Thursday, December 29

Monovering Life Without My Mom And New Beliefs.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas with people they love, or like....or at least at a bare  minimum,  tolerate without feeling violent.

It was a lovely day here. It's our third blendy family Christmas together and as the self appointed Christmas Captain I would say it was executed perfectly.

To be clear, my definition of executed perfectly means
1) We didn't run out of booze and a nice buzz was felt most of the day.
2) I only cried once thinking about mom.
3) Kids Didn't fight.
4) Dog didn't poop in the house.
5) No Food was burnt.

It was nice.Trying to make sure children remember the importance of the day, trying to make sure everyone has happy memories of the time we spend together. The importance of that is with me 24/7 now. It's one constant thought I appreciate having.

Christmas's are a new focus for me now without the religious tones. When other are "keeping christ in christmas" that doesn't apply to us anymore. So trying to figure out what it is about for us now is our newest family project.

I have really been reflecting on what my personal beliefs are now. After leaving the mormon church 5 years ago and feeling a massive relief doing so, I have had to figure out what I now think about certain things. What do I believe happens after death? Is there more, and if there is, what is it all about? Some new beliefs and thoughts have been easier to adjust: A white guy born in Israel to a virgin who had 12 friends with very english names isn't a difficult one for me to adjust. Christmas is about family and time together. Easy, Next!

Other believes are proving to be a tad more challenging. Like death.

I know what the mormon church taught me. After I die, if I was a "good woman" I would be one of an infinite number of wives to some "worthy" man (yes you read that correctly 1 man...loads of women) and make spirit children forever populating the world the man is now god over.. OMFG no. NO NO NO, birthing children is not all I am good for. In this life or the next. COME ON!!!

Once upon a time I was ok with this because it kept me safely tucked away not exploring my talents (unless those talents were singing of sewing) and kept me as far away from my money, thoughts and independence as possible.
BLAH BLAH BLAH... No. no more.

I no longer find comfort in that and it's taken me a while to get over things that happened while being mormon. Things I saw and knew about. How I didn't have a relationship with my family because of my moronism. How ok the church was with me not being close to my family because "they were my family".

Ooh the irony. Sad sad irony.

When you leave a religion, your world gets turned upside down. You need to refigure everything you have allowed yourself to be taught. So this year, that's what I am going to do.

I have been talking to a councillor for a few years now, Cara. She has helped me sort past things and helped me through this new relationship with Jason. Now I need something more.

I hired myself a life coach. Her name is Shawna. I decided I needed direction (moving forward). Changing my internal dialog and figuring out this next chapter of my life without the guidance of a mother and being told what to think by a church with their own agenda governed by men.
I see how much I need woman in my life now more than ever.

I didn't realize that before. I really wish I had.

There will be no diet resolutions this year, just new things added to my bucket list. Experiences I long to have before my time is up. Priority will be given to experiences over things. Learning from other women I respect will be my focus.

I'm looking forward to 2017.



I am grateful for coffee.

I am grateful for sleep.

I am grateful for jeans that still fit after a solid week of eating!

Sunday, December 11

Advent Day 9-10 & 11: Julie Jones Caesar Salad Dressing

My mom made the best Caesar Salad Dressing!

We all loved moms salad dressing and would beg for it if it wasn't on the menue.  My Christmas gift for you is moms recipe.

1 cup Mayo/mayonnaise (whatever you call it)

2 TBS mustard (you want the end dressing to be the colour of soft butter yellow)

3 shakes of Worcestershire sauce

Garlic fresh... A LOT ( 4-5 cloves)

Black Pepper

2 TBS Lemon Juice

Put Bacon bits on the salad and use croutons too.

You want this to be smack your face off strong, if it burns your tongue from the garlic... you have made this successfully!

While doing day to day shopping and getting ready for the holidays I am noticing more and more things that were in my parents house for Christmas.

Quality Street were my moms favourite chocolates.

My mom always made sure we had these in our stockings every year.

Also for years before my parents moved to BC, my moms closest friends would exchange Christmas baking and DEAR GOD it was good. Sandra always made a cereal mix and Reta made squares and cookies.

After mom passed Jones gave me moms winter jacket and in the pockets were these...

Moms blue daffodil mittens from her Cancer Run For The Cure.

Mom would go for a walk every day after dinner. She would carry a plastic bag and collect pop cans she found while on her walk and bring them home to recycle/get money. She was such a freak about recycling she would even make Jones pull over while driving if she saw pop cans on the side of the road.

Funny the memories a simple pair of mittens can bring back.


Today I asked the kids to do the gratitude's.


I am grateful for eggos.

I am grateful for food.

I am grateful Milo.


I am grateful for family.

I am grateful for Milo.

I am grateful for my girl friend.


I am grateful for Mom.

I am grateful for Grace.

I am grateful for Milo.


I am grateful for good tasting food.

I am grateful for sleep.

I am grateful for puns.

Thursday, December 8

Advent Day 8: The Advent

Ooh the Christmas Advent!

We ALWAYS had an advent calendar growing up. Could there be or is there anything better than chocolate first thing in the morning? Pffff.. nope!

Mom made sure we had one with little chocolate bells, or candy canes and we always got to keep them in our rooms. Which now as a parent I'd never allow.

I, of course, would eat all of the chocolates on day one or two (probably why I don't allow my kids calendars in their rooms).  I don't think it bothered mom much, she never let on that it did (or at least I don't remember). I just remember the excitement and anticipation of the first day of December knowing we would get a special treat every day.

Even after I would ransack the entire thing devouring all chocolates with zero guilt, I would carefully close each door again and then open them accordingly on the matching day.

Weird the things you remember.

I have kept the tradition of Advent going ever since the kids were little. I made a mitten one that hangs on a clothes line. I fill each mitten and every morning the kids take the treats in them. And.. as all children should, they are stolen and emptied before the correct day. I often refill the mittens at least twice.

This year I bought the boxes to try something new.

And, since meeting Jason I added a new part to this tradition.

The beer Advent. I would like a wine one, so if anyone knows where I can fine one, I'd appreciate letting me know!

I am grateful this dog is doing so well with the house breaking thing. I happily will take the irregular sleep thing vs having poop and pee everywhere in the house.

I am grateful for Christmas concert season. I think I'm starting to enjoy them the older I get.

I am grateful my friend is still here. Christmas can be a hard time of year for people, and sometimes harder for others than we understand.

If you know someone who is struggling with depression or is talking about hurting themselves, please take time and reach out, listen when they need to talk.

I hope to never get another message like that again.


Wednesday, December 7

Advent Day 7: The Time Mom Got Us Farm Animals For Christmas.

My mom was a banker. I am not sure if I ever mentioned that before. She was a financial planner to be exact. She worked with people to help them save and make money decisions every day.

Every year around Christmas my mom would, of course, be thanked for the help she provided families. Grateful people wanting to show my mom how much they appreciated her.

That is where my favourite Christmas memory of my mom started.

My mom always supported World Vision. She had financially adopted a few children in Africa and their pictures were on my parents fridge (along with my high school boyfriends baseball picture that was up my entire marriage, my mom really liked him and I together... yup, awkward).

Anyway, back to my story, her adopted children pictures.. She never spoke about her feelings about it, my mom was a crier so it's safe to say she would just start bawling if you asked her her feelings regarding needy children.

One Christmas,  years ago, my mom informed all of us that we would not be buying gifts for each other that year. She made it abundantly clear that we were going to be cost saving and that it was about spending time together. You know, trying to get to the true meaning of Christmas (minus the religion).

Well, Christmas morning when we are all meeting in the living room my mom handed my kids envelopes, each of my kids opens their envelope to find this...

It's a paper ornament with a child on one side and a write up of what gift was given and how it helps the family/community.

Each of my children's gift was different, one was cows, another goats, one got chickens and I think a pig?? My mom explained how she donated these things to these kids and their families in each of my children's names and how it should feel good to help another.

What a beautiful moment right? My kids just fake smiled at each other.

Then she says, "This was going to be my only gift to you guys this year, until this week when I met with a family that I have worked with for 5 years and have helped make them a lot of money for retirement". She continues, "every year they come in at Christmas and give me a gift certificate to the Strathmore Station (a local restaurant my mom goes to once in a while with her friends) and I look forward to that every year.

Annoyed, she says "This year when they came in, they informed me they made a charitable donation in my name and then left" ever more flustered, she says, "what a crap gift that is."

I was dying!! Laughing so hard at my mom explaining how much she looks forward to the salad she has with her friends and how a donation in her name is so ridiculous.

Laughing at herself, she said to the kids, " I got you these (meaning the livestock for world vision), but I also got you this stuff too" and proceeded to pull out wrapped gifts, toys, chocolate and handed me an envelope with money in it.  (I was a single parent then and it was a hard time and she knew that).

The kids opened their gifts and I was laughing so hard as mom grumbled under her breath about not getting her GC this year, "I have gotten one every year" she went on. "A donation? jeez!"

Hahahahaha, still to this day thinking about that Christmas makes me laugh.

She never gave donations in our name again as gifts.


I am grateful for the happy times. Life is truly beautiful and such a gift.

I am grateful for opportunities for self improvement and learning about ones self.

I am grateful for days off. Time to rest and get ready for the holidays.

I am grateful for friends who chat on the phone and catch up.


Tuesday, December 6

Advent Day 5 & 6: Watching My Mom Do Her Makeup

It might seem like an odd memory to have, but I loved our bathroom in the house I gee up in. It wasn't anything special with tile or paint, but I loved it because it had a huge mirror, and then on the side wall, where the door was, there was a smaller mirror so you could angle it and see the back of your hair.
Also, the counter was huge and when my mom would get ready she would spread all her makeup on it and I would just sit on the toilet (not using it) and watch her get ready.

I was always fascinated with makeup, I still am to this day. I don't wear a ton, but sitting in that bathroom watching her is where I learned so much. Curling eye lashes, how to tilt your head to apply mascara and how to pluck eyebrows. I would sit there staring for an hour, just observing and learning.   , playing with her makeup as she would go.

I remember thinking my mom was so beautiful and always smelled so pretty.

Around Christmas my mom and Jones would go out more than normal because of staff parties and then New Years. I loved when they would go out, it didn't happen often, but that's when we would get pizza and my own full can of pop, which was pretty much the greatest thing in the universe.

Weird the things that you remember.

When we would all go to my parents friends Christmas gift exchange, that was always my favourite party ever. My parents have THE GREATEST friends. They are all still friends now and when my mom got sick every single one of them was there to help in one way or another.

After mom died and some friends came over with wine, I had a discussion with one of my moms oddest friends, she said to me that my mom had a way of making everyone feel welcome, even if she had just met them. She told me mom was always the life of the party and made sure most every party had a theme, decorations from the dollar store and that there were always prizes. It's weird to think that at the time i thought they were ridiculous and now, kinda miss them.


I am grateful for health.

I am grateful for my parents dear friends who continue to care for and watch out for Jones.

I am grateful for coffee and its magical powers after another long night of no sleep with a puppy.

Sunday, December 4

Advent Day 4: Decorations

Every year when my mom and Jones decided it was time to decorate my mom would go down to our basement and get the "suitcase".

The suitcase was full of all our decorations for the tree, house, and pretty much any structure that would hold still long enough to drape Christmas garb on it. When the suitcase was opened, Christmas was promptly barfed all over the house.

I have unwrapped these specific decorations since I was little. And now they are in my house on my shelves.

I remember when I was little these were my favourite things to unwrap because their bonnets are textured and it felt prickly on my fingers. I always made sure when I put them up in my parents sunken living room I put them together, on the TV stand or mantel. I always imagined they were friends and they wanted to stay together and watch whet we were doing. I never wanted them to be lonely.

If you knew my mom you knew her love for value village and consignment stores. When it came to clothes she would have a constant rotating cycle of buy and sell, but when it came to our Christmas decorations we never got rid of anything and not many new things ever made it into the suitcase. Only the core decorations were ever there. The important ones.

I will be keeping these angels out all year round I think. They make me happy to have around.


I am grateful for finally getting family pictures done... and by family pictures I mean an eye care add for the optomotrist and his glasses store in town .

I am grateful for comfortable jeans.

I am grateful for oranges, what a simple delicious little thing!


Saturday, December 3

Advent Day 3: Moms Shortbread Cookies

When I think of Christmas and especially Christmas with my mom it ALWAYS has these bad boys in that scenario. 

My mom wasn't a hug baker/cook but she aways made these, and my job when helping was to put the cherries on the top. They were always a staple in Christmas snacking, along with nanimo squares, matrimonial squares and of course Christmas oranges. 

When I was married, my (then husband) liked shortbread and once my mom found that out, she made sure he always got a special gift of shortbread. She would go out of her way to always make sure she went to a Christmas craft sale and got him beautifully decorated or stamped shortbread. 

Even after we were divorced she would go to the Strathmore market at Christmas and buy some, give it to the kids to take to their dad to maintain this tradition. When my mom knew you liked something she would never forget it and if it was within her power to do so, she made sure you had it. It was her way of showing her love.  At the time it annoyed me that she would still do that for my ex.. but now I see how loving it was. I divorced him, that didn't mean my family stopped caring.  It was/is a good lesson in love. 


I am grateful, after a very long day of driving this little thing is finally here.

He is called Milo and, as you can imagine, he is a big hit! He is happy, healthy and fitting in well.  And yes, i am becoming one of "those" people.

I am grateful for comfort food.

I am grateful for good hand lotion during this time of year. My skin doesn't hurt and crack as much.


Friday, December 2

Advent Day 2: SAAN Store Stockings and Hampers

Me- "Hey Gabe, I have this list of stories I am going to blog, stories of Grandma. What one should I tell next?"

Gabe- Pointing to the bottom of the list, "This one. What is a SAAN store?"

My mom was a single parent for a lot of years. My bio father and her were divorced when I was 5 and Dawson was just born. Mom and Jones (Steve) didn't get married until I was 10 so we had a few Christmas's that were very very humble. I would never have known it then, mom always made everything feel special.  That's how mom rolled.

After my parents got divorced mom put herself through college and worked. I didn't realize then, how could I have? But now as an adult, and having been a single parent myself, I see things differently.  I see how she must have struggled. God she must have cried a lot and felt like things would never get better.

A few Christmas's, in our small town, we were the recipients for a town food hamper.

One year around Christmas In our local SAAN store, we entered a draw for a boy and girl stocking.

Now.. let me paint the picture here.

These were not just run of the mill stockings, these SAAN store stockings were 20 feet long EACH. They were hanging from the ceiling and were the focal point of the stores decorations that year. I have no idea how we were entered and if I am being honest.. I might question that my mom was lovingly "picked" to be the winner. We were in a small town and I know my mom was loved by many.

When we won I don't remember all the details but I do remember being so excited and happy. LOOK AT ALL THESE TOYS!!! There must have been 20, maybe even closer to 30 toys in each stocking for Dawson and I. EACH!

Wide eyed and frothing at the mouth, ready to jump in and get busy on playing, I remember my mom stopping us and informing us that we were only going to keep one toy each. OBVIOUSLY disappointed, I must have complained and been like a normal child. Feelings of robbery and that this was completely unjust. WHHHHY?? THEY ARE MIIIINE???

I remember my mom explaining that other kids needed gifts too (having been those kids for years) and that we would pick one gift and put the rest in the town hamper for others to enjoy.

After all these years I don't remember what toy I picked, I would give a dozen cookies to know any other details that might fill in other holes in this story from people who were around then, but after all these years all I do remember was that even when we were poor and mom didn't have a lot, she still made sure we helped take care of others. Even when we would have been justified and clearly allowed to have kept everything, she kept things in check and taught us the importance of giving.


I am grateful for cookies and especially cookies by George. GOOD LORD!!!

I am grateful for on line shopping, waaay easier!


Thursday, December 1

Advent Day 1: Start With The Last

I thought this was such a great idea to blog all these Christmas memories, until I actually started blogging. Looking through old pictures and feeling all these feelings. Jason is trying to exercise in the room beside me and I am trying to find all of my pictures from Christmas last year. I have interrupted him 3 times now with bursts of tears, yelling at the computer and then "Jason come look at this one" when I find more.

Who's idea was this? .... ooh right, mine.

I have been listing on a piece of paper all the stories I could remember, ones I want to share the most. The ones that made me laugh are the ones I thought I'd start with, until I realized at some point I would have to talk about the hardest one, Moms last Christmas. So instead of avoiding it we will do that one first.

Deep Breath..

My last Christmas memory of my mom was last year.

I have just spent 30 minutes picking pictures for this post. I have had to stop 4 times to walk around the living room, I began making toast, started organizing my old bills.. why am I avoiding this?

Last year for Christmas I didn't have my kids (Drew and I alternate year to year who gets the children on the actual day) and for last year it turned out I was able to go spend it with everyone in BC.  Because of the circumstances after moms surgery, having found out the cancer had spread, getting to have Christmas as the child and be able to focus all my attention on mom was a true gift. One I treasure dearly.
It's an interesting roll caring for your parent. I had have taken care of kids as a mother myself, labouring mothers as a doula, sick people as an EMT, but nothing was quite as tender as helping with my own mom. Last years Christmas memory I guess is Service. A deep service that has changed who I am.

Here are some pictures from Moms last Christmas.

This is the Blanket I made mom for Christmas last year.

Mom and Steve gave us these metal animals last year, mine has pride of place at my door. I see it every day.  

 I guess I am not really sharing many stories in this blog post, maybe it's because this specific Christmas is still too raw. Pictures will be the main share here. I wish I had taken more. Why didn't I make a video? I guess its easy to look back and think Shudda, couldda, wouldda. Maybe this is a good reminder to take more. You're welcome for the reminder.


I am grateful for pictures I do have. I am grateful for time and laughter.

I am grateful for this project I have given myself, even though it's painful.