
I was still a teacher’s pet and still loved to show off my smarts. Apparently so did she. We met again at a Writer’s Craft Workshop that our schools sent us to – see, teacher’s pet. I noticed her across the room, but it had been so long I wasn’t sure it was her. I was too embarrassed to ask. Of course we ended up being paired together for something. She recognized me and I recognized her, but we were both too shy to say anything.

Grade 6
She was back at my school and we were in the same class.
There was no denying we knew each other this time.
We became friends again and I met some of the friends she made over the previous years and she mine.
I have 2 memories that stand out from the rest of middle school:
1. When she fell off the stage and I tried to reassure her she was fine and to suck it up, but she actually did break her wrist – I felt guilty about that one. I still remember feeling like she was being dramatic, oops.
2. When I got the tiniest puppy in the world and she was so scared of it she wouldn’t come into the kitchen to see it – she’s come around, she hangs out at my house now with a much bigger dog. Although the little one did eventually attack her…

High School
SO many memories! We walked to and from school most days and that’s probably the bulk of the time we spent together, so I’ll focus on that first. I know she knows where I’m going with this… Let’s just say her walking pace could rival a tortoise and we all gave her a hard time about that. Every. Day.
I went through a lot in high school, I was probably not the greatest influence, if those around me were to be influenced. I never felt judged by her for the choices I made and I believe the stability of our relationship helped guide me to a better road than the one I was on.

The rest of our lives
Wow, SO much has happened since high school! First cars, post-secondary, first “real” jobs, first homes, lots of laughs, lots of serious stuff, and a whole lot of fun.

I could be here forever reminiscing so I’ll share the most important ones to me:
1. We shared a room in Mexico for a week and didn’t want to kill each other at the end of the week. We still belly laugh about some of the hilarity that ensued on that vacation.
2. She helped me get where I am in my career. She got me a foot in the door at the company she worked at. 8 years later I’m still here. She’s not and I miss the lunches (she got as excited as me for perogy day!) and desk swing-bys, email just isn’t the same.
3. Last year she came along on a beach day adventure with me and the kids. It was no trip to Mexico, but it was an awesome day. We played in the water with the kids and built sand castles and when The Boss wanted to go back in the water she happily obliged. The Boss occasionally asks when we’re going back to the beach, so I know she had a great time too!
4. On my first day back at work after maternity leave she sent me the best email with things to make me laugh and to encourage me to make it through that first day.
5. Without her encouragement I wouldn’t have had the confidence to start this blog.

Some memories are big, important, life-changing ones, while some are little, everyday things. To me, it’s those little ones that are the most valuable – the ones that, in the moment, don’t seem anything out of the ordinary. Those are the ones that build and maintain amazing friendships.

Here’s to the ordinary moments we’ve shared and the ones we will share in the future!

Happy Birthday, Friend!

PS: As a birthday gift to my friend, you should check out her blog!

Life of Chasing Butterfly

Winter is long.
This winter seems longer than usual.
Maybe because we got snow earlier.
Maybe because it was too cold too soon.
Maybe because we’ve spent too much time indoors.

Whatever the case, winter is long and I want spring. I want the butterflies to come back.

pexels-photo-355401
Photo courtesy of Pexels

I’ve always loved butterflies. I spent lots of time as a kid chasing butterflies and trying to catch them, until I learned that they can die if you touch their wings. True or not, boy did I feel guilty hearing that.
There was always something that drew me to butterflies. There’s something so calming and comforting in their delicate nature; something so beautiful in the way they flutter by seemingly just to get your attention. Perhaps that’s why grieving souls choose butterflies as a symbol of the loved one gone too soon.

As I sat at the computer writing the first draft of a social media post to let the world know that Melissa died before she was born the song Butterfly by Weezer came on and I was instantly flooded with emotion. I had always felt a connection to the song, but this time a whole new emotional connection was made. Just like a butterfly Melissa was too delicate, her time with us far shorter than was fair. I noticed butterflies more the rest of that summer.
Through various support groups/online resources I learned that many people are drawn to butterflies after losing a loved one and that they believe when a butterfly flies across your path it’s your loved one letting you know they’re there. I didn’t really buy into that – it’s a beautiful sentiment, but a little hokey for me.

And then on Easter, the first one after Melissa’s death, a butterfly flew past me and came back almost flying into me. It was fun to think it was her saying hello, but I was still on the fence with the whole symbolism thing. The next time it happened I was at the butterfly conservatory for a wedding when a butterfly landed on my foot and stayed there for the whole ceremony. I was still not convinced. And then came Mother’s Day. When I crossed paths with another butterfly on Mother’s Day I was convinced that maybe it was ok to think it was her dropping in to say hello. And even if it’s not, it’s a beautiful reminder of her and some days I just need that.

I’ve seen a lot more butterflies the last couple years. Maybe I just pay more attention to them, maybe not. Either way, for a brief moment, it makes my heart hurt less.

I miss the butterflies.
I look forward to chasing them again.

*I guess you’re as real as me
Maybe I can live with that
Maybe I need fantasy
A life of chasing Butterfly

*Butterfly by Weezer
Songwriters: Josh Honigstock / Myron Davis

When Skies Are Grey

 

pexels-photo-759959
Photo by Hossam M. Omar from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/monochrome-photography-of-clouds-759959/

Making choices on behalf of your kids is tough. How do you know you’re making the right choice? What if the choice you make is the wrong one? What if they hold it against you later?

When it comes to the tougher stuff I try to do my best at keeping their best interests in mind. It’s a little easier making tough decisions knowing it’s for their own good, that they will be better off in the future.

But when it comes to grief and death it feels impossible to know what’s right.
Do I talk about death too much? Too little?
Should I talk about Melissa more? How much detail should I share about her life and death?
Do the kids see me cry too much? Should I feel less shame for crying in front of them? Why do I feel any shame at all?
What about the loss of family? Friends? Pets?
Do they need to know how people died? Should they go to the funeral?
How do you explain why people die?

So many questions.

After Melissa died I made the choice to be open with The Boss about what happened. I felt that it was important The Boss know and understand she has a sister that lives in Heaven, that Melissa lived and died in my tummy, that we will never really know how she died, that we will always remember her.
I wanted The Boss to know that it was ok to talk about her. That sometimes it’s sad to talk about her and that’s ok.
The Boss was too young to understand what was happening at the time. It’s only within the last year that she’s started talking and asking questions about Melissa. It breaks and warms my heart all at once. It also reminds me that the choice to be open and honest about life and death is the right one. She is comfortable talking about death and asking anything and everything.

Last year the world lost a wonderfully humorous soul that I was lucky to know and The Boss was lucky enough to see not long before he died.
I really wasn’t sure about bringing her to his funeral, but ultimately decided that it was good for her. She didn’t fully understand what was happening, but she understood we were sad because someone died. She gave me great strength and comfort, kids are good for that. A hug from a kid can do wonders.
Since then, every once in a while The Boss will ask if I remember swimming at her friend’s grandpa’s house, ask me why he died – she’s not interested in how, only why, and these questions always come out of the blue and always in the car.

A couple weeks ago she got me good:
Boss: My friend’s grandpa can talk to my other sister, right?
Me: Um, pardon?
Boss: My friend’s grandpa can talk to my sister Melissa because they’re both in Heaven.
Me: Yes, they can talk to each other. What do you think they talk about?
Boss: I don’t know…

I choked back tears the rest of the drive, I don’t even remember what she said after “I don’t know”.
I will appreciate that beautiful moment forever.
Children have such a unique, beautiful perspective. So simple and so beautiful.

This is the moment when I knew that I made the right choice not shielding her from the sadness in life. To her it was simple – Melissa died and went to Heaven and so did her friend’s grandpa, so of course they can talk to each other just like we can here on Earth. Without even trying she comforted me in a way I didn’t know I needed; she brought me peace I had been searching months for. And she reminded me that maybe all those tough decisions aren’t so tough after all – that there is light and love in the dark places too.

She is my Sunshine