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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Last Goodbye

I was a mistake...way back before Teen Mom made teen pregnancy a reality show, I was born to a 16 year old girl who made the decision to give me up for adoption.

I was chosen...my mom always told  me that they chose me and I was special because of that.  From childhood to my rebellious (to say the least) teen years to my trials and tribulations becoming the person I am today there was never any question who my mom was.  

People often ask me if I would like to find my "real mom" and I explain to them that my real mom is the one that raised me and cared for me and the women that gave me life is my birth mom - a big distinction.  

My relationship with my mom was tumultuous but in our hearts there was always love. Born in the depression years, mom lost her own mother at 8 years old and was shipped off with her 2 sisters to live with their grandparents and at 16 yrs., the three sisters were living on their own.  A tough start and I can only assume that my mom's need to not show weakness and to shut people out if she felt slighted was due to a childhood that was less than idealistic. Happiness arrived in my mom's heart when she met my dad in her hometown of Pictou, Nova Scotia. After marrying they moved to Ontario where they would spend 65 years together (something hard to imagine these days!)


When my dad  passed last year my mom lost her happiness.  She never wanted to be alone and have never been independent.  We helped her into respite and then into a retirement home where her anxiety, depression and aging mind led to her eventual placement in long term care.  Over the next six months with continuity of care my mom found within herself the strength to carry on, she learned to take care of herself and told me at one point she didn't know she had it in her to be so strong.  Her pride and ability to adapt over the last few months made me hopeful that we had turned a corner.

Last week my mom had a fall and shortly thereafter couldn't swallow (not sure what the correlation is or if there is one), we brought her to the hospital and 5 days later it still couldn't be explained and in addition, her kidneys were failing and her heart was damaged.  Our best case scenario was that with intense therapy and a feeding tube in her stomach she might regain the ability to swallow some food and get the rest from the tube.  Her life could be prolonged but her quality of life was unlikely to improve.  In what seemed like a cruel joke, my brother and I had been in this situation with my dad almost 1 year ago and we knew what my mom would have wanted.  We made the decision to put her on comfort care and return her to the long term care home she lived in to spend her last days.  Last night she passed peacefully and without pain and I hope that she is finding happiness again reunited with my dad. 

So mom, thank you for choosing me 
Rest in Peace
Mom with my first DD


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Making Changes

I am sitting down to write after spending an amazing three days at Blissdom Canada surrounded by phenomenal women (and men), learning their stories and sharing experiences.  I laughed, I learned and I came away with lots to think about so for that...thank you.  You also reminded me that the reason I started this blog was to share my experiences and hope that it touched or helped someone else. You also reminded me that in the end it was just as important that it touched and helped me and that's what this post is ...the beginning of helping me with making changes.

What Happened
Ironically, the Sunday prior to the start of Blissdom  I was flipping through pictures my 7 year daughter took on her ipod and I saw one of myself that made me cry and realize it was time to make some changes

photo that changed it all
The photo that changed it all 
Our mornings are hectic and I am in the habit of making lunches for the girls, grabbing a coffee with a muffin/sweet on the way to work for me and then grabbing a less than healthy lunch on the go.  I sit at my desk all day and manage to walk next door to the Tim Hortons a few times for coffee but that is the extend of my exercise on a normal day. My husband does the cooking and is an "overportioner" but he's a great cook so I gladly eat my big dinner and then snack with him later in the night.  The thing is my husband exercises (a lot) and probably has a higher metabolism than me. 

thin me on my wedding day
The "thin" me on my wedding day
I have known for some time that I was no longer the slim version of myself that walked down the aisle nine years ago but, after 2 children I found lots of excuses to ignore those changes. I weigh myself daily as a 'check in' to make sure that my weight is not getting away from me (as it had post-college). With my first child I took full advantage of eating for two and gained almost 40 lbs and lost all but 10 lbs that I had gained.  I felt pretty good about that.  As we tried for a second child, I thought to myself, now is not the time to diet - I would lose that pesky 10 lbs after the second baby (ya right!)  After child number two I was now fifteen pounds heavier but was suffering with some severe postpartum 
back pain which at times made it hard to even walk, so exercise was out of the question. As the years crept by the scale would inch up and then back down and I would tell myself as long as I don't go over the next five pound mark I'll be fine. Then I would hit and surpass that five pounds and just shift to the next "don't get pass that" weight.  Even though I am short (only 5'4") I managed to carry my weight well, or so I thought.  I mean other that your children who's going to tell you that you have a jiggly belly.  Last Sunday everything changed.  I looked at the picture of an overweight mom with her stretchy track pants and sloppy belly and realized I needed to make a change. I was eating too much, the wrong foods, not exercising and I had replaced water with coffee for my daily fluid intake.  I rationalized that I was a busy mom of two children, working full-time and that it was normal to adopt these bad habits.  What I didn't admit was that I didn't want to go to the pool with my girls because I hated the way I looked in a bathing suit and I passed on most active time with my family because I was too tired (and out of shape).  I am an emotional eater and I like food, all food, so no matter what's happening in my life it's likely to involve food.

Yes my husband cooks
Yes, my husband cooks
Making Changes (part one)
Day one (Monday) I rose resolute to make a change, eat healthy and heck I might even sneak in some exercise. I downloaded a diet app to my iphone and set my calorie goal at 1,200 per day because I knew that I could manage my food intake pretty easily but getting exercise was going to be harder. I had been down this road before and I managed to lose 25 lbs without too much hardship but then I was single and only had to worry about me - a fact that I didn't consider. That morning, I made the girls lunches and got them packed away. I made a healthy smoothie for breakfast enjoyed my morning coffee at home and then make a lunch for myself counting calories and plugging them in the app as I went. I tracked my snacks, made my own dinner, drank lots of water and stayed under my allotted calories.  Day one was a success! Day 2 and 3 were similar but I was getting frustrated, my mornings were rushed and I was having time management issues plus my culinary skills are slim to none so I was eating the same thing for lunch everyday and it was getting boring quickly. Day 4  things started out well, I was packing for Blissdom and looking forward to the days ahead but I didn't have a plan for eating other than relying on my rapidly diminishing willpower. I tried to make good choices while I was away but I ate too much, enjoyed lots of coffee along with the donuts that Tim Hortons were so generously giving us (how do you turn down a delicious free donut?!?)  I had brought along my bathing suit and workout clothes but both remained packed away in my suitcase all three days.  On the upside I was having a great time.  The euphoria faded today when I stepped on the scale for the first time in 3 days it hadn't moved an inch.  Damn! 
breakfast at blissdom
Melon offsets that bacon & sausage right?
I was angry with myself for not having enough willpower to say thanks but no thanks to the bacon for breakfast and the brownies at lunch.  I am questioning if I have the time and energy to portion and count every calorie I put in my mouth and I want to make sure that I set a good example for my daughters.  I never want to say I'm dieting because I'm fat/overweight - although that would be true.  I want them to know that I am making changes to how I eat and hopefully adding some exercise into my routine so that I am healthier.  My daughters are 4 and 7 years old and I want to run, skip and play with them. I want to swim in the pool and build sandcastles on the beach.  I want to set a good example and I want to be healthy.  

My girls
Now what?
I have always been the kind of person that goes "all in" and it has worked well for me when I needed to attain a goal.  Tomorrow is Monday and once again I will reset and start anew.  I am not sure if counting calories is going to work this time, my life is busier now and I have to consider this.  I can't just focus on me anymore, it's a new dynamic for me to have to set a goal and work on adjusting a bit at a time to reach my desired outcome. What I will do starting tomorrow is to make changes.  I will drink more water, I will cut out the late night snacking, I will make better lunch choices when I eat out and some time in the near future I will reach my goal of losing 20-25 lbs.

I hope you will follow me on this journey and I welcome your tips, suggestions and recommendations on reaching my goal.  Day 1 starts tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Lunchbag Lessons

It's the start of another school year and by now you would think I'd have packing lunches down to an art but alas, I am still learning my lunchbag lessons.

With my youngest entering JK and my oldest in grade 2, I am now tasked with providing healthy (nut free) lunches for two children, five days a week.  In addition, our school is on a balanced day which means my kids get two 20 minute breaks in which to eat - not really all that much time if you ask me.  Now if my children enjoyed processed food I would have it so much easier - just pop open a can of Chef Boy-ar-dee like my mom did and voila!- instant lunch.  My children also are not fond of sandwiches -except peanut butter for the younger one which for obvious reasons is a no-go & tuna for the older one which is a good choice. So what is a mom to do?  

So far here is what I've found works (thanks to all those bloggers & articles that gave me great tips)

  • Pack small portions of everything.
  • Make sure food is ready to eat (ie: pre-peel oranges, cereal bars out of the wrapper, etc) - this also helps with the litter free lunch initiative.
  • Make staples ahead and freeze in portion sizes (plain pasta, shepherd's pie, etc)
  • Make your own "lunchables" with cheese, crackers & kielbasa

Some things my kids really enjoy in their lunches include:
  • bagel with cream cheese - I buy the PC thin bagels which are a better portion size
  • sushi - wish I could make this but once in a while we buy some to go in their lunch
  • fruits & veggies - just cut up and plain (lucky me!)
  • cheese quesadilla
  • tortillas (I sneak in whole wheat ones) and salsa
I found some great containers at IKEA that were cheap (since we usually lose a few a year) and in good sizes - the whole package retailed for under $6.00 and we use the bigger containers at home.  



I also picked up the re-usable bags that come in a package with two sizes (sandwich & snack).  I really like the snack size, it is bigger than most but smaller than a sandwich bag - just right for some plain popcorn.


This year we also found some great lunch bags at Target.  They have a hard shell inside which keeps them from getting squished and makes them easy to wipe out.  They are large enough to hold lots of food items and at about $12, so far they've been worth every penny.

Of course we always grab some personalized Mabel's Labels to tag everything.  Many schools and daycares have fundraising efforts through Mabel's and if yours doesn't you might want to start one.

The one item I wish I could find is an insulated sandwich sized container that would keep foods hot (like ribs and chicken fingers) so that I don't have to try to cram them into a cylindrical thermos container.   If you know where I can get one of these please let me know. 

I am always on the lookout for other great lunch ideas that are quick and easy to make (as I am not the cook in our family) so please comment and share your lunch lessons.

Have a great school year! 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Life through a different lens

If you know me or read my blog, you will know that my father passed away last December and you will also know what a trying time it was for me to come to terms with his death.  Everyday I feel in some small way that my dad is still with me and sometimes at the most unexpected times I grieve again.  What I didn't expect was what would happen next.

My parents were married for over 65 years and my mother has never lived alone.  I know in this day and age it is hard to imagine, I mean I spent a good portion of my adulthood living alone and married late so the thought of being alone again while sad is not foreign to me. After the passing of my father my mom needed more care than we were able to provide and than she was willing to accept.  This meant that her planned stay in respite at a retirement home to ensure she wasn't alone over the holidays became a permanent relocation in February.  My mom did not transition well and hated the "system" of care, giving up her last sheds of independence and having to admit to needing help did not go smoothly.  The loss of my dad, coupled with the sudden change led to a quick regression in emotional, physical and mental well-being. I won't get into the specifics but it was deemed necessary to once again move my mom and this time it was into a long term care (LTC) facility.   Over the past few weeks since moving into LTC my mom has become increasingly agitated, anxious and her cognitive levels seem to be rapidly deteriorating.  From the time my father passed she has said that it wasn't supposed to be like this, they were supposed to go together.  She talks about 87 years being enough and wishing she was dead. On a good day she resigns herself to living.  My mom is not suicidal but she is definitely depressed, lonely and sad.  In the first months I was upbeat talking to her about all the positives - her children, her grandchildren, and tried to convince her that in time she might enjoy tea on the patio or a bus trip to the local Walmat...and I really believed what I was saying.

The other day I looked at her life through her lens.  Her days are spent alone (mostly by choice), she goes to meals, lays in bed or sits in a chair and looks out a window at an empty courtyard and sleeps until the next day when the routine starts again.  My father will never be their to keep her company, sit with her, argue with her, and be her constant companion.  (cue for me to start crying again).  When I stopped thinking about her life from my point of view, my selfishness and my desire to have her carry on, I realized that my role is not to try to change her mind and convince her life will get better because in all honesty for her it won't.  My role is to listen, to be there for her when she needs me and to make sure that when her time comes that it is as comfortable and peaceful as possible - if that's within our control.   I know she is being well cared for and is in a safe and caring environment which is all I can ask.

If there is any learning to be had from this experience, it is that we cannot will others to do what we want them to do even if we think it's best.  Sometimes we need to step away and look at it through another lens so we can be the person we need to be.


In happier times with  Dad and Lil L
                                             


Monday, December 9, 2013

Saying Goodbye at the End of Life

Less than a month ago I went to visit my parents and spent the day with them just sharing time together and going out for lunch.  At 91 years old my dad was not as steady on his feet as he used to be and his hearing was not great but there was no indication that I would be sitting at my computer crying and trying to find the words to convey the struggle I am having with his impending passing.

Two weeks ago today my mother called me and asked me to come and help them out, my father wasn't well.  Half-way from my house to theirs I got a call from my mom telling me she was going to call EMS when I got there to take my dad to the hospital.  Having seen him just a week prior I couldn't imagine what the problem was and told her to hold off and I could drive him when I arrived.  She told me he couldn't go in my car, we need to call an ambulance.  When I got there he was obviously sick and looked so weak and frail I couldn't believe my eyes.  We called EMS and as is usually the case the Fire Department got there first.  They were kind and helpful and got my dad situated and on some oxygen then EMS took over and we left for the hospital.  At the emergency, my dad was checked and tested and slipped in and out of being lucid.  It was crushing and I couldn't understand how this could happen so quickly.  We found out that he was suffering from pneumonia and had a heart attack (not of the traditional nature) and would be moved into a room once one came available.  One of the doctors asked if he had a heroic measures plan, I had no idea what he was asking and said no.  I send a text to my brother who was at home dealing with the passing of his mother in law just days prior to find out what the doctor was talking about.  What I now understand is that  they wanted to know about a DNR (do not resuscitate) and the use of heroic measures to keep my dad alive.  We were lucky that my parents had made these decisions for us and it was clearly laid out in his power of attorney.  That said, we were shocked to be asked and I pondered if my dad was going to make it.

The next day my dad was moved up to a room and they started treatment for his illness and he seemed to be responding but he also had stopped eating and drinking and seemed to come in and out of lucidness.  I read up and heard that this was often a result of an illness like pneumonia and I held out some hope that maybe he would get better once it was resolved.  The conversations over the next week with doctors and other hospital staff often left me bewildered and trying to understand what the next steps were.  In the end, it seems he would need to go to long term care and if they could not place him immediately then he would stay in hospital as a co-pay.  We made some decisions about possible locations and I felt as though we were moving forward until the day the light dawned on me after we had a talk with the discharge planner and CCAC. My father was not getting nourishment and if he went to long term care they would not offer an IV to replace fluids.  It would be up to him to eat and drink and we knew that he already was not doing this and the minimal amounts he was taking were not enough to sustain him.

I always believed that quality of life was important and felt that if you no longer had an adequate quality of life then the decision to go peacefully into death was the right one.  What I didn't realize is that even when your love one makes that decision for you, executing it is the most heart wrenching choice to make and there isn't anything that can be said or done that makes you feel better about making the right choice.

Last Tuesday we switched my dad to comfort care, he is being kept comfortable and pain free through sedation and the last time I saw him awake I fixed his pillows and he smiled up at me and touched my face.  It took every ounce of self control not to burst into tears but that may be my last memory of my dad awake and alert enough to interact with me.  The last few visits he has been sedated and hasn't roused but I could sit with him day and night, I find it strangely peaceful and to be honest it's also selfish, I don't want to miss my chance to say goodbye one last time.  I live in a constant state of anxiousness, afraid the phone will ring and he will be gone and I will have to come to terms with the fact that my dad won't be there for me any more.  I am a grown woman with a family of my own but he will always be my "daddy" and my protector.  He was always a kind, wonderful person and I would find it hard to believe that there were many people that met my dad that didn't like him.  So now as we await the when instead of the "if", I reflect and am thankful that my dad was able to walk me down the aisle and know my daughters (I waited a long time for both - my fault, not his) and I cherish the fact that I had my dad in my life for so long, some are not so lucky.

My dad has chosen not to have a visitation or funeral so there is no time or place for goodbyes and so as I write this blog through tear filled eyes I say my goodbyes, my I love you's and you will always be in my heart.

My father passed away today (Tues Dec 10th), my brother was there and said he went peacefully and I was able to come and say my final goodbyes.  Rest in Peace sweet daddy <3