May 06

Before you randomly wish everyone with ovaries a Happy Mother’s Day

When I was a kid, mother’s day meant colored tissue paper rolled into little balls and glued to a paper plate. There were no store-bought cards. When we were a bit older, there was a fancy brunch at the rotating restaurant at the top of the hotel downtown, where we could see the entire city and eat eggs benedict. I wished my own mother a happy mother’s day. We called my one grand-mother on the phone (the other had already passed away). That was it. We didn’t ring the neighbours door bells to wish them a happy mother’s day. My mother certainly didn’t call every one she went to high-school with to give them her good wishes!

With the internet now, it’s become a custom blast your wishes to everyone, loud and proud. And obviously, the intentions are good. Nobody means anything by it – they are just nicely wishing everyone a Happy Mother’s Day.

Except, some people aren’t too happy to be on the receiving end. The women who struggled with infertility, who maybe lost children, or who never became mothers. Many adoptive moms are conflicted about the day too, thinking of the birth mothers who allowed them to become mothers themselves. And women who are mothers but lost their mother….

I know everyone means well, but before you randomly wish every person with ovaries a Happy Mother’s Day, maybe just for one second, ask yourself if it’s really your place to do so. I limit my wishes to my incredibly close friends who play a role in mothering my daughters. I accept their wishes in return, and from my kids and family, obviously. Other than those people, it’s just Sunday.

May 02

3:30 musings

I posted this to my personal FB in the middle of the night, but I think I meant for it to also be a blog post….

Yesterday, we took a road trip and I did whatever I could do keep them both smiling, at the same time. ‘On this day’ last year was the mega garage sale where we sold half of our belongings and put the house for sale . It was also the day J. officially went on the transplant list for a second time. Two years ago he was sick and my friend took me for my de-reconstruction surgery (expander removal). And the year before that, I was taking glam shots before starting chemo the next day. 3 years of ‘on this day’ one heavier than the other. It is exhausting to live in the present and look to the future when the past is so heavy to carry around ‪#‎330musings‬ #widowhood

Apr 25

Superhero powers, activate

I haven’t shared my Instagram here, but it’s not like I was hiding it. However today it feels very appropriate. This is what I just posted:

I got a wicked punch-in-the-stomach overnight. Another one. One that I thought we had dealt with and were going to move on from. But no. There is apparently no end to the pain people are willing to cause the girls and I. So after crying all night, I thought, ‘how do I get up and go to work today?’ And I thought of J. And of the first thing he ever bought me online – this SuperHero necklace. Vintage, from the year 2000. Before we even opened the store. And I loved it so much, I wrote to the maker and convinced her to sell me a dozen to sell in our first store. And they flew off the shelves, even though they were expensive and we didn’t sell Jewelry.

Why am I telling you this? Because I trusted my gut that time. The best decisions I made in my life were purely based on my gut. The last 2 years, I have made nothing but decisions based on fear or logic. That doesn’t work for me. I need to find my gut and start trusting it again. In the meantime, I dug up my SuperHero armour and I won’t take it off.

PS: you can follow me on Instagram.


Apr 21

Matza and Tears

Tomorrow is the first night of Passover. I’m dreading it. We are all dreading it. For so many reasons.

Passover is never an easy holiday – switching the kitchen, no flour for the kid who lives on nothing but white bread and plain pasta, no school for a week for the one who is bored at 7:15 on the first day off – it’s our own modern day version of the 10 plagues.

This year though… oy. He’s not here. The thing is, he’s already not been here for Passover many times. He always seemed to get sick right around Passover, something about seasons changing, I don’t know, but he was almost always on IV treatment. 5 years ago, a week after my mastectomy, he ended up in the hospital with severe pneumonia, and the girls and I, me with 4 drains sticking out of my body, hopped-up on pain meds, got in a cab and headed to Ds for a Seder. It would turn into an annual tradition, a home where we are welcomed by everyone, where the girls feel loved and cherished and where I don’t worry if I have to excuse myself to run to the bathroom and cry it out. And so every year for the last 5, we have had a Seder with Ds family….

And then on the second night, a fairly new tradition, As house, where I could literally just drop them off at the door and sit in my car all night crying and A would send her boys out to bring me whatever I felt I needed. Or I could show up in a onesie and sit in the basement and she would find a way to feed the non-eater and entertain the bored-one. Whatever, everything flies at As house and I am ever so grateful she got over the me-not-talking-to-her-the-first-time-we-met thing…..

And even with all this love and support from D and A, I am dreading this particular year – because I am already seeing it in the girl’s eyes… the dread, the loss, the overwhelming feelings around the first Seders without Him….. I have very grown-up feelings about this holiday, about the distance that came between us when I became his caregiver instead of his wife. But they always stayed his beloved daughters. And they only have feelings of loss and sadness.  When the rules say the matza can’t touch water, do tears count? Because we might have a problem

Apr 10

the downs after the ups

Last week, I got the best medicine of all – a 4-day visit by one of the people I hold dearest, who came here with her own daughter,  with the sole purpose of spending time with us. Everyone had a great time. There was so much giggling and laughter in the house. It really hit me hard – this house has not been a happy place. We moved here in extremely difficult circumstances, J. never stepped foot inside, the only time this house was full of people was for the Shiva. As a matter of fact, my friend was the first person to sleep here, except for the kids’ sleepovers. We’ve been here 6 months, it doesn’t feel like home, at all.

And then she went home. And we all spent the day napping. Yes, we were tired. But also, it hit us hard, being alone again. We’ve always been people who enjoyed entertaining at home. Not just me. US, as a family. he loved to throw a big BBQ together, the girls loved having everyone in the pool. Those days are gone. We miss him, but we also miss the people around us.

I’ve always been particularly fond of ‘Falling Down Blue’ by Blue Rodeo, but the first 2/3 of the lyrics really are speaking to me today:

“Falling Down Blue”

Everyone tells me I’m lucky
Got my whole life to live yet
I can’t say they’re wrong
But the days seem so long
Living inside of my head

Maybe I’ll get some relief now
Now that your things are all gone
I won’t sit here staring
At nothing all night
Bleary-eyed greeting the dawn

All right I miss you tonight
And I’m not really sure what to say
It keeps rolling in like a slow moving train
It gets harder and harder each day
Each time I think that the worst of it’s through
I am stopped in my tracks by some vision of you
All right I miss you tonight
I admit that I’m falling down blue

His things are not really all gone. They are still everywhere. I took over his nightstand and his part of the closet just so it wouldn’t hit me in the face every single morning, but I just put it all away as keepsakes for when the kids are ready to sort and look through. It’s just not the first things I see when I wake up.
Today was one year ago that we told the girls he was in rejection and needing a second transplant. The doctor who told us this news was not the regular doctor, and told me at the time that J. would not be with us a year from that day. Everyone told me not to listen to her. And yet here we are…..

Mar 30

These are my truths

If there is one thing guaranteed to make people MORE uncomfortable than me showing my naked tattooed chest, it’s me talking about my current financial situation. But after spending a good 5 days humiliated, ashamed and embarrassed, I have decided that the only way to face this is head-on. These are my truths:

  • I spend 15 years putting my husband’s well-being first and my career last
  • I quit several jobs, including one that I really excelled at and that provided well, to take care of him and our daughters.
  • In the 12+ months that I cared for him in the hospital, I also downsized our possessions and our lifestyle and uprooted our kids to a house that would be adapted for HIM, not for us.

And yet here I am, struggling to make ends meet. So I have taken huge steps:

  • Gone back to work
  • Asked my father, who is retired, to please pay the contractor for the bathroom renovation that we did for J. to come home because waiting 3 months to be paid is too long, especially when they were so sweet to us and went above and beyond to help me, the girls and the dogs.
  • temporarily borrowed cash from my daughter’s savings to pay the penalty to return his car early on the lease.

And then I cried. For days. Because I was raised to be financially independent. I was raised to live within my means. And my husband promised me everything would be fine. One day, I will pay my daughter and my father back. My kids are learning a huge life lesson and are drastically adapting the way they think about life: no more Sunday movies, no more restaurants. I remind them every single day that there are more people in the world who live this way than the way we lived before. That there are people who are way less fortunate. That yes it sucks, but that I will work very hard to make sure we are all ok. And that pride is worth more than any amount of money.

Mar 23

Big Big Changes

On Monday, I went back to work. Part time, 3 days per week. In theory it should be ok. In practice, making it work, with the elite diving schedule and 2 elderly dogs at home, it’s like playing Tetris on crack.

Here’s the thing: I wasn’t looking for work, I didn’t think I was ready. My psychiatrist, therapist and GP certainly don’t think I’m ready. But my bank account is screaming that I am overdue. My kids’ feet keep growing and the damn internet is expensive (I fired the housekeeper. I am NOT cancelling the internet). Now, my dear husband, bless his heart, was a super positive guy: Everything Was Going to Be OK. That’s what he told me, a thousand times. Well, let me tell you, everything is most certainly not ok. Death is ugly. Death and Estates is even uglier. And if people don’t have your best interest at heart***, well then it’s REALLY ugly. So we’ve made adjustments: cash only, no more eating out, no shopping, etc. But at some point, the only answer became going back to work. And lo and behold, out of nowhere, someone I actually really like and respect called me and said ‘listen, this might work…’ So I ditched the Pajama-Jeans and found a couple of business-casual outfits and voila, I am back in the work force. I didn’t even have to explain my 14 month absence from the work force and the interview didn’t once adress my dead husband.

Everyone keeps telling me I am setting a great example for my kids, that they will remember this as a great turnaround for all of us. But right now, I still see it as a pile of undone laundry, frozen chicken fingers, dog accidents in the middle of the living room, and one kid eating dinner alone… OK, so my proof-reading skills are still ‘On Fleek’ and I caught a bunch of stuff on day one, and I think I might actually have something to contribute. But a huge part of me feels like I am failing my kids. There is no way J. would have wanted this for us. But he couldn’t bring himself to think of the minutia of dealing with ‘after’.

So I’m doing my best. I’m working and showing my girls that even when you get punched in the stomach, kicked in the balls and slapped in the face all at once, you get back up and you keep going.


*** let me clarify that there are people who are trying to move mountains to help me and the girls and I am SO GRATEFUL for their help, support and hard work. I understand that estates are complicated and death and taxes take time. But I also understand that I need to feed my kids and put gas in my car.

Mar 09

Random Acts of Support

Yesterday, I shared this story on FB. I know exactly how that poor woman felt: when a complete stranger comes to your rescue and they don’t even know what an impact they had. When my mother was dying and I was trying to finish renovating our house, I broke down in the closet aisle of Home Depot and the poor clerk pretty much carried me to my car, with all my closet supplies. He still waves at me every time I walk by (I go there a lot).
The Uber driver who rushed me to the hospital late at night when J’s heart stopped and I was 100% certain he was going to be dead before I got there. I cried so hard the whole way there. He just kept telling me he would get me there, and he did, and that wasn’t even close to being the time he would die. The next day, I saw that he had left me positive feedback. The DRIVER left me, the hysterical passenger, positive feedback!

The conversation on my FB wall quickly brought up another kind stranger: the young lady at the hospital parking lot. I ended up becoming friendly with another transplant family and we both remember this young attendant with her crazy manicured nails. She was sweet and kind and made a lasting impression on me and on the other family. She probably has no idea.

Yesterday, I posted one of my #widowhood doodles on my Instagram. Honestly, I didn’t think anyone really looked at them. To me, it’s a way to pass the time, to channel my feelings onto paper and then release them into the universe. This particular doodle included the phrase ‘too many tears, not enough hugs’. Well, a few hours later, my doorbell rang and boom, random hug from someone who keeps insisting we are not really friends. Dude, you showed up at my house to hug me!

I fuel myself with these random acts. I have some very very good friends, who have carried me more than any friends should ever have to. And I will never ever be able to thank them all enough or find a way to repay them. You know who you are: the feeders and the drivers and the picker-uppers. But I also want to take a moment to thank all the kind gestures of people who might not be in the inner-circle, but who every day make it possible for me to keep putting one foot in front of another.

Mar 01

We measure in inches and pixels

Each day, we try to do one little thing, a little something that moves us forward somehow. It’s a VERY strange situation to live with all of J’s things, but he never lived in this house, never even saw the inside, and yet, he is everywhere.

Last week, Youngest was off school and she was erasing kids shows off the kitchen PVR to make room for her new favorite, Modern Family. She noticed that at least 50% of the PVR was full of ESPN specials…. She asked me if she could erase them and I said yes. Just like that, 40 Gigs of his shows were gone. Not that anyone was ever going to watch them. We kept them on there for the entire year he was in the hospital. We could have erased them a long time ago, but we just did it now.

Every day, I open his iPad and then log into his email. And then I proceed to unsubscribe from whatever newsletter or blog update happens to come that day. I have been doing this every day for 6 weeks and there are STILL a ton! He read EVERYTHING. I know there are faster ways, UnRollMe, etc, but there is a little something about checking out all the truly odd things he read.

And then there is the nightstand. Before we moved, we had these wall-mounted mid-century teak nightstands, but they didn’t fit in our much smaller master bedroom, so they are now in the living room. At some point I bought funky steel and reclaimed wood night stands. I remember taking pictures and showing them to him in the hospital to get his approval. So we moved and I put his stuff in the drawers and his beloved framed picture of Bob Costas on top of the night stand and that was that. (yes, I have slept next to Bob Costas for the last 15 years). A few days ago, I wanted to light a nice scented candle, trying to do a bit of meditation (trying, not succeeding) and I had no where on my nightstand to put it. This time, Eldest asked ‘why don’t you just put it on the other one?’. I thought, but that’s HIS nightstand! Except it’s not. It never was. So I put away the last 4 books he had on top, all his little tchatkys and his watch and put the candle on ‘his’ side. But I left Bob Costas. For now, he’s staying.

Feb 25

holy shit where have the last 6 years gone?

this picture popped up in my FB memories today….

6 years ago, we got the keys to our dream house, and my mother was dying, so we brought a folding table and folding chairs and we ordered food and had dinner in the vaulted-ceiling dining room. And then she moved out of her house and into palliative care.

then my BFF had a baby and lost her husband, in the same month. And there were 2 (yes TWO!!!) lung transplants. oh and that tiny little case of a stage I breast cancer that turned into a stage 3A, the bad kind.

My babies were 4 and 6 in that picture. They had NO CLUE what live had in store for them.

Tulips are still my favorite flowers, but we are on a cash-only-budget now, so there are no flowers for anyone any time soon.

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