Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Food for the Soul

2018.  A new year.  New resolutions made in an attempt to better one's life.  I'm not generally one for resolutions.  I can never stay focused on them any way.  But the idea to be better and do better has been more and more appealing to me as I get older.  With age comes clarity of sorts. I think.  And clarity in this fucked up world should guide one to want to do better.

They say all of your experiences in life shape the person you become.  I've never been consciously aware of the actual shaping in the past, but it's been quite noticeable over the last year or two.  I know I pick up a lot of  my experiences through my profession and through the volunteer work I do, and I'm aware that most people don't get to experience those kinds of life lessons on the regular.  I know I'm lucky in that sense.  And 43 years later I'm feeling the effects of my life's lessons.  I'm genuinely not the person I used to be.  Not even the person I was 2 years ago.  I'm not completely different but different enough.  I know my changes aren't received well by some of the people in my life but that's okay, these are my changes and change is often scary to many and avoided by most.

The biggest change I've made in my life is to really try to keep the awesome people I have met through my journey close to me.  I know it's hard to find time on a consistent basis to give each person I love the quality and quantity of time they deserve.  It's hard to juggle a full time job, a part time volunteer position, an intimate relationship, a family life with my kids, personal time, and all my friends.  Sometimes something has to give.  Over the past year I've tried to find extra time to make sure my friendships are given the attention they need and I want.  I don't always find success but I'm trying.  And hopefully that counts for something.

I know some of my friends feel neglected or left out.  That's never my intention and it makes me sad to know I've let someone who is important to me down.  So even though it's a new year I'm still not going to make a resolution.  Resolutions more often than not just get broken.  I'm going to carry on with my plan of the past couple of years to incorporate those people who make me laugh and feed my soul, into my regular routine.

Death on a day to day basis has reminded me that we need to make the time NOW.  Drive the 2 hour road trip for a dip in a hot tub with friends, or an hour long couch sesh.  Sleep in a bed that isn't yours just to share some much needed laugh therapy.  Come one number away from a $900 BINGO prize so you have something to whine about with a friend.  Try your friend's red wine just to see if you might like it this time around.  Have friends over to play pin ball or air hockey, you will constantly have new high scores to try to beat!  Make dinner for your extended family to remind yourself that you aren't a terrible cook.  Go out and try new things and new experiences, and bring a friend.  You may end up with some pretty neat stuff, stories and memories.  Have your mom or dad come over and teach you a new skill before they can't anymore. Go see a live performance; the arts are crucial; and take someone with you who wouldn't normally do that.  Take pictures.  Lots of pictures.  There are so many worse things happening in this world than taking your picture.  Make a change in someone's life by volunteering.  It's as much for you as it is for them.  Trust me. Send an unsolicited text just to let someone know you thought of them, even if it was just fleeting.  Support your friends business or professional life, it really does matter.  Take even just 20 minutes to visit a friend when they are in the hospital.  Like that Instagram photo (even if you don't really) or Facebook post because it's an easy way to bring someone a quick boost, literally and figuratively.  Pay a compliment, to the people you love.  Often.  Extend the invitation even when it's been turned down numerous times before.  Sometimes don't say anything.  Just listen.  BE the change in someone's life.  It really isn't too hard, you can find a way.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

21 Years

I want to preface this post with a couple things about me as a person.  I am very capable of reading something on Facebook that I don't agree with and continue scrolling without giving my two cents; and 99% of the time that's what I do.  Another thing about me as a person is I'm very infrequently offended by something someone says or does.  And another thing about me is that I can disagree with something you believe in and vice versa and it's not immediate grounds for a friendship break up.  We are all individuals with our own thoughts and beliefs and I try to respect that.  As best I can.  I'm not perfect though and some times something cuts me enough for me to stew about.  Sometimes I stew but find a way to put it behind me and move on and sometimes that same issue is revisited again and then I'm done putting it behind me.  Which leads me to this post. And whether the issue at hand was brought forward by a friend or acquaintance shouldn't dismiss my feelings on it. So, at the risk of jeopardizing an old friendship I feel inclined to speak my mind on something.

For a large part of my life my father struggled with alcohol issues.  It's no secret, I'm not outing his anonymity by making this statement.  When he passed away he had been sober for 21 years.  He was super proud and we, his family were beyond proud of his achievement.  However, leading up to his decision to get sober he, we, our family were shaped by the events that transpired from his drinking (both fun and bad).  In the end, the bad memories outweighed the fun memories.

Overall, our family situation was mild, compared to the myriad of stories I've heard and read about through the years, living among the clouds of alcoholism.  On the surface, getting sober looked super easy for my dad.  I'd hazard a guess that it wasn’t though. I'm sure he had many difficult days along his journey. 

I have also had many encounters with people who self medicate with drugs and alcohol.  These people KNOW what they are doing is detrimental to their health and well being but the numbness that comes with these vices far outweighs the reality of their life without them.  Sometimes these people accept that with continued use these vices will kill them or destroy every good thing in their life and they try to get help.  But asking for help is so hard and even harder is drying out and getting sober; and then even harder than that is STAYING sober for the long haul using the techniques they are taught.

My point is, I guess, that struggling with addiction shouldn't be made into a joke.  Not drinking for a period of time for some is more difficult than anything they've ever done in their life.  So when someone makes light of it on Facebook and seems to be seeking attention and support for a temporary sobriety I get extremely insulted and irritated.  Consistently posting about how many more days until said person can drink again is infuriating. 

If one wants to stop consuming alcohol for a period of time for one's health, then just quietly go about doing it.  But don't publicly and jokingly count down the weeks or days until you can drink again, insinuate you are getting sober, rejuvenating your liver so you'll be good to go again, and preparing for the holidays. Your casual, 'light hearted' comments are insulting to those who do actually struggle to get sober and remain sober, hurtful to those who live with someone who struggles with alcohol daily, and disrespectful to those who have lost the battle with their addictions (some of them your own friends). 

I just write this as a reminder to be mindful of what you write on social media because you never know who is reading your stuff and how harmful or upsetting your 'jokes' can be to them.  Now I'll go back to my regular scheduled minding of my own business. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


"I don't know how you do your job."  If I had a nickel for every time I was the receiver of that sentence I wouldn't need to do my job, I'd be retired (and probably slightly bored).  My stock answer is, "Some days are definitely harder than others.  Thankfully, those are few and far between." 

It's been a solid 20 year run with Funeral Services and myself.  Twenty years.  Seriously.  That's a long freaking time doing the same thing!  A benchmark in today's world.  And, in that 20 years I've always done relatively well at filtering through the really 'hard ones', processing the impact they have on all aspects of my life and not letting them take a permanent hold.  Maybe I've been delusional, maybe I just haven't encountered a really tough one that shakes me to the core.  Twenty years though, that can't possibly be true.  I need to give myself more credit.  When I signed up to volunteer with Victim Services we had to sit through a couple 'self help' sessions.  I breezed through them with familiarity and ease.  Not because I'm immune to needing self care, but unbeknownst to me all the tips and tricks they shared, I'd been doing in my everyday career even when I didn't realize what I was doing.  So I thought, I got this.  And for the most part, I certainly do.  

Until last month...Last month a situation at work shook me to my core.  Or, maybe it's just been a summer of really tragic deaths and by September, when I was called upon for this most recent tragic death, my mental health had had just about enough.  Who knows?  In 20 years of funeral services I've encountered a few 'really close to home' situations that were hard to shake but, somehow I have managed to process them and carry on doing what I do with no obvious long term effects.  I know I'm capable of carrying on this time as well, but there is no doubt in my mind this one with stay with me until the day I die.  We're all malleable and flexible, we are shaped by our experiences; both good and bad.  And, this particular experience has already changed me.  I'm confident it will shape me into a better person but change me, it most certainly will.

I know I'm truly blessed that after all this time I'm still capable of declaring that I enjoy my job/career.  However, it saddens me that I often meet some really stellar people at one of the most trying times of their lives.  Don't get me wrong, I meet lots of rude and self entitled people who I'm just as happy to see leave as well.  But sometimes it's hard to accept the fact that I will emotionally and mentally ingrain myself into these people's lives and then just as quickly my role is done and I never see them again. It selfishly bothers me that often the memory of me to these people tends to be clouded by their loss.  I'm a really decent person!  I try not to take offence when these people say they never want to see me again.  Sometimes it's hard though...

Back to September...I very much connected with this particular family.  It's unfortunate that the circumstance that brought me to this family is horrific.  I have never been more sorry to meet someone and grateful at the same time.  I'm not sure if that even makes sense.  I know as difficult as these past few weeks have been for me, it's not even one percent of what that particular family is going through.  I know that despite all of the internal struggle I have experienced, I've helped them begin their grieving process in a positive way (even if there is nothing positive about this entire situation).  They've asked me to keep in touch with them.  They've told me I've become part of their family now.  Because I rarely mix my work life with my home life, I'm struggling to find a way to honour their request to keep in touch because I know they are genuine.  But I worry that maybe that's not the wisest idea for my own personal mental health.  So I struggle to do what's right.  For them and me. 

I'm not sure that there's a point to this particular post.  Maybe it's just a way for me to get some of my confused feelings out of my head.  Maybe I thought if I just kept on typing the clear answers would come to me.  At this paragraph though, I'm no wiser or clearer.  I do know that everything came together to put me in front of this family the way it should have.  I do believe I was supposed to meet these people.  And hopefully they were supposed to meet me.  I do not believe the tragic event that took place was supposed to happen.  I just believe once it did, I was supposed to come into their lives.  I'm still not clear on who was supposed to benefit from it more, me or them.  I do know with certainty that we have influenced each other in our short time together.  As I move forward, I will carry a piece of all of them with me forever. I hope I am able to find a way to keep those pieces from feeling too heavy. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Parking Lot Rendevous

My place of employment (a private company, not city owned) received this "note" jammed in the door of the funeral home on Sunday, after a notice was left on this person's car when it was parked in our private parking lot, without permission on Saturday (during open business hours).  The past Saturday in question, our city was hosting its annual Grape & Wine (Niagara Wine Festival) Parade and Festivities in the downtown core. We are also located downtown just a few blocks from the big event.   This is an annual event so we are more than aware of it and understand what it contributes to our community each year. 

Now back to the note.  First of all, if you are going to make "threats", the very least you can do it own them.  Sign your name, leave a phone number or better yet, call to have your say to an actual human being on Sunday.  My biggest irritants these days are everyone's sense of entitlement and everyone's extra courage when they are backed by anonymity.  I'll presume she would not have made those threats if she was speaking directly to a human being.  But since she didn't have the nerve to leave her contact info (I'll also presume it was a female based on her writing.) I'll leave my reply right here.

Dear Self-entitled Driver:
Perhaps next time you decide to take it upon yourself to deem yourself worthy of trumping every other person in town you'll think twice and take 1 minute out of your day to actually ask the owners of the parking lot you wish to park in, for free, if it's okay for you to use the space.  If you had done that you would have realized that we actually are VERY community minded and would have given you permission to park in our lot.  However, we would have stipulated which spaces were available for you to park in.  You see, we like to ensure that there are spaces that are always available for the people that are actually parking to use our services/business. 

Because death doesn't only operate Monday to Friday, 9-5, our business was open.  I know that's rare in a downtown core so maybe you were confused.  But again, that confusion could have been cleared up had you actually tried our door to see if it was open.  And then when the door opened you could have, you know, asked! 

While I appreciate your presumption that every private person, business, and sector within the city limits must support all city endeavors, our client families will always come first (regardless of your threat of tattling to Facebook or the St. Catharines Standard).  So because of that there are a few different situations that we "hold strong" on with regards to random people simply using our lot without permission for free parking.  These situations warrant a note being left on the offending vehicle and include the following:
  • People who make it a habit, day after day,; to park their car in our private lot during week day business hours so they don't have to buy a city parking pass.  Now that's not very community minded now is it??
  • People who park in our lot when our "no parking" signs are out and visible at all entrances.  These people choose to just outright ignore our temporary signs and drive right around them to park.  These people are just like you!  You'd probably like each other.  However, these signs are only put into the lot when we have an active funeral going on in the building or there is a visitation for a deceased person. 
  • People who not only aren't courteous enough to ask to use our lot, but sneak in and park in the parking spaces that are actually permanently marked as Immediate Family Parking Only or Clergy Parking.  This is the category that YOU fall into!  You see, these are the spaces that we ensure are left open so our client families ALWAYS have a place to park. And these are the spaces where you left your car.  
We even let our direct competitors (that would be other funeral homes if you are confused) use our lot for funerals they are conducting when they take place at either church beside us, provided one of the three examples above aren't breached.  AND, we allow our lot to be use by both churches for their church services provided our temporary signs aren't out and they don't park in the Immediate Family Parking Only spots!  I don't know about you, but I think that's pretty community-minded of us.

I do have one question for you, dear self-entitled driver.  If you were invited to a private party at your friend's house and you showed up and their drive way was already full and the street outside of their house was littered with the cars of all the people that got there before you, would you just take it upon yourself to park in their neighbour's drive way without getting permission from them? Oh you wouldn't because that's their drive way and it's privately owned?  Hmm, you can think of our parking lot the same way.   

Also, just so you are aware Ms. Self-entitled (I've shortened it because I feel like we know each other a little better now) on Saturday we DID have a family coming into the funeral home to make arrangements for someone they love who died.  Someone who wasn't lucky enough, like you, to go have a stellar time at Grape & Wine with her friends or family.  You can imagine... a family who are probably at a most stressful time in their lives who shouldn't have to be stressed out even more just trying to find a parking space. 

So just to sum it all up, you are a selfish person.  IF you had thought outside of your own self centered bubble you'd realize the world, nor the funeral home I work at, don't owe you anything.  IF you had the wherewithal to come into the building with a smile on your face and inquire if it was okay to park in our lot you'd have been pleasantly surprised when you received a, "For sure, but just make sure you're not in a family spot. And have a great time!" Oh wait you wouldn't have been pleasantly surprised, because you just expected that response.  My bad.

And one last thing, these are just a few of the Community groups myself or another member of my team volunteer their time with.  I wouldn't want you to really believe we don't give back to our community.  This is just a tiny list of how we contribute to our city and region, but by no means is it all encompassing:

Masonic Lodge
St. Catharines Business Club
St. Catharines Ad & Sales
Kiwanis Club
Niagara Victim Services
Foundation Board Member of a local retirement community
Niagara Peninsula Children's Centre
Chamber of Commerce

So if you ever see this and wish to apologize for being a jerk, please, call the funeral home or stop by some time to see me.  I'm pretty sure you know where we're located.  We have a parking lot just out back and along the side of the building for you to park with ease (unless someone like you beats you to the space). 

Kind and warmest regards,

The Manager of that "Non Community-minded Funeral Home."

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Up Up and Away

So here I sit, killing time until I have to go pick Gage up from class.  The last time I posted about Gage and school, he was leaving home and venturing out into the big, bad, scary world as a college student.  Well expensive lesson learned!  He wasn't quite ready for that.  And the course he chose to take didn't hold his interest once he started the actual program.  So after the first semester, he decided to cut his losses, drop out and move back home.  While I was disappointed for his sake, I'm not going to lie, despite the renewed chaos in my house, I was super glad to have him back.

So since January he's been back with us.  The house has been overrun by hordes of 19 year old 'kids' (plus Roan's friends) again, the grocery bill went up, the laundry loads increased but so did the stories and conversation.  During this time he has been working part time, obtained his driver's license and decided on a new career path and put a plan into action.

Last month, I guess it was, he enrolled in Ground School and has started to work towards obtaining his Pilot's license.  The end goal, after a bunch more years, is to become a Commercial Pilot.  Roan finds it funny that school to become a Pilot where you fly an object is called Ground school.  I'm hoping it's because they are going to teach him mad skillz so he always returns a plane to the ground in one piece!  This whole flying those little metal coffins with wings part is causing this poor momma some added stress.  Between driving a car and flying a plane, I have a feeling all those grey hairs I have managed to elude are going to come in full throttle.

Eric and I have been telling him for the past few years, while he was trying to sort out what he wanted to do for a living, to find something that he enjoyed that he could also turn into a career rather than just having a job.   A family friend who has been working towards his own Pilot's license over the past year or so offered to take Gage up for a Familiarization Flight back in May/June.  Unbeknownst to Gage the Pilot let him control the plane from take off through to lining it up for landing with the runway.  He spent about 30 - 40 minutes flying the plane over the Welland Canal and parts of the Niagara Region.  The only thing he didn't do was put the plane back onto solid ground.  Needless to say, he loved it.  He talked incessantly about it so, we planted the seed about turning this into a potential career.

After another month or so, we did some research and learned he could take classes a couple days a week and fulfil his flight hours through the Niagara On The Lake Airport all the while living at home and working part time; both of which would help offset the costs associated with all this training. 

So here I sit, waiting to pick the kid up from class hoping he never crashes a plane, never has to do an emergency landing and gets a job with Air Canada. 

This image has nothing to do with flying or Gage's schooling.  It's stupid and funny and I had no where else to put it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Hello again.  I'd love to say I'm back, making a concerted effort to maintain my blog but I don't like false promises.  So let's just see what becomes of all of this. 

I've been struggling to find anything substantial to write about, so I just don't bother to come around these parts too often.  But I started this blog to act as a diary of sorts so, I guess I don't really need anything too specific to talk about.

That being said, my exasperation shock dumbfoundedness (that's not a word but it should be) brought me back.  There's a long, drawn out, stupid story that's been unravelling around me that has gotten to the point of irritating the shit out of me.  And so here I am.  To find my thoughts or feelings on it.  It's not my story.  And you have no idea how utterly and eternally grateful I am that it's not my story.  But it's a story that affects two of the most important people in my life.  So if affects me. 

Following my marital break up in 2002 I have often wondered how long I'd be subjected to the actions (or inactions) of my ex-husband (father of my children).  As the boys have gotten older and my reliance on the ex to participate in co-parenting has diminished I find I'm subjected less and less, thankfully.  If I'm being frank the only thing my ex has been fairly consistent with is disappointing them and me.  The older the boys get and the more they start to see him for what he truly is the less inclined I feel to cover for him or defend his actions.  But I can't help looking at my kids and feeling a pit of anger in my gut for how poorly he's parented over the past 19+ years.  Like piss poor.  Everyone but him sees it.  I genuinely think that he believes he's a good father simply because he pays child support.  A fucking legal requirement.  Nothing he should deem medal worthy. 

He's fallen down on this role so often nothing surprises us any more.  His excuses always lie at the feet of another person.  He's never really taken ownership over any of his terrible decisions or actions.  I've always seen it but now the boys see it.  I knew this day would eventually come.  I always thought I'd feel vindicated but I don't.  I just feel sad.  Sad for the boys, not the ex.  I don't feel anything for him.  I'm used to constantly being let down.  I'm used to the excuses.  I'm used to his pity parties.  I'm used to his absences.  Sadly now the boys are too. 

He's now entering into his third marriage after a 3-4 month relationship (by the time the wedding date comes) with a woman who has 5 or 6 kids.  And you know what?  After 5 years or so he's finally put beds in his 3 bedroom house for a child to sleep in!  No, not his children - Silly you!  The unfinished, dank basement or the living room couch is good enough for his boys! And that extra room that hasn't housed a room-mate or himself for the past 5 years was good enough to hold all the boxes of shit he didn't need instead of being used as a bedroom for his kids.  If he thinks for one second this didn't go unnoticed by his youngest child, he's a fucking moron.  He also has his head crammed too far up his own ass if he thinks his kid hasn't realized that every time he's late to pick up his son(s) he has somehow managed to pick her kids up first. 

So when he sits back after a few shots of hard alcohol and reflects on his life and wonders why his kids don't spend a lot of time at his place or with him or show obvious support of this upcoming marriage he should pull his head out of his ass, if ever so slightly, so he can get a clearer image of what he's done over the years to contribute to this turn of events.  And maybe he'll be able to be a decent role model for her 5-6 children. 

I know I gave up a lot of personal time, freedom, money, etc., for the sake of my two sons.  And lord knows my house is a constant state of chaos and my grocery bills are astronomical but you know what?  It's all worth it.  Because for my kids, I am "home".  I am where the heart is.  Truly.