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.

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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

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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.

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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

 

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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

Blue Christmas

It’s not the first, but it sure feels like it.
I thought each year it would get a little easier.
Instead I am consumed with sadness, every little thing tripping me up. Those damn little things.

It started with an ad for a tree ornament – Baby’s First Christmas. The tears came before I had a chance to close the app I was in. If I could have thrown my phone out the window, I may have. It’s probably a good thing the windows don’t open on the 3rd floor.
This would be your 3rd Christmas so why did that ornament hit such a nerve?

Melissa - Ornament

Then came the tree. Your big sister picked out an amazing one this year.
I fought back tears as I took a photo of her proudly standing in front of her tree before Daddy cut it down.
I fought back tears as I unwrapped the decorations.
I fought even harder watching your big sister decorate the tree.
I walked away feeling guilty because the moment was too much for me.

Then came the song. Blue Christmas.
Every morning a snippet of a song plays on the PA at the office. Today was Blue Christmas. The words pierced through me and I couldn’t escape. I couldn’t turn it off. I may have covered my ears. I’m sure I’ve heard that song many times since you died, but maybe today was the first time I really heard the words.

There have been lots of little things in between and surely more to come before the end of the season.
I wasn’t prepared for this. This year was supposed to be easier.

Maybe next year…

*I’ll have a Blue Christmas without you
I’ll be so blue just thinking about you
Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree
Won’t be the same dear, if you’re not here with me

*Blue Christmas, written by Billy Hayes, Jay W. Johnson

Last Kiss

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Photo courtesy of Pexels

For a long time I refused to admit that I changed. I was the same me I always was. The only thing different about me was that my heart was broken and would never heal.
Want me to hold your baby? Sure, I do love baby snuggles
Want to talk about your pregnancy? Let’s do it, I have a little experience there
Watch a movie with a pregnant woman in it? Yeah, I like movies
Talk about life as though I haven’t changed? Yes! Because I haven’t, right?

Wrong.

I don’t know when it happened and I don’t think there was one big moment, but at some point I realized I had changed. Some changes were big, and some small, but they were changes nonetheless and I needed to accept that. It wasn’t easy. The common sense part of my brain wanted to smack me – of course I had changed. How could I not? Why was I trying so hard to pretend like I hadn’t changed?
Because it’s hard to admit you’re vulnerable.
It’s hard to admit that while you are so excited for your pregnant friends, you are also terrified for them.
It’s hard to admit that birth announcements bring more jealousy than joy.
It’s hard to admit that those baby snuggles bring lots of tears.
It’s hard to admit that you wish you could hibernate for months at a time.
It’s hard to admit that you’re an angrier person than you were before.
It’s hard to admit that you’re far more sensitive than you were before.

Some of the changes are a little easier to accept:
I have accepted I will never again be able to watch the movie we were watching when my water broke.
I have accepted there will be songs I likely won’t be able to listen to all the way through ever again (Last Kiss is one of them, along with Lightning Crashes by Live, and Miracle by the Foo Fighters).
I have accepted I will avoid movies or shows with baby loss associations and sometimes I’ll fast-forward through pregnancy/birth scenes. Yes, this means I’m not watching This Is Us and no, please don’t tell me I need to watch it.
I have accepted that I will not be able to attend showers for babies not yet born.
I have accepted that every time I hear or see the name Melissa a wave of grief will hit me and I may struggle to breathe.

Everything in life changes us. But even when change comes from something traumatic, something life-altering, we shouldn’t be afraid to admit and accept that those experiences change us.
For me, admitting I had changed was the first step in bettering myself for the benefit of myself and my girls.

I changed the moment I knew I was pregnant with Melissa and I changed in so many more ways the moment I gave her one last kiss.

*Oh, where oh where can my baby be?
The Lord took her away from me
She’s gone to heaven, so I got to be good
So I can see my baby when I leave this world.

*Last Kiss, written by Wayne Cochran

Check out the Pearl Jam cover!

I’ll be alright, just not tonight

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Photo by Molly Belle on Unsplash

Do you live in your head?
I do
Lately I’ve found myself stuck inside my head and I don’t know how to get out.
There are 2 major problems with living inside my head:

  1. It’s exhausting surviving the day
    I can’t concentrate. My attention span is almost non-existent. Trying to stay on task is near impossible. It takes so much longer to accomplish everything. I zone out. I get lost scrolling through social media not ever really looking at anything. I distract myself reading news or playing games on my phone. I fight to stay on task.My work suffers – I don’t have confidence in the projects I complete. I don’t take initiative. I avoid extra work.My household suffers – Stuff piles up on every available surface. Tumbleweeds of dog hair roll by. Laundry sits in baskets waiting to be put in the machine and then sits and waits to be folded and put away. There are some weeds that might be as tall as me in one of the gardens.

    I suffer – Everywhere I look there is something that needs tending to. It’s too stressful. There’s too much to be done. It’s too overwhelming to start so I don’t. And if I do start I’m quickly distracted by something else. And then more stress. And then I get nauseous. And then I get a headache. And all I want to do is crawl into bed and sleep until I know everything will be better.

  1. I over-analyze EVERYTHING and create problems that may not exist
    The bulk of my day is spent going over past conversations – Did I come across as confrontational in that email? Did I say something I shouldn’t have? Why did I say that? Why did I say that like that? What if they misunderstood? Why do I talk too much? Why didn’t I say anything in that meeting? Yes, that person is most definitely mad at me because of what I said/how I reacted. Yes, that person is totally thinking about this as much as me. I should apologize or address it in some way. I apologized and they haven’t responded. They weren’t thinking about it and now I made them think about it and NOW they’re mad at me for bringing it up.
    Are you lost yet?

I’ve always been like this, but it didn’t impact my life the way it does now until I lost Melissa. I used to be able to recognize it quickly and correct myself, talk some sense into myself. Not now. I’m usually weeks into living this way before I realize it. I don’t even know how long it’s been this time, but I know it’s longer than I’m willing to admit. I had a moment last week when I realized I’ve been stuck in my head so long that I don’t remember what it’s like to live otherwise. I want to get out, but lately it seems like there’s trigger after trigger and when I’m triggered I shut down. I’ve got a long way to go to figure out how to deal with the different triggers I encounter. It’s the ones that catch me off guard that do the most damage.
I’ve made a promise to myself to get better, to be better. I’m going to experiment with some methods to deal with triggers and stress and hopefully start living outside my head more often.
I’d love to hear what other people do to deal with stress and how you live in the now and not in your head.

*And I’m not the girl that I intend to be
I dare you, darling, just you wait and see
But this time not for you but just for me
And I say

Oh, how am I gonna get over you?
I’ll be alright, just not tonight
Someday, hey oh, I wish you’d want me to stay
I’ll be alright, just not tonight
Someday

Say it’s comin’ soon,
Someday without you
All I can do, is get me past the ghost of you
Wave goodbye to me
I won’t say I’m sorry
I’ll be alright, once I find the other side of
Someday

*Gonna Get Over You by Sara Bareilles
Check it out on YouTube!