Monday, October 17, 2016

Feelings. Nothing more than feelings?

The other day my daughter had an epic meltdown at the doctor's office, I wrote about it on Facebook.

Actually, we both had meltdowns. She threw the tantrum of all temper tantrums and when I couldn't console her, or figure out how to make her stop I lost my shit and started to cry too.

I cried hard. I was a sloppy spectacle with makeup running down my face and a screaming, crying, kicking toddler at my feet. In hindsight it's kind of funny, but at that moment I was so frustrated, tired, defeated, embarrassed...

So, I cried.

You know how it is, once you finally cry after a good build up you need to let it all out. I can't remember the last time I cried before this. There had been many times that I wanted to, but I never did because I was busy, or because there were kids around and I didn't want to scare them... Or, just because I couldn't. I wanted to, but I couldn't.

The good news is that both her and I started to settle when we got into the doctor's office. She finally let me hold her, so I nursed her until she was nearly asleep.

That sleeping little girl is who the doctor saw when he came in. He said he didn't even hear her tantrum, so I must have looked insane when he saw me. My makeup was running down my face. My eyes were red. I was still reeling over both of our meltdowns...

I tried to explain away my emotions.

"She's just really hard right now."

"I'm so tired."

"I feel like I do everything."

"I hit my breaking point."

"I am overwhelmed."

I told the doctor that today's tantrum was the biggest I'd ever seen. He then said something that I wasn't expecting...

"I'm sniffing out a touch of postpartum depression," he said.

Uh, what? Blank stare. doing math in my head. Nothing really adding up right now...

"She's a year an a half old. I can't have that."

"Yes you can..."


I left the office agreeing to followup with him in a month.

Since he brought it up I have googled a lot about postpartum depression. Symptoms. People's experiences. Methods of therapy...I have talked to Chris and I've talked to some of my friends about his suggestion, and I've tried to determine if I am missing something that he saw.

Can someone have something like postpartum depression and not know it? If so, that's pretty messed up...

I know the doctor saw a mom of a strong-willed tantruming toddler who hit her breaking point. I know he didn't see her epic tantrum. I know that he's a professional with experience in dealing with children and mothers and all of that fun stuff...

But I am not convinced that postpartum depression is something I have.

I think it's worth looking into, and I think it's important to talk about because of the stigma attached to mental health issues, but I think I was just having a bad day.

I feel overwhelmed and tired, and I feel like crying sometimes. I feel really busy, and guilty, and like I have lost myself in this whole parenting thing. However, I also feel happy, and proud and really connected to my daughter and step kids. I love being their mom and their Shelley. It's stressful as fuck sometimes, but I love it.

I feel like I feel too happy too often to have PPD.

Maybe I'm wrong.

But, I don't think so...

I did go through a dark period in the first couple of months of Riel's life. It was such an odd feeling because it was the most joyous darkness I've ever experienced. I was high. Euphoric. I was so in love with my new baby, but I was overwhelmed with thoughts of my own mortality. The feeling of not being around for her was crushing. I was so scared of the worst case scenario. I was anxious that she would get sick, or that I would get sick, or that one of us would die. It scared me, and it was a really dark spot during the happiest time in my life.

What an oxymoron.

I thought far too much about the 'what ifs.'

With the intensity of the love I had for my daughter and the feelings of becoming a mom came a lot of fear and anxiety.

I chalked it up to sleep deprivation and hormones.

But now, I feel like I have moments, and sometimes days that are hard. I feel like that's just part of this life. Sometimes I am weak, sometimes I am strong. I'm still kind of new at this-- Eighteen months in...

I will look into the doctor's suggestion of possible PPD. I am not ashamed or embarrassed of the notion that I could be thought to have (or even have) postpartum depression. I just don't think that I do have it.

I suppose this post is to be continued...

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Goodbye Gord. Thank you.

We went to The Tragically Hip concert on Friday night.

I had been waiting for this day. This concert. This show. I'd been waiting for this one last experience with Gord Downie-- Canada's coolest older brother, for what seemed to be forever.

There was a bitterness to yesterdays sweetness though, because through the excitement there was grief that this was goodbye.

Cancer is eating his brain, and instead of dying at home he is living the fuck out of his life across Canada with one last hurrah. If the rest of the shows have been like the one in Winnipeg yesterday, then it's apparent that Gord is giving all of himself to his fans and to his art. He is doing what he loves, and he's not letting the vicious c stop him.

He is the most alive dying man I have ever seen.

It was surreal. It was loud, and everyone was wearing their Hip merch, old and new. It was like a cult of fans who had known The Hip for some of the most important years of their lives trying to hear the soundtrack of their lives just one last time. Trying to be part of something that actually meant more than just dollars and choreographed dances. Trying to see if they could spot the terminal cancer in the flamboyant Gord Downie. Trying to savour every second of the last time.

It was truly an honour just to be there.

The MTS Centre was packed. More people would have been there, but the demand for tickets was too high. Everyone there won some sort of karmic lottery. Robots snatched up all the tickets to sell on StubHub on the day they went on sale, and he general public never stood a chance unless they were part of a fan club, or a particular credit card holder. Or, unless like Chris and I, they had a friend who was willing to sell tickets to them.

But for a show like this; a band like this; a part of your Canadian soul and identity, you just had to be there to say goodbye. Whether people were ripped off by scalpers or StubHub, or whether they got their tickets at face value, what the fans got was an experience that is invaluable.

They got to say goodbye. They got to feel that goodbye...

Gord Downie was supposed to live well into deep wrinkles and old eyes that had seen a lot. He was supposed perform countless more times, singing from his soul like the performer that he is. He was supposed to write more songs and poetry, and watch his kids grow and hold his grandbabies. He was supposed to live to see his own legend grow.

He won't though. He will die, and a part of us will die with him.

While his impending death truly is tragic, right now he is still alive and he is still giving one helluva performance. Winnipeg  was an incredible sendoff to a man and a band who have been part of the soundtrack of my life since I was a kid.

Thank you Gord. May you find peace in whatever you believe, and may you live out the rest of your days happy, feeling loved and pain-free. Thank you for being part of my life for...Well, for what seems like forever. Thank you for doing this tour, and for sharing yourself with all of us.

We love you Gord.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

On life and death.

We are interring my grandma tomorrow, on her birthday. She died in November, but the ground was frozen so we decided to wait.

I bought a box to put her ashes in and I dropped it off at the funeral home the other day. The funeral director brought her remains out-- a cardboard box, smaller than a shoe box, filled with a tagged bag of sand. That was it. That was all that was left of her. This bag of greyish coloured sand.

It's hard to believe that someone so mighty; someone who, until recently, had been a part of what I know as forever is now just a box of sand.

I've tried to look for signs that she is still with me, and that there is something far more divine after this life. I've consoled myself and others by saying that she has finally been reunited with her beloved George, and her sisters and brothers.

I wear her necklace because it reminds me of her.

I realized that I am not at peace with her being gone. I am not at peace with what I believe in. I get scared when I think about death, or what it must feel like to die. I get scared when I think about me, or the people I love not existing anymore...

What if there is no heaven? What if this is all there is? What if there is a heaven, but I won't go because I don't know exactly what to put my faith into?

When I think about it I want to cry and throw up all at the same time.

When the funeral director showed me the sand I didn't make a big deal about my feelings. I've learned that big feelings like the ones I am having are hard to share. People get scared or uncomfortable, or they think you are being dramatic-- She was an old lady, she lived a hell of a lot longer than a lot of people. I should be so lucky to have had her for so long. Get over it.

I know. I really should.

But there, I got lost in a whole bunch of deep feelings and I didn't want to sound crazy. I was calm and I thanked the funeral director and I left.

When I got into my car the lump in my throat became too big and I started to cry.

I cried for her and I cried for myself.

I've struggled a lot with her death, and with the idea of death in general. This isn't new, I've always been afraid, but my fears have intensified since the birth of my daughter and the death of my grandma.

When Riel was born, my mortality hit me so fast and so hard I didn't even see it. I remember the second she was born, I was forever changed and I was euphoric. Here was this brand new life with everything ahead of her and yet there was this part of me that was already grasping at all the time I have with her. I remember thinking that all the rest of my life would never be enough time. I was so overcome with emotion that I just held onto her and I cried.

Perhaps it was hormones, or a realization of how precious life and love are. Whatever happened to me that night changed me and it changed the way I see life.

Eight months later, on the night my grandma died I remember smoothing her hair and telling her to let go. She was in a deep, medically induced sleep. Her breathing was forced and she was never going to wake up again. She was lingering in the land of the living, but death was all around. Even the weather sensed it. Tiny raindrops fell from the sky, as if to weep for her in her last hours of life.

In that moment I wanted her to die because life seemed so forced and I wanted her to be at peace. I wasn't thinking about the days, years or lifetime after she died. I wasn't even considering that her death would leave this emptiness and sense of wonder. I was just in that moment and I just wanted her to be at peace.

When someone is dying, it's hard to watch those final moments.

That evening her pastor came. He held her hand and he read Psalm 23:4

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff comfort me."

It seemed so cliché. I wanted to laugh and weep all at the same time.

I left her, intending to come back. I had to get my daughter home, and my parents were there to sit with my Amma as she drifted away.

And then my mom called me, maybe an hour after I got home, and she told me "Shell, she's gone."

My grandma meant different things to different people. I won't lie and say that she had great relationships with everyone, because she didn't. But, her and I had something special. She was one of my greatest loves and even though she was old and I was lucky to have her for as long as I did, my fear and my grief know no such logic.

I miss her. I miss her and I am so scared that I will never, ever see her again.

In life there is nothing more true than the fact that we are all going to die. It's the one constant. I remember asking Amma if she was afraid of dying. She said no. She believed in God and heaven, death wasn't an end for her.

Monday, April 18, 2016

For my Riel on her first birthday...


Today you are one year old. What a year we've had!

You slowly made your way into this world at 10:08 p.m. on April 18, 2015 after more than 24-hours of labour. Looking back, I don't know how I did it, or how anyone does it. Giving birth is such a powerful and surreal experience. Before I actually did it, I was so scared and unsure. Yet, when the time came, motherhood came over me and I became so strong and able. My friend Melissa (a midwife) told me that you had to work just as hard and I did for you to be born. Her words and the meaning behind them pushed me to keep going, because I owed it to you.

When you were finally here I held you close and I cried and I cried. You were so little and new, yet it was like I'd known you my whole life. I never knew how incomplete life was before you. 

It's so strange how much we change when we become mothers. We can plan and anticipate what is to be, but babies and life don't follow plans all that well. In fact, when I was pregnant I set out to fit you into my busy life. I didn't want anything to change and I didn't even consider that you wouldn't fit, no matter how tiny you were. No, you changed everything and turned my world upside-down. But, from the moment I met you I was madly in love and I embraced the new journey.

Our year has been the best year of my life.

Seeing how much you change and grow is astounding. Every day it seems that there is something different or new. There is so much change in such a short time, sometimes it's hard to comprehend.

I won't lie and say that there haven't been moments that were hard, or that there were times when I just wanted to feel like myself again. Motherhood is constant. Even when you're asleep, or are in the care of someone else you are the forefront of my thoughts. I have to give you all of me because you are so small, and you still need all of me. 

But childhood is so short, and I will get myself back soon enough. 

I remember your dad telling me that this man he used to work with said to him one time "Don't ever wish your childrens' childhoods away, because one day they will be gone." 

That hit me. It hit me hard.

There have been moments when you have been hard-- crying, fussy, sick, overtired... and I found myself wishing that you'd just stop being so helpless, or I start wishing that you were just a little bigger so I could reason with you. Then I remember that this time is so short, and that I don't want to wish your childhood away. 

Tomorrow a new routine starts for us. I start back at work, and you'll be in the care of someone else. I never thought I'd feel so emotional about this, but I do. I don't want to miss anything. I know you'll be fine, but I am so scared to miss anything, including the hard moments.

I love you my girl, you are the light of my life. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


I have to go back to work in April and I am already starting to feel overwhelmed about it because I am still fat.

Yeah, I went there.

I'm not trying to body shame myself. I mean, if the last two years have taught me anything, it's that my body is an amazing and powerful vessel. It created life! I am lucky to have a body that works, and for the most part I try to be body positive, especially since I have a daughter who I want to be a good role model for. I never want her to hate herself or her body because she doesn't meet an ideal.

That said though, even people who strive to be body positive have moments of insecurity and doubt. Going back to work fat is mine.

Before I gave birth, I promised myself that I would get back into shape on mat-leave. A year is plenty of time to develop and balance a healthy lifestyle, plenty of people do it. I could too.

I had this notion in my head that I would saunter into work in my pre-baby and pre-boyfriend attire. (Because let's be honest, I gained weight before I was pregnant.") I wanted everyone to "ohhhh" and "ahhhh" about how great I looked and how skinny I was.

Yes, this is vain, but this is what I wanted.

But the truth is I still haven't found my groove. I haven't found my groove at the gym. I haven't found my groove at meal planning. I haven't found my groove with the kids, in my relationship, or with myself. I haven't found my groove in this life. I mean, I am doing well and enjoying life, but everything is a big fucking balancing act that I haven't mastered yet. Often my days are dictated by the temperament of my eight month old daughter.

Genetics also plays a key role. I have a large body, I come by it honestly.

A few years ago I lost a bunch of weight because I went to the gym six or seven days a week and because I had a super restrictive diet due to a bad gallbladder. Even then, eating no fat whatsoever, I still wasn't "skinny."

But, this time around I could have been better at working out and I could have "dieted" from the get go. I could have done a lot of things but I didn't, and I'm still not. Not in any sort of routine, anyway.

More than losing the weight, I need to lose this insecurity, because it's like cancer. It's gnawing away at me, and for what? -- My insecurities are certainly not going to motivate me to go to the gym more. In fact, hating myself usually motivates me to do nothing at all. I need to stop beating myself up for not "bouncing back" or not looking like the other new moms who just had babies. I need to stop getting frustrated when I can't get a workout in. (I hand it to you mothers who are able to, you are superheroes. keep going!)

I need to find that place where I am comfortable in my own skin, no matter how lumpy or stretched out it may be. I need to stop beating myself up and being a fatphobe because it makes me ugly and the world has enough fat-haters already. I need to enjoy life and do great things without letting my insecurities hinder me

Most of all though, I need to stop apologizing to people for the way I look. I do it all the time without even realizing it and it's a really self deprecating habit. Like, I'll run into someone and they will be talking to me and I will somehow slip it into the conversation that I still have to lose the baby weight, or that I'm still fat eight months after having a baby, or that none of my old clothes fit...

People can and will observe and judge for themselves. I don't need to point it out. I don't need to explain or apologize for my appearance. I just need to love myself and stop being so goddamned self conscious..

I've always been my healthiest self when I am loving myself.

I need to get over it.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

On motherhood.

Annnnnd, I shared a For Better or For Worse comic strip. I am my mom now.
I need to write more.

It's not that I don't have the inkling to write, I do. I just feel like I have nothing to say. Nothing that people will be interested in reading. Nothing that I can turn into a poignant lesson. Nothing that escapes my world of dirty diapers, sleep-training, constant requests for milk or snacks, temper tantrums, whining, burned dinners, stupid arguments with a three-year-old and a 39-year-old... Or, whatever else is forecasted into my day.

There are some days that the most exciting thing I have to brag about is the gigantic booger I picked out of my baby's nose, or some sale I found on something our family needs or regularly uses. I had intended to spend my year off getting back into shape, writing more, and doing freelance work-- even going back to part time work as a server, all while raising my baby.

So far I have accomplished none of this.

My life is chaotic most days, but it's the kind of chaos that isn't sexy or even particularly interesting. It's messy, busy, dirty, and exhausting. Frankly for most people it's also probably really boring. I can only imagine how quickly my friends grow tired of hearing stories about my baby and my step kids. I don't do much else right now, so I seldom have anything else to write (or post) about.

I waiver between whining about how hard being a mom and a step-mom is to marvelling at the wonders of it. -- This experience is rich in so many ways. I often have a house full of kids who say and do the funniest things. I get to watch all three of them grow and change, and I have a part in that. It's really neat.

I have a responsibility to all of them-- For the older two, I am their Shelley. I am not trying to be their mom, but I do play a mom role when they are with us. We have a special relationship, and I love them like they are my own. For the baby, I am her mom. At this stage of her life, I am her everything that she is learning to slowly venture away from, and grow her own wings so to speak.

I love the kids. I love our life. I love our blended family. But it's really, really hard sometimes.

It's hard, but not the way I thought it would be. I knew that becoming a parent and step-parent would mean that I would have to make sacrifices. I knew that the kids would always come first, but it didn't click just how much they would need me at times, and how much of myself I would lose.

There are some days that I seemingly spend every waking moment tending to the needs of someone else. The baby, she's in a really sucky phase right now. She's mobile and she's into everything. She is strong and often fearless. While she wants to explore her world, she usually wants to do it while I am right beside her. If I venture away, she begins to whine or cry. Most of the time she doesn't want to be held or comforted, she just wants me there, watching her.

The older two kids, who live with us half time and with their mom the other half, are self sufficient for the most part, though the requests for snacks, treats, to play with them, to put on a show, to wipe a bum, to break up an argument, for a drink of milk, to play outside, or to just look at them while they do something are plenty.

This is parenthood, and I strive to be good at it, but sometimes -- often times -- there is this sinking feeling that I am not doing enough with them because I am always doing something for them. And I don't mean doing something for them in that entitled, "I have to teach them to do things on their own, because they are spoilt" sort of way, I mean I'm always doing something for them because they are all young and they are still learning, and they need me to do things for them. They're kids.

I think that's the hardest part: Somebody always needs something, and even though I love them, it's hard to always give. Some days I feel like I have nothing left, and they are relentless in the things that they need or want.

But I digress, while I sometimes feel like I have nothing left of myself for myself, each of the kids give me something back in their own way.

Like, when I am tired, haggard, have pureed lentils all over my shirt and in my hair, the three-year-old will ask for "tuddles" (cuddles) and tell me "Shelley, you boot-e-ful." He is such a sweet boy.

The six-year-old is such a good big sister to both her little brother and the baby. She is so nurturing, and the two little ones adore her. I know she is only six, but she is so helpful it's a godsend. She has such compassion for the little ones, sometimes I will look up from whatever I am doing and I will see her teaching or encouraging one of the little ones to do something. She is a shy little girl, but she is a born leader.

And the baby, well she does this thing where she will look over and smile at me for no reason, and even when I feel like I have failed or that I am not enough, she will smile at me like I am the greatest person in the whole wide world. It makes me feel loved and like I am doing something right.

Parenting is hard. It's downright brutal sometimes. But, when you have kids time moves quickly and they are always changing. One day I will probably yearn for them to want and need me as much as they do right now.

Friday, November 27, 2015


The other day I was in Costco and I saw this gigantic box of After Eight chocolates and I thought to myself "I should buy those for Amma for Christmas..." and then I remembered that she's gone.

I felt like someone punched me in the gut, knocking the wind right out of me. I had this burning pain in the pit of my stomach that I'd only ever felt a few times before in my life-- The same feeling I got when my mom called and told me that Amma had died a week earlier.

I know she's in a better place regardless of if there's a heaven or not. Her dementia got so bad near the end that anywhere else would be a better place than in her fraying mind and aging body. But still, my heart hurts knowing that she is gone forever.

Dementia stole so much from my grandma, but sometimes there would be a flicker of the old Amma that would emerge. Every now and again it seemed like she would steal a moment back from the brain altering disorder, and even just for a minute she was there.

And now, there are no more of those minutes. No more of the bad ones either. All that is left are my memories. I'm grateful for those, but they'll never be enough and I am scared they too will start to fade. I am scared that I will forget what she smelled like, or the sound of her voice. I am scared I will forget how her hands felt like old, soft tissue paper, or that I will forget the way she used to say "mmm-hmmm and uh-huh" with a smile when we'd tell her a story.

I feel like I lost her twice; once to dementia and once to death. Although she was old, and she lived a very long and good life, that kind of logic doesn't seem to soothe my heartache. Only time will.

I suppose, standing there in the holiday chocolate isle at Costco, I was still getting used to the fact that Amma is gone. Everything was normal until that second when I realized the new normal is that I will never buy her another giant box of chocolates for Christmas. I will never go visit her at the nursing home, I will never hug her or kiss her, and I will never see her again.

Grief is such a strange thing. When it washes over you it can make you feel a million different emotions all at once. It's such a personal experience; different for everyone, yet the same in that you are mourning and dealing with a loss.

I already know that time is the only thing that can mend a broken heart. I know that my sadness will never be completely gone, but in time my heart will begin to heal and when I think of Amma, or when I see a giant box of chocolates that I know she would have liked for Christmas, it will fill me with happiness and warmth.

Right now it's hard, but I am grateful for all the time we spent together when she was alive and all the memories we made.

I miss you Amma.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Goodbye Amma.

My grandma died yesterday.

She was old, her body was frail and broken and her mind was fading. She lived a long and mostly healthy life, it was her time. Even though I know all of this, my heart is still broken.

I miss her.

I take comfort in that she believed in the promise of a heaven and an afterlife, where I can only imagine her being reunited with her beloved husband George (who died 55 years ago, and who she still loved with every fibre of her being) and her sisters and brothers. I am happy that she is free from her dementia, which wreaked havoc on her mind and emotions, leaving her a lost and confused shell of her former self. I am grateful that I got to hold her hand and say goodbye.

We shared a special bond, Amma and I. She was my dramatic, high-strung and hypersensitive kindred spirit. Memories of her are sprinkled throughout my whole life. I am so grateful for those.

Amma was the type of grandma who showed up to every school concert, awards ceremony, assembly, sporting event, function, presentation... Sometimes she'd be the only one, but if there was a seat for her to sit in she was sitting in it, waving excitedly and documenting our five seconds of glory with blurry group pictures that she'd develop and circle the tiny speck that we were in the group.

She was so proud of all her kids and grandkids.

She'd clip and save any mention of us in a newspaper or a newsletter, and she'd save those clippings in a box she made especially for that purpose. She'd gladly read school papers and assignments with enthusiasm, and she'd wear or somehow display any type of craft you gave her. When we were kids you would have been hard pressed not to see Amma wearing some hideous handcrafted broach or necklace that was made of plastic or from glitter and tiny pompoms.

In her head and her heart she thought her grandchildren were a thousand times better than we actually were. She bragged and exaggerated our accomplishments to anybody who would listen-- to her friends, to our friends, to doctors, cashiers, strangers she met in an elevator...

My whole life I've known this day would come. Partly because my grandma was always old and partly because when we got older she would follow us around her apartment with masking tape and a pen saying "Put your name on the things you want when I die."

I suppose you could call her a planner. She said she didn't want anybody fighting over her stuff after she died, so she opted for this "calling dibs" method instead.

Amma was an artist, a sculptor, a proud Icelander. She had refined taste and never left her apartment without lipstick. She always looked perfect and polished. She loved shopping at the Bay-- because that was were she landed her first job in the 1930s the hosiery department. She loved good food, especially desserts, and she was always up for a phone call or a visit.

Amma was a real special lady.

It's the strangest feeling, when someone has been a part of your forever and then they're not anymore.

My grandma's dementia had advanced a great deal in recent years. Life had become really hard. Last week she fell and broke her hip. She had surgery, but she was so frail and it was her time. Thanks to the doctors and nurses at the Seven Oaks Hospital, she passed away in comfort, without pain last night.

Amma, I love you so much. I am so grateful for you and all the wonderful times we had. I'm so thankful that you and Riel got to meet each other. I will tell her stories about you, and us, and about all of our shenanigans. You are in my heart forever.