Motherhood Spectrum

I have written about this time before. I was in the palliative care wing with my mother. One of my best friends was a couple floors above me, ready to delivery her first baby. We were so far apart on the spectrum of motherhood, but at the same time, so intertwined and alike. I really do feel that me caring for my mother was my introduction to being a mother myself. I had a deep sense that our roles were reversed, and I was now caring for her, as she had cared for me. My friend and I were both new mothers. Hers a great joy. Mine through a great sadness.

I will never forget going up to see her and her newborn baby, sitting beside her on the hospital bed. Us crying for welcoming her daughter and saying goodbye to my mother in the same tears. And her confession. How she longed for her daughter to not be born on the same day that my mother passed away. For her to be so vulnerable with me, connected us forever. And we cried. And hugged. And were in awe of the new life she had born.

Yesterday on her daughter’s 6th birthday, I texted her, just to say how I was thinking of her. She replied that she was having similar thoughts. And how when she looked at when I sent her the text, it was the exact time her daughter was born. And I knew it was my mom checking in on us both. Hi mom.

No More Hope For Humanity

It’s dead. The Hope for Humanity Rose Bush. This was the rose bush that was given to me on the morning of my mother’s death by three dear friends of hers. You can read more about it in this older post.

http://ammerle.ca/2011/08/31/beta-sigma-phi-rose-garden/

This rose bush has been moved almost every second year since she died. First from the little house Nick and I first bought to our newer home in the suburbs. Then it moved with me to the second property we bought together. Then to the house I bought last summer. And this year it grew no more. I patiently waited and hoped to find some sign of life from it these last few weeks, but I saw nothing. And I surprised myself for being ok with it. I made such and effort over the years to not lose that darn thing, and placed such significance on its existence. Not that I don’t still hold the meaning and act of friendship and honour that it represented. But I accepted its death. I put it through a lot over these past years, and finally it couldn’t take the moves anymore.

I remember not long after my mom died, the statue of her Virgin Mary fell from my nightstand and part of her chipped off. I texted my friend, completely frantic, because of this. At the time, I put so much importance on maintaining her physical possessions. And now I feel that my response to the dead rose bush is an indicator of my progress with my grief.

Instead of it being something I couldn’t handle on my own, my thought process was this: I am gonna dig up that dead rose bush to make room for the playhouse a dear family gave to us last fall. And then I am going to buy a new Hope For Humanity rose bush, and plant it in the little nook near the play house. Voila. Problem solved.

And that’s what I am going to do.

   
      

My Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day has changed for me over these past few years. 6 years ago I hated it. I despised the meaning and the joy others received from it and wanted to not even acknowledge the day. The next year I felt the two extremes. Hating it and being a new mother. How do you disregard a day that you are now meant to be honoured by? And then the next few years were still the same. Wanting to avoid it, but not wanting to take away from what Arrine has given me as a mother.

This year was the best Mother’s Day I have had since my own mother died. I still don’t like to think about the day and don’t spend time over-planning or thinking. And this year I knew that Arrine would be with Nick on Mother’s Day and I didn’t do anything to change it. Her daycare had a Mother’s Day Breakfast on Friday which I attended and Arrine gave me a lovely gift she made. And we spent all day together on Friday and Saturday. I didn’t need anything more. But on Saturday night when Arrine was heading home with Nick, she mentioned the “surprise picnic” the next day.

So today, after I slept in (as I love to do) and went to the gym, Nick invited me over to his house and then gave me strict instructions. “When you get to the house, park and then walk north until you find the gravel path. Then follow it until you find us.” And I did that just that. And at the end of the path, on a grassy hill, I found Nick and Arrine hiding under a picnic blanket. She revealed herself and yelled, “Surprise!” And I was crying good tears. We ate sandwiches and had juice boxes and Pringles. And it was absolutely perfect.

The gift I received was a picture Arrine drew. It was of me and her and two butterflies – and the butterflies were me and Grandma Anne-Marie. And I cried and I asked Arrine to give me a big hug. And I smelled her hair and I was astonished with her depth and insight and caring and thoughtfulness – even though I know all of this already.

And when we were done eating, we walked back to the house and that was it. And I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Today was also a bit different for me. Instead of focusing on the mother that I no longer have, I found myself thinking of the women who are still such wonderful mother figures for me. Marlene and Karen. These women have supported me when I have needed it the most and I am forever grateful for. And there are other friends and family members of my mother who have stayed in my life after my mother’s death – Iris, Irene, Audrey, Colleen and Linda. I am blessed to still have these strong female role models in my life.

I didn’t do anything to specifically honour my mom today, as I have felt the need to do in past years. But tonight I found myself craving a white wine spritzer – one of my mom’s favourites. And I am now on my second glass. And I just bbq’d chicken breasts that I marinated in lemon, oregano and basil for the afternoon, not even realizing it was one of my mom’s favourites to make until I sat down to write.

I now honour her by just being me. And not trying to do things “for her” or “because of her”. And I have found this shift in my execution, ever since I let go the death of my mother defining me.

Today, on Mother’s Day, I honour the mother who was such a strong presence in my life, she is still teaching me in her death. I am so proud to call her my mother. I miss her to my core. And I wish she could see what a beautiful granddaughter she has in Arrine, and the mother I have become.

Happy Mother’s Day, mom.
Love Princes Kae

   
  

        

I Am Voting For the Birthday Party

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When I was younger and an election was taking place, my parents were both very private about their political views. I would ask who they were voting for, and their answer would always be, “I am voting for the Birthday Party.” And it would infuriate me! But they explained to me, that their right as a Canadian was to vote, and to maintain privacy over who they were voting for. They even admitted to many times not even knowing who each other was voting for. But even through all this privacy, we still had the news on, each election day, watching as the polls came in.

Once I reached the age to vote, I was excited and remember that last year of high school, candidates coming and sharing their platforms. I could drive. I could now vote. And I could drive an hour and a half to the Alberta border to drink. This was what being an adult was all about.

And then university came, and my life was so focused on schooling that I never voted. I felt that I wasn’t informed enough and didn’t want to blindly vote for anyone. Looking back, I wish I never had this attitude, but I was young and naïve and absorbed in my struggles as a uni student.

Now, even though I still admit to not having a strong, detailed understanding (or even interest) in politics, my friends and my inner self have encouraged me to get back on track of voting. And I have been these last number of years. This morning, I was reminded of it even more.

I sat amongst a group of my peers. There were 7 of us. 5 all came from countries where voting was not a right. Government was decided with no input from the people. However one of these peers did not agree with the importance of voting. They expressed that there hasn’t been enough media about this election – they didn’t know if it was provincial or federal – and they didn’t know anything about the “presidency”. They also felt that the US does a much better job in the media during an election and they weren’t going to vote. And this infuriated me. Again. Like the Birthday Party response. And I wasn’t alone in the group with my reaction to their comments. We had a number of rebuttals and defenses to their ignorant comments. I went as far as to question in slightly sarcastic tone, “Don’t you have to learn this stuff before becoming a Canadian? We have a ‘premier’, not a president.”

Yes, we will always have something to complain about regarding our province and our country. But we are CANADIANS. People around the world view our county with longing and admiration. We are so blessed to call this our home. And to show our love and appreciation, we need to exercise our right to vote. Even if it not because you can, but for all those around the world who cannot.

So today, I am going to vote for the Birthday Party. Who are you voting for?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I find myself reading through the journals that I wrote during my mom’s illness when I least expect it. Like tonight. I came home after a long dance rehearsal and went to my bedside table to pull out a notebook to make some notes. But once I see those journals, I can never resist taking one out and reading. And the having a hard cry. A cry so hard that there is no sound.

Tonight I flipped to this entry:

“Thursday, April 16, 2009

Today when I got to the hospital, mom wasn’t able to show any facial recognition of me.”

And I thought, “That would have been tomorrow, 6 years ago. And isn’t that a shitty entry.”

I Was So Messed Up

I remember the first time seeing my therapist after my mom died. And I distinctly remember saying to him, “I should be more messed up than I am. Shouldn’t I be? I’m not messed up enough.” I wasn’t clinically depressed – I still got up each day and did normal expected things, like showering and eating and getting through the day. I returned to work and there weren’t any concerns with my performance. Nick and I found out we were going to be parents. Life was moving on…

But now that I am through it and can look back on those early years after her passing, I think to myself, “Holy fuck. I was messed up.” I was so broken that I didn’t even know I was. I was so consumed by it, I couldn’t even see it. I didn’t know how to be on my own without my mom. And I was searching to replace that role she was for me by something else. Anything. I kept searching, trying to find the source, and each time I thought I found it, I was disappointed when it didn’t give me what I thought it would.

My grief process had many steps to it, and I will always be grieving in some form, but it took many hard lessons for me to get to the point of being able to let my mother’s death go. And to not let her death define me anymore. And that’s when I truly understood what I needed to do. I needed to learn how to be on my own, without my mother. I needed to not search for something to fill the void of what she used to provide me with – I needed to find that within myself. And I have. In many different ways. I will always be learning how to do this and adapt to my ever-changing life, but the realization and acceptance is the hardest thing to do, and that I can check-off as complete.

I remember two close friends, separately, telling me how they could see how much I was struggling, but there was nothing they could do or say to make me see it and bring me out of it. I am so grateful and appreciative of their patience with me. And willingness to not give up on me and their faith that one day I would return to them. We have had conversations about this and me questioning the “What-ifs”. “What if” that didn’t happen, that didn’t cause that, that didn’t make me realize that? Would I still be stuck in that place? I am so thankful that I am not. And I do feel that my mom helped me out of it. Because she raised me to be independent and strong-willed and understanding of what life has to offer me and what I have to offer and be deserving of. She taught me how to eat at a restaurant alone and love books and eat popcorn for supper. All things I needed to find the enlightenment I now cherish. It took a very long time for me to get here, but I did. And I consider myself so blessed to be in this place now. And so appreciate for all of those friends and family that had the patience with me while I was in it.

I’m OUT! (Well, not like that. I am still straight.)

Unconditional Support

Something that I am very blessed to have had, and still have, is unconditional support from my parents. 

They showed me this by not interfering or pressing their opinions on me throughout my life’s decisions. They showed me this by saying the words to me, that they will always support me, even if they don’t agree with me. They showed me this by making me feel at a young age that I had control over my own life, but with that control came responsibility with those decisions. And I know I will one day be faced with the excruciating temptation to tell Arrine when I think she is making a poor decision. Or that I don’t agree with her and she should do something else. Just as I am sure my parents withheld, many, many, many times. Because it is her life, and she is in charge of the decisions she makes herself. And she needs to learn the consequences from those decisions, whether they are positive or negative. That is how you grow, become a strong individual, and can face further struggles when they are presented to you.

The other day when my dad and I went for lunch, we were talking about the upcoming burlesque show I will be in at the end of the month. He is of a “more mature” generation, and doesn’t understand my love of it, but he expressed how he wanted to come. Not because he loves burlesque (well, he is a man), or because he supports my decision to bare myself on stage, but because he supports me. Just me. That’s it. Whether he agrees with it or not. 

And for that, I am truely grateful. Love ya dad!!

Easter Nest

For as long as I can remember, I have been participating in an Easter Merle Family Tradition. On Easter, before you go to bed, you make a nest out of the clothes that you have worn that day. And during the night, just like Christmas Eve with Santa and your stocking, the Easter Bunny comes and leaves you presents in your nest.

As a small girl, I was surprised to learn that none of my other friends made an Easter nest out of their dirty clothes. But I didn’t care, it was a way to get awesome stuff from the Easter Bunny! And so the tradition continues. Arrine now makes her Easter nest for the Easter Bunny each year. And I have realized that even though this is a Merle tradition, I am the only Merle who is actually doing this. Meh. I love it. 

I have no idea how this tradition started. It was either a way for my Baba to find another reason to adore her two boys with gifts, or there just wasn’t money for an Easter basket. Because I know money was always earned by extra hard work in those days.

And what I loved about my mom, was even though I knew this was a weird Merle tradition, she accepted it, and executed it every year, as she too was a Merle Girl at heart.

Here is Arrine’s nest this year – Happy Easter from our nest to yours.  

   

Ms. PM B*tch

I’m the only female Project Manager in my department at the moment. I am also one of the youngest, if not the youngest PM, so I really have two stereotypes working against me. Oh. And I am “white”, amongst a very cultural diverse work environment, so make that three things.

Every day, I feel my actions and decisions are being even more scrutinized by my peers. And when I don’t have an immediate answer or things did not go to my plan, in the back of my mind I am always wondering if my “failures” are being connected to my gender. It’s exhausting.

And then I got a breath of encouragement recently from two female co-workers. Neither I work with closely, but both had such lovely things to say. One is a draftsperson, about 15 years older than me, but I can see her youthful soul. She stopped me to tell me how excited she was when they hired me, as they hadn’t had a “young, modern female PM” before and how it was so encouraging.

Then for these past two weeks, there has been at technical lead replacing my current lead during his vacation. This is the first time she and I have worked together, but I could tell just seeing her around the office, she took charge. After her two weeks coverage was done last Friday, we had a little chat, and she said that she really liked my style, for four reasons in particular.

  1. She had sent me an email about prepping for a meeting with some great guidelines, and within a day I turned it over to the rest of the team for their follow-up.
  2. Some of our team members are notorious for showing up late to meetings. She commended me on marking down who was late in the minutes of our meeting.
  3. I had sent an email to the team asking for their input on a file with a deadline. After the deadline passed by almost a day, I went in and made modifications for those who did not review it. I then sent out an email letting the team know this, and to check what I had put down for them and made them responsible for.
  4. She told me how she liked my response to a lead telling me they wouldn’t meet a deadline because they didn’t have enough people to do the work with an, “I don’t care”. (I should clarify that I do care, and it wasn’t said to be malicious. But leads are responsible for resourcing. If they can’t get their work done because of it, I will support that challenge. But not doing anything about it and then using it as an excuse, will get a short response from me.)

What these examples show, is that my communication skills effing rock, and I don’t let my team mess with me. And to me, these are normal actions a PM should be executing. And I love how these things that are “normal” to me, pop out as extras to other team members.

She asked me if I felt added pressure being a female PM. And immediately I said, “YES!” She said lovely things about how I handle situations and how she really liked working with me. And I took those compliments in very high regard, coming from another strong female. I shared with her my PM approach: When starting with a new team, I have added patience and allow a bit more give and take the time to understand the dynamics of the team. But if the team doesn’t reciprocate the respect, I become less understanding and less forgiving. It comes down to respect. If they don’t respect me and my role, I take the hard lined approach. Which I always try to avoid. Because in my world, an aggressive, outspoken, “don’t mess with me” male PM is successful and excellent at his job. Where those qualities make me a b*tch.

Then call me, Ms. PM B*tch, please.

on one’s own

Every single moment, I feel alone. My mom was the person I called to share the exciting news in my life and she was the person I turned to when I was low and needed guidance. I don’t have memories of feeling alone before she passed. And now, that word, “alone”, is one I think of every day.

I. Am. Alone. And the advice I have been given, is that I have to learn how to be alone, and be ok with it. And I have over the years, but that doesn’t take away the desperate feeling of sadness, connected to being alone. And I think those feelings of being on my own, heightens other emotions I face, mostly rejection. When I feel rejection from my friends and family, those who I consider myself the closest to, it is that much harder to receive. Because I have to take that rejection on my own. I don’t have my mother to call and get comfort from.

But there are bits of triumph from being alone. When I accomplish something with no assistance or help from someone, it’s reassuring to know I can still survive through this. And then isn’t it funny, longing to share that accomplishment excitement, but had there been someone there, I wouldn’t have done it on my own to be excited about.

For the first time in years, I caught myself thinking, “I have to call my mom and tell her this…” I know her spirit will always be with me, and in that sense I will never be alone, but flip, it would be nice if her spirit could answer the darn phone!

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