Friday, March 11, 2016

From the heart of a girl who lost her mom

I feel like I've been putting off writing for so long. Because life didn't allow me the chance it seems. It's crazy to think how my life has changed in the last 10 months. I re-read a blog post of mine from when mom first got her diagnoses, actually I quickly skimmed over it and stopped, because it made me tear up a bit. It instantly took me back to when we first heard of mom's news. We were scared. We were clinging to the time we had together as a family. We were hopeful. We lost friends. Gained new ones. We lost mom.

It was a blessing to have mom with us, especially over those last two years. She did her best to put on a strong, beautiful, happy face...and she did. So well. She mothered us, her four grown adult children, our spouses and her grandchildren. When she was there, she was present. She moved quietly through the last two years of her life on earth...knowing what her future held, and also given the chance to see what our own futures held...and it was ok. She knew what she needed to do. She chose to move from her home of 35 years, in to the home she and dad had started to build a year before she was given the news...I always think it was to get the family in something new, and unfamiliar, and unattached from years of family memories. She carefully led us through those two years, always staying positive, and always taking the time to support us through our lives, growths, set backs, victories. She was selfless and loving. We spent weeks at her side while she was in and out of the hospital. I was fortunate enough to make two trips down to Phoenix while she was going through her treatment. I met the people she and dad adopted in as family. The hotel where they stayed became their home away from home, mom and dad both felt comfortable there. The staff became fast friends with them, because you know, it's mom and dad, and they make friends everywhere they go. It was like a semi retirement for them to spend time as a couple, although nothing quite like retirement for most. There was no golfing, no travelling around...there was rest for mom. Every afternoon, she would rest. Dad would spend time with the hotel staff, or other people staying there, or he would get groceries, do the laundry, maybe call us kids on the phone...
Mom really did enjoy herself down there, which is so great, and they were lucky enough to have friends from back home staying near by. They had visitors come from all over to check in on them. Life was very different from what they had previously known, but like I said, I feel mom had a bigger plan than we knew.

As I was preparing her slide show for her memorial service, I found it hard to find recent photos of her over the last two years. I realized it was because she wasn't always here, she wasn't able to come and watch t-ball, or dance recitals, or Christmas Concerts, so those moments and occasions were never captured in photos. There was a definitive distance put between us already, almost like a slight ease in to the life we were about to have, where we couldn't just speak on the phone everyday, or drop over for a visit, or a sleepover. It was gradual, this change, and she made it that way. To lessen the blow of life after mom? Maybe. Or maybe to show us in subtle little ways that we actually could do things with out her being there. Maybe she was enabling us, as mothers do, to be able to adjust and carry on and move forward. She wore the face of strength so that when we thought of her after she left, that strength is what we remembered.

The following months after we moved them in to the new house showed us, gently, what life was going to be like for us, and for mom. It forced us to connect more, to share our thoughts, to talk frankly about life. This is still a work in progress, but the closeness we acquired as a family throughout this life change has been really, really good. We spent at least a week every month in the hospital at mom's side during her frequent stays there. We brought the kids often and for Halloween, birthdays, whatever the occasion. If mom was in, we were there. She loved seeing them smile, hearing them giggle, and even getting climbed on the odd time so they could lay in the bed and move it up and down. She was incredibly patient with them, and she adored their art work that was always displayed on the walls of the her hospital room. A lot of healing went on in mom's hospital rooms. She was a healer. Her room always felt warm, and comforting, even in the last hard as they were. She was our home. So it didn't matter where she was, we just felt good being near her.
I can't explain the loss when you lose a parent. My loss if different from yours, from my dad's, and even from my own siblings. I can tell you that losing the first soul that your own soul was connected to, leaves you feeling lost. Like you're in a small vessel at sea. You ride the waves, up and down, your spin, your go under, you come up. You're constantly in search of the ship that once carried your vessel. You're misplaced. In the storm of your life. Some days are rough, scary, foggy, cold and hard. Some days are sunny, beautiful and calm. You have no choice but to ride the waves.
 I can explain the gratitude I feel to have had my mom in my life. And to have gone through her journey by her side. She made us who we are today, gave us wings, and as we all teetered on the edge of the nest, wondering what to do, wondering where to go from here she quietly took flight. We are now left with nothing but our own wings to get us through. We have to trust ourselves. Our wings were gifts from our parents. They enabled us to grow. And as much as it hurts, now is a time for growth.

I can tell you that I am an incredibly lucky person to have my dad, and my three siblings to go through this life with. I can tell you that my heart bursts at the thought of my incredibly supportive family, countless aunts, uncles, cousins, friends. Mom was blessed. And therefore I am blessed. She had incredibly supportive friends show up often at the hospital. We filled that place with noise, laughter, much in fact, one time mom asked us to be quiet. We did...but it didn't last long. It's hard to keep us quiet, especially during crib games, or talking about growing up together, or making fun of each other, or laughing and crying about our memories, celebrating the many baby announcements our cousins told mom. She was so happy to hear of all the new babies, and she would smirk knowing that she was one of the first ones to hear about one in particular, she loved that it was a secret at that time.

We talked a lot while she was in the hospital. It's all pretty cloudy, because you're entire being is consumed with whats going on that you really don't spend much time thinking about anyone or anything else.

My sister and I had many conversations with her about life after death. And how she would be able to help us reach goals, dream big, and be happy. She enjoyed those conversations, she would smile and nod, and had this knowing look on her face. We were looking at our Angel, we were talking directly to her, and she was talking back.

The time we spent with mom was spent as best we could. As best she could. And I feel like I have no regrets...other than, of course, I wish mom didn't have to leave us so soon. As a young mom, who lost her own mom I want to tell you how incredibly hard this has been. It's heart breaking, gut wrenching, short of breath every day, pain. Us daughters who have lost their moms are going through something so surreal and difficult and its so hard to put it in to words.
The days leading up to mom's passing were scary. I wished with ever fibre of my being that I could stop time, reverse it, take it back to when mom was so healthy and full of life, love and laughter...She had all those things even while in the hospital, but her energy was focused more inward as she was moving towards her next stage of life, a life that we won't know of until we get there.
The day mom passed, was a blur. I was numb. As was every member of our family. The dozens of people who were scattered in the hall outside her room, I remember having so many people around us during those weeks mom was in the hospital. They were there to love us. And mom. My dad. My siblings. Our children. Each other.

After I watched mom take her last breath, I whispered "She's gone." I remember wanting to scream it. But as the words came out I almost felt this sense of relief knowing that she was now not suffering. She had a beautiful smile on her face. The feeling of relief quickly turned to panic, fear, shock, disbelief and heartache. I reached for family member after family member hugging, crying, consoling, saying we did so good and mom was so proud and lucky to have us there. We connected more than we thought we would, I know we are a strong, good family, but I didn't realize exactly how lucky we were to have each other in that time. And still to this day.
That afternoon, we met at my sisters to have tea and be with each other. We talked small talk. We cried. We leaned on each other. I don't really remember what else, but I know we were all in shock. That feeling of tension, anxiety in my chest and the lump in my throat definitely stand out. I believe we laughed and shared a few stories. But I can't place much else. I remember the fear I had when I dialled my husband on the phone, my hands were shaking, how was I going to tell him that this woman he loved so much was gone? We knew it was coming. Yet it was still so shocking. The fear and heartache amplified as I came to my little boys, and had to tell them that their grandma, their best friend, the woman they loved so much, was now in heaven. I couldn't comprehend that. How could I expect my little boys, these babies, to understand that? It still rips me apart knowing that they lost one of the greatest people in their lives.

That night, I remember feeling the previous weeks catch up to me. The countless, sleepless nights, spent in the hospital watching mom as she rested, the back and forth between home and mom. Spending hours on end there with my family and our friends. We were so lucky. Constantly surrounded by people who had our best intentions in their hearts. I laid on my bed. Crying uncontrollably, as I had been for weeks before, I checked my phone out of habit, seeing if anyone had text an update on mom. I woke every hour. Checked my phone again and again. My husband held me and barely let go. I was restless. Exhausted. And very lost.

The next morning, was the first morning I woke up as a motherless daughter. I didn't actually sleep that night, I pictured mom's face every time I closed my eyes. My heart was racing...and still, ten months later, it does. My mind was blurry. A fog. I was numb and in shock. My kids needed me and I felt like I was failing them, because I could barely get through a single moment with out crying. My phone was flooded with texts, calls, was overwhelming. I was lucky to such a large support group, but part of me wanted to throw my phone out and be left in silence. Without the constant ping alerting me of a mother message. The messages helped to a degree. But hearing that she lives on in our memories, or hearts, or whatever, didn't make me feel good in that moment...because at that point, the memory wasn't there yet. She had just left. And thinking about her was confusing, scary, and extremely hard. Months later is when I learned that her memory would be comforting, and that I would eventually learn to smile at the thought of mom.

The shock stayed for weeks. I would be out in public - something I used to enjoy, now became something I dread. Getting groceries was something that took the life out of me. Cooking was hard, because I used to cook with mom. Going to the Co-op was hard, I went there with mom before. Driving was hard, I couldn't focus on anything but mom. Seeing my hands on the steering wheel, and noticing that they looked like moms hands. Every little thing reminded me of mom. Everything drifted to mom. And it hurt. It still does. Constantly. I felt I needed escape. There was this desperation in me that I never knew existed. I would cry in public as someone made eye contact with me, and started to approach me, I knew they were coming to say "I'm so sorry about your mom." Suddenly, this person who I loved so incredibly much became a topic with fear and hurt around it. Not the joy, laughter, and happiness that I know existed. Somewhere.

I would say it took weeks for the shock to wear off. Maybe six weeks? Who knows, really. I felt like I could breathe in a little deeper, with out that constricted feeling and shortness. I cried daily. I talked about mom as much as I could even though it hurt like hell. I talked about her to my kids. I learned that I had to be compassionate with myself. Give myself those crappy hard days. Give myself really good days...without guilt. I learned to allow myself to smile a little more. Sleep slowly came back to normal, although there were still plenty of nights where I would wake up thinking I needed to leave the house and head to hospital to visit mom. I eventually left my cell phone out of my room, as I found I woke in the night to check it for updates on mom.

I learned that I could call my sister, or my brothers and say "I'm having a bad day" and they would drop what they were doing and we would talk it out. I learned that I can cry over using that last bit of mom's homemade crabapple jelly.  I learned to smile again, and laugh. These were some of mom's favourite things to do, and I know she wanted to see us smiling and laughing. I started to have people over more often, so our house could be loud, full of people, visits, laughs. I found great relationships in talking truthfully, honestly and raw about mom. I learned that real friends wanted to hear how I was doing, they constantly dropped me a text, or popped in to visit.
As the weeks went on, the constant stream of people wore off. It was gradual, and I remember one day thinking "Where is everyone?" So many people contacted me while mom was in the hospital, and after she passed. They were dropping off cards, little gifts, food, flowers, meals...then one day it was all sort of gone. Life went back go normal quickly for everyone else, naturally, and it should. But for me, it's all so strange, and different, and hard, and I long for the days when I could call my mom and talk about the funny things my kids have done, or something that has been bothering me, or to plan our next family dinner. What I've learned is now I can call my dad and tell him about his grandkids, and plan get togethers with him. I can share goofy kid stories with my brothers and my sister. There is still people in my life that want to hear about our days as much as my mom did, they may not be soft, gentle,  loving and peaceful as mom was, but they are still people in my life who matter and who care. And they deserve to be in our lives and we deserve to be in theirs.

The day of her funeral was a very strange day. I was scared. Nervous. Not ready to see hundreds of people. I remember showering, and picking out my outfit, doing my hair and make-up. As I looked at myself in the mirror I started to cry. I was getting ready for my mom's funeral. I was curling my hair, carefully putting on mascara that I knew would wear off from tears hours later. I was shaking. I felt light-headed. It was such a strange thing to do. I had no idea that getting ready for my mom's funeral would impact me so much. It took a long time to do, I was trying to put it off. I stopped over and over and just sat and stared in the mirror. Looking for signs of mom in my own face. Listening extra carefully, wishing I could hear her voice telling me "It's ok, you can do it." I didn't hear her. I couldn't see her.

We were fortunate enough to have so much help setting up and taking down for her funeral. We did it exactly as she had planned. We had native drummers and singers from her reserve come, their songs pounded through the chests of the members of the funeral. It brought so much pride to me to hear the songs of our ancestors, knowing that they were singing of her journey, encouraging her, supporting her, loving her. We felt strong in our roots as we walked with her to the front of the arena. We felt weak in our hearts knowing that this was the last time we would physically see her, in front of us. We allowed the children to move around, up and down, and later run and play with each other. Mom wanted that. We laughed as the officiant of the funeral, a close friend of my brother, talked about how mom wanted to honour her brown side and her white side, he talked about mom as a Noble woman, and she really was. My cousin, Ray stood and spoke a few words, said a Cree prayer, and made us laugh and laugh. Mom's grand babies blew out candles at the end of the service, we played music and watched the slide show. We showcased mom. We honoured her. We handed out funeral flowers to her friends and family who stayed until dark to visit and clean up. If there could ever be a perfect
funeral, it was hers.

To this day, I still feel lost, I still look for mom. The person who brought us all together in her home is now gone. And we don't have that home. This summer, we will have it back, and we have already started to plan our family reunion on my dad's side there. And we have started to plan mom's party as well. Thanksgiving will be at the farm this year, in mom's house. Life will almost feel a bit closer to what it was when she was here. We will have our home again. Her home. I feel like that house is our beacon, no matter what life throws at us, we have always had that home to go to, to gather in, to be with each other in. It's something that she loved so much and was so proud of, and I can't wait to be there again. I know mom is guiding me there, I know she wants us there and can't wait for that day to come. I know it won't fix anything, or change anything, but it is home. And that is enough for me.

Life has thrown some pretty wicked curve balls at us over the last few years, but we were raised by people with clear minds, big hearts, giving spirits, and strong wills. And I know we can still have a beautiful life, it just might look and feel a lot different than what we had imagined. One day, I'm certain I will be able to sit here with a happy heart, and an ease in breathing when I think of her, and share stories about her. She was one of the greats, and she didn't even know it. It's rare to find some as real as mom was. There was nothing two-faced or fake about her. When she saw you, she was genuine when she asked how you were doing. And if you told her something, she didn't go behind your back and tell someone else. She was whole-heartedly one of the kindest people around, not a jealous bone in her body. Even with what life tossed her, she was happy and content, and she loved herself in a way I admire, and hope to be able to love myself that way. She was accepting. Loving. And let go of things in the past that didn't serve her. She is a great role model, and I am sad that my kids don't have those footprints to follow. And some days I am very hard on myself for not being just like mom, although I try. I hope to find clarity in the following days, weeks, months, years. And as time passes I know that I am one day closer to her. I used to look at time as being farther away from her, from the last day she spoke to me, from the last day I saw her and soaked her in. Now I know that time actually isn't relevant and the amount we have here on this earth is nothing compared to what lies ahead. So we have to make the best of it even on the days where it feels like we are being swallowed up. We have to find the strength that mom had every day, and use it to move forward. And to not feel guilt in doing so. Every mom has only ever wanted her children to be happy, so why wouldn't we try to be?

Thursday, February 25, 2016

About Mom

My last post was about my mom, in 2013. This post will be about my mom. She was born July 28, 1955 and passed away on May 1, 2015. She was our everything.
I've been working on this post for weeks and weeks, started then deleted, then started all over again, walked away from it, came back. There is no right or wrong way to explain how I feel, or how I have experienced life growth, set backs, more growth, or me, although I am living, I have experienced death in one form or another. What I would like to do is share my own experience, so that, when the time comes for you, you have some sort of guide or grid or common place with whatever is going on. Something to connect to. I didn't have warning as to what I was about to experience. I had people say "It will be hard." or "Keep her memories close." or "She lives in you." And some days I wanted to scream and cry and tell those people that they had no idea what I was going through. Some days, I wanted to sit with those same people and have tea or coffee and talk and laugh and cry.

I'm defintinetly not trying to be down in the dumps, or sad, or depressing...but I really want to talk about grief. And mourning. There's a difference between the two. A big difference. And we are all going to be faced with each of these things over and over in our lifetime on earth. We can't stop it. We can't pretend it didn't happen. But we also can't live in fear of it. We have no warning as to when we will lose someone we love. Sometimes, like in my case, we do have warning. What was shocking to me, was that when my mom told me at the age of 14 years old she was sick with Hep C, was that I was suddenly scared of death. Scared of losing my mom. And like the rest of my family, I started to grieve her. Grief is what you feel inside. It's the emotional roller coaster that is attached to the idea and actual act of losing someone you love. But how can you grieve someone who is still standing right in front of you? I don't know. But I did. And I didn't really know it until now.

My mom was really good at living life and making it the best it could be. And she didn't do that with flashy purses, designer clothes, the newest vehicle, or extravagant trips. My mom was humble. And she was adored by a lot of people. She was grounded. I still get told by friends that my mom was an amazing role model for them. Friends who have amazing families and great values, and great goals, and they still found a desire to be more like my mom. Mom did enjoy travelling. She was very blessed to go on trips with my sister and her awesome little family to tropical destinations. Trips with us where she made memories with our kids that they will hold in their hearts forever. She enjoyed ski trips, golfing, fishing trips up North, road trips across Canada and the States, gardening with her friends and family, and just being home. She was a farm wife who worked her butt off, baked thousands of buns, made tens of thousands fresh home cooked meals, she was strong and could haul pails of feed, pull start the skidoo, run a chainsaw to cut wood, fix a dishwasher, pulled calves in the winter with dad, and even enjoyed wrangling the odd 4-H steer. She was fearless. She was an awesome athlete growing up and had this freakish competitive streak in her. She was so damn good at everything she did. She wore the face of a warrior whenever she was tested or put up to a challenge. She was soft and loving, she was hard and determined. She was literally the greatest friend her family and neighbours could have had. She was wicked in Scrabble. But was a terrible singer. Sometimes, not the best driver, she ran over a lot of cats, deer, Dexter when he was a pup, and even hit a cow. But hey, you can't be good at everything.

She did everything with a smile. Well...not the hitting animals with the Suburban part...she was probably screaming and had her eyes closed.
Point is...she was good. She was what people should strive to be like. Her idea of success was exactly what she had...and she was happy. Happiness equals success. Not "things". Items we have in our homes are meaningless in the long run. I love the things I have. I loved the things my mom had. There's some sort of memory attached to everything in her house. But now that she is gone, I don't really want those things. I have a few of her things. Blankets, mostly. And my kids adore those blankets. They say they feel like Grandma is hugging them when they snuggle up in those blankets and watch a movie.

While she was in the hospital, we asked her if she needed anything from home. She had her usual items with her; some slippers, warm pyjamas, a robe, her toiletries. She said she didn't need anything. As time went on, people would bring flowers and little gifts, and she would acknowledge them and was very grateful. She loved flowers. Near the end though, she didn't notice the flowers anymore, or the pictures on the wall that her grandkids drew. She changed a bit, shifted, and she noticed when someone walked in or out of the room. Again, I asked her if she needed anything from home, something that was comforting for her. She smiled, and said "No, I just need my people." That hit me. And it stuck with me. And sometimes I get really emotional thinking about that. Because that is all mom ever wanted. Was to be surrounded by us. Her friends. Her family. Her grandkids. She was the glue that held everyone together. She called the people she loved every week or two and connected with them. She brought people together. She had dozens of people around her near the end of her life. There was family, friends, neighbours, people from our community who wanted to come by and show her and her family support. I was overwhelmed with the number of people who came. Some came for their own reasons, but most came just to be near mom because that is what made them feel good. That is what she gave to people. The feeling of belonging, the sense of family, that connectedness that some people weren't lucky enough to feel in their lives. And they found it in her. She loved "stragglers", the friends of ours that would come to our home for holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter...she opened her door, arms and kitchen to so many of our friends who weren't able to get home for holidays. My mom was competitive, yes, but was never in competition with people when it came to being a good friend, host, role model. She didn't even know she was a role model to so many people.

The grief I felt and still feel, started years ago. And it will be with me for years to come. Until I meet mom again. She was the first soul that my soul was connected to. How do you ever replace that? You don't. You learn to work through the mourning. The emotions that come with loss. The sudden tears that appear without warning. The anger. The hurt. The fear. The denial. The sadness. The depression. The laughter. There is happy times when moving through grief. I laugh about things mom would say, like how she pronounced "croissant" with a french accent. Or how she would torture my ears with her singing in the vehicle, she didn't care that she didn't know the words, or couldn't hold a tune, she just sang.

Grief is hard. Mourning is harder. It was easier for me to feel and keep everything inside. The first time I actually let it out, and bawled my eyes out or screamed in to my pillow was hard. It left me feeling exhausted and achy. My head hurt. But there was this feeling of being lighter. I learned some ways to release my anger, and I practiced them. Journalling, doing a bit of yoga, or physically whacking my pillow down on to my bed over and over helped. My cousin told me to try that to release anger, because I had talked to her about feeling so mad. About wanting to yell. But not wanting to scare my kids. The first time I did it, I ended up scream crying. Thankfully, my kids weren't home, neither was my husband, and I felt so good afterwards. It may sound crazy to you, but if you haven't experienced a loss similar to mine, then you just won't understand. I like to educate myself. And I would much rather release emotions than hold them in and become ill with them. Grief and mourning are two very difficult things to work through, but I jumped right in and started. I read about the stages of grief. I thought I had an idea of what I was going to face. But I had no clue. I had no idea what grief was going to do me. To my husband. To our relationship. To my kids. To their schoolwork. To my relationship with my kids. But I did know that the best way to deal with something was to put on that face that my mom wore whenever she was faced with struggles or challenges, and I armed myself with knowledge, I let go of expectations - especially the ones attached to my husband - and I powered through, and still am. We have to be like buffalo...and walk headfirst in to the storm.

I learned that grief can drive a wedge in between me and my husband, I've also learned that we are stronger than that wedge, and together we picked it up and moved it. I learned that my expectations of him were unrealistic. That he couldn't be the one person to pull me out of this. I learned that he lost my mom too. That he misses her so much every day that it distracts him. I learned compassion. I learned that my little boys miss my mom so much, and have lost that same amazing woman that I have lost. That my dad lost. That my siblings, their kids, and their spouses have lost. That my aunts and uncle lost. That my cousins lost. That my parent's neighbour have lost. I have learned that mom reached out to so many people all the time, and now that she is gone, they don't have that phone call, that Facebook comment, that Scrabble game. In loss, we tend to turn inward. We want to be alone somedays. We can't bare the thought of going to a grocery store. The beginning was hard. The kids wondering if grandma was coming back was hard. The reality that she was not coming back was hard.

But it has also been beautiful. The new connections we have made. The talks we have had. The realization that life is messy, and thats ok. The extra long cuddles with my kids. Watching them grow and learn, and work through their own grief and mourning has reaffirmed that we are good parents. That even through times of struggle, we are an awesome, tightly knit little family that can have real conversations about life and death and our fears. We have found a new respect in stepping back and letting each other work through our own things, and then coming together again to move forward. With death comes so much growth. New found strength. And all that hope and wishful thinking I had way back in 2013 is still there, it just maybe looks a little differently now.

My mom mothered us all the way to the end. She gave us a to do list. Just like when we were young and she had us do chores. Her list wasn't written, and some of it wasn't even verbalized to us. But she enabled us to live good lives. She gave us a good example. She fully expects us to keep living life the way we want, to be happy, to laugh our asses off like we did when she was here, to get together and have big, loud, messy meals. To go on little road trip adventures. To pop in to have tea with friends. To spend time at the farm. To spend summers down at the river. I asked her what she would think if Jesse and I moved in to her and dad's house on the farm, the one I grew up in, and she smiled, and said "Oh, that would make me so happy!" And we will, this summer. She wants it, we want it, my kids want it. She wants us to be patient. With ourselves. With everyone. She wants us to be happy. She wants us to move forward, always. Never hold back. To live. To love again. And to be happy to love again. The last thing she would want would be for any of us to feel sad, lonely, down. She would be the first to encourage us, stand us back up, dust us off, and get us going. Seek new friendships. New relationships. New beginnings. She warned that people will be quick to judge, but no matter what, they aren't experiencing what we are. And we can't let other's opinions bother us. Do what makes you happy. Its a sad reality, to know that someone suffering such a great loss will be judged by the very people who are supposed to be there to help them. Loss isn't easy. Grief is lonely. But if you are given a chance to be happy and feel a little better about day to day life, shouldn't you take it? My mom would be the first to tell you yes. Life is too short to feel bad.

We will always do the things that make her proud and happy. We pulled off her memorial service exactly how she wanted it to be. In her community that she loved so much. With the Native singers and drummers walking her in and out. With music she loved. The slideshow she wanted. With her best friends. With her grandkids and all the little kids in her family running around. (That was a rule, we were not to ask the kids to sit still...they're little, they love to run and laugh, and she loved to hear those laughs, so let them be.) And Halle, our little spitfire, walked up and down the aisle clicking her "high heels" on the concrete of the arena and a big smile while she wore her beautiful dress, she eventually joined the rest of the kids while they all ran around chasing each other, laughing and smiling. It was everything mom wanted. And exactly what we needed. We received hundreds and hundreds of hugs, shed tears, shared smiles, laughs, memories, and heartache. We really were blessed to have her. And we will be honouring her again.

July 16th, 2016 we will return to the Hillmond Arena, just as she asked us to, and we will have all of her people, all of our community gather there. She never drank, but she loved a good get together and a little two-steppin', so we booked a band. We will have some food and drinks, share laughs and memories, make new ones and we will celebrate. She wanted to give back to her home, because they gave to her. She was so grateful for the fundraiser our community put on to help four of its' families in need. And she was worried about not being able to pay them back. So this is what we came up with. We will put together this party for her, we will put up a silent auction, and we will give the money raised to the Hillmond Arena. She wanted that. And we have to do what she asked us to do, because she was the boss! And we love our home, and couldn't be more proud of our community, or thankful for their love and support. Mom was a giver, not a taker, and was never one to be the centre of attention - unless she was winning a dice game... point is, she loved to have fun and loved seeing people thats the theme.

If you want to join us, please do, we will be putting out more info as we get closer to the date. Any ideas for silent auction items are welcome.

I hope that this post brings you some sort of comfort, or maybe a little guidance, or a little different view on grief and those facing it. It isn't easy, and no matter how many people we are surrounded by, it is lonely. And it is something we can only get ourselves through. Its about learning how to be ok without your mom, your spouse, your child...whomever your loss was. Your loss looks and feels different from mine, and there is no time frame on when to "get better" or recover...we will never recover our losses. We will just learn to live without them. It will take years. There will always be reminders of them, always moments where we wish they were here, and little moments where we realize they still are here. They will always send us signs to show us they are with us. It might not get any easier any time soon, but it will slowly get better. Being with someone for your entire life and watching them move through their journey is beautiful and scary. I watched my mom slowly move farther away from me, I saw the signs for years, and it took a long time for her because she was strong, she was determined. She taught us so much in the last two years with out having to say a word. We learned so much from her, about life, we learned about our family and how strong our relationships can be, we learned that when faced with an barricade we will be able to get through it together. We learned that we are strong. As individuals. As a family. We grew so much closer to each other in that time we spent at the hospital. We broke down. We stood up. We really came together. Families are an incredible gift, and we really did luck out. We had family and friends from all over come to the hospital. They brought food, magazines, coffee, we played crib out in the hall, they spent hours in the room with mom, with us, we took over the kitchen and made waffles and bacon, we gathered together because of mom. And we will always do that. Because that is what she wants.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

My Momma

My mom is my everything. She is my rock. My support. My biggest fan. I love her with the deep, unconditional love that I love my children and husband with. The kind that burns in your chest, and leaves you breathless. I have always admired her. When I was little, she was home with us kids, and that left such an impression on me. A lot of my friends were lucky enough to have their moms at home with them, and some had moms who worked very hard out of the home. When I was little I knew I wanted to be like my mom. I may not be as sweet, kind, and soft spoken as she is, but I am able to be at home with my kids...just like she was for us. I do the same things she did with me, with my boys. We bake, clean, make experiments, play outside, cuddle for movies...and so much more. Mom was always there for us, and if she needed some quiet time, she told us. She would send us outside to play, which on the farm, was the best. We would jump bails, ride bikes, walk along the top rail of the wooden fence trying not to lose our balance, we would dig tunnels in the snow-filled ditches, go tobogganing, mow grass in the summer, play in the corn in the garden...and she would be busy cleaning, baking, making supper, or maybe she would sneak in a quick rest. She did pretty well at managing four kids.

It's always a shock when you are told someone has been diagnosed with a disease. The shock stays with you for days, even weeks, maybe it never goes away. I think the shock is intensified when its a parent. In September, we were told mom has a tumor on her liver. We were told that it was connected to the main artery in her liver. We were told that it was inoperable. We were told that after six months her health would start failing. We were told that mom would be put in palliative care. We were told that mom was removed from the liver transplant list. We were told.

Well, if you know our family, we can't be "told" much. We are pretty strong-willed, strong-headed people. And we didn't like what we were being told. We felt let down. how could five or so doctors sit around a table and read over mom's file, and discuss for hours if she had any options, and then come out with nothing? Well, except this pill...but it didn't really guarantee anything other than a lot of pain, and countless other side-effects.

We had a family meeting. We discussed options. Options OUT of Canada. We were lead by family friends, to a doctor down in Phoenix, AZ. And I am so glad we were. Mom and dad called him and filled him in on our situation. He wanted to meet with them immediately. So days later, they flew down. They were greeted with open arms, they were instantly being put through tests, scans and, wait...a biopsy? A biopsy! How wonderful, after all, biopsies tell you exactly what you are dealing with!
We didn't get the chance to have a biopsy done in Edmonton...they didn't particularly see the need for it.
What we learned, was much better news than what we were told back home. We learned that yes, mom had a tumor on her liver, but it was NOT attached to the main artery. We learned that she IS OPERABLE, we learned that there ARE treatments available.
We were given HOPE.

As you can well imagine, this has been a rollercoaster ride, and we are well aware that this is just the beginning. But we are so hopeful, grateful, ad staying as positive as we can.

It is hard. It is hard knowing that mom has cancer. It is hard knowing that she will be going through surgery to have a transplant...when? We don't know yet. But we are hopeful that it is soon. It's hard knowing that my parents have had to uproot themselves from their beautiful home, and leave their old farm dog there, to be miles and miles away from all of us. It is hard to know that my little boys and my three little nieces won't be seeing mom as often as they all need to over the next weeks, months, whatever it will be. We will be doing our best to go down and see them, be with them, and just enjoy each other.

But this, this will all be worth it in the end. Imagine, a new liver, a new lease on life, a new energy that will come to my mom! She will be here to see her grandbabies, she will be here to grow old with my dad, she will be here to have US cook Christmas dinners, Thanksgiving dinners, Easter dinners for her...we will learn all her tricks in the kitchen and perfect her bun making skills, we will still have HER. She will be the matriarch of our family in the same way her mother was...always a quiet, calm, strong force in the room, always on the verge of a laugh, always ready for a hug.

I can't tell you the state of shock we all went in to after having this news put on us. For days, I cried. For weeks, I barely talked to anyone except my family, just trying to process it. And it was that quiet, sad time I needed to get moving. To get to being POSITIVE. Am I nervous? Yes. Am I determined? Yes. And for those moments where others don't feel "up for it" I will try to pull strength from within myself and give it to them. I will try to uplift them. I will always look to the positive.

We have learned an approximate cost on receiving a liver transplant, and it is beyond our means as a family, although we will still do whatever it takes to get this transplant for mom. We humbly signed up on and started a donation site for mom and dad. With in the first ten minutes we had $1200 and I looked at mom and started crying. She cried. We were speechless. We found a new hope. The amount keeps going up, bit by bit, each day. And we have a ways to go, but we feel we will get there.

It was heart-wrenching to learn that a price was basically put on mom's life. But we have an incredible back-bone of support from our friends/family/community and they are bound with determination, love and support for our family. Any time someone in our community has been in need, we have gotten together, had fundraisers, shared laughs, tears, memories, and have made our sense of community that much stronger. I love my small town of Hillmond, Saskatchewan. And the neighboring communities surrounding it, who also reach out and help people in their times of need.

I would like to thank all who have supported our cause thus far. Whether it has been through positive thoughts, hugs, smiles, sharing the link to our donation page, setting up events, and donations of money, your support does not go unnoticed. Thank you for showing us you care, it means the world to us. Every single ounce of support helps.

Love to you all.

If you'd like to read more on mom's story, and keep up to date on her progress to health, please go to: 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Words I never thought would come out of my mouth...

As a mom of boys, you know that you will have to repeat yourself over and over, you know that you will have to raise your voice over the noise of two ninjas battling it out just so you can say "Supper is ready!". You know that you will have to wipe pee off the toilet...lid, seat, floor, wall (yes, wall...while potty training I made them sit to pee just in case they needed to do a number 2, and well...they forgot to "point" down. Haha)
You know that you will have to deal with stitches (sometimes on your sons' 4th birthday), bleeding noses, ridiculous hair cuts from their father, small fingers banged by a metal dump truck, eating sand...and countless more.
But somedays, I am literally BLINDSIDED by the words that just came out of my mouth. I gasp and think "Did I seriously just have to say that??"

(During bath time) "Boys! Do not fight each other with your penises!!"

"Get your finger out of your bum!" Boy yells something barely audible and I reply: "I don't care if you like that little hole. Finger OUT!"

"Stop eating your snot."

"Do NOT pee on the trampoline!!!" While naked boy jump naked and peed on the trampoline.

"Do not pee on your brother!!"

"Why are you both sitting on the toilet and peeing? Wait...How are you doing that?"

"Why do you stink? Is that paper towel in your nose? How long has it been up there!?"

"Seriously? Do not eat the dog food. It's called DOG FOOD."

"Look at that poop? It is. Isn't it."

"Good brothers don't punch each other in the face."

"Don't touch the dog there."

"Stop flying that helicopter in to your brothers head!"

"Do NOT ski down the stairs!"

These are just a few of the things I've said that made me think "Wow, I really did just say that." But there are countless more, and there are even more things I get to say everyday to these two munchkins...although the days get hectic, sometimes they feel long, sometimes they blow by so quickly; I will always take the time to tell them how much I love them, to the moon, stars, and back. How proud I am of them. How they are turning in to such bright, strong, loving, caring, funny young men. And even though we can all have bad days, it doesn't mean I love them any just means there was a speed bump and we got over it together, and the next one will be that much easier. We are a team...always will be.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Keeping the Peace and the Pieces together.

Trying to keep the little men occupied, busy, happy, comforted...while daddy is away working. These are the times where I need to be strong. Supportive. Encouraging. I need be focused and be the glue that keeps these boys; their hearts, their minds, their souls and spirits together, vibrant, golden. I need to be the spark in myself to get up each and every day and spill goodness and strength, overflow with joyous love for my kids, my husband and our lives. I need to encourage my husband, so that he can get through his 21 days of work, six hours away from us, in a camp. I know he feels solitude some nights. He lays there and feels the longing in his chest to be at home with us. I know, because I feel it too. I feel it for him, for myself, and for our boys. Night after night, day after day, I explain why daddy works away...not because he doesn't want to be home, because he does - and very badly. They need to be told that daddy doesn't want to miss out on things like birthdays, play school, swimming lessons...but he has to sometimes, and no matter what, if he is here or not, he is always very proud. And I send him pictures all the time, even though he doesn't see them right away, he always tells the boys how happy he is to see them doing so many fun things. There are days when the five minutes of FaceTime is just not enough. They are craving real hugs, kisses, and wrestling matches in the living room, they want to clean his work truck with him, hold his hand in a store, show him their crafts from the day. Sometimes that quick five minutes is a god send, where Jesse can magically pick up all the pieces of a day that spiraled out of control with tantrums, time outs, spats, and a haggard mommy. I do my absolute best to keep positive. To walk tall and proud and get all my chores done. When really I'd like to fall apart and cry into my pillow and release the stresses of parenting alone for weeks at a time. I wish for those moments where Jesse would be home and I could go have a bath or shower uninterrupted...where I could actually finish a cup of coffee before it gets cold, or spilled. A day where I could go, child-free, to the grocery store, or a hair appointment.
I have had days where friends or family have popped over unannounced and I have been mortified because I hadn't yet cleaned up breakfast dishes, combed my hair, or gotten the kids dressed. And I feel judged. Although, I'm sure they aren't judging...but I always assume I'm under scrutiny. Those days where the boys are acting up...and I instantly think that they see me as a spaz of a mother who's bad attitude is washing over her children. That's not the case. The truth is, you walked into our home in the middle of a long, three week shift where we are all tired, missing daddy, and feeling down. I am a little annoyed at people who presume that my kids are acting up because of me and my actions, and yes, I know 100% that parents affect their kids. But so does solo parenting. The lack of a father around the house causes more pain than you may know. And it affects MY home in a HUGE husband is a devote father and husband, who rarely takes time for himself. Aside from the odd beer with friends, he does nothing. I bought him an ice-fishing shack for Christmas and its still in wrapping paper. I've told him, begged him, encouraged him to go on a trip with his buddies...he won't. So when someone who is such a positive reinforcement of love & discipline is gone, it hits us hard. The boys fall to pieces for the first four days after he's gone, as I try to get a home that had a whirlwind of a week with daddy home, back in order. When daddy is home it is all about him and the boys...we do everything together. Every. Thing. There's not much alone time for him and the kids, or for myself and him, or for just me, or just him...
The weeks he is gone are long, we struggle, but we look at it day by day, and get through it, sometimes barely, sometimes with flying colours. We have days where we excel as a little team of three, and days where we don't. Days where they boys listen and act perfectly, and days where they don't. Days where I am patient and days where I'm not. And boy do I ever feel bad when I'm not.  I always feel like I'm not quite good I'm not quite doing the job and being the best mom my boys could ask for. This is where Jesse comes in...he always has the right words to say to the boys. I feel I can't quite word things the way he can. I guess that happens when you are constantly trying to talk the little people up, teach them to be kind, solve their little (big) arguments, and are working around the clock. I know that these years are short, and I try to relish in them, and take pictures, and remember funny stories they tell me, and feel their excitement, and hope that their sweet small voices will forever be etched into my memory...I try so hard to answer all the questions and pleas; why do we grow up, why do we die, where do we go, will we come back, I don't want to grow up, I always want to be your little's exhausting...and fulfilling. But that stuff takes two. I need that support, where when I'm slipping and feeling a little overwhelmed, I need that extra little push, those small words of encouragement that take a stressful, gloomy day and turn it around and make it a bright, happy day. I need to feel like I am not doing this alone. I know that I'm not "technically" doing this alone...but three weeks at a time gets lonesome and discouragement creeps up out of no where. It's overwhelming to think that I am the soul person caring for and in control of these little men, that every move, word, and step I take are plowing the way for these two little boys. That everything I do and say is moulding them into the grown men they will one day become. It is such a bright and glaring light to look in to. Every downfall and mistake I make burns me, makes me feel like I am doing them such an injustice, that they won't excel in certain things because of me, and what I couldn't provide for them. Because of what I lack. How do I teach them things that only a daddy can teach them? I feel like they are missing out on so much because I am one singular person and can't possibly be spread so far thin. And some days that is how I feel...and I have to try so hard to shake that thought, that I am not good enough. And that I deserve a break. And that I deserve to feel good about that break. I feel like I shouldn't leave their sides when Jesse is gone, because it's unfair that their daddy is gone away, so why should their mommy be away too? I went on a five day trip in February and I felt guilty the entire time. And I still do. I know how sad they are that their daddy is gone away for work, and I have to scoop them up and make them feel good about it.
I need to find some balance, and I will find it. We have been doing this for seven months, and can continue to do it. I just need to know that I have been doing this as best I can, and tripping and stumbling is normal, and its easy to get back up, wipe the dirt off and go on. I will continue to give hugs and kisses every day, I will sooth sick, scared little boys at night, I will go through days of little to no sleep, days of cleaning, grocery shopping, play school, play dates, swimming lessons, and I will do it all as best I can. And I will try not to feel an ounce of guilt when I need to picked up, dusted off and sent on my way. Being a parent is the absolute, hardest, most rewarding job out there. And if you don't have kids, you really, really will not understand. So be soft on your judgments. Be kind to little kids who are having a bad day because they cried at bedtime for their daddy to come home...they aren't bad kids. They aren't being brats. They are sad. They feel lonely for their daddy. They don't need a time out, or a spanking. They need a hug. They need to be told that its ok. That daddy will be home soon. And that they are good little people. It breaks my heart when my kids are acting out because they don't know how to express how much they miss their dad. And I have to try and remain calm, keep my frustrations at bay, and calm them down, while teaching them how to properly show emotions. That its ok to cry, it's not necessary to be mean, and that talking is the best thing you can do when you're sad. Then reaffirm all that with hugs and a long cuddle. Kids are so delicate. Why do we want to harden them?

My boys have their calendars marked for the day daddy comes home. They stand on a chair, get a pen and make an "X" and tell me its almost time. All the while, I try to make it enjoyable, productive and comfortable for them. We build forts, paint pictures, do crafts, tell stories, they have chores, we clean up, walk the dog, and just BE. We try to keep things as normal as we can while daddy is gone. And we try not to be sad that he is working away, we try to stay positive. (Not easy, but we try.)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

My New Year's Resolution

Its been too long since I last blogged...not sure why. Sometimes life gets away on us, and it reminds me to slow down. Take some time. Reflect. Soak it all in.

Over the holidays, I tried my best to keep the gifts down to a minimum. I have seen so many people spoil their already spoiled children. I'm not saying they are "bad" kids or "bad" parents for doing just gets a little grotesque.

My kids are far from perfect. And I try my hardest to deal with poor behaviour properly and constructively. However, my kids would NEVER hit, bite, or scratch an ADULT. They haven't even done that to other kids - minus the hitting part. I get that kids hit. But it needs to be stopped. Ellis and Jenner are both firecrackers. They are both busy. They keep me on my toes. They keep me on edge. They keep me sane. They keep me. In their little hearts. That's where I am. And I try everyday to wade through my own BS and show them how to be good people. And some days I fail. Some days I want to give up. But most days, they are good, kind kids. I will never forget whe Ellis raised his voice at me in front of my closest friend, and she turned around and said "Don't you speak to your mother like that in front of me!" And that little bull-headed four year old raised his voice at HER. Well, that was it! As stubborn as he is, she kept at him CALMLY and would NOT be pushed around by a child. And I intervened when I could (I was driving) and reaffirmed what she was saying. And I had to ask him several times to apologize to her. He forgot how. And I kept on him, and so did she. And finally he said sorry. And he meant it. He loves her. She doesn't take any shit from any kid. And my kids STILL love her. This goes to show, that even if you don't spoil your kids until your house is cramped full of toys, that they will still love you.

We can buy our kids anything they want. But we DON'T. Because that is not the point of LIFE.

Life is about learning. Loving. Growing. Respect. Exploring. Playing outside. Cuddling. It's about PEOPLE. Family. Friends. Quality Time with those you love.

I am putting this out to the universe. I do NOT want more TOYS for my kids. I will get them toys for their birthdays. ONE toy each. I might get them clothes. And Christmas, Santa is the one who puts gifts under our tree. Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, friends - save your money. Do not dump toys on us. I feel like toys are useless gifts that get played with for five minutes and fought over for three.

Up until Christmas morning there was no gifts under our tree. Every single person who came to our house asked "Where's all the presents!!??" Astounded that there were none.
I said "Santa brings the presents".

And on Christmas morning, he did. And there were TEN. Four for each kid, and two to share. There was clothing, a couple toys and play dough. And the damn playdough is my saving grace EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

Have you ever been at home with your kids, and one of them says some rude remark that a smart-ass adult would make, and you actually catch yourself having a little chuckle? Now, has that same child ever said that same way-too-old-and-cheeky-for-a-child-remark in front of another adult? Have you ever noticed that adults reaction?

I really don't that our generation, and the ones following us, are actually putting in the parenting time they should be. A lot of us use sitters, nannies, day homes - and that's absolutely fine because its a necessity that both parents work in most households. I know there are damn good people out there who watch our children for house. But there are also low quality caregivers. There's even low quality parents. I just can't fathom being a parent that doesn't use time outs, or doesn't use some sort of discipline. And I don't mean the biting or hitting them back kind of parenting. Because THAT is not parenting, that is bull shit. That teaches them nothing. Well, no, it teaches them revenge. I have seen so many parents say "Do you want me to do that to you?" and then they do. And every time, I bite my tongue. Biting your kid doesn't make them stop biting. Giving your kids toy after toy after toy, doesn't make them less spoiled.

Say no once in a while. Put them on a time out. Allow them that time to reflect on their errors. If they don't understand it now, they will later. They will be better little people for it. Consistency. That's was they need.

We need to respect our kids, we need to give them the skills to be GOOD, honest, hard-working people. Not little brats that no one wants to be around. My kids will tell me if there are kids they don't want to play with. And it's because of their behavior. If my four year old and two and almost three year old can see that some kids aren't the type of kids they want to be around, what do you think other adults will think of them?

I really hope we can all open our eyes soon and see that we don't need to spend money on our kids for them to have a good life. I hope I have the strength to do that. How easy is it to buy a little toy car just to make your kid happy while you're trucking around a cart full of groceries at Superstore? Why not let them have their fit, and talk to them, explain to them that there is a difference between wants and needs. We NEED these groceries in this cart, so that we can eat and be healthy. We WANT that toy car because we like things that are shiny and new, but we already have ten different versions of that car, so we don't need it.

My kids have TWELVE flashlights. Twelve. I've never bought them one. They have more flashlights then I do, because I figure I don't need any, since they have more than they need. I can't even begin to guess how many toy cars they have. Or stuffed animals. Or holiday socks. Or clothes.

I like productive toys - like colouring books and playdough, or puzzles. But we have MORE than enough of that stuff to last us over the next three years.

So what do my kids need?

People Skills

That's just to name a few. Not one "thing" was on that list. And I hope to keep it that way. And it is going to be SO hard. And there will be days that I know I will eat my words. But I am going to try as hard as I damn well can to stand by it.

Over the next little while, I will be picking through the boys stuff with a fine-toothed comb. Items that are duplicates, useless to them, or they no longer use will be donated.
I will also be implementing a no-buy rule for family and friends. A gift I, myself, will be giving to my children, nieces, and friends' children, will be money. Five or ten dollars for their birthdays. And that is something I will accept for my kids. But NO MORE.
They can let their little bank accounts grow. And when they head to college they can have access to it. Or if they want to buy themselves a used vehicle one day.

I am going to give my kids experiences and create memories around TIME SPENT with family, as opposed to MONEY SPENT on stuff.

Welcome to 2013, a big shift is coming, in more ways than one. And it is going to be awesome!