Posts Tagged With: family

let us out

Listen. We get it. We do.

We know: you or someone you love is immuno-compromised in some way and you really need us to take this #covid-19 thing seriously and #staythefuckathome. Please know that we are taking this seriously, we are aware of how quickly this thing “goes viral” as it were, and we know the possible severity of the illness. No one is minimizing your concerns; not trying to down-play anything; trying to follow the guidelines as best we can. I just need you to think about some other things for a minute.

You have probably seen the tweets, maybe even shared the memes about the appalling fact that millions of school-aged children may be losing their one main daily meal now that most schools have closed. There are groups popping up all over the place to help those who experience this kind of food insecurity; local restaurants offering sack lunches, mom groups cooking casseroles, etc. We all know that even these types of kindnesses will be ending soon, and that’s worrisome for sure.

What’s also worrisome is the fact that people are being bullied, judged, shamed, and threatened for meeting up with their neighbours or allowing their children to see friends; for heading out for groceries or taking their dogs for a walk. For years we have been getting pummelled with reports and studies showing us that “online” connections aren’t what we should be encouraging for our children. We have been bullied, shamed, judged, and threatened by “better” parents who limit screen or gaming time and force their kids to interact face-to-face vs. face-timing. It’s like we just can’t win. For some parents, and for some children, this current situation of self-isolation is not a viable option. Really.

I sit on the Equity Committee at my son’s school. Our biggest concern is the mental health and well-being of our students; we need to build and foster a sense of belonging within our school community. Teenagers are not doing well, y’all. Even if they have a “happy” home life, they are feeling burdened and stressed. They are lost, they are scared, and they are depressed. They are anxiety-ridden. Existential angst among 12-19 year-olds is a real thing. Nihilism is creeping in at ever younger ages. And let’s not forget, not everyone has a “happy” home life.

There are a good many kids for whom home is not a happy place, or even a safe one. What if school is the only place a child has a sense of belonging? What if their group of friends is the only real family they have? What if their English teacher or school social worker is the only adult in their lives that they can trust? What if a student’s friendship with the school custodian is the only thing keeping both of those people going? What about those kids who come to school to get a couple of hours of sleep because it isn’t safe to do so at home?

We don’t know how long this pandemic will last. Provinces, states, and countries are declaring us to be in a state of emergency. Moms and dads who are barely keeping it together on their best days will be unable to do so indefinitely. Parents who are already stressed about financial issues or worry about their job security will have those anxieties hit overdrive. Families who face food insecurity on a daily basis may fall into despair and feel nothing but hopelessness. Being in forced isolation or quarantine may make it exponentially more difficult to distract yourself from your worries or put your coping skills into play.

My mother, at 92, is more active and has a fuller schedule than many people half her age. On Mondays she has her writing group (cancelled), on Tuesdays she goes singing (cancelled), on Wednesdays she volunteers at the seniors’ rec centre (closed), on Thursdays the home nurse comes to help with her shower (so far still on). Fridays are “weekend” or her day off, and on the weekends she usually visits friends in care homes (closed) or goes to the cinema (closed) or concerts (cancelled). She is keeping herself busy with crosswords, youtube, facebook, phone calls and e-mails. She’s not bored yet, but enjoyment from those things will only last so long. She lives a two-hour drive from us and I don’t know whether I should go see her or not. I certainly don’t want to expose her to any germs, but loneliness is a bitch and I know it will set in soon.

There must be a happy medium. I think there is, I believe we can all survive this without passing germs and without going bat-shit crazy. And so, when I went for a walk yesterday and saw some neighbours sitting on their porch, I stopped and talked. Yes, we stayed 6 feet apart; no, we didn’t sip from each other’s wine glasses. When BoyGenius’ friends rode up to our house on their bikes and tried to entice him out I sent him; between the four of them these kids are dealing with anxiety, depression, self-harm, low self-esteem, a parent with cancer, ADHD (x 3) and many other stressors. They needed to get out, they needed to spend time together, and we’re only on day 3. I feel confident (enough) that they maintained a safe level of social distance while getting some social connection.

Nobody wants to spread the #coronavirus. We are not trying to kill you or your loved ones. But we may need to get out and interact. Humans are social beings. This is only the beginning. Please understand that some of us cannot simply #staythefuckathome.

For some people the virus is not the worst thing that could happen to them. Covid-19 may not be what kills them. Isolation and loneliness could. Despair. Abusive relationships. We are living in a powder keg.

If you need help during this weird and surreal time we are living in, please reach out.

#weareallinthistogether

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shattered

Sometimes I want to drop things in the kitchen just to see how they shatter.

Which is ridiculous, because I know that I would/do squeeze my eyes shut when something falls — pull back your feet as fast and as far as you can without falling, close your eyes, tense your muscles, hold your breath.

When something does fall and shatter on the tile floor in the kitchen (whoever thought ceramic tile and glass/china/ceramics/stonewear would do well together?) I sometimes wonder if I willed it let it happen.

I suppose that might be a superpower that would come in handy — speedy like Yoyo in S.H.I.E.L.D. or one of the many Flashes that are running around in the D.C. Universe. Fast enough to catch that falling piece of history before it’s destroyed, or even fast enough to make time pull backwards a little bit.

We all know that’s not possible but if we retreat into our heads for a bit there’s the chance that we can at least get a glimpse of the people or things that have been crushed and lost to us. Sometimes that slight spark of a bright remembrance can make things even worse but on occasion it can be the very thing we need to get us through.

If you are feeling a loss this holiday season, be it fresh and stinging or aged and nagging, I wish you the help you need to make it past the darkness; I wish you the ability to find the brightness in the memories that will warm your heart; I wish you love and light.

Categories: family, loss, love, memories, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

still holding

Today, the 14th of November, marks the first anniversary of the death of my best friend’s mother.

A year ago I wrote this, and I’m offering it up again today.

This afternoon (or yesterday afternoon, technically — life and schedules only allow so much leeway) I held her close and she said, “Thank you for thinking of me.” I squeezed a little harder, whispering, “I’ve still got you.” To which she replied, “I know.”

Categories: family, friendship, loss, love, NaBloPoMo, NaNoPoblano | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

hidden

Do you hide things? I know I do.

Are you a parent? A spouse? Then I’m pretty sure you’ve hidden some things.

I hide things. Christmas presents. Chocolate. Expiry dates. Vegetables.

Christmas/birthday presents are a big hide. And yes, I have had that worrisome experience of not knowing where I put everything. I have missed giving some gifts until it was too late. Of course, in most instances, “too late” only means that the birthday or Christmas gift exchange has been missed …. sometimes, though, it really is too late and those shoes/jeans/pyjamas won’t fit anymore or that game has become passé.

Chocolate — if you have a spouse like HardWorker, you hide the chocolate. BoyGenius takes after me in a lot of ways, and love of chocolate is no exception. Also like me, though, he has the ability to eat a few pieces of a chocolate bar and then leave it for the next day. Or the next day. A couple of pieces a night makes a good bar of chocolate last a long time. (nb: this does not work for bars like Snickers or Coffee Crisp) HardWorker has never developed this ability, as hard as I have tried to help her for the last twenty-two years. We often had a piece of chocolate as dessert in our house when I was growing up, and the true German bars were not always easy to come by so we shared and savoured them, bit by bit. HardWorker says they didn’t have that experience, so if there was chocolate, you ate it up quickly. So now, in our house, I hide the chocolate. I have to change up my hiding spots every month or so, because she will snoop in every cupboard in the middle of the night until she finds the treasure. Sometimes the best and most successful spots are out in the open. Even BoyGenius has learned to hide things in plain sight.

Expiry dates are something that I also have to hide from HardWorker — if I didn’t I would constantly be throwing things out that are still perfectly good and definitely safely edible. I mean, come on people, sour cream and yoghurt are made with bacteria! What could possibly go wrong with consuming these products 3-9 months past their “best before” dates? Eggs? Most countries don’t even refrigerate their eggs, let alone worry about an expiry date. Bread? Until it’s thoroughly shot through with mould I’m toasting that slice. BoyGenius seems to have the same cast-iron stomach that I do, and I am happy for that.

Hiding vegetables isn’t something that I necessarily do intentionally but it is a very effective way to make sure they get eaten. When BoyGenius was a baby and toddler, he ate anything we gave him. He was quite happy with Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes and dill pickles were a favourite snack of his. He refused to eat bananas after about age four, but as it turns out, he’s allergic (fresh fruit syndrome/oral allergies that are related to his 8-month long seasonal allergies). As he got older and “developed his palate” he swung wildly on the like/don’t like scale. Still does, with everything from ribs to cauliflower.hidden But let me tell you, if I can “hide” mushrooms, zucchini, peppers, or just about any other foodstuff in lasagna, chili, soup or fried rice then it gets gobbled up without any complaints. #momwin

What do you hide? And from whom?

Categories: family, NaBloPoMo, NaNoPoblano, parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

day three

So it’s the 3rd of November, which makes it day three (3) of this #NaBloPoMo or #NaNoPoblano thing I’ve signed on for. I’m still here. **YAY!!**

I’ve decided that in addition to committing to posting an entry every day, I am committing to removing one bag or box of stuff out of my house every day this month. I am, sadly, already one day behind on this, but today’s bag was large, had a grocery-bag add-on, and also a separate stack of boys’ jeans to go with it. So, in essence, that was two days’ worth. Truth.

There is a lot of excess stuff in my house. I’m not sure why I hang on to certain things. Some of it I can explain away — my Opa’s pipe, my dad’s jacket from when he was a butler/handyman, many of BlueEyes‘ things — but other things are really not necessary. How many fancy beer glasses can anyone really need? Might it be possible to consolidate all of the scribblings on countless scraps of paper into one notebook? Do we have to keep ALL of BoyGenius’ stuffed toys?

I guess what it all comes down to is remembering that I am a work in progress, I am perfectly imperfect, and my life is ever evolving. Or as a famous fish once said, “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming.”

Categories: family, loss, memories, NaBloPoMo, NaNoPoblano, parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m going to stop

For a long time, I didn’t watch the news.

For a long time before that, I did. It was the 10 or 11 o’clock precursor to bedtime. It meant the end of the day; time to see what had happened in the world, in the country, in the neighbourhood. Then, a few years ago, I had a baby. I think that’s when I first stopped watching the news — new baby, no sleep, oddly timed feedings/pumpings, etc., etc. Then when I tried to go back to it I could no longer stomach it. It was bad news most of the time and it really stressed me out. So I stopped.

I did alright without watching the news. If there was something big happening I was sure to hear about it anyway, whether it was on the radio in the car, in the schoolyard, or on the tv at McDonald’s. HardWorker still watched the all-day headline broadcast channel before she left for work or before bed, ostensibly to check the weather or the traffic. Whatever I did happen to see annoyed me no end and it wasn’t just the content. Not a single commentator seemed able to read the sheets that were in front of them without stumbling over names, dates, locations, or the basic tenets of the english language. They make me crazy. I try to stay away from it if at all possible.

I found I was able to stay fairly stress free (news-wise) and life was good. Facebook was something I had discovered and joined years ago (after abandoning my mySpace page) and I enjoyed keeping up with family and friends from around the globe. New babies, vacation pictures, familial losses, even making new friends; it was all at my fingertips. I even joked with other school parents at SCC meetings that if the news wasn’t accompanied by kitten videos on Huffington Post it meant nothing to me. Then it all changed. People started regarding the Huffington Post as a real “newspaper”. The major networks all have Facebook pages, as do all of their regional stations. All the Posts and Times and Gazettes are there as are numerous weekly or monthly magazines. People quote Twitter on their FB pages and link to just about everything that gets published anywhere. It’s too much. Too much to read. Too much to follow. Too much to click through.

It’s too much. Sensory overload. And let me tell you, I barely link any of my accounts, I don’t check my mail every hour, and I’m only on Twitter about once a week. I HAVE A FLIP-PHONE. That’s right. I HAVE A FLIP-PHONE. I do not receive badges, banners, or updates; do not get pinged every time a new e-mail comes in; no swish or chirp when someone tweets something. It doesn’t seem to matter. When I do check Facebook there is invariably some new horrible thing that is being shared by everyone I know. When Hardworker comes home and asks, “Did you hear about …?” I have to say that I did. Whether I wanted to know about it or not. Apparently we no longer have the option of not watching the news.

Well, folks, I’m taking it back. I’m going to stop watching. Stop reading. Stop scrolling. Stop clicking through links. I’m going to stop. I know that some people will think this is no way to live in this day and age. They will call me names and tell me I’m part of the problem. I’m telling you this is the only way to live in this day and age. If I don’t stop I won’t survive.

So yeah, I’m going to stop.

 

Categories: family, friendship, media, NaBloPoMo, NaNoPoblano, Uncategorized, words | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

musings (on death, in this case)

The first line of this crept into my head as I was peanut-buttering my toast this morning. No idea why, but I thought I had better sit down and find some paper pretty quickly (kind of like that split second when you know you’re about to throw up), so I did just that. And ended up with this:

 

I have held the hand of Death
as it invades and seeks to usurp
the breath of Life in a loved one’s body.
While Death is not pretty and Death is not proud,
wanting and waiting to snuff out the Life within,
it does seem to care for the shell and the skin without.
Rarely have I felt a hand so soft or smooth
as one struggling to hold on to another day or two.
Skin stretched taut over cheekbone and brow
may seem a grotesque mask to some,
but if so then surely one made from the finest silk
with nary a furrow or crease.
It is almost as if Death, knowing its own reputation
doth proceed, has searched for some small way
to repay the great sacrifices made,
and understanding that family and friends may be holding fast,
offers the only softness it knows,
one of gentle touch.

 

As I said, I don’t know where this came from, I only know it had to come out.

Categories: loss, love, words | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

rain

It’s raining. The gloriously heavy, warm-weathered, bright-sky-with-big-dark-clouds kind of rain of impossibly large drops that we used to enjoy when I was little. My brothers and I would be outside in our bathing suits and flip-flops or rubber boots getting soaked and squealing & laughing with delight. Sitting on the curb or dancing in the yard or splashing in the gulleys that ran as fast as they could to the nearest storm drain.

Thunder rumbles in the distance. The downspouts are flowing like fountains. The still hot pavement and steaming shingles smell like summer. The rain stops, the sky brightens. Until the next wave.

Categories: family, memories | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

colours

Today started off normally enough: get up, see that HardWorker has already left, BoyGenius is on the couch watching youtube videos, put the kettle on, take the snack bag out of the backpack, put bread in the toaster; get BoyGenius off the couch and into the shower, make him wash his hair while showing me how he does it (because although he goes through about 1/4 of a bottle of shampoo every shower, I’m pretty sure the suds never actually touch his scalp), make him do it again, go back downstairs to make tea and butter/peanut butter/jam my toast. You know, just a normal day.

My son is out the door, my toast is eaten, I’m enjoying my tea, wondering why I’m watching PacMan or Slugterra or whatever happens to be on my television screen. I see a facebook entry from one of my favourite internet storytellers/artists, Brian Andreas. I dissolve into a puddle — right there on my loveseat. I share it to my own timeline, all the while still sobbing. My day dissolves right along with me.

Last Time by Brian Andreas. Find him on facebook or at http://www.storypeople.com/

Last Time by Brian Andreas. Find him on facebook or at http://www.storypeople.com/

So now it’s 2 pm, my son has been home for lunch and gone back to school, I’ve done some laundry, had lunch (did I? — I think so), took a book back to the library, done some banking, some non-purchasing shopping, and cried. A number of times. Over and over. That facebook entry really did a number on me, and got me to thinking.

When my brother BlueEyes died in 1993 I lost a lot of colour from my life. Sure, when BoyGenius was born in 2004 I got plenty of colour back, but while there may be more than a little overlap that happens, the colours are entirely different.

My brothers were in charge of a few things while I was growing up — nothing like scheduled chores or stuff like that, but still. SkinnyGuy was in charge of paper routes and saving money and grass cutting and our television & music education and snow shovelling. He was the oldest, so all of these things made sense. BlueEyes was in charge of piano lessons and baking and making our mom feel special and a different kind of music education and taking care of me. That’s kind of what it felt like. It’s hard to explain. We never really fought, except maybe over whose turn it was to help with the dishes. We were all just there.

We got older; one by one we went off to university. We all ended up in the same city, doing various jobs over the years. We still did things together and while they both dropped some “chores” off of their lists or swapped some out, they were essentially still in charge of the same things, at least the ones that really mattered: saving money, television & music, making our mom feel special and taking care of me.

While SkinnyGuy, even in the midst of all the music, was a numbers and words kind of guy, BlueEyes was all about colour. The colours of music, the colours of feelings, the colours of travel, the colours of wool sweaters. He was in charge of all of the colours: spices from the far corners of the earth, the lighted dance floor at our favourite club, the blue of the sky at 30,000 feet, the swarm of tropical fish when you snorkel with soda crackers, Ikea duvet covers, the various shades of his eyes depending on which contacts he put in that day, argyle socks and sweaters, cherry blossoms in Washington, silk scarves from the Orient, Easter baskets from Germany, red wine from France. If you were with him you saw and felt colours everywhere. And if you couldn’t be with him he brought the colours to you. And they were actually brighter because of his smile and his sparkling eyes; his joy and excitement at being able to share these colours with you made them reach new levels of saturation.

And then he died and everything was transformed to gray scale. Oh, I still saw colour, I could still appreciate the nuances of tint and hue, but it was all muted. The bigger picture, the feelings of colour, changed to gray. Or taupe.

Eleven years later colour re-entered my life. BoyGenius came along and brought red hair and play-doh and fluorescent shoes with him. He’s managed to take over being in charge of a few things himself over his eleven + years, and while his experience with the feelings of colour still has decades to grow, I think he’ll manage just fine. So far he’s been in charge of the colours of socks and shoes, showing us that “matching” doesn’t necessarily mean exactly the same. He’s now my go-to for argyle socks, and I think his uncle would be on board with that. He’s been in charge of our wall paint choices and it’s worked out okay so far. He’s aware that the bright yellow of a bouquet of dandelions picked on his way home from school will not only brighten my day but also warm my heart. He loves the blue of the sky at 30,000 feet and how the moon can change from orange to yellow to white all in one night. He’s starting to feel the colour of the vastness of the Milky Way and I already know he feels the colour of loss when a good friend dies. BoyGenius has the bright smile and sparkling eyes that shine exponentially more powerfully when he is excited to share some newly discovered nugget of information or shiny new object; the same ones BlueEyes had.

I am grateful for my new champion of colour. I want to teach him the feeling of colour and how easy it will be for him to share all the colours. He’s definitely capable; he’s got the foundation. I hope I’m up to the teaching part.

Every day, though, every day I miss my original champion of colour. And sometimes it’s too hard to stay upbeat for the new guy on the job. Sometimes someone smiles a certain way or a song comes on the radio or you see an old photo or a new post on facebook and all of a sudden you realise that you’re at home alone and no matter how many games of Words With Friends you’ve got going on there is no one here to hold you while you cry and all the colours melt together and you’re once again left with gray. Or taupe.

Categories: family, loss, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

finally!

So here I am, one full week into being 50 years old. Is there any difference to how I felt a week ago? Two weeks ago? A year ago? Ten years ago? Honestly, nope. I know people make a big deal out of these “round” numbered birthdays, some of them having anxiety at leaving yet another decade behind. Not me. I’m 50. #finallyfifity #fiftyisfine #fiftyisfabulous

I feel great, just as I have felt great for the last fifty years. Sure, I have grey hair, but I’ve had that for at least twenty years already. So what? I’m a blonde (albeit dark blonde, so there’s that) so all I do about the grey is get golden highlights added to the silver. That’s actually what I say when I call or text my hairdresser: “I need more gold!” I also have some wrinkles, but you know, I also smile a lot, and those are the ones I have … around my eyes and my mouth. So what? Truth is, if I lost about fifty pounds  I’d probably have a lot more wrinkles —- everywhere! Let’s not jinx anything, but I’m having far fewer migraines than I’ve had in a long time and maybe that’s down to hormonal changes — a benefit of getting older. I have a loving and hardworking partner, a crazy cat and a perfect son. I have an amazing mother and a smart, supportive older brother. Sure, I’ve lost some people and I miss them terribly but I challenge you to find someone who’s been around for fifty years who hasn’t lost anyone. Don’t misunderstand me, it sucks. All the time. But that’s just one part of my life.

Days and weeks fly by like nobody’s business and BoyGenius keeps growing in leaps and bounds, physically, emotionally, intellectually and psychically. I walk my neighbours’ dog, I do laundry, I cook and bake, I work out with a personal trainer two times a week, I’m reading a bit more again, I try to stay involved in the school community and I think a lot. I write in my head (some people call it thinking). I have great ideas for posts, for articles, for letters of complaint or celebration, for poetry (rhyming and otherwise), for artwork. Very little of these come to fruition, not in small part due to the fact that I have these great ideas in the shower or in bed just before falling asleep, or at the grocery store. Those same ideas are really hard to remember — especially now that I’m 50! (JK, LOL) I have a son who keeps me young by forcing me to watch really bad cartoons. In turn, I force him to watch movies and shows that I like .. kind of backfires because he likes most of the same things I do. I have to keep up on video games and their platforms, anime cartoons and graphic novels. I’m busy, I’m healthy and my 10 year old keeps me young.

I had a party for my 50th birthday (while HardWorker tired to keep hers completely secret) but it wasn’t anything big. I just wanted any friends who were able to come have a drink with me at my local pub. My mother wasn’t sure that it was an acceptable form of celebration (she wanted a big bash and had a fancy dress to show off) but by the end she realised it was a good party. My family was there, of course (mom, HardWorker and BoyGenius), my cousin’s son and his friend were here from Germany, my brother and girlfriend came out on the train after work, local friends were there, high-school friends were there, work friends were there. I felt honoured and blessed. One friend who used to work with me drove three hours to have a drink and a visit with me, then drove three hours back home. I hadn’t seen her in almost 10 years. It was magical.

So I’m telling you, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being 50! One of the best things is that I can actually do Molly Shannon’s Sally O’Malley bit without having to fake it. I’m 50! Like Talk Talk said way back in the ’80s: life’s what you make it, can’t escape it …. life’s what you make it, don’t back-date it.

And since music and lyrics play such a large part in my everyday life, even when I don’t want them to, I’m going to leave you with these other words of wisdom from one of my favourite movies (Serendiptiy) as offered by Chantal Kreviazuk: This year is going to be incredible!

Enjoy every year you get.

Categories: family, friendship, music, parenting, words | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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