The People You Love

A year ago, Andy handed me the results from the pathology lab. Results, which were, it turns out, his death sentence. I texted my boss and stayed an extra day and took the kids to the trampoline park and the bird sanctuary and McDonald’s. They went to the doctor. They heard a year, maybe 2.

In the end, it was a shade less than 8 months.

When I got past being angry at the universe, the shock set in. Sometimes I think I’m still shocked.

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All My Thoughts on Marriage

Dear Dean and Rachel:

You have asked for all my thoughts on marriage as you get married. I thought very hard I realize, I only have 2 thoughts about marriage. Still, you wanted them, so here they are.

While I was married for almost 16 years, the wisest among us will remember that I am not currently married. Should you find someone who has been happily married for 32 years, and should they make a suggestion contrary to my thoughts, I’d go with theirs.

With that limitation of liability in mind, I’d like to introduce the concept of the do-over.

You see, there will come a time when you will not be the person Mr Rogers knows you can be. Indeed, there may come a time when your promises to love, honour, and cherish your spouse fly out the window and your inside voice becomes your outside voice and things become rather ominous. This happens. I know you think it won’t, but I promise you, in the instant words, or a look or even just a door slammed loudly happens, you have the option of a re-do.

A re-do is simple. In the instant that you know you have not been your best self, you get to stand up and ask for a re-do. A re-do requires something from both of you: your ability to admit that you were not your best self – you need the re-do; and your partner’s ability to remember that we are all human, providing a bit of grace and mercy – granting you the re-do. A re-do does not eliminate the unkind words or actions, but it does let you start again.

My second bit of advice is this: there is no wallpaper simple enough or attractive enough, and there is no wall that is straight enough for any sane couple to wallpaper together. Hire someone. There’s no limitation of liability on this one. Anyone who tells you to wallpaper with your spouse doesn’t like you or isn’t in their right mind. Trust me on this.

Wishing you a life of care and joy. Sorry I cannot be with you, but you will be in my thoughts.

(As it so happens, I was asked to record this, so that the very happy couple could put it, and many other like it, in their wedding video. I miss the days of handwritten letters, but needs must. The blog worked because it was a place I’m used to writing things down, and more than that, I could read from here while recording myself.)

Posted in Marriage | 3 Comments

Domestic Failings

It was the start of June when my sciatica blew up and Kuri had to help me get dressed. She discovered that when I put my laundry away, I do not turn it the right way out. More accurately, I put my laundry in my basked however it comes off my body (that is, often, inside out), I wash it the same way (inside out) and then I fold it the way it comes out of the dryer (inside out). I turn it the right way when I’m putting it on. The only time this changes is when I have a stain on something because I need to turn it the right way to treat the stain.

I do not, for the record and because I am the sort of person who thinks about this, save any time with this strategy. It’s really the same time whether I turned it the right way as I was taking it off, when I was putting it in the washing machine or when I was folding it. I suppose the best thing I can say is that it’s just in time laundry storage. I mean really, you don’t *need* to do this until such time as you are putting the clothes on your body, so why bother before then.

This is the secret joy to single life. Unmoored of a partner who expects me to do laundry in a particular way, I can fill my drawers and closet with things awaiting the correct way of being and only do that when I need to.

I do not revolutionize the world with this. I know that. I am not committing an act of rebellion. I remain the same middle aged spinster I ever was.

It’s just a little thing. A small way of thumbing my nose at what I was taught and the expectations from the world.

Posted in And the Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth, I'm With the Cool Kids | 1 Comment

And the Furnace Filters

The call came on September 12, which is a day I should remember. I was in the middle of the line up at Costco, buying Halloween candy and saran wrap and batteries. And furnace filters. Which were the wrong size.

In the year since I have not managed to get the right ones. I have ordered them on Amazon, I have gone to home depot and I now have 8 furnace filters in my basement in a variety of sizes not reflective of my actual furnace.

I’m going to Costco tonight. (I got to plan our date).

I may get nothing else on my list, but I will get furnace filters.

20 x 25 x 1.

Done deal.

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Fall Out

On Friday, as the gentleman caller and I were trying to organize the dog, the potato salad, blankets and 2 adults out the door for a social distanced birthday (also, here, meet the gentleman caller) event, my phone rang.

I have come to dread these calls. No one calls to say hello and check in at 5pm on a Friday. That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

A colleague is dead. We don’t know, and will quite possibly never know if it was Covid. He’s not that much older than me, he lived alone, and he was found dead on Friday.

This afternoon was a quick check in. Back to work means back to the administrative requirements of work – uploading documents and making sure that performance appraisals are completed. And this – we have work to farm out now.

Can I take some of it.

I will. Not only because work is work – although it is. I will take it because I liked my colleague. I won’t be able to fill his shoes – not completely, because they are big shoes, but somewhat. We both trafficked in consulting magic.

I ended the online meeting and I cried. Because he is dead, because he was alone, because at the end of of all of this, there won’t be a moment where we laugh and joke about his terrible condo board and the ridiculous demands of Covid.

I hate pandemics.

Posted in Pandemic | 1 Comment

Mid Point

It’s been a series of small snaps in the last few weeks. The frustration and expense of trying to print my school readings. I know, I know. There are apps to annotate things, but I like paper and notes in the margins and highlighting and underlining. I’m working, but it’s only a month and everyone at the office tells me it will be ok and my contract will get extended (they think). Forgive me, but things being ok hasn’t been my experience of 2020.

Way back when, when I used to snowshoe at boarding school, we did a last race of the season which was 40Km. A snowshoe team, a really good one, moves about 3.5 Km across fields. You can pick up some speed on flat roadways, but it turns out it’s harder to snowshoe on roads. Any way you cut it, with lunch breaks and rest stops, you are starting at 7 am and finishing at 7 or 8 at night. You start in the dark, you end in the dark.

If you were the team captain, if you were an Old Girl*, you knew the route and you could estimate, more or less, how much was left. I am not the sort of person who relaxes into things (I know this surprises you), so I was happier when I figured out how much time was left.

Where am I going with this? Well, I guess it’s that if you were going to lose it, if you were going to decide that you could not walk another step, you did that when you were both the furthest from home and when it was about the middle of the race.

Perhaps this is the middle. I hope this is the middle. It’s 6 months and I don’t know if I have much more than another 6 months of this in me.

** This term has a particular meaning in the boarding school world. Mostly, in this context, it means someone who has been at the school for a few years.

Posted in Pandemic | 1 Comment

Random Distribution

I got official notice from my employer that they are hiring me back as of Monday. It’s still dicey – the work I’m doing only goes until December; which means that I could be unemployed again and will not have worked long enough to qualify for Employment Insurance. If I refused to take the work, I would have no longer qualified for Employment Insurance. I had to take the job.


I have a job again. I have managed to weather being ghosted and dumped and 14 weeks of unemployment. When my employer reneged on their promise of a top-up, I was able to find a part-time gig. I’ve kept on paying my mortgage. I’m not hugely in debt.

When I posted my better news on Facebook someone suggested there was no doubt I’d be ok, because I was brilliant.

You know what? There was doubt. There was a lot of doubt. There was doubt when I applied for my 60th job, 3 weeks ago. There was doubt when I realized that my employer may have promised me a top-up, but they weren’t going to deliver, and raising a fuss would likely make them get rid of me permanently. (Let us not forget, I would up laid off 72 hours after I told them that I was not able to fly with my MS). There was doubt when my GP prescribed me Ativan. There was doubt when I got up and wrote “learn python, read another chapter of Foucault, walk dog, weed garden” on my to-do list, knowing that I needed routine for sanity, but also knowing that none of it made any god damn difference. There was doubt morning, noon, and night. I lived with the taste of doubt and worry and fear.

The job arrived randomly. It was nothing I did or did not do. I didn’t apply for it, I didn’t network. It was not hustling from sales guys in the Edmonton office. A client I’d never heard of from another province needed my skills and I showed up in an internal resume search. Random.

The Gentleman Caller was a random match on a dating app. In a city of 1 million people, we know no one in common. I’d never have met him on my own. I liked his smile, he thought my description of myself as a “high-energy particle” was funny. Random swiping.

I know this – I know this in my bones; it is not the best things that arrive randomly. It is not the worst things that arrive randomly. It is all things. Random. There is no fault. There is no trick. There’s just dice. It’s not even the right roll of the dice. You just keep rolling the dice for long enough. Sooner or later, you’ll get a better roll. That’s how random works.

Posted in Adult Dating, Evil Corporations, Pandemic | 2 Comments

Back To . . . .

The good thing about the pandemic is that I can take 2 courses this semester. Most of my courses are ‘asynchronous’, meaning that I have about an hour of remote learning that is time dependent, then the rest is done on my own time. While I’ll miss seeing my classmates, and my instructors, and anything other than my house, if I can keep this pace up over the year, I’ll have shaved a year off my education.

It’s weird to go back to school while unemployed. I applied for my 60th job a few weeks ago, and while I do believe that some of this is a numbers game, and while I keep reminding myself that the extension of my part time U of A gig means that I’m ok until the end of December, I’m still unemployed. It is not showing signs of getting better.

When I think back to the times in my life where I have been unmoored, unsure, this isn’t the first. In all those cases, I did not know how it would end until it did end. In many cases, there was nothing I could do to make it end, until that time had come.

I’m back to school. I’ve bought a single text book and a bunch of video games. I’ll apply for more jobs this week.

Sometimes the chief virtue of this sort of situation is that I know I will survive it. I have no other choice really.

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I Still Haven’t

Last year on September 12, I wrote the first post about Andy and brain cancer. At that point, we didn’t know if it was brain cancer. We certainly didn’t know that he would be dead in May. Christie called me in Costco, and Andy and his death and me trying to convince the universe he wasn’t a good pick, they are all tied up in an inability to buy the right sized furnace filter.

Lost vision at the start of September. Diagnosis on October 17. Montana for the end of Chemo in December. Montana to have Andy committed to a psych ward in March. Covid. Andy died on May 8th. Not Montana for that, since the border was closed.

I know the timeline, mostly because I lived it. I can point to the kilometers on my car; when people ask if I went to concerts last year – Cancer ate most things for me last year.

I had bought more furnace filters during the Costco trip when Christie called me. I wasn’t sure if they were the right size, and they weren’t. I’ve tried to fix it twice since then. Both times I got the size wrong. I was in Costco a few weeks ago and I remembered the need as I was leaving. I’m not sure that Mr. Ice Cream understood how exhausting the furnace filter problem is; it’s not quite obvious how much is caught up in those furnace filters.

All of that became a bit clearer, at least to me, this afternoon. A work colleague, one I quite like has been diagnosed with cancer. Now, it’s very different. His chances are really quite good. But for a moment, as I struggled to catch my breath, I remembered. It really hasn’t been all that long.

It seems like I’ve been trying to solve the furnace filter problem for months. Maybe years. It’s not. Less than 8 months.

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Women Like Me

Today is Rainbow Baby Day. Now, perhaps if I had a baby that lived after Gabriel I might be more of a fan, although I don’t think so.

(This is a good time for an aside. I think for some people the idea of Rainbow Baby day is a comfort. If so, I’m glad. You aren’t wrong. I’m not right. This probably isn’t the post for you. Go have a coffee or a tea and come back another day).

I notice this year’s meme has some mention of the women (and why is it always women?) who had to go find silver linings in other clouds or clouds that didn’t bring us joy or some such crap.

In the days after Gabe died, and then as another 4 babies died, I didn’t want the promise of a rainbow. I wanted to see someone like me. I wanted to see a woman who didn’t ever have another baby and I wanted to know if she was ok. If she was happy.

If she lived a life out of the shadow of someone else’s rainbow if she went and found her own damn sunbeam.

There were women – Loribeth chief among them – who did.

Women who taught me that it’s not either or. There’s a sunbeam if you go and find it. There’s also shadow. Ever aware that we so very nearly lived another life, we turn our faces toward the sun, and we still see the shadow. We remember the rain.

So no, it’s not a rainbow. It’s not sunshine and unicorns and pots of gold. It’s hard and sad and joyous. It’s not the reflected glory of a slightly different life without someone you wanted. It’s a radically different life on an entirely different path.

It’s still a good life. I suppose it’s a sign of the times, but twice on twitter in the last week, I have wished someone luck as they started IVF. I have gently told them that I hoped it worked and I would be delighted to knit for a baby. I’ve also said that if if it didn’t work, that it was ok to not have a baby. Not what you planned, but there was room for a good and wonderful life.

So, if you are me, like I was 10 years ago, don’t settle for the silver lining in everyone else’s cloud.

Go find your own sunbeam.

It’s there.

It’s worth it.

Posted in Baby Loss, Life After Children | 2 Comments