Memories

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Our lives consist of many moving parts. New experiences pummel our daily lives but nothing can keep us attached to our true selves as much as our memories. As I write this post, I am eating a piece of rye toast for dinner, one that has been crusted with a few pieces of processed cheese toasted on top of that rye bread in a toaster oven. This is not a meal I make on a regular basis but one that takes me back to a place that makes me happy.

I love to look back on the stages of my life that have had a significant impact on me, to reflect on the moments that have helped shape the person I am today. Those snippets of my past that have woven their way into the blanket of my reality are the threads of my true soul. Each chapter of my life has helped to create a strong connection from the person I was to the person I have become.

To ignore my past would be a great injustice to the person I am now. Every phase of my life, every triumph, every failure, has brought me to my here and now. I could not express my sentiments about grief and pain if I had not felt those feelings with every fiber of my being. And I could not expound on my successes if I devalued my achievements in any way. Every bit of my past has brought me to where I am now and, although I think about how things could have been different, I would not change a single thing.

I am who I am because of my past. Good or bad, I am where I need to be. I have learned many lessons from my achievements as well as my deficiencies. I have become well-versed on striving for success but I am able to accept the worst if it presents itself. And I have become extremely proficient at quickly moving on to Plan B at a moment’s notice.

These memories, these blueprints of my original design, have sculpted the mold for the formidable structure I am today. And while many of my tender memories lay exposed in the foundation of my life, I protect the bricks of that foundation with the impassioned determination to defend the sanctity of my history while I am embroiled in my current reality.

My past is a rudimentary sketch of who I am now. It is the mere stick figure of the three-dimensional character I am able to call me.  And today, my memories are as much a part of me as the things that happen in my day-to-day reality and I hope that will never change.

Memories are the things that shape us and give us an anchor in the churning sea of our existence. I just hope we can all have faith in that anchor to hold us in the present but never forget the past.

 

 

 

I knew the day would come

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One of my worst memories after the death of each of my parents was gathering the strength to go through their belongings and decide what to keep and what to donate to charity. It is hard to discard anything that once belonged to someone we loved so much. It felt like a betrayal, throwing out the things, even the ugly 80’s sweaters, that were so much a part of our every day life.

For the first time since saying goodbye to Callaway, I vacuumed my house on Saturday. It may sound like a strange thing to struggle with but I couldn’t bear to not see her hair on my floor. It didn’t matter what the season, my dog could shed like an Olympic champion if shedding were a category, and I had moments where my grief was so raw that I thought I might leave that hair on my floor forever.

But grief is a fickle thing. It can be debilitating and then one day it becomes different, not easier just different. I still greet her when I come home and say goodbye to her and tell her I love her when I leave. I’m sure that, too, will change over time but I find comfort in knowing wherever she is on the other side of that rainbow bridge, she can still hear me.

Before I vacuumed, I rolled up the three runner carpets I had put down in my kitchen when she began to have difficulty on hardwood and linoleum floors. Her golf-themed dog dish that had always claimed its place on that same kitchen floor has been carefully stored away but her dog bed will stay in its fixed spot in my living room. The pieces of carpet that were picked loose when she stretched in the morning will remain tattered strings to remind me of the best and funniest parts of her.

The window in my bedroom will be the last chore. It was the place she loved to spend her time while I was gone and those nose prints are going to be a hard thing to wash away. Every day I take more steps without her and every day I try to change my habits so my day-to-day life isn’t saturated with her absence. It will eventually get easier, but embracing the overwhelming sense of loss only reminds me of how special she was.

When I find myself in times of trouble

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I love to be in my kitchen. On occasion, I still make cakes and each time I bake a chocolate cake from scratch, the smell from the oven eventually permeates my home and I always say out loud, “it smells like my house”. It is a strange thing to do, but a habit I cannot seem to break, nor do I want to.

I have always loved to be fixed comfortably in front of a mixing bowl or a cutting board. This is my refuge and a place I find the most contentment when I am dealing with emotions that are too big for me to process. I lose myself in the pleasure of chopping and blending, mixing and pouring, and it gives me a sense of peace I have not been able to find anywhere else, with the exception of my writing.

I remember the moment twenty years ago when I was looking for a place to rent after returning from out of province. I had been told about a house that had not yet been advertised and my parents and I drove to this house, parked at the end of the driveway and awkwardly trudged through snow up to our mid-thighs to get a better look. The snow was piled so high around the house that it was easy to peer into the windows to see the layout. The kitchen was the biggest room in the six-hundred square foot home and I knew it was meant to be mine. Before the house had even been advertised as being for rent, I had signed a lease with the landlady and moved in on April first.

Even though I was only renting, I knew this was my forever place. Four years after being a tenant, I ultimately wore my landlady down and convinced her to sell me the property I called home. This haven I am able to call my own will never make the cover of any magazines, but it is mine and it is the place that cradles the memories, good and bad, I have made over the past twenty years.

I have been single, married and divorced while living here. I have lost my best college friend, both of my parents and my furry companion of twelve and a half years while living here. And while nervously standing on the batter’s box staring down the many curve balls life has thrown at me, I have been living here. The roof and the walls of this home wrap me in a protective shield and I am indestructible here.

So, when I find myself in times of trouble, I will seek asylum in this tiny shelter with my feet firmly planted in my kitchen. I am afforded the dignity of dealing with my reality while being protected by this small fortress in the middle of nowhere and I can’t, in the foreseeable future, picture myself anywhere else. I am going to let my kitchen work its magic, embrace the words of wisdom these walls have to offer and just let it be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If only the trash could always take itself out

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This blog is my forum, my asylum, my place to say things I want to say without the consequence of having to defend my words to anyone.

While trying to get my brain back into writing mode by entering a short story contest, I was notably derailed by social media. I still have time to make the contest deadline on Friday but my brain has been so consumed by my intense feelings and my desire to work through them that I do not have the ability to string a series of words together other than to defend myself against words that were written hastily towards me with an underlying malice, intended or not.

I made an innocuous post on Facebook on Sunday night stating my intention to book my “staycation” in March and get my next tattoo that will have a great deal of meaning for me. The first response to my post took me by surprise and left me feeling like I had to defend the words I had written. Without going into great detail, I was hurt more than I anticipated and knocked down by a friend I have known for many years. But the overwhelmingly supportive tribe in my small community quickly lifted me up and made me dust myself off.

Words have a great deal of power. The people who brandish strings of words without thinking about them before they write them do not realize the devastating effect those words can have on those who are the focus of their bitter diatribe. But being offended by those words gave ME the power. Being offended by those words made me move on and continue to be an adult. And being offended by those words made me fully aware that, thankfully, I was not the only one outraged by those words.

Shortly after the deluge of responding opinions from the people who support me, the author of the comment who started this whole mess “unfriended” me on Facebook. One of the remarks I received truly stood out and is the most fitting line to be the title and the conclusion of this post, and I thank her for that.

“If only the trash could always take itself out”.

 

 

Time doesn’t heal, it just changes your perspective

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I presumably share more things on this blog about my personal life than people want to read. But starting this blog eight years ago gave me a forum to write about whatever I choose to write about and if you, who are following, still want to read along, I thank you for being a part of my journey.

The beginning of this new month, new year and new decade has not started well for me. I had to say goodbye to the truest form of devotion I have known and I miss her presence every single moment. One day at a time, I have had to forge ahead and rewrite the scenes as I go. I thought I would be performing the original script for many more years to come, but such is not the case and the blank pages are waiting for a new story to unfold.

Slowly, I am beginning to build my new life one sentence at a time. As I construct those sentences, they become paragraphs and those flowing, connective words will eventually become a new story. It is an arduous task, but one I have to undertake with a strong will and the faith that good things wait ahead for me.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have begun to focus more on myself. I have selfishly decided the needs of the one (me) might (if only temporarily) outweigh the needs of the many I have been focusing on for a very long time.

Time doesn’t feel like it is healing me, but merely making me look at things with a fresh, and possibly transitory self-indulgent, perspective and, for once, I am giving in to that prospect. I go into the unknown with the understanding that time holds me in its furtive embrace, willing me to see things in a new light.

Side line – as I was writing this post, I was called out on social media for wanting to get a “look at me” tattoo to honor my faithful companion of twelve years. I was made painfully aware that the money I will spend on having her memory etched onto my skin could be seen as a frivolous expenditure and money better spent on causes that could use that donation. My rebuttal to that notion will be as brief as I can make it.

For the past four years, I have spent every Sunday, weather permitting, from November to April, bringing together volunteers to make crockpot meals for our local food bank so the clients can have healthy, home-cooked meals at least once a week. The time spent choosing the meals, making the shopping lists, picking up all of the ingredients and preparing the meals has healed many parts of me and has certainly changed my perspective in many aspects of my life.

Time will never heal my losses. It won’t bring back my parents, my best college friend or my dog. But time will give me many opportunities to put my best foot forward and help in the most essential ways I feel I can help. Time will allow me to engage those volunteers. Time will help me shop for those groceries. Time will help plan those meals and orchestrate the process from food preparation to delivery. And time will help me heal the gaping wounds of my losses by getting tattoos that help me surf the gigantic waves of the grief I encounter from losing those close to me.

Thanks to that hurtful message on social media, time has, once again, changed my perspective. I have time to ignore that viewpoint. I have time to wipe my tears and realize it shouldn’t affect me as much as I let it. And I have time to focus on the good in me and let that good change my perspective on someone I thought was a friend.

 

 

The signs we shouldn’t ignore

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When the souls we hold dear move on to the next realm, I believe with my whole heart they send us signs. As strange as it sounds, when my friend Sandra passed away in 2003 I found my ear drums pummeled by the strains of the song The Girl From Ipanema. It was not a song I would ever have on my play list, and she knew how much that song made me cringe, but its chords would sound in random places and that same song magically appeared on the list of music I have on my iPhone. I have gone through my iTunes history and I have never downloaded nor have I ever paid for that song, but it IS there and I don’t have the will to delete it.

When my dad passed, it was owls. I would hear the Barred Owls at night having what seemed to be a profound conversation and one of those miraculous creatures would frequently visit and perch itself on the largest branch of the tree closest to my deck. When I am having a bad day, those owls seem to make themselves known with their signature call and the calming effect takes me back to when I was a child and would curl into my dad’s protective embrace.

Years later, when we lost my mom, it was butterflies. Although Monarch butterflies are relatively common where I live, these stunning winged creatures would appear in such a way that we knew my mom was letting us know she was close. There was a playfulness to their flight, like she was reminding us of how strong her spirit was on Earth and how that spirit continues to be a part of our lives even though she has been gone for almost six years.

Today, still fresh from the raw emotion of having to recently let my dog go, it was birds. Callaway and I used to sit on the deck together and I would marvel at the unique species that would visit my feeders. There have been many different birds who have frequented my deck, but Chickadees have always been my favorite. With the tears still sneaking up on me, I sat in my living room today and watched at least five dozen Goldfinches jockey for a position on the feeder through the window to my right. The slight movement to my left made me look out the other window and a single Chickadee was sitting on the window sill, looking directly at me from outside the glass. It stayed for longer than a confused bird would and its gaze was trained on nothing other than me.

These are the signs that make me feel like our lives are not limited to where we are now. Every one of the signs I have acknowledged over my lifetime gives me a sense of peace. They provide me a continued connection to those important souls in my life and let me know that they have not actually left, but they are now able to communicate in a way that is special to me.

 

And just like that, I felt a sense of peace

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Many of you who have read my recent blog posts know I had to say goodbye to this beautiful soul on January third. We had twelve and a half years of a wonderful relationship together. She was so much more than just my dog and every facet of my life changed drastically when I had to make the decision to let my baby girl go.

There has not been a day during the last two weeks that I haven’t cried. The moments of grief have ranged from glistening tears slowly rolling down my cheeks to sobs that mimicked the sound of a mewling animal being viciously slaughtered. I have been physically and emotionally eviscerated.

Morning is the worst time for me. We had a routine that I loved. Even if I was ready to get up, I would rub her ears, give her the butt scratch she was waiting for and tell her “ten more minutes”. She would dutifully acknowledge my request and lie back down in her bed, anxiously waiting for that ten minutes to go by before we went for our morning walk. Her level of intelligence and understanding was remarkable.

With the passing of each calendar day, I knew the phone call would soon come telling me her ashes had been returned to the veterinary office. That call came at 1:22 pm yesterday while I was at work and I was crying before I even ended the call. I put forth my best effort to do my job as effectively as I could but I wanted nothing more than to bring my baby home. I left work early, took care of some deliveries to the food bank and slowly made the turn into the familiar parking lot.

After the welcome distraction of giving some love to the vet assistant’s beautiful dog, I took the package that looked like a giant Tiffany’s box and made my way home. When I got home, I couldn’t open that blue box. I poured some wine, paced around my house and finally gathered the courage to remove the urn that held Callaway’s remains. I placed that urn in its rightful place and I came unglued. I cried so hard I made sounds that are not of this world. But as suddenly as those tears came, they stopped. I don’t think my words will ever do justice to the sense of peace that washed over me just knowing she was home where she belongs.

There will still be many more tears shed as I remember the life we had together and how special she was but I know the happy memories of her will slowly replace the overwhelming sense of loss I currently feel. I miss you, baby girl.

 

There is wisdom in knowing the whole story

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I have not been very present on social media for a while, save for sharing my blog posts and making a few innocuous comments. Every platform is laden with strong opinions about many topics, none of which I will name specifically, but I’m sure you can figure them out.

This post is not intended, by any means, to shame anyone for having a belief. Opinions are like belly buttons, most of us have one, and opinions can be shared anywhere, anytime. What I struggle with, lately, are the things being posted on multiple social media sites and the accusatory nature of some of those posts without the author having all of the facts.

I have many thoughts on many subjects but I don’t feel I have enough knowledge, or even an inkling of the guts of the stories, to point my finger in any particular direction. I cannot bring myself to judge anyone based on a few snippets of the stories I read online that may be egregious in nature and posted merely to get a frenzied reaction.

This post, itself, may receive a backlash from some who feel they have a right to their opinion and I don’t disagree with them. Everyone has a right to post whatever they want. But I would like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, whether they are $10,000.00 designer shoes or a pair of used sandals purchased at a second-hand store, before I cast judgement on decisions anyone feels they are making in their own, or anyone else’s, best interest.

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Some may refer to my affliction as having a bleeding heart but I prefer to classify my perceived misfortune as having an open mind. I cannot even fathom being in a position of great power, extreme wealth or social spotlight. I am writing this post from my tiny home in a small town situated in a rural location in Canada. If for no other reason, I am writing this post to remind myself that everyone has a story. Everyone has choices they have to make, regardless of how well-received those decisions may be. But, most importantly, I am writing this to emphasize, perhaps just for my own edification, that everyone should remain true to their beliefs and follow the path they perceive to be the right course for them to follow.

 

My house is a very, very, very fine house

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Crosby, Stills and Nash permeate my brain as I write this post. In April of this year, I will have lived in my little house for twenty years. Twenty years. The walls surrounding the six-hundred square feet I call home have protected me from the elements, shrouded me from the realities I wanted to avoid and comforted me in my greatest moments of sadness.

These walls have listened to me converse with the numerous characters I have created in my stories, they have reaped the benefits of my good times and they have absorbed the many tears I have cried while facing the catastrophic losses in my life, and there have been several since I have been a resident here.

I dealt with the loss of my grandmother in this house. I came home and sobbed for the loss of my best college friend in this house. I spent many sleepless nights in this house after the loss of my father. I awoke in this house to the early morning phone call that my mother had passed. I conquered my divorce in this house. And most recently, I came home to this empty house after saying goodbye to my dog, who was my child and who lived here with me for twelve and a half years.

These walls are not just walls, they are my asylum. This home is my retreat, my security. There have been many moments when I thought my home wasn’t enough but, when I consider everything it has given to me during the past two decades, I know this home is everything I needed it to be. It will never make the cover of any magazine but it covers me in ways I could never have imagined. It will never be featured in Architectural Digest, but the bones of its structure, to me, are more formidable and more hospitable than any million dollar mansion ever could be. This is my protection. This is my refuge. This is my home.

 

 

An ocean of sorrow

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I have cried a million tears for you
and I will cry a million more.
The house is so unnaturally quiet now,
like it’s never been before.
I’m talking to you like you never left,
like you’re lying by my side.
I’m waiting for you to lick my tears
like you always did when I cried.
My heart is broken knowing you’re gone
and I will never again see your face.
An ocean of sorrow fills this house
and I’m drowning in the emptiness of this place.
But I know, slowly, I will come up for air,
face my grief one breath at a time.
I will cherish the memories of the bond we had
and forever thank the Gods who made you mine.
I miss you, sweet girl, your smiling face
and the love you unconditionally shared.
Your paw prints remain forever on my heart,
and together we will always be paired.
You went to sleep, knowing I loved you
and you will always be in my heart.
And each moment I spend thinking of you
means we will never truly be apart.