How I “Embraced” 2017

Embrace…just one little word, with so much meaning. According to dictionary.com here are a few,

– to take or receive gladly or eagerly; accept willingly

– to avail oneself of: embrace an idea

– to encircle; surround; enclose.

This time last year I searched to find the perfect “one little word” to carry me through 2017. I had participated in Ali Edwards’ One Little Word project in 2016, and I wanted to do it again. I was off work, on leave as a result of my ankle pain. I was hanging in limbo going to medical appointment after medical appointment and had no idea what would happen. I ended up choosing two words “forward” and “embrace”. Embrace became my motto and propelled me through the year.

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My friend made this beautiful bracelet for me last January. It’s made from an old leather coat and hand stamped. How cool is that?

I embraced each medical appointment I attended with the desire to get well and move forward. I embraced my relationship with my husband, enjoying all his great personality traits that bring joy to myself and our children. I embraced old and new friends and activities, even when I was sore and tired. I embraced my children, especially after our son was hospitalized. I embraced my hobbies that brought peace to my days.

The greatest challenge this year came when I received a call from my employer that I was to begin a return to work. I had no new medical clearance, no warning from WSIB, just received a call one day. I decided not to fight it but embrace it as a test to see how my life was to move forward. That return was full of bumps and bruises, obstacles and challenges, and there were many times I wanted to give up. However, I discovered that I enjoyed being back at work. So, I embraced each day, focused on the good and made it till the end of June.

I went back to school this past fall to teach a Grade 4/5 class. No EA support, no medical appointments, no new interventions from the school board. It was just me and 21 children. What a journey it had been! I honestly never thought I would manage the physical demands of the job. I have embraced each moment with those kids…embraced their energy, their hardships, their desire to learn. Together we created a positive learning environment, where I can sit or hobble to help, where I have discovered how much I enjoy my chosen career. On the days I felt challenged, I reminded myself to embrace my life.

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I had a lovely young student teacher this fall. When she saw my bracelet, I told her all about my one little word. Knowing how much I love all things homemade, she painted this sign for me.

I’m so proud of myself. I don’t mean to brag, but I mean super proud of myself. I’m back working…ankle pain, fibromyalgia and all. And I know a lot of it was because of my attitude and my “one little word”, embrace.

Since Christmas I’ve been searching for my my new word for 2018. I’m super excited by it!! It’s “hygge”. I can’t wait to see what it will bring to my days. I know the word “embrace” will stay with me for a long time though, because it carries beautiful memories that  remind me of all the good in my life and how strong I am.

If anyone is interested in following Ali Edwards and her “one little word” project you can read about it on her website here 

Best wishes for an amazing 2018 for all my readers and friends. May you embrace each day and the people you love!

Heather

 

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Minnie – “my dog”

imageNever underestimate the power of pet therapy. During a dark period of my life,  summer 2013, I went out on my own (no hubby or kids) and bought myself a golden mountain dog. Part Bernese mountain dog, part golden retriever, Minnie became my reason to get out of bed each morning. Just like a baby, she was a puppy who needed a special love, and I needed her.

Minnie was huge in size and in heart. She loved her life and everyone in it. She gifted everyone who came in our home with socks, towels, shoes anything she could find. When my husband wasn’t looking, she was a lapdog for our children. She didn’t have a nasty bone in her body. She often laid on the floor and raised her paw to hold our hands.IMG_2301

Minnie provided our family with a ton of comfort and laughs. There was the time she stepped in a hot chocolate cup in the van, the time she set off the smoke detector with her urine, and the list goes on. I had never had a large dog and her giant presence was so appreciated.IMG_2164.JPG

Minnie died suddenly yesterday while playing in our backyard with our puppy. As my son pointed out, she died doing what she loved, playing in the snow. We will miss her, but I’m so appreciative of her time with us. She was my dog and she cared for me when I needed her. So many people said I was crazy to get such a big dog, but I have no regrets. Our lives are richer from her time with us. We are full of memories that I plan on scrapbooking to preserve for my children.

Now I just have to show some restraint and not go buy another “Minnie”.

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My Adventures in Sock Knitting #thesummerididntknitsocks

Hand knit socks…I have a friend who calls them “a hug for your feet”. I’ve longed to learn this mysterious craft. I know two people who are avid sock knitters. They’ve reassured me it’s not as complicated as it looks, but I’ve always had my doubts. This summer I decided it was time to face the challenge and finally learn!

With time on my hands, I scoured the Internet looking for the easiest beginner pattern I could find. I finally found this one, Easy peasy sock pattern. I searched my stash for yarn, not waiting to spend money on my first attempt. I found some really old (we’re talking 80s) yarn. I watched YouTube videos and followed the detailed instructions. 


I breezed through it until it was almost complete. I was so impressed with myself. It was a whole new knitting experience. But…I did NOT like the yarn. So, I quickly decided to pitch the project and start with a nicer yarn. That’s how I begin not knitting socks.
All summer long I sat by the lake at our trailer and didn’t knit socks. Mistake after mistake I knit along and pulled out my partially knit socks. It was pretty funny. People would come by and ask, ” What are you knitting?” “Socks!” I’d answer proudly. But I never finished one…not one, let alone a pair. Something would always go wrong. Stitches would fall out. I’d end up with a hole. I counted wrong. Any mistake that could happen did. And so, I didn’t knit socks! I just practised.

It was interesting, because I was never really discouraged. Somehow I knew that I’d “get it”. When I’d feel overwhelmed, I’d switched it up and knit a dishcloth. That provided instant satisfaction and a feeling of success.Here are pictures of some of my partially knit socks.

With two weeks left in the summer, I gave up. I started going in to school to get ready for the upcoming school year. I had no time or energy left for knitting. It was all I could do to prepare my classroom and make dinner. Pain took over and I had trouble thinking. I knew that I’d try again, but it couldn’t happen with everything else that was happening.

I only lasted about two weeks at work. I was in complete agony and my ankle pain took over my life and messed with me psychologically. I crashed again and went off work the third week of school. Devastated and sad, I had no idea how to face my days. I decided to go back to the sock knitting, first one pair, then another. I was hooked.

These are the first two pairs I completed.
 

When my days were dark and hopeless, I knit. I knit socks and watched Neflix. Around and around I’d go, counting rows, slipping stitches, decreasing, picking up stitches. Sock knitting kept my mind from dangerous places and provided me with some purpose while I sat home alone. I became addicted. 

Socks are simple to knit. They are a fast project and provide such  a sense of satisfaction and success. They also provide a big punch!! Who doesn’t love a handknit sock? I’ve already given some away. My kids are asking if I’d knit some for their friends. I’ve been scoping out yarn at different stores, trying to find the perfect cozy sock yarn. I now have a tub of socks. They are all different colours, sizes, shapes. Each pair unique and handknit with love. 

I spent this past week at doctors appointments everyday. I have a village taking care of me…a psychologist, two pain specialists, my surgeon and my family doctor. I feel fortunate to have access to this quality of care. I am knitting socks still. I now have an occasional flicker of light. My socks have helped me in recovery. And my loved ones will have warm feet as a result of my illness. How great is that? I honestly encourage all of you to learn to knit socks. I’d love to teach you!

Being Five

When I met my husband, I didn’t know about being five. I didn’t know we would marry. Didn’t know that we would become five. Didn’t know that the life, and lives, we would create together would bring me such joy. When we are five, my heart beats with happiness 

We have three “children”, two girls and a boy. Our daughters are now young adults and are away at university becoming their own persons. Our son is in his second year of high school and now living much of his time as an only child. We are all adjusting to this new normal. I’m proud of each of them and who they have become. I see each of their strengths and unique personalities. However, it is our family unit that I am most proud of and what brings me the greatest happiness, whether we are together or apart.

When we are five, I witness the love between all of us. There is much bantering between the siblings. There are board games, movie nights, dancing in the kitchen, family outings. When our children were little, life was hurried and rushed. With working, homework, and all their activities, I had little time to sit and absorb our lives together. I did make time for family dinners and family activities. Now, though, I often sit back and take in “my people”. Each of them amaze me and our family brings me a joy I didn’t know was possible.

This past weekend our girls came home from university to celebrate my mother’s 91st birthday. The fact that our girls made the time to travel home makes me proud, but seeing “the siblings” together again was the best part. They went out together to purchase balloons, a card and some groceries they needed. Just listening to them plan and get out the door was so funny. Our son begged for food at the grocery store, in typical little brother fashion. The girls were not impressed! I loved it.

When I walk through our door and enter our home, I relax. I am happy. I am grateful. I recognize how lucky I am to have a home filled with love and not of conflict. Just the sound of everyone’s voice calms me. I’m excited when we can make time to be together. When I  just sit and take in the sights and sounds of us together, it is music to my ears.

I know we will not be five forever. Life evolves. I have two dreams for our children. One is that they will remember their childhood and how my husband and I partnered together to create our lovely, imperfect family. Two is that their love for each other remains strong as they face life in the years ahead, that they will always be there for each other. That’s why we became five…we wanted our children to have family.

 

The Magic of Chalk Paint

When life gets you down, grab a can of chalk paint! I mean that! Chalk paint takes something old and gives it a new, wonderful transformation. This sparks great joy for the painter and will definitely lift anyone’s mood!

I discovered Annie Sloan Chalk Paint about a year ago. Our kitchen cabinets were a mess with all the laminate peeling off the surface.

Icky old cabinets!

On the advice of a friend, I had used a blow dryer to take off the finish off the lower cabinetsthe previous summer (in a wheelchair). Then, unsure how to paint or fix them, they were left like that until I stumbled across chalk paint on the Internet.


When I read that the paint could be used on any surface without sanding or priming. I knew it was worth a try. While my sketical husband was away camping with my son, I started painting them, using my knee scooter to maneuver around my kitchen table.


The results were amazing! A year later they are still holding up well.

This was taken right after the drawers were painted. they still look the same.

Since then I’ve been hooked. Transforming old things and making them new takes very little time or mobility. It helps me feel like I’m accomplishing something. The painting part is easy. This paint goes on beautifully and covers any surface well. The waxing afterwards takes a bit more elbow grease. I have to pace this part carefully, so my fibromyalgia doesn’t cause me too much pain. I’ve painted a variety of items both big and small. I’ve been thrilled with the results each time.

This is the dresser I painted for our daughter’s room at university.

Two weeks ago I attempted a return to work that didn’t go well. I felt disappointed, worried and generally down in the dump. My friend had used chalk paint in duck egg blue to refinish some pieces in her spare room. I was instantly drawn to the colour! I asked my hubby to take off our screen door. It was in desperate need of new paint!


It was instantly transformed!


This picture was after only one coat of paint. Isn’t it amazing? I couldn’t believe the difference. This took no time at all and restored our lovely screen door into something beautiful again. Not only that, but the process lifted my spirits again and gave me a boost to carry on with life’s little challenges.

The door has not been rehung yet, because the frame outside has to be painted. My husband will do that part, because it requires more standing. I’ll post a picture when it’s all done. I know it’s going to look amazing and will give our entry a fresh new look.

I’ll say it again…when life gets you down, grab some chalk paint. For the local readers, there’s a Annie Sloan chalk paint stockist right here in Whitby. It’s a lovely little shop called B/A Vintage. They sell the paint and wax and also have beautiful items for sale that have been painted there. I encourage you to stop by the store sometime.

Accepting My Limitations

We all have unique strengths and weaknesses. One of the best things about growing up is accepting who we are as individuals and embracing others’ special talents as well. Of course, life throws us curve balls regularly, changing who we are and what we can and can not do. Since my original injury in 2009 I’ve had to adapt multiple times and learn to accept “the new me”. 

One of the most difficult things that I couldn’t control was my change in mobility, specifically being able to go for a walk. Since becoming a young adult walking  had been one of my go-to pastimes, one of my favourite ways of relieving stress. It’s free and involves fresh air!! Can’t beat that!! For years and years, when life got to me, I’d head outside and walk. For a long time after my injury, I pitied myself.  Although I worked hard to accept that my life could be much worse than it was and to always appreciate all that I had, I just couldn’t shake this change in lifestyle. I’d go for months not thinking about it, then I’d see someone out for a walk. The sadness would hit again. Many times I’d attempt a little walk, maybe 5 or 10 minutes. If I wasn’t working, it was doable. When I was working, it was impossible. I could barely make dinner. If I walked for any length of time or distance, I’d pay the price with severe pain and imflammation.  Finally, three or four years after my injury, I accepted it. It would be wonderful to go on a hike on a fall day, but it’s not the end of the world that I can’t. I’ve found other activities that don’t cause me pain. I do hold on to hope that one day it may happen, but until then, it’s ok.   

  

One of my newest limitations is as a result of my fibromyalgia. It’s fibro fog!! Ugh! I still haven’t totally come to terms with this. Fibro fog is the term used to describe the cognitive impairments that result from fibromyalgia. It varies from person to person, but affects memory, concentration, word recall, and other cognitive functions. It becomes worse during flares and when under stress. When my rheumatologist told me about it, I breathed a sigh of relief. The changes that had happened were frightening me, and I now knew the reason behind them.

I’m still caught off guard by this new me! It’s hard as a teacher when I’m writing charts or notes to parents, and I leave out words or have no clue how to spell them. My short term memory is terrible, so I often forget what I did the day before and I forget what I’m supposed to be doing. I lose things all the time. I’ve always considered myself quite literate, but now my words are jumbled together. I omit words or interchange them regularly. When I’m with my family, it’s fine. We chuckle over my errors. When I’m in public or a professional setting, it’s not funny. I feel like shouting, “I’m not stupid! It’s not my fault.” “Really, I used to be smart”. Of course, I don’t say these things. Fibromyalgia is an invisible disability. Unless a person is living with it, it is difficult to explain the level of pain, how everyday tasks are exhausting and how this fog interferes with our function.

And so, I will continue to accept this new foggy me. Although I’ve had fibromyalgia for over two years, the fog seems to be getting worse. Again, I know it’s ok. I have much in my life and am always grateful for that. Those who know me well accept me for who I am. I’m learning new tricks to help address these deficits. List making is fun anyways! We are meant to continually evolve!

“Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.” Albert Einstein

The Post Surgery Good

Tomorrow marks six weeks post-op from ankle surgery #5. Surgery is never fun and neither is a hospital stay. Although I was lucky enough to have a room with a view this time, there’s nothing like coming home afterwards to make someone appreciate all that they have. 

Looking out my hospital window the morning i was discharged.
I faked my way out of the hospital after two nights, because I had had enough. I was still quite ill and in pain when I arrived home but was beyond pleased to be released!!Here is a list of my post-surgery good, in no particular order.

– the smell of our home

– home cooked meals (anyone who’s eaten hospital food can appreciate this)

– my own bed

– my sheets

– coffee in the mornings, delivered by my awesome hubby

– the sounds of our children talking, laughing and teasing each other

– my husband sleeping beside me

– the comfort of our two dogs keeping me company  

Our big dog, Minnie, keeping me company
 
– showers

– quiet

– family dinners, even though I ate on the couch for quite a while

– being home when our teens arrive after school

– quiet, peaceful sleeps

– a cute manicure from our daughter 

 I could go on forever, but these are some of the things that fill me with Dailey gratitude. Like Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home”.

This surgery took place three days before my birthday. I had the added bonus of making it home in time to celebrate. 

 

Since my arrival home, I’ve been keeping myself busy knitting, scrapbooking, watching Netflix and having naps. I see my surgeon tomorrow to, hopefully, get the go-ahead to start weight bearing and my rehab. Looking forward to a better quality of life!