My Darkest Time – reposted

dark and scary

Life is pretty good these days. No, actually it’s great. It wasn’t always that way though. There was a time, about thirteen years ago, when my life was a complete mess. Wait, that’s not true. My life wasn’t a mess. I was a mess. A complete disaster actually. My life was complicated and things hadn’t been going my way. Not small things either. Major life things.

Having bounced back from an ugly divorce, I had remarried a wonderful man, my son was in his first year of school and I had a great job. All was good. Then the other shoe dropped. The day after we got married in Hawaii, the company that my husband worked for relocated to Memphis, Tennessee. A great opportunity to move ahead in his career,this wasn’t something he could turn down. We made the decision that he would go ahead and take the relocation and I would approach my ex-husband on the subject of me taking my son to live there as well. Unfortunately, he didn’t agree, neither did a judge….or an appeal judge for that matter. In hindsight they were right, but at the time I was devastated. I just wanted to put the past behind me and start a new life.

So there I was, living in a rental home and sharing custody of my son with a man who not only resented me for trying to take his son away but was bound and determined to share all of that information with my son. As much as we hated being apart, the company had offered my husband an amazing position and even though it did have a finite time frame attached to it (four years) we were newlyweds who only saw each other once a month if we were lucky. I hated being alone and it wasn’t any easier for him. We had sold our townhouse in hopes of being able to make a quick move so half of our belongings were in storage. It was a nice enough place but it wasn’t home. On the outside I had it all under control. Taking my son to school, going through the motions of life but underneath I was floundering in depression, sleep deprivation and anxiety over my relationship with my son and my new husband.

dark and scary 2

At the worst of it I would lie in bed at night in the empty house and imagine that gang members were creeping down the dark driveway to break into the house and attack me. It was so dark, so specific, so violent.  Yet so real to me. I would open my eyes and tell myself how ridiculous it was. I would go downstairs and turn on all the lights, look out the window and re-assure myself that everything was okay. The coast was clear. Back up to bed I would go. Close my eyes and the exact same thoughts would invade my mind. Just as I got close to sleep I would hear a tiny creak and my eyes would fly open and my mind would be all in a whirl again. It didn’t seem to matter how tired I was, I couldn’t get the images out of my head.

I’m not sure if it was the lack of sleep or the depression but my decision-making abilities were all but gone. One day I needed to go to the grocery store for dinner. I wandered around for almost an hour trying to decide if we should have burgers or pasta. Did I want something healthy or tasty and quick. I didn’t want to have to cook so maybe should just get something frozen.

I left the store with a loaf of bread.

Half way to the car I thought this is stupid and I should go back and just buy something. I turned around and headed back to the store. Half way to the store I turned around again and headed back to the car. Sitting in the car I silently cried. It’s just dinner. Why is this so hard?

Believe it or not I didn’t go to the doctor for what was really bothering me. I can’t even remember why I was there but it must have been pretty obvious that I was a mess. After writing me a prescription for sleeping pills and an anti-depressant he suggested I go and talk to somebody. What? No, I’m fine. I just needed some sleep and everything will be good.

At that point I was still in denial.

I couldn’t even tell a man I had known for years what was going on. He was great. He said okay well just go see this friend of mine and if she says your okay then you can come back and tell me I was wrong.

It was just what I thought it would be. A couple of comfortable chairs, books on self-help and lots of candles. Close your eyes and calm your mind she said. I closed my eyes but all I saw was movement. Grey moving shapes flashed in front of me. My mind wouldn’t, couldn’t, stop moving. Try again she suggested. I closed my eyes again. No, still can’t get the world to stop spinning. Opening my eyes again I choked back tears and everything poured out. I explained the last year of my life and how I seemed to have lost any control over what was going on. I wish I could say that after spending an hour with her I had a better grasp on things but that would be a lie. It took us months to get me back on track. The sleeping pills helped. Along with antidepressants and a lot more appointments in the room with comfy chairs.

So why, when things are so good do I go back to that time?  It was dark and scary and out of control. I go back because it’s important for me to remember that all of the Best Things in My Life were with me through all of it.  And they still are.  I just couldn’t see them through all the grey swirling movement in my head.

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What My Friends Have Taught Me So Far

two friends hugging

There are lessons everywhere in life.  From the moment you are born you are constantly learning.  Some lessons are easy and some are so hard you think you won’t survive them, let alone learn from them. But always, there is something it learn.

I live to learn. Not from a book or a schoolroom, but from life and people.  From experiences and feelings.  From walking and talking.  And yes, from hanging out with a friend and a glass of wine.  Or two.

The cool thing (I think) is that you just never know when, or what, you can learn from some body.  It could be your bestie, a close friend, an acquaintance or a neighbor down the street.  Nuggets of information can reveal themselves when you least expect it.

This is why I love this part of my blog.  I have noticed, however, that I haven’t done much of it lately.  I haven’t lost my desire but I have to admit that I have not been as proactive at reaching out to the people in my list.  (Ya that’s right I have a list.)  Are you on it?  Maybe……..  If I know you then you probably are on it.  Everybody has a story and something to teach me.

yoga drawing

Randi taught me about yoga.  I think of her every tine I get frustrated with yoga.  I remember her telling me (as we sweated up a trail in the pouring rain) that they call it a practice because you never really know everything there is to know.  Even the most seasoned yogi continues to work on themselves.  Namaste sister.

No_Pity_Party

Nicole’s positive attitude in the face of a life altering event showed me that my pity parties needed to stop.  Sure, be sad, be angry but then go hug your kid or bake some cookies.  Life can really suck but you have the option to make the most of what you are given.

tani and me in victoria

Forever friends are there for you.  No. Matter. What.  Tani.

abc

Emma and Sarah showed me that even though a job is challenging, and occasionally just down right disgusting, the end results make it all worth while.  Their love of children and teaching is what makes our kids grow up to be better people.  Start with the basics of life and you can never go wrong.  Life is a big sandbox and you need to now the rules.

paris cake

Aimee showed me how multi faceted people can be.  You can have your cake and eat it too.  Especially if it’s one of her yummy cakes.  You can bring your yang and your yang together in harmony.  In fact they can compliment each other quite nicely.

So, I will endeavor to be more proactive and contact those of you on my list.  Can you teach me something?  The Best Thing in Life is that the answer will always be YES.

TBT (a day late) – Granny

pipestem

This picture was taken in a cabin at Pipestem State Park in West Virginia.  My son was three. The woman that he had “caught” in his butterfly net is my husband’s granny.  Marjorie Hardman.  She passed away in 2010.

She was a wonderful human being.

Granny was born and grew up in rural West Virginia in 1918.  She attended Glenville State College in West Virginia.  She met her husband, Clark Hardman, there (we think). They were married in 1942.  They moved to Cross City, Florida in the late 1950s.  Granny taught at Dixie County High School.  She retired some time around 1976.

Bored yet?

Yes, initially my approach to this piece was a very chronological and orderly one.  When was she born?  Where did she go to school?  When did she meet grandaddy?  Where did she teach?  How old was she when she retired?

I was sitting in my kitchen peppering my husband with these questions.  But I kept getting stuck there and couldn’t figure out why.

Then I asked him when she passed away.  His eyes filled with tears and that’s when it all became a little bit clearer.  It wasn’t about dates and facts.  It was about granny.  The sweet little woman who, as a young boy, my husband had spent his summers with.  The dates and facts weren’t really important.

So I took a different approach.  Tell me what you remember about her, I asked.  His answers where simple and comforting.

granny&grandaddy

Granny and grandaddy lived in Cross City, Florida.  A couple of hours drive north of Tampa.  Summers spent there were hot and humid.  The big trip each day was down to PO Box 667 at the Cross City post office in town.  Or, perhaps, a walk to the Mills next door or to visit Mr Joe and Miss Nell across the street.  Nothing extravagant.  Nothing earth shattering.  Just simple pleasant days spent enjoying life.  And each other.

During the rest of the year when my husband and his sister were back in Texas, they kept in touch through weekly phone calls.  Every Saturday night at dinnertime granny and grandaddy would call and catch up on their activities.  Even when he was in his thirties and living in Vancouver their calls would come.  Maybe not ever week, but often.

My husband and I had been dating (okay, living together) for about two years when we got a Christmas card from granny.  In the card she said (not in these exact words) that while she hadn’t been sure about her grandson being involved with a divorced woman with a young son, she was happy that we were happy and would accept our choices.

She was old school and this was not how she imagined her only grandson starting a family.  I respected her for being honest and telling us how she felt.

On the trip that this picture was taken she took me aside on our last day and gave me a small gold band.  It was a wedding band that had been in her family for years.  Perhaps her (not so subtle) way of saying it was time for us to get married.  Less than a year later we did just that.

Every Christmas he remembers her and the coffee cake she would bake.  She sent me the recipe a few years after we met and I still make it every year.  I’ve given up on finding a substitute for the lard and Bisquick it calls for.

Every time it rains he remembers her.  She sent him a pair of LL Bean Duck Boots his first year at college.  That was 1991.  He still wears them.

Every time he says our daughter’s full name he remembers her.  Unfortunately it’s usually when she is trouble.

The Best Thing in Life is simple.  It’s remembering the important people in your life.

That’s Not Me

scary little monster

Do you ever see friends (or strangers) doing stuff and think.  “Why don’t I do that?”

I do.

It’s a bad habit but one that seems to just creep into my mind every so often.  It’s really part of the whole “grass is always greener” syndrome.  No matter what you do there is always going to be something that someone else is doing that you aren’t.

Don’t get me wrong, my life is good, it’s just that a small ugly part of my brain occasionally gets out of its cage and starts telling me I could do better.  Do more.

Who could bring that ugly part out you ask?  There are a few I can think of.

The Adventurer – this is the friend that is always just back from some incredible adventure.  Backpacking through the Costa Rican jungle.  Spending nights in grass huts and eating bugs.  Back county snowshoeing in Alberta…..with her three kids (one in a baby backpack) and husband.  It seems that they are capable of carrying on a regular life punctuated by these incredible, life altering adventures in exotic lands without batting an eye.

     That’s just not me.

The Business Maven – savvy and well connected, this friend has a constant stream of lucrative opportunities rolling around in her head.  None seems to require a full time commitment but always create an income.  I know that it takes some money to create these opportunities but somehow that isn’t an issue.  Admirable in that it takes guts to jump off the cliff into a business and actually make it work or accept its failure and move on.

     That’s just not me.

The Crafty Baker – with an account at Michaels this friend actually uses the coupons they hand out at the cashier.  Pinterest Fail is not in her vocabulary.  Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter are all just waiting for her to create some delicious and awe inspiring cookie that my daughter will talk about for days on end.  Able to create a full dolls wardrobe out of raffia and felt, they enjoy a quiet afternoon at home to create and sew.

     That’s just not me.

The Fashionista – impeccably and always appropriately dressed.  Wether it’s for a morning on the soccer field or a night out at a fundraiser, this friend has her finger in the pulse of what’s fashionable.  But, and here’s the kicker, it always looks effortless. Like she just threw something on at the last minute to run out the grocery store.  No mommy jeans on this one.  And it’s been my experience that these outfits are accompanied by perfectly coiffed hair despite the regular North Vancouver downpours.

     That’s just not me.

The PAC President – committed to our kid’s school and its programs with a never ending supply of energy and ideas for fundraising and improving classrooms.  Willing to give her time to any cause that helps the school.  Willing to sit through PAC meetings.  Every month.  Ugh.  This mom knows what is going on in every classroom and is always politically correct when discussing school business and other people’s kids.

     That’s just not me.

There are more but these ones seem to stick out in my mind.

So what is me? 

Me is a fear of flying, cookie burning, fashion challenged, business commitment scaredy cat, classroom averse blog writer.

The Best Thing in Life is being able to tell that ugly part of my brain to go suck it because I’m just fine the way I am.

 

Sleep Anxiety

anxiety

Sleep is a beautiful thing.  Nothing feels better than sinking into your comfy bed, closing your eyes and getting a good solid nights sleep.  It’s rejuvenating.  It’s blissful.  It’s therapeutic.  So when sleep won’t come,  life can be turned upside down.

Over the past few months my daughter has developed what I can only describe as severe sleep anxiety.  She’s never been a great sleeper but this takes it to a whole different level.

It started out pretty low key.  At some point in October she started to say that she could not go to sleep.  Not just that she wasn’t tired.  But that she could not get to sleep.  She would get out of bed a couple of times every night to tell me.  I’d give her a hug, ask if she needed anything and tuck her back in.  But then it changed.

Slowly over the next few weeks it escalated to all out hysteria at bed time.  And by hysteria, I mean a couple of hours of crying, shaking, yelling, pacing and ultimately, exhaustion.  And that goes for all of us.  Yes, I yelled.  I’m not proud of it but at some point (okay,more than one) I just lost it.  It just seemed so simple.  Get in bed, close your eyes and eventually you will fall asleep.  But yet, she just couldn’t do it.  Not wouldn’t.  Couldn’t.

I remember one night in particular when she refused to get out of the bath.  She said that getting out of the bath would mean that she would have to brush her teeth and put her pjs on.  That would mean that she would need to go to bed.  And that, ultimately, would mean that she would have to try and get to sleep.  And in her mind, THAT was not going to happen.  Thirty minutes later the bath had drained and I was sitting on the floor begging her too just step out of the tub.  Again.  Simple.  But she just couldn’t do.

It got to the point where she would pace around her bedroom saying over and over again.  “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t go to sleep.”  I would sit on her bed praying that I could find just the right thing to say that would convince her that she could go to sleep.  I tried positive encouragement, bribery, meditation apps, consequences but nothing would sway her from her stance that she couldn’t go to sleep.

sleeping girl

My husband and I were confused and desperate to understand what was going on.  To see our smart, capable little girl so upset was heart breaking.  So physically agitated that she wouldn’t even let us hold her to try and calm her down.

The emotions that have run through our little family in the past months are difficult to put into words.  We’ve been angry with each other and unsure of why.  We’ve been confused.  Why is this happening?  We’ve been heartbroken and sympathetic.  The need to comfort your child is so strong that when it is of no help, it can be devastating.

The fact that this is, apparently, quite normal in children this age is at once comforting and distressing.  Comforting in that others have solutions that have worked for them and I know that we are not alone.  Distressing in knowing that so many other kids suffer the way that my daughter has suffered.

Recently we have started to give her melatonin at bed time and it seems to have helped calm her down.  She still wakes up a few hours later though and is convinced that she has yet to fall asleep.  What must be going on in her brain to create this anxiety and confusion?

Why, you may ask, am I telling you ( and the world) all of this?  I’m not sure.  Maybe I am hoping that it will help somebody else going through the same thing?  Maybe I am hoping that it will reach somebody who can help me understand it better.

I’m not sure I can end this post with a Best Thing in Life.

 

A Slow Ride Home – “Tales from the Momside”

traffic jam

“Okay, that was our last stop.  Ready to go home?”

“Ya.  I’m hungry and tired of shopping. ”

A morning of last minute Christmas errands was finally finished.  Three malls, numerous toy stores, one very crowded book store and some serious sugar cookie bribery has tired her eight year old out.  As she pulls out of the covered parking lot the rain starts again.  Great.  Traffic is chaotic and people are doing stupid things in an effort to get home quickly.

“Can you put the radio on?”

As she flicks on the radio the dj is right in the middle of the traffic report.  Apparently there is a massive accident on the bridge and their only route home is a total parking lot.  Awesome.  As she maneuvers onto the highway and into the mass of cars a little voice comes from the back seat.

“Mom I have a question.”

“Okay, but make it a good one.”

The truth is her daughter never has just one question and she has occasionally had to limit her barrage of wonderings.

“If you are gay can you have a baby?”

“Yes.  And no.”

“What?”

“That’s two questions.”

“Mom.”

Crap, she thought maybe she had an out with that one.  No such luck.  More cars are merging into the already packed lanes and if she doesn’t pay attention somebody is going to try and sneak in front of her.

“Okay, so two women, or two men, can’t physically have a baby together.  Remember we talked about how a baby is created by an egg from a woman and sperm from a man?”

“Right.”

“Well a gay woman would need some help from a man.”

“Help?”

“Wow, I suck at this.” She thinks.  Isn’t there some great way to use the traffic they are stuck in to explain this?

“A women would need to get some sperm from a man before she could have a baby in her tummy.  Once the baby is born then the other mommy could adopt the baby as their own too.”

“But what about a man?”

“Well a man could asks a woman if she would have his baby and then he and his partner could adopt that bay.  Does that make sense?”

“I guess so”

Empty silence.  Beautiful empty silence.  How long would it last?  As long as it took to get to the off ramp?

“Do gay people get divorced?”

“Sure, if they aren’t in love any more.”

“Is that why you got divorced?”

“That’s one of the reasons.”

Damn that was too open ended.  Hoping it wouldn’t result in more questions on that subject, she quickly asked her what she might want for dinner when they eventually got home.  Wow, nice deflect?  Nope.

“Will you and Daddy ever get divorced?”

“Not planning on it.”

Could this traffic go any slower?  If she could just get across the bridge and to the first exit ramp they would be home free.

“Did you have two weddings?”

“Yes, but when I married your dad it was just him and me and your brother on the beach.”

“Hmmm.”

She sneaks a peak in the rear view mirror and her daughter is gazing out the window with that look on her face.  This conversation is not over just yet.

“But you still had a wedding dress?”

“at the beach?  Yes.”

Her daughter perks up.

“Cool.  You got two dresses?”

It’s taken over an hour for them to get home and after a discussion on babies, gay marriage, gay adoption, marriage and divorce it all boils down to one thing.

She got to wear two wedding dresses.

She is clearly the parent of the year.

Day Trip History Lessons

entrance

In an attempt to get me and my family out of the house and away from our cozy neighborhood (which I love by the way) I came up with the brilliant idea yesterday of going on a road trip.

“A road trip?  Where?” My husband asked warily.

“I don’t know.  Just a day trip somewhere we haven’t been before. Get outside.  We just need a change of scenery.”

“Ya sure.  Sounds like a good idea.  Lets talk about it in the morning.”

So the morning got off to a slow start and I didn’t push anything because I know from experience that that never end well.

“What are we doing today?” My daughter queries from her spot on the sofa.

Before I can answer my husband says.

“We’re going on an adventure to a fort.”

“A what?”

“A fort.”

“Like in Little House on the Prairie?”

“Yes, just like that.”

“Cool.”

And about an hour later we are dressed and ready to go.  Twenty minutes later we are off the highway and following the signs to Fort Langley.

The town of Fort Langley is tiny.  Surrounded by suburban farmland and a mixture of tiny ancient ranchers and shiny new mansions, it is a quant Fraser Valley town.  There are maybe three or four blocks of stores and restaurants before you turn off the main strip to the Fort.

fort langley

We pay our admission and the history lesson begins.

Fort Langley is the birth place of British Columbia.  The Hudson Bay Company originally established it as a trad
ing post in 1824.  It’s position on the river gave easy access for traders.  Initially trading consisted of the Aboriginal people bringing in their fur pelts but it quickly grew to include exporting brined salmon to Hawaii and cranberries to San Francisco.

In 1858 the gold rush began and Americans flooded the area hungry for an opportunity to strike it rich.  James Douglas was, at the time, the manager of the Hudson’s Bay Company in the Pacific region.  The British government sense that things are changing and in 1858 revoked HBC’s license and made British Columbia a Crown colony with James Douglas as its first governed.

cooper

Aside from learning all of this Liv learnt how to make a candle holder from a blacksmith and how to make a barrel from a cooper.  She got to dress up in period clothing and roast chestnuts over and open fire.
costumes

 

The fresh air was great but it was also bloody cold (there was no indoor heating in the 1800 apparently.) so we wrapped up our history lesson and went in search of some lunch.

There are no shortage of places to eat in Fort Langley.  From the Japanese bistro to the upscale French restaurant to Say Cheese, a grilled cheese hole in the wall that sells…..wait for it…..grilled cheese sandwiches.  We decided on a diner for our lunch and it didn’t disappoint.  Burgers in red plastic baskets and ten scoop ice cream sundaes with names like the Cadillac and the Elvis Banana Supreme.  I was disappeared that the booth size juke boxes didn’t work but loved the kitschy decor of Betty Boop memorabilia and travel pennants from around BC.

Of course what trip to a touristy town would be complete without a trip to the candy store.  There are actually two within a one block range.  One is the typical penny candy, pez dispenser, gum ball type and the other is strictly fudge and candy popcorn in a bazillion flavors.  While the root beer flavour was spot on, it wasn’t my favorite.

We are back in the car and headed home by 3:00 pm.  We have had fresh air, learnt a few new things (actually lots of new things) enjoyed some local culture and have a bag full of penny candy.  Once again I realize that some of the Best Things in Life are not that far away if you are willing to get out and find them.