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Well this is definitely the time of year I feel compelled to write. It’s been two years since I lost my husband to brain cancer. Looking back on some of my previous postings, I realize I don’t come out and write these words very often. I skirt around them; I allude to them and paint a water coloured landscape where things are vague and it’s more about big-picture ideas than detailed events. This is how I have liked it up to this point.

As this anniversary approached I had a few friends ask me if it’s gotten easier now that a bit more time has passed…now that there’s been two whole years between me and that other reality I was living.

Time – that old cure-all.

The easy answer – and the one that everyone is looking for is yes… of course time has helped. I have had two years of experiencing people and places and events, between me and that other world in which my husband was battling for his life. Time helps get over any traumatic experience. It dulls the edges.

Well this is what I thought – that the edges were supposed to get duller. The sharp blade of loss wearing down slowly. Maybe I had heard it somewhere once? Maybe it just seems logical; the general consensus.  I don’t know. But after having more that a few people ask me if it’s gotten easier, I started to think about it. 

And here’s the thing – for me, time has proved invaluable in that it gives me longer stretches of relief. I think about Kevin every day and I smile. He was so f*&king funny. He just had this way about him, and he shared it with everyone. I don’t need to tell those of you who knew him. I swear he had this sort of smirk behind his eyes – like he knew something you didn’t and it was hilarious. He brought people together. A lot of the time he was just ridiculous. Most of the time, really. To me he was the best friend in the world. We were lucky like that.

So now when it hits hard, it still hits just as hard. I could use the word emptiness, and although it’s strikingly painful, it’s usually fleeting. It comes less often now, and I can pull myself out of it pretty fast. I just think about how much it would hurt him to see me like that and then I pick myself up.

If you’re reading this and you were lucky enough to know Kevin, please think of the best and most funny moment you shared with him… maybe it involved minotaurs? nerd capes? some sort of limerick?

If you didn’t know Kevin, but have had loss in your life, then remember the people you’ve loved and all of their lovable qualities. If you haven’t had loss in your lives, then hug the people around you tightly, and start laughing.

Something that makes me feel better? Realizing that Kevin did, indeed, know something we don’t. Let’s hope it’s hilarious.

Theme Song, One of Kevin’s favourites:

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Thailand was a treat. Upon arrival we were greeted with fireworks, a parade, dance and light shows…it was amazing. We ate bugs – more than one – and agreed they tasted like the small crispy bits of french fries.    We wandered around in awe at the activity, picking small antennae out of our teeth, and only on our way out of the city the next day, did we find out it was Coronation Day.  One night in Bangkok …pretty great.

The majority of our taste of Thai – you know, besides the grasshoppers and such – was spend on beaches surrounded by other young westerners. It was quite a change of pace from our experience in Cambodia but it was easy and relaxing.

Our Balinese Christmas came and went and was lost in a sad and happy wave of normality I had never experienced before. It was good to take a break though…no carols, no presents, no freezing temperatures. We had a seafood dinner and I was lucky to share my token Christmas Guinness with two Irish blokes.  They kept us entertained with tales of excess and debauchery.  I reckon that Guinness pool-side is just as good as eggnog fire-side.  And tales of debauchery are a very close second to “Miracle on 34th Street”.

All in all, our last couple of weeks in Asia  were a gentle transition – relatively speaking – back into the throngs of the Western world.  Both the prices and the touristy-feel increased as we migrated south. We were blessed with exceptional scenery, culture, and religion.  This assisted in filling our hearts with a sort of pseudo holiday joy.

And so we made it back to Australia in time to celebrate the bringing-in of a new year.  This one will be pretty good I think.  A year of new beginnings… adventure, travel, friends, family, new things, new people, old things, and all things in-between.

We are alive and it’s our job to do some serious living.  Everyday will be a day of celebration even if it’s small and quiet and personal.  We will smile more. Why not? We will forgive – get over it.  We will open our hearts and be amazed when others open their hearts to us.

We will realize our faults and forgive them.  If we are able to forgive others the very least we can do is forgive ourselves.

We will get excited.  There’s a lot to do: we pay the bills and do the dishes, but everyday holds joy, and if it doesn’t then we need to make changes.  Maybe we will open up, be honest, and ask for help.
We will find love.  It’s everywhere and it comes in oh, so many forms and it starts with you. We will give love and give it freely – that means no strings– none…no exception.

One of the best things I’ve done this year is to remove myself from my comfort zone.  I’m not suggesting everyone give up everything they have to travel the world – although I support you 100% if this is the case, and I hope to meet you along the way.  The montage of destinations are simply a change of canvas that has helped in removing routine, pattern and familiarity from the equation.  The palette.

All the most memorable experiences of the past year are the ones that initially gave me pause.  The times that I had to work up the balls to get ‘er done. No shortcuts.  I’ve had to challenge myself, ask for help, take the leap.  When I have truly done this, each and every time, I have walked away a little bit proud of myself.

It’s important to know that these challenges have resulted in a magnitude of outcomes.  The whole gambit; an entire colour spectrum of emotion.  Regardless of the greys and browns and blacks, I have surfaced more complete – each experience benefiting the painting-in-progress that is my life.

May 2010 be a more-happy-than-sad year for all of us. A colourful year.

Theme Song of the Day:

Night WindowsThe Weakerthans

 …

British Columbia is a place that sings loudly to me.  I have grown up with the mountains and the ocean and the forests in my backyard – three decades of walking through postcard-quality scenery on a day-to-day basis – and yet it still takes my breath away. 

We’ve all heard that one of the great things about going away is how much you appreciate what you’ve got when arriving home again. This has to be true for so many people around the globe.  The comfort, familiarity, and routine of home…it’s got its appeal.  We derive focus and a sense of direction with this blanket of habit and recognition.

A pattern to smudge over the chaos.  

In this part of the world, on the west coast in particular, we are blessed to not only have wild, natural beauty at our doorstep, but the laid-back friendliness of the people that surround us should not be taken for granted.  A simple stop in the middle of a busy street (with a slack-jawed look of confusion) warrants a stranger stopping to not only offer assistance… but you know what?…uh, I was headed in that direction already so why don’t I just lead the way and make sure you get to where you’re going?…Want half my muffin?

It’s like living in a Disney movie.

This is not to imply naivety.  Not at all.  We just have friendliness and it perpetuates itself…one person smiles and then the next.  It’s science!  As a whole we are educated and alert and maybe we have an underlying confidence that allows us to put ourselves out there.  It’s really something.

Where am I going with all of this provincial pride?  Well I didn’t actually intend to go on and on about how great we are up here in the Pacific Northwest.  I just couldn’t help myself…! 

But truth be told, I guess it all comes down to the fact that I’m seeing home in a very different light than ever before.  My main component isn’t here anymore. A huge part of the ‘home’ equation has been taken away.  My comfort and belonging is emotionally tied up in the life I have been building with one person for ten years.  I can still appreciate the qualities of home.  I still have that life…it’s just very different now…it’s individual – my observations may be more objective in some regards because of this… or, I don’t know – maybe they’re teetering towards a more subjective nature?

Anyway, I didn’t have too many expectations of coming back.  I knew I had to face the paperwork I have been putting off.  I have beautiful new babies in my life (all of them boys!) that I have had so much fun visiting.  I am honoured to take part in a couple of weddings, some BBQs, and more than a few parties!  I get to visit with friends and family and its been fantastic so far. 

A few hiccups along the way have threatened the digestive peace that is home.  Some of the hiccups are bigger than others, but I know I am strong; I can handle these…I will drink my water upside down and get through the worst of it (by the way – in Oz they stand on their heads and drink water right-side-up to cure hiccups).  

I am very aware that as issues arise, the temptation to pull away from all of it gets stronger.  I have to be careful not to become too numb or distant when dealing with stressful situations. Sometimes the little things seem unmanageably big and then at others the big things seem so small in comparison to all that I have been through. 

Uh…yup….’subjective’ is the clear winner here. 

Give me the stress of a lost bus ticket or a language barrier any day – it seems easier than trudging through even the smallest confrontation or mishap at home.

All of this: the good and the bad, it’s all part of life.  Things should get easier as time moves forward.  For now I am happy to visit ‘home’ and I am looking forward to heading back on the road in only a few short weeks.

Let the adventure continue.

Island View Beach

So I’m heading over to Vancouver after spending the night in Nanaimo, with good friends. On the ferry, I watch the gulls fly around the boat; riding the wind. There’s a thin layer of white snow on the beach. The water looks COLD.  I won’t be back this way for a while and I’m realizing how beautiful it really is.  Cold and cloudy and beautiful.

Shades of Blue

I love that the house I grew up in can be seen from the boat, although it’s harder to distinguish when all the roofs are white!  I spent twelve years of my life watching these ferries come and go, from the hills surrounding the bay.  I get a special, nostalgic, feeling upon seeing Mnt. Benson, Gabriola Island, downtown in the distance…Harmac (the pulp-mill).  Anyone who knows Nanaimo knows the wonders of that special Harmac smell… how else would we know the weather is changing?

“Welcome aboard BC Ferries…our sailing time will be one hour and thirty-five minutes…”


Sky Mountain Sea

The cat has been safely stowed at a friend’s place. He adjusted well after a long, loud car ride (meeeeoooowwwwwww). He was mildly sedated and very comfortable; maybe a little too comfortable.  It was pretty funny to watch. His back legs stopped working properly and he actually rolled off the couch at one point. He spent the night stumbling around, exploring his new surroundings. He’s quite the little traveler himself! I’m so glad he will be taken care of while I’m gone.

The loose ends are tied up in a bow and I am, officially, on the road.  No car…and, one of the biggest indicators of freedom: no keys!  When was the last time you left anywhere without keys?

Looking outside at the mountains and water and sky – they are all shades of blue.  My leaving the island has many shades as well… blue in nature, but hints of bright white too.

Saying goodbye to friends is bittersweet. Aren’t we actually lucky, in a way, when it’s painful to say goodbye? The pain could be seen as indicative of the strength of the friendship. It’s sad but happy too.  We will all see each other again soon, and we will have so much to talk about.


Theme songs for the day:


In the Flesh? – Pink Floyd, from the album The Wall


Boa Sorte (Good Luck)– Vanessa da Matta & Ben Harper, (Deeplick Remix)

If I felt the early stages of freedom yesterday, today I just feel exhausted. I am realizing I can’t keep up this pace forever. My intent was to stay as busy as possible before I go, but I’m feeling the effects of very little sleep and an extraordinarily long list of things to get done.

I have loaded my plate to the point of brimming.

Take a left at Mitchel's Farm in Saanich and you come across this beautiful view

There are things that HAVE to be done: empty the house by Saturday, clean, pack, so on, so forth, blah blah blah. But the things that are keeping me really busy are the things I WANT to get done. Visiting and reconnecting with friends, taking pictures of everyone and everything, getting outside to appreciate the local beauty (who doesn’t start to take our surroundings for granted?), reading, writing, ‘rithmatic (ha, kidding), getting excited about where I’ll be headed in –wow- just eight days! – these are the ‘to dos’ that take me away from the former, more redundant activities. Who can blame me, hey?

The tough thing about getting over-tired is that my coping skills decline exponentially with every few hours of missed sleep. The emptiness creeps in…it’s like a vapor – a fine mist just enveloping me very subtly. It wraps around my back and moves through my chest, up the back of my neck. It’s not crushing, just a little stifling. It makes things harder.

Luckily, so far, I haven’t had these ‘vapor-bouts’ all that often, or for very long at once. Just an hour or two and then I get distracted enough to keep going. Actually, I think maybe I get bogged down by the big stuff I have to get done, and then I remember that I have a lot of fun stuff to get done too. This helps!

To pull a quote from an email I recently wrote to a friend: “One thing that seems to be getting me through the tough times is knowing that there is this huge web of inter-connected people; people that care for me…in SOME way.  Saying this, at times I also feel alone – even when I’m surrounded by close friends and family.  It’s very surreal and indescribable…?

Now that I read this back, I think I also find solace in knowing how much that inter-connected web of people not only care for me, they also care for each other. There are so many beautiful relationships out there, so complicated and simple and different. This is family. We are all family.

Theme songs for the day:

While My Guitar Gently Weeps – Paul McCartney & Eric Clapton, from the album Concert for George (*note: It’s live, and the best version of the song, by far)

Fresh Feeling – The Eels, from the album Souljacker

Phantom Limb – The Shins, from the album Wincing the Night Away

Driving at dusk - the clouds just glowed.

Driving at dusk - the clouds just glowed.

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