Sunday, 30 December 2012

Gratitude

I still can't believe 2012 is coming to an end.

A year ago, I toasted to "the best year yet" with J as we rang in the New Year. It's no secret that my year didn't turn out the way I had been anticipating, but that's OK. If it had, I wouldn't have made the new friends I've made, gone back to school, landed my new job or caught some of the dreams I'd been putting off chasing. I'd still be wondering who I am.

When I look back on this year - at all of the ups and downs and roundabouts - I know I couldn't have made it to the other end without two amazing people: Mom and Dad. Just like when I was a little girl, they've helped me up, doctored my bruises and held my hand as I took the next few tentative steps.

Thank-you. In the words of F (and Lightning McQueen):
 
You're the BOMB!

I love you both more than I'll ever be able to express.

You have inspired me, encouraged me and admittedly, you've pulled me back to earth when I was floating off to the clouds again. You've made me the woman I am today, and I hope you're as proud of me as I am of you.

Without you, I couldn't be the Mom I am to F.

Without Mom's guidance, I wouldn't be able to fold a fitted sheet (and I still do a miserable job of it). I also wouldn't be able to make biscuits or open a bottle of wine. Priorities, after all.

Without Dad's help, I never would have gotten furniture into this apartment. And I wouldn't have had that hideous plastic cards table to eat canned soup at with Evan when all of my furniture was thrown out of that other ghastly apartment.

I haven't figured out the words to express my gratitude just yet, but I'm working on it.

I can't wait to tackle 2013 with you - but I promise I'll go easy on you... you are getting old, afterall.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Final Firsts

Sometimes, without intending to, I seem to torture myself with unnecessary punishment.
 
After surviving Christmas (sans J) without a single tear, I made the impossibly stupid decision to dig out my wedding rings. They've been tucked away for months now, unseen but not forgotten. I looked at them for a moment or two, shiny and pretty in their box before I defied my own sense and pushed the boundaries of my own stupidity by putting them on.
 
Even after months of not wearing them, my left ring finger still feels naked. Before my engagement I had even worn my Claddagh ring on my left hand, always pointed inwards. I looked down at my hand, my engagement ring and wedding band sparkling back at me. It was a weird sensation. The rings suit my hand and yet they looked so wrong. They felt wrong, and not just because my fingers have grown far too small for them. I slid them off, tucked them safely in their box and looked at them one more time before I put them away. What possessed me to do that? I'm not even sure.
 
I hurried around at getting things ready for my big weekend "away" with F. I took him to my apartment in Halifax for the weekend for some quality time and also so he can get comfortable here. When we finally packed the car and hard our coats and boots on, we said good-bye to Breton Cove and started on our drive.
 
It wasn't until I saw the "Not Operating" lights flashing to the ferry until I realized that I had to do something I'd been dreading: I had to drive by my old house. Anxiety gripped my chest tightly, and that sick feeling that comes from pure dread spread over me. It won't be so bad I thought, lying to myself. As we got closer, the sick feeling got stronger. My articial Christmas tree stood in the window, my beautiful red drapes parted wide to show it off. It looked beautiful, perfect even. A perfect little home for a little family. As I rounded the turn, I couldn't bring myself to look in the rear view mirror for one last glance. The tell-tale tingle came to my nose and my lip quivered against my will as tears stung my eyes.

It's not mine any more.

I almost pulled the car over, but I realized that this was just another first: another bridge to cross, another hurtle to overcome and I survived it. There's only one first left: New Years.

2012 was supposed to be a great year, and in a lot of ways it has been. It's been a blessing in disguise, really. I've grown immensely. I found myself, my niche and I'm well on my way to finding happiness. I set goals and surpassed them. I started dreaming again. I've learned who my true friends are, and found the strength to wave farewell to the others. I've made new friends, strengthened the bonds with my family and I've worked on my relationship with myself. My life is still a little messy, but I love it in all it's imperfections.

I don't know exactly what's in store for me in 2013, but I know I will make it big.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

A Guest Post: Coming to Grips with Mesothelioma

 
I was approached about a month ago by the Heather, author of this post, with a simple plea:
Help me share my story.

I sat on the idea for a day or two, wondering if my blog was the right place for this story but I came to realise that the right place for this story is anywhere that someone might see it. I am honoured to help her share her story. For more information on Mesothelioma, or to read more of Heather's story, check out www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/heather
 
 

Coming to Grips With Mesothelioma

How could I have cancer? The doctor’s announcement made the bottom drop out of my stomach, and I just couldn’t understand it. I had been feeling tired, but then I had just had a baby less than four months ago. I had mesothelioma cancer, which is primarily caused by asbestos exposure. This horrible news hit me hard, and more, it confused me.

Wasn’t asbestos that stuff that’s been banned? Plenty of people ask me that question, and they follow it up with asking when I was exposed. First, no, asbestos is not banned, and second, I seem to have been exposed through my father. My father dealt with asbestos throughout his career in construction, and with all of that drywall installation, mudding and sanding, he was covered with asbestos dust. Those nasty white fibers were all over his clothing, his car and his work clothes, and it was those fibers that would make me so sick as an adult.

I was one of the youngest cases of mesothelioma cancer that the doctors had ever seen at the time. Most people who contract this cancer are older men who work in the trades. Some military men get it, as do mechanics, electricians and plumbers. After my diagnosis, there came a wave of people who got it the way I did. Suddenly children and wives of men like this were being diagnosed with this disease in large numbers.

Now that there is more visibility, we are seeing more mesothelioma sufferers who are my age. More and more young people are turning up. Their stories are all similar, whether they were young girls who put on their dad’s jackets to go out or they simply wanted hugs when their dads came home for a long day of work. As I got more involved in the mesothelioma community, and as I learned more about my condition, I wanted to know more about the people who were getting diagnosed. I started seeing men and women in their twenties and their thirties. We were just starting our lives, and all of a sudden, things were brought to a real halt. We’re lucky we are living in the time period that we are; we are seeing so many more terrific advances that are helping people survive and thrive in the face of this terrible disease.

The fateful words, “you have cancer” still ring in my ears sometimes, but I have not given up hope. I am surrounded by people with mesothelioma who are resolved to fight, both on their own and as a community. We want to share and we want to support each other. We want to work, and to celebrate the joys and to mourn the setbacks.

The reason why I am so invested in mesothelioma advocacy is simply to raise awareness. I want my story to offer hope to other people and to help them move forward with the life that they want. It is scary, but we can always move forward with hope instead of fear.



Resolve

What will you do differently in 2013?


As 2012 wraps up, I find this question wiggling out of the woodworks and tripping me as I walk down my little path of life. What will I vow to work on in the upcoming year? Healthier eating? More meditating? Better work ethic? Less stress?

The answer is nothing, and yet it's also everything.

I'm not going to have a new year's resolution for the first time in as long as I can remember. In this past year I've realised that I don't need a new year to start fresh, just a new attitude and a little fuel in my tank. The rest of your life starts whenever you want it to, so why put a date on it?

If you are planning a resolution for your new year, whatever it may be, remember to factor in room for error. Everything in life has a learning curve, and we all start at a different place. If it's losing twenty pounds, don't expect to see them gone before January 31. Start small, be positive and enjoy the ride.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Worry

I am a worrier.


It's one of those little quirks that I can't seem to shake. I've tried, trust me. I worry about everything, from the possibility that I may one day have cancer to having my apartment broken into, F getting sick, something bad happening to my parents and little things like losing my car keys. It seems silly, but I can't help it. I just worry.

My worry has become such a monster that I've begun to question whether or not good things can just happen. When I was bombarded with good news earlier this month, I joked that the world really must be ending on December 21. Luckily for all of us it didn't, but there was just no way that I could have all this great stuff coming my way. Anyone who knows me well can tell you that if I didn't have bad luck, I'd have none. I'm that person, it would seem.

My theory that everything happens for a reason is often the only thing that keeps me going. I don't always understand the whys or even the hows, but I believe that there is a purpose and that each challenge I'm faced with will only make me stronger eventually. From time to time, my faith in that falters and I have a meltdown.

"You're such a strong, happy person," a good friend told me recently. The irony that I was in the middle of one of the abovementioned meltdowns was not lost on me. Wiping the tears from my face and apologizing for my breakdown, I listened to her tell me what I already know. I'm doing the right thing and I've come a long way. It's time to let go of the fear that I'm making a mistake, the doubts that are eating away at me have no place in my life any more.

In the middle of all the crap that was thrown my way in the past eight weeks - or the past year if we want to be serious here - I've done my best to stay positive. Even though my heart was broken, I did all I could to smile and love. Feeling sorry for myself won't help, and the truth is that there are many people who are dealing with a lot worse than I ever had to.

Put into the world what you want to get from it. Project positivity and happiness when you don't feel like it because that's when it counts the most. You might be surprised to find that it comes back to you in due course.


Boring Day

We survived Christmas.

In truth, it was highly unlikely that I wouldn't make it through the day but it was a real fear for me nonetheless. After spending the better part of the last two months almost totally alone, being around family was a precarious combination of stressful and relaxing, alternating between the two quicker than you can say "turkey dinner". I won't deny that I spent the entire day waiting for the phone to ring, only to disappointed (and a little bit hurt) by a text message from J that said "Merry Christmas. How did F make out?"

Mom and Dad's living room looked like Toys-R-Us and Walmart's Christmas aisle threw up in it. There were toys, presents, Christmas stockings and ornaments every where. By the time all of the presents were opened (over an hour after the commencement), you could barely tell there was a floor beneath all the torn wrapping paper and empty toy boxes. F was so excited he was, possibly for the first time ever, at a loss for words. He walked around the living room talking to everyone and looking at everyone's gifts.

I was ready for bed by mid-afternoon, and exhausted by the time I'd finished my turkey dinner. F's joy was fading into a sour mood, and my patience was all but gone. When we settled into bed, F with his new toys and me with my new Kobo, it took about ten minutes for us both to conk out. I was more than a little happy to wake up today and to know that Christmas is over, at least for another year.

I laid in bed this morning thinking of all the presents I had found under the tree yesterday, how generous my family had been. I thought of how blessed I am to have the love and support of my parents, and how incredibly blessed I am to have a healthy, happy little boy to spend my days with. In the midst of his meltdown last night, I had lost my temper and reached the end of my rope and I regretted it this morning.

So many mothers were without their children yesterday. So many mothers would have given anything to have a meltdown take place in the middle of Christmas dinner or to have their child stick their tongue out at them and be saucy as she was getting his jacket on him.

The best gift of all was bouncing off the walls yesterday, not wrapped neatly under the tree.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas-y

Christmas is supposed to be the happiest time of year.


It doesn't seem like long ago that it really was the happiest time of the year for me. Excitement and magic filled the air, and the anticipation of Santa's arrival was almost too much to bear. My baby brother and I would sleep in his bedroom on Christmas eve and then wait (albeit impatiently) at the top of the stairs on Christmas morning for Mom to wind up the camera and take a photo of us in our PJs before we rushed in to see what Santa had left for us.

After opening our stockings and having a cup of tea, we'd wait until 7:00am to call Nanny and Papa next door to tell them we were up and ready to open our presents. It was tradition, and I loved it.

Now, though, Christmas just doesn't hold the same wonder. I've filled it with financial stress and worry, rushing through the motions, trying to remember where I stashed the presents for Mom and F, and of course making sure everything is just right. By the time Christmas day arrives, I can't wait for it to be over and that makes me just a little sad.

It's during this season of merriment and cheer that I find myself missing Papa the most. I miss his laugh, his mischevious grin and the way he talked about salt herring (his favourite meal) while sipping his Canadian Club and 7-Up at the Christmas dinner table. I miss my great-aunt Mayme and her husband, Doug, who always chimed in that turkey dinner was his favourite. This year, I'll miss J too. We spent the last four Christmases together, and this is just another "first" to get through without him.

I'm trying hard to get into the Christmas-y spirit and help F get excited. He has some idea about toys under the Christmas tree, but he's not totally into it yet. I have the NORAD Santa Tracker open on the computer, and we'll make some Gingerbread men later today. The Christmas tree in Mom's living room is beautiful, with gifts piled up and around it. Everything is decorated, and there's even a little bit of snow on the ground - just enough for "Santa to rest his runners on". 

Tonight, I'll read in church and we'll come home and share the story of the Night Before Christmas, just like always. We'll open the rum and the wine and we'll all sit around the living room and I'll bask in the joy and love of being close to family, even if it's a little bittersweet.

I'm hoping the candlelit church service and snowflakes in the air can bring the Christmas spirit into my heart tonight, but I'm willing to bet the excitement dancing in F's eyes when he sees all the toys in his stocking tomorrow will inspire nothing shy of a Christmas miracle for this girl.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Breakfast Cake

Yesterday, F and I had birthday cake for breakfast.


I'm not sure who enjoyed it more, to be honest. Probably F, since it's still totally new and exciting to him that you could possibly ever eat something beside Cheerios and eggs at breakfast time. If we're being honest, I've eaten many a non-breakfast food for breakfast (beer included). We ate our breakfast cake in my bedroom, he standing at the nightstand and me laying in bed. Between great-big-honkin' spoonfuls, he looked at me and said "I'm so happy you're home. I love cake for breaksbist."

I'm not sure if that was the exact moment or if it was the ten minutes we spent hugging and looking at eachother the night before that did me in, but I melted. He's just so fantastic. Being away from him has been so hard. Even though he's not quite three, F is showing a level of understanding beyond what I could have ever imagined. He told me that I was away so I could buy him more toys, which is partially true: I'm away so I can give him more everything.If it weren't for my family, I wouldn't have the opportunity to do this for F and I. It's the greatest gift ever.

Down the hall from mine, Mom's room is piled high with gifts, each wrapped perfectly with love and care. I haven't wrapped my gifts to my family yet. Nothing seems big enough or good enough. I can't imagine every finding something big enough or good enough to give to my parents. They've given me everything, and I'm doing my best to one-up my gift from the year before every year. (Spoiler alert: Next year, I'm going to try to buy an Island. Wish me luck!)

As a society, we've forgotten the true meaning of Christmas. It's lost in the stores filled with toys and expensive jewelry. Christmas is a time for family, friends and love. It's a time to share, reflect and be thankful for all we have. I've vowed to spend every moment in positivity and love for the next two days. I'll eat cake for breakfast, pour myself a bigger glass of wine and I'll let the poor manners and occasional snarky comment from F roll. I'm going to enjoy every minute.

And I'm going to savour the look on my Mom's face when she sees what I got her for Christmas!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

#EyeTwitch

I do my best to be a positive person.


Lately, it's been hard. The stress of being away from F has been greater than I could have ever imagined and the lack of sleep is starting to make me a little crazy. After spending most of the last year alone, I've overcompensated by filling my days with people and I haven't taken a quarter of the alone time that I really need.

Enter the eyetwitch.

It takes a lot to really grate my nerves, and yet for the past two weeks everything has been abrasive and irritating. Little comments and actions seem huge, bad drivers seem to have multiplied and all of the stupid people in the world seem to be out in full-force when I'm in a rush to get somewhere or get something done.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Negativity spreads like wildfire. Little irritations snowball into massive pet peeves, bad days spiral into bad weeks and the next thing you know you've become that douchebag you can't stand. You're irritated just listening to yourself be irritated, you're pissed off by your own bad mood and yet you feel powerless to stop it.

Once it begins, it's almost impossible to stop it. I'm exhausted by my own exhaustion, and annoyed by my own annoyance. It's tiring and it's unfulfilling. It sucks the joy out of everything, and I've decided to put my foot down.

I can't change the past two months. I can't undo all the crap that happened, and I certainly can't go back and adjust my attitude but I can look forward. I can make sure it doesn't happen again. My patience my wear thin from time to time, but I don't have to let it get the better of me. In fact, I won't.

I've decided to implement a 10-minute rule.

I can bitch and complain for 10-minutes every day, and then put it all away. Whether it's a person at work, the ass who cut me off in rush hour traffic or the neighbours who play their music too loud, I can complain for 10 minutes. I can be angry, sad, annoyed, frustrated, WHATEVER for 10 minutes and then I have to let it fly.

I can't take on the frustrations of others. I'm too empathetic. I will tune out the "Debbie Downers" and I'll ignore the gloomy moods that I run into in class or the office. I'll be the irritating, cheerful person that all the cranky people can't stand.

And they can bitch about me all they want.

#EyeTwitch

#EndRant

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Comfortable Discomfort

It's been a long year.


On New Year's Eve last year, J and I sat in our new home drinking wine and discussing how much we looked forward to 2012. We talked having another baby, his going back to school, F growing up, and buying a home in Halifax. I meant every word I said, I wonder now if he meant any of them. A month later, we had agreed to separate.

This morning was hardly the first time I've found myself looking back, comparing my then and now. It's not even comparable.

If I lay it all out on paper, the list of good things is a lot longer than the list of bad. In March, I scored a job I always thought I wanted - I was dining room manager at a popular restaurant. Me. Management material? My joy was shortlived when I had to leave due to personal issues in August, but I learned a lot and made an impression on the community.

I gave up my home - the home that I had spent hours and energy making my own - but I've settled comfortably and happily into my new apartment. I returned to school and for the first time in years, I made myself a priority. For the first time in my life, I've stopped denying myself the emotions I needed to feel.

The past six weeks alone were filled with enough BS for a whole year. The apartment fiasco itself was enough, actually. The stress of moving, the stress of leaving F, the stress of coming back to school... sheesh. I can't count the times I laid in bed wondering if I'd made a big mistake.

I didn't.

My blog has skyrocketed in the past month. I hit my six-month goal in less than three. I've been offered a contract writing position.

I applied for a Public Relations job for giggles, went to the interview for experience and collapsed into tears when I discovered an offer of employment in my inbox.

I've made wonderful friends. I've had great experiences. I've found myself again, and better, I'm reinventing myself. Imagine if I'd given up? Imagine all I'd be missing out on. It's easy to back out when things get tough. I know, because I've done it a million times. It's easy to return to what's comfortable, what we know.

It's important to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Life is uncomfortable sometimes. If it was comfortable all the time, we'd never progress. We'd never learn or grow.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Ignore-A-Text

I suck at dating.


I hate hurting people's feelings or letting someone down. I'm genuinely flattered by someone's interest, but I also get sick of people way too quickly. I consider it nothing shy of a miracle that I've been in 4 long-term relationships, although I'm just realizing now that all of them (including my marriage) were long-distance for the most part. It's now less surprising that I put up with those people for so long, but I digress.

People.

Upon moving into the city, I had decided that I was going to meet lots of new people whether at school, at the park or through friends new and old. I planned on having an open mind, going on dates and just having fun, so I did. I met new people. I went on dates and I had fun just being out, but I'm stuck with what you might call some "clingers" now.

Avoiding future "dates" by being "super busy" didn't solve the problem, so I decided to gently lay it all out on the table with the age-old "I'm don't feel like I can get involved" line. That didn't seem to work either. So now I'm just straight-up ignoring the texts. Lucky for me, the phone hasn't started ringing. If it does, I might have a meltdown.

These were genuinely nice guys: they were kind, funny,  attractive and they had jobs (bonus!). For about a week, I thought I was really into one of them but that faded after his 476th text. Another I only met once for coffee, but he's asked me out about two dozen times since then. I haven't responded to the last text asking me to go out this week. I've run out of excuses and "Sorry, but I'm obviously less interested than you are" just seems a little too harsh.

Maybe I'll just be super busy for another little while until they run out of energy. Or interest.

Whichever comes first.






Wednesday, 12 December 2012

FaceTimed

My three year old has his very own iPod Touch.


Yep. F's actually shockingly tech savvy, bless his little heart. It was a two-pronged decision, buying the iPod. He calls it his phone and it's a lot like Mommy's, only without the option to call random people and waste my daytime minutes or run up my long distance. The children's apps make everything from grocery shopping to waiting at the doctor's office a little smoother, but I consider my phone an extension of myself and sharing just couldn't be done any longer.

I also imagined hour-long FaceTime conversations with F, like the ones he used to share with J a year ago. I can see him carrying my phone around the house, showing his Dad his toys, the dog, and blabbing away in his own little language. It was going to be great, and the money well spent.

That was a bust.

For the fifth time tonight, F had more interest in using the potty (another battle of ours) than he did in speaking to me.

"I don't want to talk to Mommy," he started, turning his back to the iPod as my Mom held it for him. "I don't want to. Go away, Mommy. I don't want to talk to you!"

Enter broken heartedness here.

Screenshot from a successful call last week.

Both of my parents rushed to create excuses and try to gloss it over. He'd been away from his toys all day, he was hungry. Maybe it was time for a bath and bed but none of it helped my hurting heart. Is he mad at me for being away? Is that even a reasonable thought? Probably not.

I thought about going home this weekend and while I'd really like to, 12 hours of driving for a day and a half with F is a lot. Saying goodbye for another week is just too much. Maybe I'll catch him at a better time tomorrow when I call his "phone".




Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Knowing

It's been one of those days since before it even began.


It probably really started with my hangover on Sunday, and it's been snowballing into one of the worst moods I've been in since that time J told me he bought a truck after telling me he couldn't afford to send money for his son.

Yep. It's that bad and I don't even really know why, but I'm OK with both of those things.

Bad moods happen. So do gigglefits and random bursts of hysterical laughter, hiccups and super-embarassing trip-over-your-own-feet moments. Imagine how boring life would be without them (and how few wrinkles and grey hair we'd all have). The realization that shit happens came to me a little bit later in life than I would have liked, and at 25 there are still a lot of things I need to learn but I've been thinking a lot about the things I wish I'd known sooner. For instance, you can wear brown and black at the same time among other (arguably more important) things like these:




1. Sometimes you don't have to be nice. As a people pleaser this is a tough pill for me to swallow, however there are times I can't be nice and people whom I just cannot be nice to. I can't be kind to unkindness, but I don't have to be mean either. Walking away is the best option, but I've learned not to put up with the bullshit.

2. It's absolutely OK to not be OK all the time. Much like bad moods, meltdowns do happen. Sometimes they're short, sometimes they last and last. If you're sad, be sad - don't try to hide it or gloss it over. Life is about the highs and lows.

3. As much as life is about the highs and lows, you do not need to feel low all the time. You can seek help. You can find happy, and the best part is that you don't have to do it alone.

4. You can be alone and not be lonely.

5. Nobody can hold your happiness: it is all yours. Own it, run with it and treasure it.

6. You can love your child and dislike motherhood at the same time. Society doesn't talk about it, but it can happen. Discipline, selflessness and living on the schedule of a toddler is maddening and has probably led many others to meltdowns like my own. I love F, but there are times I miss being a free agent with nothing but my own wellbeing to worry about.

7. Everybody lies. Just make sure you're not lying to yourself.

8. You can love someone and hate them in the same breath.

9. Sometimes, you really can't move on.

10. Nobody actually cares about how much you weigh or what size your jeans are. They also can't see that five pounds you wanted to lose, and it's not the end of the word if it's still hanging out in your thighs.

---


Are there other things I wish I'd known a little earlier in life? Of course! I wish I'd known that my husband liked trucks more than he liked me, or that closure may never come to you when you've lost a loved one. I wish I'd known that my heart would break every day once I became a mother and that it's OK to have no fucking idea what I'm doing with my life. It's also OK to be 25 and make reference to "when I grow up" (and joke about never really doing so). I'm sure I'll stumble across a lesson later today, or day after tomorrow and realize that I could have benefited from the knowledge on Monday afternoon or three years ago.

So is life.

It is knowing and not knowing at the exact same time.

Unstuck

I have a really bad habit of getting stuck in my own head.


All manner of little things can do it to me. I worry about this and that, one stressor feeds another and the next thing I know I'm on the verge of tearing my hair out and crying into a glass of something alcoholic. This last month has certainly taken it's toll on me. Tomorrow, for example, will be one month since the day I found all of my belongings missing from my old apartment. The property rental company finally settled last week, and while it was only half of what it should have been, I just couldn't do it anymore. I was too tired.

I've left the dishes to pile up in the kitchen, laundry overflowing in the baskets, clothes strewn across my closet and eaten more than one bag of popcorn for lunch. I was tired, and most of it was my own damn fault.

Yesterday, I woke up sour. It may have been the fact that it was day two of a hangover (it would seem I'm not 19 any more), and it could have had something to do with the fact that my neighbours choose 4:48AM as the perfect time to blast really loud, really bad music. Must be nice to not have to get up and do anything in the morning. I texted my friend and expressed my displeasure at the whole thing. The texts ranged from "Are you going to go to class?" to "Today might be the day I finally lose my shit," but I managed to put on pants (real ones, with a button), and I went to class.

I went grocery shopping with one friend and ranted about how tired and frustrated I was. Another friend came over for movies and dinner and she and I ranted about how frustrated we both were. Then we put on hilarious music and danced. We went for hot chocolates, and I came home to a hot bath and I sat in front of my laptop for the better part of two hours, too wrapped up in my own head to write anything.

It was past my bedtime before I finally got out of my head, and it took a Skype call and a 5-minute laughing fit to do it. As it turned out, I went to bed two hours later than I should have and woke up positively exhausted with bad hair and a smile on my face. I needed a good laugh it would appear.

And I've already watched the 19-second video evidence I have of the hilarity twice.


Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Cycles

The last time I was home for a weekend, F was onto me within minutes of getting out of bed on Sunday. He sat on the bed while I packed a handful of things in my suitcase and puttered around grabbing this and that. By the time we sat down for breakfast the meltdown was inevitable.

As I discussed school, new friends and all manner of randomness with my parents, F sat at the breakfast table making noises and generally being rude. I politely asked him to please eat his breakfast, and a slur of mean words came out of his mouth. He received his first, second and final warning before I turned his chair around and told him he could sit in the corner until he was ready to be have.

MELTDOWN

"No, Mommy, NO! NO! NO! NO! I don't want to sit in the corner!" he wailed, as he threw his head back and tears ran down his little cheeks. I could feel my heart breaking, and I was torn between the importance of teaching him to be polite and the need to hold him in my arms and make the most of the three hours we had to spend together before I left. I crouched next to his chair, wiped his tears and held his hands. "This isn't how I want us to spend our morning," I started, only to be cut off by the most loaded sentence that kid has ever spoken.

"I don't want you to leave me again, Mommy."

Heart. Broken.

I try not to get upset in front of F, whether it's anger or tears threatening to spill over my fascade of cool and collected. This time, though, I just couldn't. Sobbing, I tried to explain that I didn't want to leave him. Is it going to be this bad every time? Will it be a cycle of happy, sad, happy, sad for the next year?

This week, I'm spending a whole week with him: I came home on Monday, and he is coming back to Halifax with me on Wednesday - with Grammie in tow! We'll hang out at "Mommy's Halifax House" until Saturday (when I'll finally have real furniture for my dining room!), and then it will be another "see you later", another river of tears and a few hours of feeling sorry for myself.

I know I've made the right decision. I've never felt more home in all my life than I do when I sit amongst my classmates. For the first time since J and I began dating, I feel empowered and strong. And - Mommy guilt aside - I'm really loving having time to myself. I love going out for a walk whenever I want to, going to bed when I want, laying in the bathtub for hours and watching movies on the couch, but I miss F a lot.

Even the bad words, temper tantrums and occasional burst of rudeness.


Monday, 3 December 2012

Off Kilter

I need to start taking my own advice.


This past spring and summer, I busied myself by creating a wellness program which I had planned to be running this winter - but not even I can be in two places at once, and the drive from Halifax to St. Ann's Bay is just a leeeeeeeeeetle bit too long to do twice a week. Instead, the St. Ann's Bay Health Group Society has invited me to speak at Wednesday's morning's Senior's Lunch. As I skimmed through my own program, the program I lived and breathed for four months, I'm realizing that I need to get my shit together, because I have not followed a single piece of my own advice in well over a month.

Simple things, like eating, have gone to the wayside as I tend to completely lose my appetite (and the motivation to make food) when I'm feeling stressed. I forget to drink my 6-8 glasses of water a day - the same 6-8 glasses that I used to genuinely miss when I didn't get them. Aside from walking the dog, wandering around my apartment and a couple of well-deserve, Wii-golf victory danceoffs, I've not even cut out the time for some physical activity. My sleeping patterns suck too.

And I'm not too proud to admit that I ate popcorn for lunch on Sunday. Go ahead and judge.

We're all guilty of it though, whether we want to admit it or not. We're quick to point out the flaws and shortcomings of our neighbours and friends, we give great advice on everything from chores to time management, relationships to healthy lifestyles and we contradict every word of it by doing the complete opposite. Practice what you preach, my mother would say.

It's time for me to get back on track. Starting with a glass of water right...after I finish my wine.

Friday, 30 November 2012

...and Clap!

Divorce Sex.
 
Would you do it?
 
I consider myself to be fairly open-minded, and anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I am very comfortable with my sexuality. It seems to frighten a few people, actually. It seems not everyone is comfortable with a woman taking ownership of her own sexuality... which really sucks for them! I am comfortable discussing sex, I feel better naked than clothed and I genuinely enjoy sex, although it's been so long I can't really say I remember it.
 
Even in the aftermath of our separation, I am lucky enough (or something like that) to be able to joke about and approach the subject of sex and dating with my ex. While we hadn't seen eachother since July, he's been here for me more in the past month than he has all year and I can give credit where credit is due - especially when there is so little! When I discovered my car tires were looking low, I called him up. He agreed to help me fill them, and so he dropped by yesterday evening to pick up my car. Instead we sat down and talked. I let my emotions overflow in relation to being away from F, and he promised me I was doing the right thing. He's made me feel really bad in the past, but damnit if he can't make me feel a million times better.
 
Somehow, the conversation moved on to dating. I boldly went where no ex-wife really wants to go when I asked if he was seeing anyone. He said no. I said no, but asked for some mild dating advice. He gave it, and we both laughed. As I went into the bathroom to check my hair, he called down the hall "So, when is the last time you got laid?". I dramatically walked into the hall and snarkily replied "Probably longer than you!", and the jokes started flying. "I'm almost desperate enough to sleep with you," I called down the hallway, and he laughed and said "Yeah, why not? We should have some divorce sex. Like one last hurrah!".
 
Really?
 
I stood in the bathroom staring at myself in the mirror. Could I do that? Would I do that? Break-up sex and make-up sex always seem to fall into the "super-hot" category, don't they?To me, the facts are pretty simple. We're not together, and that is for a reason. While I can't say with absolute certainty that I am or am not OK with casual sex, I can confidently say that I could not possibly have sex with him without having some form of emotional hysteria to follow. You know the kind of frenzy that leads you to believe you're certifiably crazy-pants? That. I don't look good like that.
Don't you love my dress?
 
The other rather ugly fact is that while I love J (and likely always will), I know that things will never get better. They never have. I can't live my life in that cycle - and he shouldn't either. So, while I can honestly say that I had a really great time coming into my sexuality with him... I can most definitely say that I don't need to revisit that ever again.
 
Vibrators, duh.

Refueled

It's amazing to me how the simple things can have such great impacts in our lives.


It's everything from the extra five minutes of sleep to a secret shared with a friend. It's a hug, a kiss, or even a text that warms your heart when you're feeling terrible. These tiny gestures, simple moments can refuel us in a heartbeat when we're running completely on empty.

This past month has been unbelievable. If I put it all on paper, I find it hard to comprehend that it could have happened: apartment was left unlocked, found a new apartment, gave notice at old apartment, had old apartment stripped of all my belongings. It's not the kind of shit that happens in my life. I'm supposed to read it in the newspaper and feel sorry for the person who lost it all, not be picking up the pieces myself. I've also uprooted my life, said goodbye to my dreams, and am yo-yoing in and out of my son's life until I get my life back on track. It's been exhilarating and exhausting, infurating and uplifting all at the same time.

Earlier this week, I was completely wiped out. Empty. Zonked. It's no surprise: I can count on one hand the number of days I've laid low in the past three weeks. It's been running out for coffee, grabbing drinks, hanging out on my couch, meeting up for a walk, Wii golf competitions and everything in between. I've bounced from distraction to distraction, driven myself until I completely ran out of fuel. I woke up Tuesday morning feeling miserable: I just had nothing left. I didn't even feel like myself, so I stayed home and I laid on the couch all day. At 7:00, I went for a tea with my best friend and I enjoyed some downtime with her, when in fact... I should have enjoyed some downtime alone. The kind where you just stay in your pyjamas with unwashed hair and relax. On Wednesday, I decided to leave my comfort zone altogether. It was fun and mindblowing, and I found myself in bed by 9:00pm - an hour earlier than my usual!

It was a simple text message that refueled me this week. It spiralled into a marathon Skype call that kept me up past midnight and still managed to be energizing. It was laughing, open and shockingly refreshing. I woke up this morning on five hours of sleep, and in spite of being hungry and tired, I felt like a million bucks. I spent almost three hours talking to someone who gets it. Someone who could pull me out of my shell and get me out of my own head. Someone who could laugh both with me and at me.

It really is the little things in life.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Empty

I finally ran out of steam today.


This month has been one of the most emotionally draining I've ever experienced, falling only behind the month that I lost two family members and welcomed F to our lives. The move to Halifax would have been anxiety-ridden enough, but the series of upsets, next-to-impossible events that have occured and the absence of F has weighed heavily on me. In the past eight weeks, I have made seven round-trip drives between Cape Breton and Halifax. I've moved into an apartment, and then into another. I've had my life stolen from me, lived in a hotel for a week and managed to get to school every day. I have met about fifty new people, thirty dogs, walked all around the city, been out on dates, drank too much, slept too little, been up at 5:00am and spent hours on the phone with F, the police, my family, friends, lawyers and everyone in between. I even spent a week sitting on the floor watching my television, using my iPhone data plan for internet and drinking out of paper cups because I had nothing else. It was an experience, and instead of sitting down and relaxing for a little while, I pushed on through.

I forget to settle down, sometimes. I stretch myself too thin, sign up for everything and forget to take care of myself. I'll skip meals, skimp on sleep, try to carry more than I can physically lift and ultimately, I crash and burn. The worst part? I know it's coming. I know I need to slow down and sometimes, I even need to stop. I need to eat, sleep and relax here and there. I can't fuel my body on coffee alone, or run on four hours of sleep a night. I have sat in my classroom feeling shaky and foggy. I have spent afternoons curled up on my sofa watching a movie, unable to keep my eyes open and yet I'll go out for a glass of wine or meet a friend for coffee at 7:00pm. Don't stop. Keep going. Keep up the pace.

It has become a compulsion, an addiction and I fear the fall out I may face if I do slow down. What if I stop and can't start again? What if I slow down and fall behind? What if I sit, and can't stand up again? It's not even logical and it's driving me crazy. It's sucking the life out of me, and I can't possibly keep it up. I'm empty.

I know I'm not alone in this. We are all guilty of forgetting about our wellbeing. We get busy as parents, take our work home and push through our exhaustion for a bigger or better paycheque. We spread ourselves so thin that we lose our zest, our flavour as individuals. It all goes back to an inability to say "no", a fear of being inadequate and a sense of needing more for me.

My challenge is simple, and I hope you will join me:

Choose one day a week as your day. Do the bare minimum that day. If it's work, go to work. If it's school, go to school. Make simple meals: take something out of the freezer, or make it leftover day. Stay in. Set your bedtime one hour earlier. If possible, turn off your mobile phone - even if only for one hour. Take a bath, read for pleasure or meditate. Do a quick, simple yoga practice if you can. Light candles. Rest, recover, rejuvenate. It does not make you a failure. It doesn't make you selfish, lazy or weak. It makes you aware of your limits and gives you the opportunity to heal.

Stay strong and be positive!

XO

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Big Girl Bed

In under three hours, I'll be saying those little big words that break my heart and kissing F goodbye. Just the though of saying those words so soon after arriving home makes my heart ache and my nose tingle in the way only noses can tingle before you cry. I'll see him again in a few days - a week at most - but I'll miss him dearly until I see that big smile and bounds of energy running towards me for a hug.

I can still remember the first time I held F - he was twelve minutes old before he was laid in my arms. I held him for less than ten minutes before he was whisked away to the nursery for his first bath, J and both of our mothers in tow. It had been a long day, spent walking around the hospital and anxiously waiting to become parents and grandparents. My own wellbeing was in question, and so I spent over an hour hooked up to monitors waiting [im]patiently for my blood pressure to return to normal. I wasn't even allowed to stand up, much less walk to my room so I sat anxiously in the wheelchair as a nurse pushed me through the hallways to the Mother-Baby unit.

I can still see him wrapped in soft, white flannel looking absolutely perfect and knowing he was mine. I sat on my hospital bed, still hooked up to this monitor and that monitor, watching everyone else hold my baby. We took photos, I ate my first meal of the day, and we laughed and cried together while my heart burst with love and pride. Within a day or two of my return home, after J had gone back to work in the city, I gave up on F's bassinet: he hated it. We set up his crib, and he hated that too. Finally, after making several trips between my bed and his crib and bassinet, I stripped my bed of pillows and blankets and I laid him next to me. He was asleep within minutes, and our co-sleeping arrangement was born.

I was on the receiving end of a lot of flak over my decision to co-sleep. I had never realized the way my sleeping habits affected those of others (nor did I or do I care). F rarely has nightmares, and has never been afraid of the dark. When he turned two and we had our own home, I bought him a toddler bed and hoped he would sleep in his own room. Sometimes he did, sometimes he didn't. While I enjoyed having the bed to myself, I always missed him and from time to time I slept in the toddler bed with him. Sharing my bed with him this weekend, after a week of sleeping my my new queen-sized bed alone, was wonderful. My own "big girl" bed will be extra lonely tonight.

The moment of "good-bye" is anxiety-ridden and downright frightening. My heart will break into a million pieces when I put my car in drive and knowing that doesn't make it any easier. But, it's not just leaving that scares me. It's coming home, too. Two weeks ago, F saw his father for the first time in months and referred to him first as "man" and then as "guy". He eventually settled on calling him Smokey, the nickname all of J's friends and family members refer to him by. My son didn't even know his father. What if I come home one day and he doesn't know me? I don't think I could possibly cope.

What if the hurtful words slung at me earlier this year are right: what if I'm a bad mom for going back to school? As much as I've missed F, I've also enjoyed time on my own. I've enjoyed meeting new people and - dare I say it - going out and having fun. For the first time in 4 years, I have been able to explore myself and grow as a person. In spite of missing F every minute of every day, I'm enjoying myself: I love my class, my apartment and my new friends. Even though I miss him, I'm the happiest I have been in years, and as much as I decided to go back to school for me, I'm back in school for him.

When all is said and done, I hope F realizes that I had to go to make his life better and I hope that one day, he will be half as proud of me as I am of him.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Little Words

I love words.

Big words, little words, strong words and dirty words.

I just love them all. I love writing them and speaking them, learning them and teaching them - well, some of them. I consider words to be my playground, my medium with which to create. Like many people, I've been both empowered by and crushed beneath a word. As a parent, I've spent the last two and a half years choosing words carefully, waiting anxiously to hear a certain four words that every Mother can't wait to hear: I love you, Mommy.

I remember the first time I heard it. F was in the bathtub, and I had been sitting on the floor of the bathroom while he played. I had told him I loved him, and a moment or two later he looked at me and said it back. I was so excited I started to cry and laugh all at once. I even managed to get it on video with my iPhone. Since that day back in April, F has learned many words, some of which I wish he would unlearn. He has learned how to use his words to convey his feelings, his wants and create play stories for himself and his toys. Since that first "I love you, Mommy", there have been thousands of those perfect moments, from the impromtu hugs to the tearful learning of lessons.

There are two words that I dread hearing now, two words I never thought could possibly hold so much heartache: Good-bye. No amout of "I love you" or hugs can dull the pain my Mommy heart feels when F leaves and we have to say "good-bye". I always try to tell him I'll see him soon, or "Peace Out" to lighten my heavy heart, but it's impossible to lie to yourself in that moment. I stood outside in the cold today watching my parents driving away with F, and I felt tears drip off my cheeks and onto my jacket. I could still hear his cries for Mommy broken by his sobbing as the truck pulled out of the parking spot. In all my life, I've never felt so helpless.

The rest of my evening will be spent inside with the dog. I finally have couches and I can catch up on some reading and TV. We'll go for a walk at bedtime, and I'll climb into a big empty bed and think of him. He'll have forgotten about his sadness when we said goodbye and be excited to see his toys and be back in his home with Grammy and Grampy.  I'll ride out my week away puttering at odd jobs at the apartment, hanging out with my classmates and friends new and old, and I'll anxiously wait for Friday night when I get home and hear "Mommy, I'm happy to see you!".

Those little words will make every heartache and tear worth it.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Y'Amigos

I've got this friend.

She's pretty much the best thing to ever happen to me.

If she's reading this, I hope she knows who she is. She's the kind of friend who - in spite of not seeing eachother for weeks or months - can immediately pick up on a hint of sadness in my voice within 2 minutes of a phone conversation. She's the kind of friend who lets you cry on her shoulder, helps you verbally assault the person who has done you wrong and encourages you to spend money you really don't have on clothes you don't need - and then shares Old Cheddar Kraft Dinner with you because you can't afford anything better. Everyone should have at least one of these friends - and I'm fortunate enough to have three.

Growing up, my Mom always warned me against some types of friends - you know the ones who are toxic and make you miserable? Sadly, it would seem, only women have those traits. Have you ever noticed that a lot of guys are friends with the same group of people they were friends with as children? Guys are straightforward. When they don't like something, they say it. They (usually) confront the situation and leave it all on the court. Women, on the other hand, we're nasty. We talk behind backs and we are the masters of the Backhanded Compliment - don't act innocent, you've done it.

There are five friends every girl should have. Here's the list:

1. The friend who knows you better than you. She's the one who can spot your meltdown before you feel it coming on. She's the friend who sees something on a hanger and knows you'd look great in it, or meets someone and thinks you would love them. She's the friend who gives you that special insight into situations that you're too wrapped up in to see clearly and she's the single friend you should never be without. Cherish her.

2. The friend who is louder and more outgoing than you are. She can break the ice, help you storm a castle and take charge of the room. She's the girl who sets you at ease and - if you're me - gives you the opportunity to take a step back. I'm usually this friend, and it is such a pleasure to have someone else be this person. Let her take charge of the party, bask in her glow and enjoy yourself. It's awesome.

3. The super serious friend. She's the friend who tells you it's time to put your Visa away (No, seriously... stop online shopping!), to reconsider that job-change or relationship. She's the girl who makes sure you get home safely from a night out and whips your ass into shape in more ways than one.

4. The "no cares" friend. Be warned: this is the friend with whom you will always have a love-hate relationship. Nothing bothers her, and that kills you. She takes everything as it comes and can always hit you up with some "just chill" when you most need it. Take her advice sometime, go to a yoga class or take a walk with her and soak up her aura. It will help.

5. The Non-Stopper. She's the friend who drags you out of the house when you want to skip the shower and lay on your couch. She's involved in 98 things at once and seems to have endless bounds of energy. She'll help you get involved, turn you on to new things and give you a new perspective on life. You'll want to be her and you'll respect the Hell out of her for all she's up to (even if it's just party rockin' 7 nights a week).

For all the great friends you have and the wonderful people you meet, there are going to be these four that you don't need:

1. The Negative Nancy. You know the one. She's complaining about everything from the weather to her chipped nailpolish (which, might I add you can totally complain about because that shit takes time). She's perpetually miserable and she's going to bring her rainy attitude into your life, too. Don't let her. Try to make her positive, or make a B-line for the door. You don't need that negativity.

2. The Mooch. "Hey, I know we haven't talked for a while but I was wondering..." is one of my least favourite lines coming through my phone's earpiece. (Bonus points when you get it via text.) Yes, sometimes you or your friend is going through a tough time, but this the chick who only contacts you when she needs something, like your favourite dress or a reference. If she can't be your friend all the time, don't be her friend some of the time. She'll either shape up or ship out.

3. The Attention Whore - you know, the one who shows up all dressed up for you casual brunch or flirts her face off with your new boyfriend.  Her. Stomp that out before it's too late, because that shit grows like wildfire. Tell her how you feel. ALSO: Boyfriend-flirting is so offlimits.

4. The Backhanded Complimenter - she's the girl who rains on your parade and takes the wind out of your sails, all while smiling and making you *almost* feel good. I think the best one I ever heard was, "Oh, wow... those jeans actually make you look really thin" as if I was fat and it was a miracle I could look otherwise. It's the compliment that's hiding a stab, and you don't need to hear that. Come right back at her with a true insult and see how she likes it, but you should probably explain the reasoning so you don't come across as a total bitch.

May I take your order?

Dining Outiquette


Long before I was a Mommy – and also while I was becoming and being a Mommy – I worked as a waitress at popular tourist destinations on the World-Famous Cabot Trail. Over the nine years I have worked in customer service and the food and beverage industry, I have seen everything from adults who don’t like their peas to touch their carrots and kids who throw their peas and carrots. It’s an occupation that can be positively grating on your nerves and sanity, but I mostly enjoyed it and know many people for whom it is a lifelong career. While I always really loved the opportunity to interact with people, I used to have a difficult time connecting with kids at the table and since becoming a Mom (and after eating almost every meal in a hotel for a whole week), I’ve learned that a lot of servers are super uncomfortable with kids so I’d like to present you with a list of Do’s and Don’ts when eating out with your kids.

1.       Do at least try to clean up their mess. I know you’re out to eat and the server is getting paid, but that server also has other tables, other meals and other people who need his or her attention. No, you don’t have to wipe the table, but at least try to pick up some of the stuff your kid threw all over the floor. They're cursing you as you leave.

2.       If your child is hungry or impatient (as if there was ever a kid who could wait for food in a restaurant), DO tell the server up front that you’d like your child’s meal immediately. While some servers (read: experienced ones or parents themselves) do this as a precaution, it is so easily overlooked and most kitchens don’t automatically get a child’s food ready right away. Be proactive. Bonus if you bring a snack to keep ‘em happy.

3.       Don’t force the awkward “Suzie, say hello to the nice lady” bit between the kid and the server. It’s not OK and it’s really, really uncomfortable. If your child is shy or doesn’t feel like being social, let them be quiet and just order the damn meal. Your waitress probably has other things to do, and you should be drinking some wine by now.

4.       Do ask the server about alternatives for kids’ meals: the last restaurant I worked in didn’t even have a children’s menu – but we did half orders of almost everything. My son would rather eat a salad than eat fries, so I often ask if it would be possible for him to have a half order of salad. Sometimes I get funny looks and the worst they can say is no! Trust me – they’d rather be asked than have you be complaining about the “limited options” or leaving unhappy.

5.       Do keep your kid in their seat, or get out. This might seem harsh, but there are two outcomes to your child getting “loose”, and neither is pretty. One outcome involves the server tripping over them and dropping food – the table waiting for that food is going to be pissed, and the server is going to be irate and unable to say anything. The second is that your child could get really badly hurt – hot tea and coffee is a real danger, folks. When I was dining room manager, I had no problem asking guests to please not have their children running around. I’ve also seen other tables get up and leave, and that is totally unacceptable.

6.       Don’t over complicate the order, especially in a busy dining room. Allergies are one thing, but your picky eater is going to starve to death if you don’t try to curb that now. If you know your kid won’t eat ¾ of the ingredients in a meal you should choose something else rather than asking the server to have the kitchen pick things out or swap. Save that for homecooked meals.

7.       Do try to give the server the benefit of the doubt: he or she may be totally uncomfortable with kids, and while the dining room might not look busy that server has a ton of other work to be done. BUT, if the service is bad, ask for a manager.
In general - just a few things you might want to keep in mind for eating out:

1. DO NOT snap your fingers at your server. Raising your hand or saying a simple (and polite) "excuse me" is more than enough. I hated the finger snap, and chances are your server does too. We are not dogs. We are not your maid.

2. If your server asks if you'd like anything else... that would be the best time to tell her. Don't ask her for ketchup, only to ask for water once that arrives, and then for an extra napkin when she comes back again. It is tireseome and no one wants to make eleven trips to the same table!

3. Don't treat your server like an idiot. I'm a (fairly) smart individual, and nothing irked me more than when people talked to me like a total dork. Don't assume your server is just working for the summer, or while he or she studies either: there are a lot of people who choose to make a career out of the service industry, and they do damn well for themselves.

4. Last, but definitely not least, tip on service not on food. I have no control over how quickly food comes out of the kitchen or whether or not the chef got your steak just right. If I did, I wouldn't have been taking your order - I would have been cooking it. If you're unhappy with your meal, tell the server. He or she can probably comp it and will more than likely try to make it up to you. Don't cut the tip in half because the food was awesome.