Monday, December 31, 2012

Grounded ...



I just want to wake up and see your face next to me, but I know that this can never be.
So for now, I seek the bedrock of this new life, to feel myself once again grounded.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

For today ...


 
 
Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


Friday, December 14, 2012

I wish to thank ...


Tickled pink ... I've been nominated for a blog award by a dear lady - Alicia!

She is a gifted writer and a very generous individual for she shares her experiences openly and supports when she reads between your lines!  Thank you Alicia.

Liebster is a German word meaning dearest, beloved, or favourite.  The Liebster Award is given by bloggers to other bloggers and is intended to showcase exceptional blogs.  Indeed, it is humbling!

How it works:

1.      Add the award icon to your blog.

2.      Link to your nominator to say thank you.

3.      Post 11 facts about yourself.

4.      Answer the questions the tagger has set for you.

5.      Create 11 questions for your nominees to answer.

6.      Choose 11 up-and-coming bloggers with less than 200 followers, go to their blog, and tell them about the award.

Eleven Facts About Me:

1.      I love jellybeans!  A jar filled with these wonderful little sugary delights is an addiction!  Just the sight of them makes me salivate!

2.      I can lose myself for days creating digital art.  I fell in love with the medium years back and spent many quiet Saturday and Sunday mornings at my computer creating, limited only by the hardware and software I could afford.

3.      I cheated on a test once.  In grade 2, I had prepared with my mother for my first spelling test.  I still remember the little book with all the words and by the time we were done studying, I felt confident that I would spell everything right.  Test time, the teacher standing at the front of the class started rhyming off the words.  Then the word came - LAPIN (rabbit).  Now was that with one "P" or two?  I still remember my mouth going dry.  Is it one "P" or two?!  Mom wasn't there to help sound it out ...  Oh yes!  My book is in my desk.  Without thinking, I reached down to grab my book ... WHACK!  The teacher's ruler came down hard on my knuckles!  But all I wanted to do was get it right!  No spell check back then!

4.      I broke my collar bone - not once but twice.  Twice while executing a cartwheel in gym class.  Guess everyone should have known that anyone who trips on her shoe laces is not cut out for performing cartwheels!

5.      I started playing ball hockey at the ripe old age of 51!  After watching my boys playing for 4 years and pleading with Bill to let me play ... I finally picked up my equipment in 2010 after a substantial weight loss.  I play from April to end of October every year and it is my greatest release!

6.      I have just come out of the closet - I AM A CHICK FLICK ADDICT!  There is no better time than when the house is clean and I have a feel good chick flick running while I am either knitting or crafting something.  I can watch the same movie over and over again.  My work and life is just too full of dark stories that it is nice to let my mind and heart experience something different.

7.      Three of my past boyfriends have moved on to become a priest or a minister.  Not sure what to add to this ... simply interesting, don't you think?

8.      I have lost a great deal of weight over the last few years.  It is an effort to maintain the loss but well worth it.

9.      My greatest fear is to end my days on Earth warehoused in some senior's home.  This is an emotional subject, so I won't elaborate.

10.  The "good-little-girl" syndrome has ruled my life.  I made some pretty bad choices in life because I wanted to please others.  I believe I have broken this cycle with my children by encouraging them to speak their minds with respect, reminding them always that my love is unconditional - I may not always like what you are doing, but I will always love you.

11.  I am a workaholic.  I find it very difficult to simply do nothing.  I take it that this comes from my overwhelming need to please.

Eleven Questions I Have to Answer:

I guess Alicia got carried away ... there are 12 questions here!

1.      What was your favourite book as a child/teenager?

Herman Wouk's Winds of War (1971) - The story revolves around a mixture of real and fictional characters, all connected in some way to the extended family of Victor "Pug" Henry, a middle-aged Naval Officer and confidant of President Roosevelt.

The story begins six months before Germany's invasion of Poland, which launched the European portion of the war, and ends shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, when the United States and, by extension, the Henry family, enters the war as well.

I only developed an interest in reading novels in my early teens, when I discovered whole new worlds through books.  Being one of the youngest of 8 siblings, I further protected time spent in these worlds by hiding under my bed, or by wrapping myself up in layers of blankets to ward off the cold in the sun porch during the winter months.  English not being my native tongue, there was a sense of accomplishment when I read the last page of this very prolific book in 1975.

2.      Aside from your parents/grandparents/etc., what adult influenced your life when you were a teenager?

I take it that the etc... means not blood related?  Then this would be Mr. Hanniberry.  He was my grade 11 English teacher who knew how to encourage the writer in me without the famous red pen.  It was never enough to grade your assignment.  He always had prompts in the margin, encouraging further development of your idea, then following up with you just how you had accomplished this.  Odd looking duck, but he had a true interest in your writing.

3.      When you were in high school, what did you want to do/be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a graphic artist.  I spent many hours crafting and when I joined the year book club, I knew I wanted to do this for a living!  All the beautiful decals, the smell of glue and creating wonderful page layouts never imagined by another.  However, being the good-little-girl that I was, my mother always said I should be a teacher; that being an artist was not a career choice.  So when it came time to make application to university or college, I chose neither.  I could not see myself spending money for a career I was not sure I would like.  I set my sights on working for a while, just until I made up my mind!  So there! *arms crossed, foot stomping and pouting*  For the rest of my life, I have been playing "catch-up" taking college courses here and there to further my career as an Executive Assistant.

4.      Of all the "roads not taken" in your life, which one would you like to peek down, just to see what would have happened?

This goes hand-in-hand with the above.  I continued to craft and make pretty things while working as a clerical to bring in the money to live.  When computers became more accessible, my thirst to create digitally had me exploring Web Design and Video Production.  I am self-taught and can lose myself in this wonderful digital world for days.  I have created websites, video montages for friends and family and more recently have taken up photography to bring uniqueness to my work.  Many times I wonder just how much more fulfilled I would feel if I could earn money doing what I really love to do!

5.      If you went to college, what was your major?  Would you choose the same field if you went back today?

Seeing a trend here ... although I did not go to college full-time, I did take the necessary courses to advance my career as a clerical support.  Starting as a receptionist in an aluminium doors and windows factory, I moved into the world of Executive Assistant.  So going back?  Well going forward, I am working towards a University Degree in Marketing to set myself up for a productive retirement!  LOL

6.      Do you have any siblings?

French Canadian, Roman Catholic and grew up in a small remote rural community ... do I have any siblings?  Heck yes!  We are a family of 8 siblings!  Five guys, three girls.  I am near the bottom of the pack with only a baby brother to push around.  Seriously, I would not have it any other way.  We are so diverse yet the same and there is so much love! 

7.      What's the most beautiful place you've ever been to?

Bushkill Falls, PA!  I stood on this very bridge with Bill
while on our honeymoon.  Although, the colouring was
different for we went in October, the essence is the same!

 

8.      How do you indulge yourself when you need a pick-me-up?

My bath!  The bathroom has had a facelift and I am now the proud owner of a soaker tub.  I can spend many hours soaking in the warm water while watching the snow accumulate on the tree branches just outside my window.  There is something refreshing about it - body and soul.

9.      When was the last time someone else cooked a meal for you?

Last Monday.  My youngest son threw some chicken morsels with apple butter sauce in the oven, heated a can of corn and piled the whole thing on our plates!  Yum.  Even better, the two of them cleaned up the kitchen afterwards.

10.  What do you wish more people knew about you?

I wish people knew just how hard it is for me to process my thoughts while in conversation.  I am a very reflective person and to answer questions on the spot about important things in life is difficult.  I need time to understand the question, to reflect on how I feel and on how my answer will impact the future and then I need to choose the appropriate words.  I do not like to speak only for the sake of saying something.  That is why, most times, I am quiet in large gatherings.  There are few people I trust to banter ideas with.

11.  Why did you start blogging (which may not be why you blog today)?

I started blogging in February 2011 after my husband's death.  I had searched the Internet to give meaning to my feelings and seemed to always fall short on the "lived" experiences of widowhood.  I was frightened by the various chat rooms where some had been members for YEARS and did not seem to have "grown" - reading about their pain as if it were yesterday.  It was only after my d├ębut, that I discovered the sisterhood of widowhood! My blog is changing as my grief is evolving ... as I have recently written, I miss Bill very much but I miss living even more.  I hope that my blog can offer hope, can offer reassurance that grief comes in waves and that's okay and can offer an invitation for others to reach out an share.

12.  What movie do you always have to watch when it's on television?

Bonus Points:  I am an avid DVD collector!  I love watching my movies when I want, where I want and most importantly ... without COMMERCIALS!

Eleven Questions I Am Asking:

1.     What was the one conversation about with your parents when you just knew they were speaking with you as an adult?

2.      Do you believe in the hurried child?

3.      If you could spend time in Heaven with your loved one, what would you ask?

4.      What was the most embarrassing moment in your life?

5.      When life gives you lemons, what do you do?

6.      What crucial political event shaped your life?

7.      What brings joy in your life?

8.      If you could go anywhere in the world, where would that be?

9.      What is your greatest talent?

10.  What do you do before falling asleep?

11.   If you had to divulge something about yourself (coming out of the closet), what would that be?

Eleven Blogs I am Nominating:

The request is to identify 11 blogs, however, I believe in quality vs. quantity.  This is in by no way a negative comment on what is out there.  It is simply that these are the ones I can associate with most.

1.         John writes poetry in honour of the love he and his wife shared.  He has not been posting very much these days for he has found love again.

2.         Carolyn is an exceptional writer who shares not only her journey with grief but also her many travels!
 
3.         Alicia writes on many subjects.  From the very first time I visited her site, I was hooked and needed to visit her blog often.  She writes what she feels and what she stands for - no sugar coating.  Although she herself has been nominated for the Liebster award and would not be expected to nominate 11 more, it would be nice to see her response to my 11 questions.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Giving in the sharing of receiving ...


Christmas 2009 ~ Our first Christmas without Liane, my best friend of 40 years.  Christmas after a year of many dark family challenges.  Need I say that I was not in the mood for the twinkling lights and shiny gift wrapping.  My little family moping around and my usual excitement dormant.  Bill and I went through the motions of purchasing gifts and decorating the home.  I was plagued with melancholy.

One Sunday evening - 12 days before Christmas, we came home after a family outing and found a plastic bag waiting on the front porch.  I picked it up and found a sleeve of twelve cups of pears.  Odd.  Digging through the bag, I noticed a beautiful gift tag made of scrapbook materials and it had a play on the meaning of the first of the 12 days of Christmas ... could not deliver the partridge but here are some pears from its tree.  We had a great laugh and I felt excitement awakening inside.  We tried to guess who could have left this parcel.

The next evening, we were sitting in the kitchen having a late meal when we heard the doorbell ring.  Waiting there was a bag of chocolate "Turtles" with two bars of "Dove" soap taped to it.  Again, a beautiful gift tag explaining about the cruelty of actually delivering doves!  This is so much fun!

And so the days passed and each evening a gift was left on our doorstep!  By the fourth evening, I instructed that no one was to go anywhere near the front door in the evening until after the gift had arrived.  I did not want to know who had rekindled the magic of Christmas for our family.

All the while I got into the finishing touches for everything, gifts getting extra ribbon, baking a little extra sprinkle of icing sugar!  My co-workers would come in the morning to ask about the last evening's gift and try guessing how the next day's interpretation could go.

The giving was catching ... knowing of a youth who had recently taken up living in an apartment I set out to prepare a gift basket.  I had so much fun filling the basket with all the common practical things we don't think twice when we reach for it - dish soap, towels, laundry soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, spices, shampoo, shaving gel and razors ... some of my baking and a food gift card.  The trick was finding a basket large enough to accommodate all of the purchases - YES!  A laundry hamper! 

Spinning through the aisles, making my way to hardware, I passed by Christmas wreaths and had to stop - last time we dropped in, there were no Christmas decorations.  I decided to pick up a wreath for his door and was stumped by the lack of anything youthful ... everything was either too juvenile or too mature.  I started piling my cart with all the fixings to create a wreath that would be unique to this young man. 

Getting home I popped the music in and started putting everything together.  In keeping with the anonymous gift theme, armed with my 6'2" elf we made our way to this youth's apartment.  Timing it with his work schedule, we waited to see him coming home and quietly made our way to his door to deposit our gift.  Bill gave a good solid knock on the door and we rushed out of the building, running to the car and spun off into the crisp evening.  A few days later, the news of the gift made its way to us.  My heart melted when I saw the twinkle in Bill's eyes and his moustache twitching with amusement.

Every year, the Agency celebrates a Youths' Christmas Dinner.  That year, it happen to be on the same evening as our Board meeting.  There I sat with some of the board members, telling them all about the wonderful gifts we were receiving.  I had tears in my eyes when I spoke of just how wonderful and timely this all was and shared that the last gift we had received were two beautiful scrolls that spoke of the meaning of Christmas and another that spoke of why they had chosen to share with our family. 

On Christmas Eve, I set out to purchase a Christmas card and some cardstock so that I could leave a message on our door, thanking whomever for the wonderful gift we had received in their acknowledgement of what we mean to them.  I sat decorating the cardstock and made a pocket to hold our card.  We posted the cardstock on our door just in case they were to remain anonymous.  Soaking in the tub I heard the doorbell ring.  Loud voices and hearty laughter drifted upstairs.  I hurried to make my way downstairs.

Sitting there was the family who had brought so much joy to our family.  They came with the last of the gifts.  Sitting there was a beautiful family ~ our sons being friends since JK, Mom being also a Board member ... the same one who had shared my tears when I spoke of this wonderful Christmas gift!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Family giving ....

Late 1970's, the Abitibi Paper Mill went on strike.  The men had been out for months with no hope of a return to work before Christmas.

At this point in our family life, there was only my youngest brother and I of the eight siblings left living at home.  Wanting to do something special to prepare for Christmas, my baby brother and I created a Christmas Advent Wreath for Mom.  Using square milk cartons, paraffin wax, appropriate coloured crayons and plain old braided twine for wicks, we crafted our five candles.  We mounted them on leftover Styrofoam covered in foil and added a few evergreen branches.  There it sat for a full month on the buffet.   

Every Sunday evening after dinner, Mom, Dad, my brother and I prayed together with the lighting of the candles.  We spent time as a family preparing for the coming of the Christ child.  It was a peaceful time.

However, as Christmas approached, we knew that times being financially difficult, we could not expect many presents under the tree.  As the family had already started to grow, many of our siblings would not make it home for Christmas, spending time with their in-laws.  My parents had decided to wait for the whole family to be present for the gift giving.  Poor baby brother ... how he kept going on that it would not be Christmas this year!

For the few who made it home for Christmas, we did celebrate what I have come to think of as the purest Christmas of my life.  We lit our last candle, we prayed and sang God's praise at Christmas Eve service and again at Christmas morning service and had a wonderful meal as a family.

Between Christmas and New Years, I got busy baking to offer gifts to my siblings.  I baked gingerbreadman cookies and decorated each one trying to capture their appearance, then individually wrapped and placed them under the tree, waiting for the rest of the family to make their way home.

They began arriving a couple of days before New Year's Eve each carrying boxes of food and gifts!  A large ham, vegetables, canned goods and baking!  It was exciting.
 
On New Year's Eve, we sat around our Christmas tree sharing laughter and gifts.  All was right with the world!

We celebrated the birth of the Christ child with song and prayer and then we celebrated a new year as a family with laughter and gifts!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Receiving in the Giving ...


 
 
A Christmas candle is a lovely thing;
it makes no noise at all,
but softly gives itself away;
while quite unselfish, it grows small.
~ Eva K. Logue

 
 
 

Again with the Wal-Mart lineup!  But on this occasion, I was blessed with the opportunity to make a difference.

It was one of those quick run to the store to pick up the last of  the trimmings.  Friends were coming for a Christmas social and the decor was just not complete.  Looking up at the clock, I noticed that I had just enough time to get home, fuss with the decor and set up the trays before everyone got there.  My foot started tapping.  I was taking stock of the number of people in the lineup as well as the number of items in their carts when an associate shows up with a trolley!  I was growing impatient by the moment. 

On the trolley was a large box containing a table and chairs as well as pretty yellow seat cushions with matching curtains. The customer's face was bright and her body language spoke to the excitement brewing inside. I smiled, remembering the first time I purchased furniture. There was a little boy looking up at his mom, clutching an action figure close to his chest. He quietly asked his mother if he could have it. She gently shook her head; without complaint, without a tear he quietly placed the box back on the shelf with obvious disappointment. Shoulders slumped, she thumbed through her money then began removing the cushions off her pile of treasurers; disappointment transferred. As I watched the exchange unfolding, I swallowed hard to fight the lump forming in my throat.

I picked up the box and asked if it would be okay if I purchased the doll for her son.  She thanked me but refused.  I quickly searched for a new approach.  I told a little white lie and offered that I would be purchasing a toy for the toy drive and would prefer to do so now and actually see the joy it brings.  She reconsidered and accepted. 
 
In order to facilitate the transaction, I moved ahead to run my purchases through.  The tired cashier's shoulders lifted and a smile brightened her face. 

I turned around and handed the box to the little boy of about six years old.  He beamed and wished me a Merry Christmas.  I got home a little earlier and a whole lot happier!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Gift of Giving ...


I am not alone at all, I thought.  I was never alone at all.  And that, of course, is the message of Christmas.  We are never alone.  Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent, for this is still the time God chooses. ~ Taylor Caldwell

 

 
Back in the early 80's, living in a small bohemian three-story apartment building, offered a richness of neighbourly kinship.  Nine separate stories intertwined with each other by the coming together of impromptu barbeques, the sharing of a glass of wine (or two) on a common balcony complete with guitars and songs to celebrate someone's success or the quiet moments with each other to support another in grief and the simple daily, "How are you today?"  We knew each other's names, each other's families and more importantly each other's stories. 

It came to be one fall, that our newest family came upon hard times with the loss of employment.  This little family of five did not live beyond their means prior to the accident, and so with the loss of this single income we all knew that it was only a question of time before the cupboards would be bare.  We did what we could, always being respectful of their pride.

One frosty morning, I was a little late to get out to work and was rushing past their door when the wee ones came out to make their way to school.  I was greeted with large munchkin smiles.  It was brief but long enough to see that their snow suits were too small, that their hands were bare and a thin scarf served as caps.  I bought wool on my way home that night.

For the next few weeks, I sat over my lunch hour and through the evenings knitting large scarves that doubled as hats (all the rave back then) for each one.  The magic caught on with a co-worker asking who I was knitting for.  After finishing telling her about this family, she offered to knit the mittens to ensure that I would be able to finish in time for Christmas.  I handed over a ball of wool for each.

This same co-worker walks in the next week with a large box.  She was all bubbly and excited.  "Look," she says,  "I happen to chat with a friend about this family and they showed up with this!"  It was a box filled with snow suits and boots for each of the children.  We hugged and cried.  Somehow, I managed to lug this large box back to the apartment using public transit.  I received a lot of exasperated stares but they were lost on me!

Giddy as a schoolgirl, I just had to share this wonderful story with the others.  We gathered, we planned; there would be enough for a Christmas feast. 

In the wee hours of December 23rd, the neighbours started scurrying about, depositing boxes of food, clothing and gifts knee deep in front of their door.   We rushed back to our doors to listen as the last neighbour knocked.  We stood listening, waiting ... waiting ... and then it came!  A loud shriek!  I looked up and smiled at the others as we quietly closed our doors.

That evening, as I approached the apartment building I could hear the merry giggles of the munchkins playing in the snow.  They were beaming and verbally climbing over each other to inform me that Santa had come early!

Indeed, little ones, Santa did come early for everyone.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Joy of Giving


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The joy of brightening other lives, bearing each others' burdens, easing other's loads and supplanting empty hearts and lives with generous gifts becomes for us the magic of Christmas. ~ W.C. Jones

An angel of Christmas past came today, reminding me of the pure joy of being there for another.  I have dwelt in the memories of Bill at Christmas too long, leaving little to no room for other memories to intrude.  Today, I have opened my heart to other memories.  These precious gems that persuade a smile on my lips and infuses my person with the peace of the season.
 
When I was a young girl living on my own, Christmas wasn't always easy.  Barely enough money to pay rent and feed myself, there wasn't always money left over to come home for the holidays.  On that first Christmas away from home, I joined the church choir to help ward off the loneliness.  Many hours were spent in practice and in fellowship rehearsing for Christmas services.  Some of the older women had even adopted me, inviting me to share a meal or two in their home.  After a few weeks, the conductor started handing out solos.  Not looking for, nor expecting a solo, I was truly taken aback when my name was called out of a 100 member choir.  I was both so very frightened and thrilled at the same time.  I was to sing one of my mother's favourites - Oh Holy Night.
 
On the Sunday before Christmas Eve, the choir assemble after service for a last rehearsal and to pick up our robes.  We went through the entire rehearsal and I truly felt that I was in the presence of a choir of angels.  We ate together, shared gifts and all looked forward to Christmas services.

At the end of the festivities, I shared with the organist that I was a little apprehensive of singing the solo in such a large church as well as it being my first Christmas away from home.  I  was concerned that I might get caught up in the moment and that my voice would crack with emotions.  I was dedicating my song to my mother who would surely be singing in the choir back home.  He invited me to stay a little longer to sing as if my mother was sitting there.
 
As we climbed to the loft, I noticed my heart becoming quiet and still.  Waiting for the organ to fire up, I looked down and soaked in the scene of coloured sun rays warming the altar and the beautiful scenes portrayed by the stained glass windows.  I closed my eyes and imagined my mother sitting in the front pew, head bent in prayer.  The organ struck my cue and I began with a timid voice at first but growing bolder as the pipes carried my song in prayer.  My last note chased a tear down my cheek and I was suddenly filled with the Spirit.  My Christmas prayer answered.
 
Walking home alone after Christmas Eve service, I was not sad nor lonely.  I felt blessed knowing that our voices had been a gift to another who might be lonely on that Christmas Eve night!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Christmas Wish

This too shall change ... thinking back at this time two years ago ... indeed things do change.  Those days were filled with apprehension, tears and despair.  Two years later, facing our third Christmas without Bill, there is a sense of  ... can't seem to find the right word.  It is a  mixture of definition, loneliness and a sprinkle of hope. 



It came in a moment of realization this past Sunday that Christmas is only a few short weeks away.  Initially, I was moved to start decorating  with only a sense of obligation but feeling a growing warmth in my heart as I worked.

It reminded me of December 1996, the year my Dad joined the angels.  Here was this little blond haired and blue eyed boy asking if Christmas was coming this year.    We spent the next couple of hours decorating the house before Bill came home for lunch.  Christmas was finally in the air and my little guy was beaming with pride and happiness.

It has been a week now, Seth has mentioned on more than one occasion that most everywhere he goes, everyone has their Christmas Tree up and homes are decorated.  I wasn't listening; that is until this moment of realization.  Once again, we got busy.  It was pleasant to spend a few hours with my Seth  decorating our banisters, music playing and a little excitement growing in my heart knowing that Casey  would be coming home to a little magic.  Change ... a bit of excitement.  Did I really feel that? 

I miss Bill so very much, but I miss living even more.

My Christmas wish for all my widowed friends ... and to all who are in pain over the loss of a dear one ...

I wish that we will learn to breathe again,

that we will learn to let go of all the hurt,

and by doing so we will see and feel again.