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

 

unnamed-1

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

Happy Birthday Jason!

Today is your 44th birthday and to celebrate we had meat and cake for dinner (as per very specific requests). No fancy party hats or horns like last year but I did give a gift to all of us: a Rhodonite stone. Rain saw them at the store a couple weeks ago. (He has recently become interested in stones and gems).

“Their purpose is emotional healing. We should get one.”

“Do you think our emotions need healed?”

“Yeah.. you know.. ‘cause of Dad…”

So now we can start keeping our Rhodonite stones near our hearts as another step in our healing journey.

IMG_9942

It’s ironic that your birthday falls just one day after World Suicide Prevention Day. As if I don’t think enough about you, and suicide, and all the ways I might have been able to tried so hard to prevent it.

But I guess I’m stuck with you and these thoughts of you.

And because I’m stuck with you, you are also stuck with me (sucker!). And I am going to continue to talk to you each and every day (that should be sufficient punishment). Of course the bright side is that I am talking more than yelling at you these days (you’re welcome.)

And I have stopped (um okay, I’ve decreased) blaming you for everything that goes wrong in our lives. Yes, of course I realize that when I’m late getting the kids out the door in the morning, it’s probably not your fault. But that doesn’t mean I won’t mutter your name under my breath with clenched fists in classic “Newman” style.

Lately you have become less of a mortal enemy and more of a weird imaginary friend that I don’t really like.

I do miss talking to you about Rain and Moxie. A lot. Despite our MANY challenges, we always united for them. The kids and I are incredibly blessed to have such an amazing community of friends and family who love and care for them. But you were the only person on earth who loved them like I do. There is so much about them and their lives that only you would understand. The week before you died, you told me that you knew that I was a good mom and that I would always take great care of Rain and Moxie. I told you that they also needed you. They need(ed) their Dad. I meant that. What I didn’t say is that I needed you too.

These days, I’ve decided that your role in the afterlife is to protect us. (Big. Fucking. Job.)

You are our guardian angel with a studded dog collar, ever-changing facial hair and a drink in your hand.

We were never overly conventional.

When things go sidewise, I expect you to be there. When the kids have taken off on their bikes for too long and I’m getting worried or when I hear a crash from the basement where they are playing, my first internal thought is:

For fuck’s sake Jason, the very least you can do is deal with this.

It’s oddly comforting to believe that you are still out there somewhere, co-parenting along with me. You agree with me a lot more in the spirit world and for the most part I do appreciate your silence.

So Happy Birthday Hoop.

Cheers to you and rest up: because we will probably be keeping you very busy.

xo,

e

@pixiepaperdoll7

Happy Birthday Dad!

Happy Birthday Dad!

Rhodonite

Rhodonite

Happy Birthday Hoop

Happy Birthday Hoop

Hoop’s Memorial Hockey Game

Last night Team Adventurers were thrilled to attend a Memorial Hockey game.  Rain and Moxie’s Dad (Hoop) has some amazing friends who put together an impressive show and after party in his honour.  The proceeds (a whopping $4,466) are to be transferred to a trust fund for Rain and Moxie.

To make the evening even more special, they invited Rain on the ice with them.  He got his gear on in the dressing room with the big guys, participated in their warm up (getting pep talks from seasoned goalies) and at intermission there was a shoot-out with him in net.  This was as entertaining as it was emotional; for those of us in the stands as well as those on the ice.  There is no doubt that Rain felt his dad with him on that ice surface.  (ps if anyone has video of the stick clap that echoed through the rink as Rain took his place in net, I’d love to get a copy!)

Shoot Out Video 1

Shoot Out Video 2

Shoot Out Video 3

Shoot Out Love Video

When Jason took his life last May, he would never have anticipated this type of an event.  However, he would not be surprised to know that his friends and family have been so supportive and caring to each other and to Rain and Moxie.  Jason knew how to surround himself with wonderful people.  This event was everything he loved: hockey, friends, family, Rain and Moxie, post hockey drinks and love.  I know he was there.  I know he was proud.

Moxie and Rain had written a speech but last minute (and very understandable) stage fright prompted me to recite the speech on their behalf.  Here it is to read at your leisure:

Moxie & Rain's Speech.  Sharing memories feels good.

Moxie & Rain’s Speech. Sharing memories feels good.

And since everyone has been sharing their stories, I thought I’d share about Hoop’s first night playing with these boys (circa 2001 – approximately).

He was so incredibly nervous.  And so incredibly excited.  Despite having played Junior B as a teenager, it had been years since he tied up his laces.  In efforts to practice and gain confidence he dressed me up in his gear (EW!!), propped me up in the kitchen and fired shots at me until he felt ready for the big boys.

Thankfully he passed his try out and I didn’t need to block any more shots (Rain definitely does not get his goalie skills from me).  This was just the beginning of some amazing friendships.

So thank-you.  Thank-you to the organizers, thank-you to the playas, thank-you to all who came to support this event in person (a HUGE shout out to all of Rain’s hockey buds who came to cheer him on – love to Erindale), and thank-you to everyone who could not be there in person but demonstrated their support via messages and donations from afar.  All of your love was noticed and much appreciated.

Cheers – to friends, to love, to life.

xo

Team Adventurers

Hoop's Memorial Hockey Game - The Playas

Hoop’s Memorial Hockey Game – The Playas

Hoop's Memorial Hockey Game - The Playas (the blue in the background is Rain's ErinDale team who came to support him - thanks lil dudes!)

Hoop’s Memorial Hockey Game – The Playas
(the blue in the background is Rain’s ErinDale team who came to support him – thanks lil dudes!)

Me & Dano (social coordinator extraordinaire!)

Me & Dano (social coordinator extraordinaire!)

Team Aventurers & Tuck (great friend to all of us - thanks for making the trek Tuck!)

Team Aventurers & Tuck (great friend to all of us – thanks for making the trek Tuck!)

Hoop, Rain & Moxie

Hoop, Rain & Moxie

Hoop, Rain & Moxie

Hoop, Rain & Moxie

Hoop, Rain & Moxie

Hoop, Rain & Moxie

#BellLetsTalk Day

January 28th, 2015 is Bell Let’s Talk Day; A day to talk openly about mental health issues.

January 28th, 2015 also marks 267 days since Jason (my ex-partner and father of our kids) took his life.

267 days of grief.

267 days of heaviness that fades but never goes away.

267 days of regret.

I’ve been criticized that I’m writing about his death in some sort of self-serving way. But the way I see it is that if I had been louder about his depression while he was still alive … if I had insisted on talking to him and those who love him about what I saw… then maybe…………………………

In any case, it’s time to be loud now. It’s time to make noise and TALK ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH !!!!!!! For Jason, for Rain, for Moxie and for everyone everywhere affected by depression.

I’ve been tasked with explaining depression/suicide to Rain (10) and Moxie (8).  “Why did he do it?” is a conversation that we’ve had numerous times.  Thankfully I have had support from a bereavement group and with their help, have formulated this basic answer.

“Your dad would have done anything to help his friends and family.  But when he needed help, he didn’t ask.  He was embarrassed by how yucky he felt inside and wanted to hide his feelings.  He thought it made him stronger.  But instead it made him feel alone.  There are 3 things we need to take away from this:

1. Your Dad loved you so incredibly much.

2. His death had NOTHING to do with you.

3. Whenever you need help, ask someone.  Talk to someone. Don’t hide your feelings. ever.

Since his death, the kids have talked openly about this disease called depression to their teachers and friends at school.  Their grief has been demonstrated in countless art pieces.  We share tears, laughter and memories daily.  But the important consistency here is that we are talking about it.  We are not hiding it.  We are not ashamed by it.

Join us.. talk about it.  We are not alone.

xo

Team Adventures

Continue reading

Feature on Manifest-Station

I am so incredibly honoured to have had my “Dear Jerk” letter posted on The Manifest-Station and I am beyond blown away by the overwhelming response.

Thank you Jennifer Pastiloff for this opportunity:

http://themanifeststation.net/2014/12/04/dear-jerk-a-letter-to-the-father-of-my-kids-after-he-took-his-own-life/

And remember,
you are not alone.

xo
e

Stigma Fighters

Last week I was approached by Stigma Fighters: a blog series about real people living with mental illness. Sarah Fader, the founder asked if I would write an article about my own experience. I submitted this piece about Jason’s death, in particular the first 24 hours after getting the news. Stigma Fighters is about to become a non-profit organization aiming to increase awareness and thus reduce the stigma of mental illness. I’m honoured to have been asked to help support their (and ultimately the collective ‘our’) cause. We are only one story but not alone.

http://stigmafighters.com/stigma-fighters-erica-r/

Dear Jerk (6 months later)

Yes. You’re still a jerk.

The kids and I had a soul-satisfying summer. We went on a 3-week road trip/pilgrimage across Western Canada. It was an amazing journey of healing for all of us. We grieved for you daily but felt strong and connected.

“Look at us. We’ve got our shit together!”

Then September bitch slapped us in the face.

As Rain said, “I didn’t know what it would be like at first. Now I do.”

Agreed.

I wasn’t ready to start getting phone calls from the school with a teary voice asking if I can pick them up early because they’re just too sad to stay.

I wasn’t ready for suicide to be a catch phrase in our house. Moxie’s doll has done suicide, fyi.

I wasn’t prepared for how exhausted I would be and how very little free-time I would have.

I wasn’t ready for the consistently impossible questions: “Did Daddy have a happy death or a sad death?”

I wasn’t ready to find letters they’d written to their Daddy asking why….?

But the professionals have assured me that both Rain and Moxie are processing in a very normal and positive way, remarkable even.

Yup.

You’re WELCOME.

We joined a bereavement group. The kids LOVE going. Yes, in hindsight I wish that I had noticed Rain was wearing that grim reaper outfit last week (He was wearing a coat over it when we left!). And fine, I admit that I dressed ‘up’ the first week – Hey, it is really hard to meet people these days!

The kids and I continue to talk about you every day. Usually in passing:

“We’ve had a lot of changes around here: Daddy’s gone, we got new bread.”

“I know who’s phone number I WON’T be putting on my emergency contact list. Well I can put it on, but he’s NOT going to answer.”

“I guess I can tell you what I wished for; it can’t come true anyway.”

“Wow – that Dad is so cool. I wish I had a Dad that could do that…Well I wish I had a Dad.”

JERK!!

We have an ongoing list of all the *ahem vocabulary you introduced them to: junk, twig and berries, big fella… (And that’s just ONE body part!)

Rain and Moxie made a Lego man after you, and named him “Lego Dad”. I can’t decide if this is good-weird or we need to seek (more) professional help-weird. We all laugh about it, and no we don’t set a place for you it at the dinner table, so I think we’re okay.

Lego Dad

Lego Dad

Rain moved up to the red level in hockey. You would have known what that meant without having to ask someone, like I did. I’m trying harder than ever to be excited about hockey this year. I’ve even learned what icing means. Sort of. But at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter how much I support Rain. It doesn’t matter how many friends or family come to cheer him on. You’re not there. And your absence echoes in every cold arena in the city.

You stupid son-of-a-bitch.

I’ve spent hours poring through boxes of pictures you had kept from our life together: pre and post children.  Thank you for keeping them.

Hating you is easy.

Missing you is really fucking hard.

But I watched you struggle with your demons for thirteen years up close and personal. And then from afar for six more years once we separated. I know you tried. So did I.

Til next time,

xo

e

(@pixiepaperdoll7)