Happy birthday – the kids are alright.

Happy birthday Jason,

This year we celebrated your day in typical birthday style; with your favourite food (meat!) and a round of “Happy Birthday Dad” before diving into cake. As always, we talked about you lots (do your ears burn in the afterlife?) and shared funny memories, most of which have been told millions of times but never cease to grow old.

I’m sure you had no idea that your birthday is the day after World Suicide Prevention Day and that you took your life during Mental Health Week.  I mean it’s not like you were following suicide survivors or mental health experts on Twitter – Hell neither was I back then.  But regardless, I have no doubt that you would find some twisted humour in this irony and find comfort that they are another reassurance that I couldn’t forget these dates if I tried.

The last message I received from you was asking me to tell the kids that their cat had found his way home (apparently he had wondered off during their visit with you – I’m guessing too many love squeezes from little kids).  I’m not going to lie, I rolled my eyes at your insistence. It was a busy week. I was trying to wrap my head around your recent behaviour and this seemed pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But now, looking back, I’m glad I attested that the message had been passed along and they were relieved at the news.

You loved our kids, first and foremost. I know that. They know that. And if nothing else, these anniversaries are a natural opportunity for me to continue to reassure them of your love. The week before you died you told me I was a good mom and that you knew I would always take great care of them.  I told you that they needed you too but I’m not sure you heard me…

Since your death I’ve been angry, sad and terrified that you left this parenting thing all up to me. You should be here too –  sorting out the hockey season, meeting new teachers, dealing with (pre) teen complexities and just watching them grow with me. Despite our separation, I never wanted to do this alone. Lucky for me (and our kids), we have found an amazing tribe and feel less alone than ever before.

For the longest time after your death, the kids and I just clung to each other to keep safe. I hadn’t realized how much so until recently.  It was a necessary part of our grieving and sometimes we still cling. But slowly, we’ve opened ourselves up. We’re working through our grief, we’ve survived more disappointment and fall-outs and now, we are regaining our trust in the world.  Things are good.

So this year for your birthday I just want you to know that the kids are alright.  They’re strong, creative, inquisitive individuals who hold a love for this world deep in their hearts. They are a perfect blend of both of us (obviously they are most like you when they drive me crazy and say things that make me roll my eyes). We talk about you often, not just on special dates. They miss you terribly but we’re doing good.

Happy birthday, Hoop.

love,
e

 

#TeamAdventurers
Twitter: @pixiepaperdoll7
Instagram: @pixiepaperdoll

 

Addendum:  

For those of you who have been following our journey for the past 3 years or those who have just discovered us today, thanks for your time.  While my intent was never to be a mental health advocate (I write for my own head clearing), I am always incredibly honoured and humbled when people reach out to me with their own stories of how mental health has touched their lives and how in turn,  my writing has affected them.
While I am happy to start a conversation and to help assure you that YOU are not alone, I am also not a mental health expert.
If you or someone you love is struggling with depression, please know that there is professional support available.
For those of you living in Ontario, contact The Mental Health Helpline at 1-866-531-2600.

Dear Jerk.

Happy Birthday Jason

Dear Jerk (6 months later)

Stigma Fighters

#BellLetsTalk Day

In the Words of Bob Dylan, “Play it Fu**ing Loud!”

The Black Dog

#BellLetstalk Day (2016)

Happy Birthday Jason!

Approaching Doomsday

Three Years…

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Summertime and the livin’s easy.

I’m pretty sure that my boyfriend had his son’s summer fully planned (campgrounds booked, summer camps registered, family visits scheduled) in March.  I’m also pretty sure that was when I was first asked to submit my own summer vacation requests at work.

Yo guys. It’s still snowing. I can barely make plans to put on real pants and leave the house let alone plan my summer.

The actual date of my final vacation request submission: June 27th (2 days before the last day of school).

I’m not much of a planner. (this is the secret to all of my kick-ass road trips!)

And to be fair, Rain and Moxie are now old enough that they don’t need constant adult supervision, nor do they want it. Trust me, I’ve put in my time of coordinating 10 weeks of summer. I’m done.

But mostly, I just didn’t want to.

I didn’t want to have to wake them up before work and drag them out of bed to make lunches for summer camp.

I didn’t want to spend hours searching out summer vacation spots and all the logistics that go along with that. (how many pairs of underwear do we need? did we pack enough food?)

I didn’t want to feel like I was rushing all summer long to cram as much awesomeness down our throats in fear that otherwise we’d be wasting this time sensitive and precious season.

So I didn’t.

Well not really.

I did book us tickets to go camping at Shelter Valley Folk Festival for a weekend.

I will be coordinating the merchandise table at the Peterborough Folk Festival again this year (come visit!)

We are going camping with my bf and his son for a week (three cheers to him for booking the campsite in March!!).

The kids will spend about a week with each set of grandparents. (Yahoo!)

We will spend a weekend in our hometown having some much needed family-time with aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings and grandparents!

And there will be incredible paddling trips sprinkled into the mix with a close, family friend. (they’ve already been happening almost weekly since April).

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So for sure, there will definitely be some pretty awesome stuff coming at us. But in between those weeks, it will be unstructured, easy breezy summertime sublime.

Doin’ Time – Sublime

Last week was week 1 and a blank slate.

I was at work and the kids were home all day. They stayed up late every night reading, giggling and sneaking their iPads while I slept (somewhat) soundly in my upstairs bedroom.

They slept late every morning. I left a note with a couple chores to do and reminders (eat breakfast, brush teeth, put clothes on…).  The first couple days, they spent a LOT of time on their iPads. In their pjs. Typically in bed. Food was optional. As was teeth-brushing. (So much for my reminders).

I’ve never really set limits on screen time. Mostly because they’ve always been able to self-regulate at a pace I can live with so it didn’t seem worth the hassle of timing, tantrums and god forbid – planning – their screen time usage for the day!

And sure enough this week they did decide on their own to go outside to play road hockey, climb their favourite trees at the end of the street and they traded their iPads for paper (books/drawing/writing).

On their second day home, they biked downtown to the Farmer’s Market. I’d suggested they could go get a snack with their allowance. Moxie bought 4 tarts and Rain bought a whole pie, all of which became their entire lunch that day. (Eat lunch. check).

The next day they biked to the beach (fresh air AND exercise!). This also included a stop at Mister Convenience where they pooled their money so Rain could get some groovy new sunglasses and Moxie could get candy. (Eat lunch. Check.)

By the end of the week they were on their iPads less and less. They rediscovered the giant Lego bin and they (along with the neighbours) spent hours in our living building all sorts of creations.

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I’ve also started a musician of the week activity where they have to listen to 3 songs by a featured artist and be prepared for a family discussion about them and their music at the end of the week. First was Joni Mitchell, this week is Run DMC.

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Rain is also playing baseball a couple nights/week and refereeing soccer about once/week. (you gotta make some dough to buy the pies)

All in all it was a pretty rad week.

This week they’re spending about 4 days at my parents.  No doubt, they will all have a blast!

Me? I’m working and living the easy summer life at home with Lucy. She totally feels me on this summer lifestyle thing.

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I’m also learning how to fix my bike up at our community bike hub, checking out (mostly free) live music in town whenever I can, going for runs around the lake and spending a lot of time on my back deck with popsicles. I love the slow pace of hanging my clothes on the clothesline, stopping at the farmers market before work and picking herbs out of my garden. Nothing epic to see here…just bliss.

 

And secret confession? Tonight’s the first night they’re gone and despite my list of things I was going to get done around the house, I’ve brought home take-out, went for a run and then just sat outside on the deck writing for hours.  (apparently I follow check-lists as well as Rain and Moxie do in the summer.)

The kids will be back home by the weekend and they’ll have about a week and a half before the next grandparent trip.

Maybe they’ll spend it sleeping, eating sugar and staring at a screen until their eyes are completely glazed over. They’ll survive.

Guys look, I love adventure. I mean, I love it in a way that burns through my veins and gives me cravings that keep me up at night.  And if you are off having an epic adventure somewhere in the world, I will definitely feel pangs of envy. But right now, I’m pushing the summertime easy button and it’s kinda like magic.

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xo
e

#TeamAdventurers
@pixiepaperdoll7 (Twitter)
@pixiepaperdoll (Instagram)

 

Three Years…

Dear Hoop,

This coming Saturday marks three years since your death. Three years of replaying every last conversation we had. Three years of seeing you through my rearview mirror as you buckled up the kids and said good-bye for the last time. Three years of watching you live and breathe in our kids. Three years of questioning your actions. Three years of living with my guilt.

But this year I had decided to ignore the anniversary. I’ve moved on (didn’t you get the memo?). I am happy. I have an amazing life.  I am so fucking balanced that acrobats and accountants are wondering how I do it. (stop laughing, it’s true..mostly.)

Yet somehow you have managed to slip into my subconscious.  Despite my best efforts, you have snuck past my mental roadblocks and have invaded my dreams. For weeks now I’ve been tormented with the most horrendous nightmares that I’ve decided to just stop sleeping all together (The local coffee shops can thank you for the influx in sales).  I won’t go into the gory details (’cause obviously you already know them) but for real… STOP IT!!!!

And I’m not the only one feeling you this week.  Sunday was like all of us were PMSing on steroids.  Even Lucy was hissing at everyone that walked past her.  We didn’t have to mention your name or reveal the impending date but it was there.

Last night at dinner I was casually talking about our upcoming weekend plans when Moxie looked me straight up and said, “but what about Daddy-Day?”

God dammit.

Oh right, D-Day. You remembered.

Deep breath. That’s okay, I do better when I’m not in the elephant’s shadow anyway.

Me: Of course we can do something to remember Dad. Let’s think about some options. But in the meantime, do either of you want to talk about it or do you have any questions?

Her: Well I learned a lot about depression when I wrote my speech and I know that there are lots of kinds of depression so I’m just wondering… what kind of depression did Dad have? I mean.. he didn’t seem depressed?

Me: You mean he didn’t seem sad?

Her: yeah.. how is that depression? Wasn’t he really happy?

*Insert an hour of me rambling on about how you WERE so happy when you were with them and how much you loved playing with them and how all of that happiness was so very real….despite the fact that underneath, you suffered from depression.  Sweet Jesus, I really wish you’d left me a guidebook or at least an FAQ list of how to answer their top 5 questions.

So we made a rough plan to do something to remember you on Sunday (’cause sorry, it’s not all about you and our Saturday is already scheduled).  It will probably involve food.  And it will probably involve some sort of activity where we share stories and send messages to you.  And it may involve some sort of exorcism to get you outta my subconscious.  But we will take some time to remember you.

And rest assured. you continue to be missed. every day. no matter what date it is.

 

xo

e

Twitter: @pixiepaperdoll7
Instagram: @pixiepaperdoll
#TeamAdventurers

 

Important Resources (because although I can speak about my own personal experience, I am NOT an expert):

If you are currently supporting a loved one with mental illness, please, seek out expert support.  Find support for your loved one and for yourself.

If YOU are considering suicide at this time, please, I urge you to call a crisis line in your area.

 

related previously posted:

Dear Jerk.

Dear Jerk (6 months later)

Stigma Fighters

Approaching Doomsday

Unicorns – by Moxie

 

 

 

 

I run to lose weight….(wait for it…)

I got home from an exceptionally long Monday & was on the brink of shrugging off my originally planned run. Excuses were there for the taking: I was tired. (Yeah I know..join the club). I’d already missed the last 4 days..what’s one more? I can’t leave the kids for another 30 minutes, that’s poor parenting. (Psst…they’re too busy playing outside with their friends to notice). I’ve pretty much lost my layer of hibernation so what’s the point? 

Then I read a post by Jennifer Pastiloff who, looking fierce AF stated, “I exercise because if I don’t, I’m a mess.” #preach 

Running clothes on & out the door I started to think about why I run and realized it IS to lose weight. The kind of weight that sits in my mind. It’s not clutter or cobwebs or dustbunnies. It’s heavy & makes it hard to move. It’s atrophic. Being outside alone with my thoughts & minimal distraction helps me shake that shit loose. I practice my own style of active meditation (even though I like to insist I suck at meditation). I come home clearer. And lighter. 

Side benefit is setting a good example for the kids about how to deal with daily stress & anxiety. Had I not gone running, I most likely would have poured a glass of wine for dinner &/or scrolled through social media numbing my brain. And let’s be honest, I still might pour a glass of wine & tada here I am on social media..cause (thank Gawd) I’m not perfect but I’ve managed to changed the tone of my evening. 

I’m not fast. Nor do I typically run more than 5km at a time. But this is not a contest. And even though I’m not trying to win anything, I gain so much …. by losing this weight. 

Thanks for the reminder Jennifer!!! 

How do you lose that extra weight in your mind?

xo,
e

(Ps-how lucky am I to have this gorgeous lake to run around?!?!)

twitter: @pixiepaperdoll7

instagram: @pixiepaperdoll

March is for madness.

 

I don’t know about you but I am not at my best in March. All of my strategies to get through the long dark winter have been tossed aside along with the chip wrappers, wine bottles and dirty casserole dishes. I’m tired. I’m hiding an extra layer of fat under my sweat pants and tights. I feel gross. It’s become painfully clear that once again, I will not be dashing away for a hot weather, scuba adventure. I am bored and even worse…I am boring. I have nothing to talk to anyone about except for my own misery which makes me retreat from everyone to save us all my moaning.

Having said all of that, you may not believe me when I tell you that I actually consider myself a fairly enlightened person. I spend time in gratitude every morning before getting out of bed and set my intentions for the day. I walk to work and spend my lunch hours power walking by the water listening to uplifting podcasts. In fact, in a recent attempt to make the best of this lull in my life, I decided to throw myself into active waiting, a term I learned from Danielle LaPorte podcasts. While waiting for nicer weather, I started tackling some of the winter house projects that have been accumulating on my to do list.

If I can organize my entire house, redecorate rooms, create every meal from scratch, work full-time, care for both of my children, ensure all household chores are done to perfection, find time for close friends and spend at least one or two evenings/week with my bf, then I’m winning right? IF I can pull all of that off, then maybe I’ll be less gross and boring.

Or maybe instead I will become completely overwhelmed, have a house full of half-finished projects and dwell on all the areas in my life where I am failing, which now also includes active waiting.

*insert sad monologue about the disappointment of not being able to do it all

Lately the biggest feeling of failure for me has been in the parenting department. Because while I’ve been struggling to keep afloat in my lifeboat, my kids have been floating along beside me. (Thank God they are good sports and good swimmers!)

We’ve always been a tight team and I try to keep a strong connection with them. I spend about 10 minutes of 1:1 time with each of them every morning, we eat a (mostly) home cooked meal together every day and we read aloud together every night before bed. But even still I constantly worry that they spend too much time on their electronics, feel immense guilt when I don’t have time to play cards when they ask, and have no idea what goes on in the mind of a teenage boy. I don’t know if it’s their ages, my schedule or my anxiety-driven imagination but I worry that we are losing our connection.

Last week I decided to take action and booked a cottage for the following weekend. We needed to get out of our daily routine and shake things up. I wanted to be fully present with them, without the distraction of life.

On Friday I loaded the car with our comfiest clothes, board games, books, art supplies, journals, a cooler full of quick and easy meals and a hopeful heart and we drove 2.5 hours north to our little cottage retreat.

And for the entire weekend, I was entirely present and available to my kids.

We watched movies together. We played umpteen hands of gin rummy, board games, and scrabble stopping only to meander to the mini fridge for more snacks. We explored by the water without having to rush so I could get home and start dinner. And when we wanted time alone, we created art and read books.

It was bliss.

Now that we’ve reconnected and I feel assured that they feel assured that I am available to them, the next step is to keep this momentum alive. It’s completely unrealistic to take a vacation every time I want to spend uninterrupted time with them. And despite the fridge magnet that says, a messy house is full of memories, it’s also full of anxiety ridden chaos which makes it just as unrealistic to stop cleaning.

So instead I will simply acknowledge that there will continue to be highs and lows along this journey. There will be moments when I feel I have it all together and others where you’ll find me under my covers eating ice cream.

The good news is that warm weather is on the horizon and no one is ever boring while wearing sundresses and flower crowns.

Be grateful. Be present. and it will be okay.

(But really….what actually goes on in the mind of a 13 year old boy?)

xoxo,

e

#TeamAdventureres

@pixiepaperdoll7 (twitter)

@pixiepaperdoll (Instagram)

 

PS.

This beautiful song kept coming on my playlist while we were away and it definitely needs to be shared. Rain and Moxie, you are and will always be, safe and sound with me.

 Safe and Sound – Hawksley Workman

 

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Exploring. Of course they both fell into the lake. Don’t worry, it was shallow.

i am your willow

i am your willow
and i will keep you safe.

i will bend.
i will adjust.
i will surrender:

to the process
to the storm
to myself

i will flex to the best of my abilities
and i will not break.

i will wrap myself around you, and
weep with you
through
joy and grief.

i will survive thrive
no matter how challenging fucking impossible life gets.

and i will keep you safe,
for i am your willow.

 

 

e

Twitter @pixiepaperdoll7 

Instagram @pixiepaperdoll

Tattoo artist: Tedd Hucks 

Instagram @tedd2s
 

And Sew It Goes..

It’s been a cozy weekend and as I am puttering around and mulling over writing a new post, I’m drawn to this older one I wrote just over 2 years ago.  It’s about the practice of mending: fabric and emotions.  It was published in Bunch Family and they even secured amazing photos by Karyn Valino to accompany the writing.

A couple of years makes a huge difference. These days, it’s very rare that I sit down to stitch up worn out knees or repair a ripped stuffed animal. Their toys tend to require more technical and less traditional support these days. Rain still destroys all of his clothes but he prefers to wear them ripped as a badge of honour.

So today this post is reflective at the realization of how life changes, within a stitch in time.

And Sew it goes..