January 2, 2017

Again I am cozy in my warm bed but have committed to an early morning outdoor activity. So (again) I pull myself out of bed and put on my long johns to head out into the cold. Is it possible that it is colder than yesterday?

There is one thing I know to be true. NOTHING is better than a two hour hike in the snow with friends to balance you and put you in the right head space to face a new year of challenges

With topics ranging from work ethic to hair color to parenting to life motivation, nothing is off limits out there. Frustrations are vented and there is no judgement. I heard myself saying many times .

“I know just how you feel.”

In the afternoon I had the misfortune of attending a gathering to honor the mom of another friend who had died on, of all days, Christmas Day. I am now officially in the generation of people with old parents who are dying and it sucks.

Having just lost my mom a couple of months ago it was all very fresh for me. As I hugged my friend I quietly said.

“I know just how you feel.”

The Best Thing in Life is knowing that so long as you have your friends, you are not in this alone.

Mom

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Tonight it hit me.  Tonight the tears fell.  

It’s been three days since my mom died.  

I finally realized why I haven’t  gone through my photos to find the perfect picture for the reception.  Why I haven’t decided on a caterer.  Why I have told people it was “for the best” that she wasn’t suffering anymore. Why I have gone to work and kept busy.

It was because I didn’t want it not be true.  I didn’t want it to be real.

I didn’t want my mom to be dead.

But she is. My sweet, feisty, occasionally inappropriate, mom is dead.   Not passed away.  She hated that expression.  She always used to say.

“People don’t pass away.  They die.”

The first time I walked into the apartment after she died I was shocked to find that she wasn’t there.  Where was she?   Why wasn’t she sitting at her desk?  Why didn’t I hear her voice?  Why was I only making one cup of tea with honey?

I have lost my comfort person.  The person I call when life sucks.  The person who always picks up and knows that something is wrong before you even speak.  And right now I need my comfort person.  Because right now life sucks.

She was so brave in these last weeks.  She tolerated the imaginable and still kept her sense of humor.  

At one point my brother, bless his heart, was trying to get her to take a sip of water from a straw.  On the fourth attempt I could see the exasperation in his face.  He really wanted….needed her to take some water.  She was having none of it.  Without even opening her eyes she put her hand up and said “Piss off”.   Classic mom.

I know that she is still here with me in her own special way.  Telling me that it’s going to be okay.  Maybe she’s right.  She usually was.  

The Best Thing in Life is that I will have eighty four years of memories to keep me company.  But tonight, the tears will continue to fall.  

No More Pity Parties For Me

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It was Sunday night and my husband was packing his bags for yet another week away. I felt a small pity party coming on. He has a job that requires him to travel a lot. Typically he is away for at least three weeks a month and often that involves being away for the weekends too. It’s hard on all of us. He practically lives in a hotel and misses out on so many little things that happen at home. Our seven-year old misses him like crazy and knows exactly how many minutes it takes for him to get home once his plane has landed. But, as he packed and I felt the typical Sunday evening disappointment of being alone again creeping in, I stopped for a moment. The night before we had enjoyed dinner with our friend Nicole and her son Jacob. Jacob is three weeks younger than my daughter. The love of Nicole’s life and Jacob’s father died four years ago. They are alone all the time.

Lucas was only 29 in late 2005 when he was first diagnosed with small cell lung cancer. It wasn’t found in his lungs though. The first tumor was found in his nasal passages. After a horrific surgery Lucas and Nicole thought they were in the clear. Wrong. During the appointment to have his surgical staples removed they were given some literature and an appointment date with the BC Cancer Agency. They asked why and were told “Oh, it’s cancer. You didn’t know that?”  They were shocked but still weren’t particularly worried though as the doctor didn’t seem to be. But after meeting with an oncologist and doing what every sick person does, googling his condition, Lucas and Nicole realized just how bad things were. The doctors were now saying “we will do all we can” but the odds were not in their favor. Somehow in that horrific, stress filled time of radiation and chemo and sickness there was a bright spot. Early in 2007 Nicole discovered that she was pregnant.

Jacob was born on September 26, 2007. Fortunately, the next eighteen months were free of treatment for Lucas. It was a welcome change from all they had been through so far. I remember those times well. My daughter and Jacob as babies. Lucas playing Lego with the two of them at one of Jacob’s birthday parties. Comparing milestones, as all new parents do. The joy that Lucas had for being a dad. It wouldn’t last though. Over the course of six years the cancer came back 7 times and Lucas had 5 rounds of radiation, 3 rounds of intense chemo, 2 brain surgeries, a hip replacement, and countless other appointments and tests. Sadly on January 30, 2011 Lucas passed away. Aside from losing her husband, Nicole was now the sole provider for her family and at the young age of 38, a widow. Your not supposed to be a widow at that age. But she was and despite the fact that she has an amazing family and support group, she and Jacob were now on their own.

Feb 25 Jacob and Olivia...aren't we cute!

It’s not a particularly fun thing to do, but try to imagine your life right now if your husband was gone. Not just for a week-long business trip, but forever. Think of all the things that you rely on when your spouse walks through the door at the end of the day. I know that I struggle with things when my husband is away. Typically it revolves around discipline. Was I too hard on her? Should I have let that one go? Maybe I should have been stricter? Not having your spouse there to bounce things off of can make you question yourself. It breaks my heart to hear Nicole say. “I would give anything to have him by my side to tell me I’m doing alright. Even if just for one minute”. She often finds herself wondering in those times “What would Lucas do? To Nicole’s credit, Jacob is the sweetest little boy. He does well in school, loves to swim, loves Lego and can keep up with my crazy daughter on the dance floor. No small feat.

Liv and Jacob

Jacob is seven now and a great kid. He is a mini Lucas. Kind, funny, smart and energetic. But he is having a bit of a hard time right now understanding why all the other kids in school have dads and he doesn’t? He’s even gone so far as to ask Nicole “will I ever have a new daddy”. If that doesn’t break your heart then I don’t know what will. Can’t even imagine how you would answer that question. Nicole keeps Lucas’ memory alive as best she can for Jacob. They look at pictures and she shares stories of Lucas. His love of sports and the Miami Dolphins. Most stories, she says, include the word “fart.” Its a boy thing. Lucas liked a good “fart” story too. He was a big kid with a huge smile and a positive attitude about everything. Mostly she tells Jacob how proud Lucas would be of him.

I’m pretty sure that if all of this happened to me that I would find a dark closet corner somewhere and curl up into a ball. I can’t even imagine how hard it would be to not only lose the love of your life but to then be a single mom and entrusted with raising a little boy without his father. Nicole doesn’t understand how people see her as an inspiration but if you met her and saw the love in her eyes for that little boy and the smile that is on her face every day, you would understand. When I asked her if she had any advice for somebody else going through this she said. “Be easy on yourself. It’s a tough journey”.  What keeps her going?

Jacob-the reason she gets up each day
Family-her mom and brothers
Friends
Lucas’ strength of never giving up
Wine-it’s not an answer but some days it sure helps!

So going forward I will not hold pity parties. Whenever I am feeling like the world has dealt me a poor hand or if I feel like I just can’t quite make it through a difficult time, I will think of Lucas, Nicole and Jacob. They were all short-changed in the game of life but somehow have managed to move on and are seeing all that is good in what they do have. Beautiful memories, love and family. The Best Things in Life.

 

Preschool Life Lessons

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In my opinion the most overlooked job out there is that of a pre-school teacher. You will have grade school and high school teachers, college professors and bosses who will teach you a multitude of fascinating things. But really, pre-school teachers give you the basic tools to deal with all of that from day one. Pre-school teachers teach you how to share, keep your hands to yourself, speak kindly to others, not to push and not to stick your fingers in other people’s food. All important things to remember in the class room or the boardroom. It takes a special kind of person to teach our children these valuable life lessons while still nurturing their spirit and developing brains. Emma and Sarah, owners of Sunshine Cove Preschool, are two of those special people.

When I first met Emma and Sarah they both struck me as two of the warmest, kindest caregivers I had ever met. The first thing that I noticed about Sarah was her voice. Calm and soothing and kind. My mom would say that it was like butter. A true reflection of her character. Emma’s smile could light up even the dreariest of Deep Cove rainy days and even the most standoffish child would melt from one of her hugs. But don’t let those characteristics fool you. These ladies are not pushovers. They are both certified Early Childhood Educators from Capilano University and are firm on what is acceptable behavior in pre school (and life) and what is not. Smacking your buddy over the head with a book because you don’t like their opinion is not acceptable.  In preschool or in life apparently.

Emma and Sarah met a few years ago working for a daycare that my daughter attended. They discovered they had similar teaching styles and quickly became great friends. When the daycare closed they decided to take a huge leap and open their own preschool. Sunshine Cove Preschool was born. The decision to move from employee to business owner has been exciting, stressful and nerve racking all at the same time, they say. It was a tough start with neither of them having much business experience and balancing the work as a child care worker with the administration of the business side has been an eye opener. They both admit to being a bit naive when it came to the business side. They were lucky enough, however,  to have a great former employer who has guided them through the rough patches. Each credits the other with getting them through the last couple of years.

The school itself is amazing. It’s an older warehouse building that they have renovated. It is everything a preschool should be. Bright, colorful, warm, welcoming, fun. Nature is a huge part of their program and it is everywhere. Kids can create, paint, build and get messy or plop themselves down in a comfortable chair and look at any number of books and puzzles. Their program is a bit different from the other preschools in the area in that they offer a four hour session. This, they feel, gives the kids time to really settle in each day and allows Emma and Sarah time to establish good routines and structures and really teach rather than just watch. It also gives parents a decent stretch of time to work or relax. The toddler program runs Tuesday and Thursday from 8:30-11:00 and the preschool age kids can come Monday through Thursday for two to four days. Friday is a drop in day for registered students.

I feel that I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how good Sarah and Emma are with the kids they care for. They are constantly looking for interesting and new education techniques to use when dealing with hyperactivity and aggression – two behavioral traits they run in to quite often. The flip side of that is nurturing the kids who maybe don’t need as much direction. Emma told me about one little boy that would happily play at the light table for 45 minutes on his own. The challenge, she said, comes in recognizing him and his fascination and not always focusing our time and energy on kids who need our attention. It’s important to connect with him and say “Hey, you seem to really be enjoying that table. Tell me about it?”  Don’t you wish some of your past employers  had done this with your work?

Being new business owners has taken an emotional toll on both Emma and Sarah over the past two years, but they wouldn’t have it any other way and wouldn’t have done it with anybody else. Their passion for teaching and nurturing kids is so inspiring to me and to be able to take that passion and make it your life’s work must be so satisfying. I can think of no better place to send a preschooler than Sunshine Cove Preschool. It would give me comfort knowing that they are in Sarah and Emma’s care and that they will learn those valuable life lessons that will carry them in to the big world with confidence.  The Best Thing in Life is knowing how to behave.  And to not stick your fingers in other peoples food.

You Can’t Pick Your Family

familyThis past weekend my daughter and I spent the day with some friends in Whistler. We hadn’t seen each other in a while and while our girls played in the water park we had lots of time to catch up. We talked about lots of things. One of the things we talked about was family. More specifically our parents and siblings. We both admitted that if we had a choice we probably wouldn’t spend a lot of time with them. It got me thinking on the drive home about my relationships with my parents and siblings.

I wouldn’t say we were a close family. If I had to use one word to describe us it would be judgemental. Don’t get me wrong, I include myself in that statement. We each judge each other and my parents judge everybody. It’s weird though because they are very accepting of other cultures but judgemental of people who don’t live life the way they do. I know that probably doesn’t make sense does it. For example, they are accepting of somebody from Japan or somebody who is Muslim, but not accepting of the guy who lives down the street who doesn’t like to garden and has his front yard paved over so he can park his RV.  Over the years I have tried to be less judgemental but at last I come by it honestly.

My sister and I have never had a solid relationship. I was the youngest and was kind of spoilt. I wanted to be just like her but she wanted nothing to do with me. She never let me borrow her clothes so I just took them. I wanted to hang out with her and her friends so I just tagged along. That didn’t make her very happy and I was often told to go home. When she was in college she suddenly decided we should be friends. After years of being pushed away, I was not interested. We’ve had periods of time when we’ve gotten along but it always seems to be at arms length. At least for me anyway.

My brother and I used to get along really well but have drifted apart over the past ten years. We have very different approaches to life and tend to butt heads a bit. We live close to him and his family and sometimes I feel bad that we don’t see them very often but the reality is that I don’t have an over abundance if time and would rather spend it with my husband and kids. Ya I know you are all shaking your heads thinking how selfish I am. I’m guessing some of you feel the same way but just don’t want to admit it. I’m right aren’t I?

Getting back to being spoilt. Yes, my mom spoilt me. I’m not sure why. (Okay, I was pretty cute). The problem is that I think she still thinks I’m a little girl who isn’t capable of looking after herself, despite surviving a divorce and having two children of my own. I am grateful for all that my mom has done to support me through some very difficult times, however, not returning her phone call in an acceptable amount of time does not mean that there is a problems in my marriage. Being tired and stressed from working and having a husband who travels a lot does not make me depressed. And no, I haven’t lost weight in the seven days since I saw you last.

When I was little my dad worked a lot. He owned his own business and it required time and dedication. I admire that in him today. What I don’t admire is the fact that when he did come home from work we, as his kids, were pretty much taught to be seen and not heard. It’s a British thing. As soon as his car hit the driveway we had to turn off the TV. There was not a lot of affection. He taught us a lot. Skiing, fly fishing and how to tell a spruce tree from a fir tree. But there wasn’t a lot of playing and laughing.

I know all of this may sound harsh but at the end of the day we do all love each other and have supported each other through the years. We don’t fight. We just judge from a distance. So is it wrong that I don’t want to hang out with them? The saying about how you can’t pick your family couldn’t be more fitting for me. The Best Thing in Life though, is that you can pick your friends and enjoy spending the day hanging out with them in Whistler.