Sunday, January 12, 2020

People on tropical islands get sad too

Anyone else feel down in the dumps/blue/in the depths of despair right now? I used to assume that it was a "winter" thing. You know... January in Saskatchewan means exposure to light for about 6 hours a day paired with frigid "Why the f do I live here" temperatures. There was such a build-up to Christmas and now it is over. Holidays have come and gone. Any hope of melting is at least 4-5 months away. It's just a sad, depressing time of the year. Prior to our move, I remember seeing someone's vacation post which included a photograph of the aqua blue Caribbean waters with the words, "These are the only January blues I experience in the Caribbean," and thinking, "Yes! Moving to a tropical island will insure myself against sadness!" Oops. Wrong. The truth is...people who live on tropical islands feels sadness too, and I would argue that January is a difficult month for many people - regardless of where you reside.



Nobody likes a whiner, but it's my blog, so I'm going to whine for just a little bit...

This is why I was sad this week:

- Many of my students did not have a nice Christmas break. It broke my heart when I heard, "Santa didn't come because I am bad" and "Santa fell asleep and forgot my house." The sucky reality is that, for many of the children with whom I work, Christmas was not a joyous family occasion. Truth bomb: Sometimes I feel guilty about the fact that Evan and I have such a loving and stable home and have chosen not to bring a child into it, when there are so many children in crappy situations.

- My knees sucked. I'm not sure why. Let's call it a "January flare up." I came home from work a few days and could barely walk. I hate that feeling. It reminds me of shitty days and often starts a spiral of negative thoughts that my surgery has failed or that the disease is progressing.

- More than a  few of my co-workers have resigned and are moving on. Since Monty passed, nothing has been the same at work. So many changes have been implemented this year in the schools and to our department, and many colleagues are over it. I will really miss these faces at work, but I don't blame them for seeking a happier job environment. Work has been tough.

- There is a dog I see everyday on my way to school. He is chained to a doghouse and barely has room to turn around. I've submitted a formal report, but what I really want to do is sneak in and free him from that damn chain. The mistreatment of animals makes me incredibly sad, pisses me right off, and unfortunately is a common problem here on our beautiful island.

- The koalas!! Such a beautiful country is on fire.  Oh my goodness these Australian fires are so so so sad.

- The missile accidentally shot down an airplane? WTF. All those poor innocent people! The news is  a plethora of despair these days.

Ok, I've got more but I'm going to stop there. Does anyone else feel like this right now? Surely I can't be alone. I don't consider myself to be a negative person, but I'm struggling to find positivity at the moment. And...I know I know....I live in a beautiful place where the sun shines and temperatures never dip below 25 degrees. I have so much to be grateful for! And for the record, I am not attempting to trump anyone's sadness. I know that many people are going through a lot more than I am right now! But doesn't everyone have the "right" to feel sad? Why do we feel guilt and shame admitting when we feel sad? It's a natural human emotion and I'm gonna throw it out there and say it's OK to feel sad. It's healthy to feel sad. For a little while, anyway. Wallow in your sadness for a bit and then move on.

So...what can I do? I have the power to pull myself out of this....what? Blue hole?

I'm going to offer up some advice and then I'm going to try my best to take it:

1) Repetition: 
Children love to be read the same story repeatedly. Even when it drives their parents crazy! The repetition has a calming effect on children.  I truly believe that adults are the same. There is something safe and comforting about predictability. That is why I watch "Friends" episodes when I feel crappy. I know each and every episode by heart. I am comforted by the fact that I know Joey will walk in the room during the next scene and say "How you doin'?" So go revisit a book, movie, or TV show that you enjoyed to excess and your youth. Suggestions include: Sex and the City, Dirty Dancing, and Goldilocks and the Three Bears.



2) Hugs:
Did you know that when we are hugged our body releases a chemical called oxytocin? Oxytocin is associated with happiness - it decreases your blood pressure and decreases norepinephrine - a stress hormone. My friends are going to laugh at this one because they know that I am often opposed to hugging. What I am opposed to is "obligation hugging." An obligation hug is one of those awkward hugs you give when you are unsure as to how to greet someone. I am not; however, opposed to a solid authentic "I care about you" hug. My body also releases a whole whack of oxytocin when I hug my pets. I'm not sure if my pets always enjoy this, but hey, I don't always enjoy picking up their poop either.

3) Cry it out:
Sometimes you just need a good cry. My good cry occurred quite spontaneously when Heart's "How do I get you alone" came on the radio on my drive back from the gym. As salty tears and wayward snot ran down my face, I dodged chickens and the usual drunk West Bay drivers on the road to my home. A good cry does the body good, but I highly recommend NOT doing it in your vehicle whilst driving.



4) Exercise:
Cliche, I know. But science doesn't lie, my friends. Once the heart starts pumping, the endorphins are released, and you receive a natural mood boost. Plus...when you are sweating away on the treadmill, your mind doesn't have the luxury of analyzing all your negative thoughts and spiralling them out of control. Take that, mind! Not to mention that it feels pretty good to burn away those Christmas calories.

5) Talk to people:
I was pretty amazed to find out that I wasn't the only one with the January blues this week. I mentioned it in passing to a few people - coworkers, friends, family, and almost everyone with whom I spoke agreed that they felt it too! It's not just me?! There is something comforting about knowing that you are not alone in your despair. Also - knowing that someone else shares my sadness motivates me to cheer them up. Just the act of cracking a joke to boost someone else's mood can help boost your own.

Ok. That's what I've got. Let me know if you have any other suggestions. I'm off to the gym to cry on the treadmill! ;)

Cheers, friends!


Sunday, December 1, 2019

The secret to a happier life - a "Universal" state of mind

Hey Friends,

I recently returned from a little trip to Orlando, where I attended one of the largest Speech-Language Pathology conventions in the world hosted by ASHA (American Speech and Hearing Association). As an added perk to the trip, I managed to convince my "little" sis to meet me for some solid sister time in the happiest place on Earth. Overall, it was a fantastic trip!



The convention was overwhelming, to say the least. There were about 15, 000 Speech-Language Pathologists in 7,000,000 square feet (that's like the size of the island that I live on!) I have never been amongst so many scarves (North American SLP's), pearls (UK SLP's), and type A personalities (ALL SLP's) in my life. We are definitely an identifiable group!  It was nice to be around so many like-minded professionals from around the world and I did learn a lot about the latest research, new therapy techniques, and also about myself. Firstly, I learned that I do actually still know a lot. I worry sometimes that working as a speech path on a tiny island might result in an erosion of my speechie skills, but I was also relieved to find out, through many different seminars, that I am doing many of the "right" things with my kiddos. I also learned that I have chilled out a lot since moving to this island. After observing so many of my perfectionist counterparts who appear to be tightly wound, eagerly rushing and stressing about the time and location of each seminar, it occurred to me that both my mind and body now move at a much slower, relaxed pace. After six years, I think that I have officially acclimatized to island time. Whooo! I did it! haha.



Now the convention was fun, but the real fun was hanging with my sister, Kayla! We were both busy during the days, but managed to get out in the evenings. We saw Orlando from 400 feet on the Orlando Eye where Kayla introduced me to a very lovely refreshing beverage called White Claw (sponsor us!) We also spent an evening in the piano bar at Universal City Walk, where we sang our little hearts out for a few hours. When the entertainer urged the crowd to insert the name of our hometowns in "Sweet Home Alabama," we were shocked to hear the table behind us shout "Moose Jaw!" (a city in Saskatchewan!). Needless to say, we made some friends and had a super fun night!






The highlight of the trip was our day at Universal Studios. Funny enough, Kayla and I had been to Universal together nearly 20 years ago! I still have vivid memories of little 5 year old Kayla (I think the only time she was shorter than me) crying while I tried desperately to convince her that Jaws was not a real shark.  Anyway, it was way more fun 20 years later and we never waited more than 25 minutes to get on a ride.  Hallelujah! A few of the attractions were a little more "advanced" than we anticipated. The "Mummy," for example, was a roller coaster in complete darkness that had the audacity of traveling  backwards! After screaming non-stop for 2 minutes (felt like 15), we exited the ride in absolute terror, shocked that they allowed small children and island-dwelling middle-aged women who are overstimulated by escalators on this ride!

Traumatized

We drank butter beer with Harry Potter, ate the "big pink" ginormous donut with the Simpsons, and managed to hit up every single ride (minus the giant scary roller coaster) in the park. Our day ended with an absolutely incredible Macy's Christmas parade, and we left Universal feeling fulfilled and joyful. Our senses had been overloaded to the max -  but in a really great way.







This feeling got me thinking about the principles of Universal Studios, and how we can apply these to our own lives - you know, to increase our overall level of happiness.

Here's what I got:

1) Line? What line?
Universal does an excellent job of concealing lines. Think about it - when you see a line of hundreds of people winding around a building, feelings of stress, agitation, and hopelessness are evoked. Well Universal has created "holding rooms" for the patrons to eliminate this stress. You might think that you've reached the end of the line as you enter a room with gadgets on the walls to tinker with, and multiple screens projecting your "mission", but in fact, you are actually still in line. They have tricked you by changing the scenery, and provided you with new things to see and touch. And you know what? We fall for it.

My Proposal
Install holding rooms in places with the longest lines. Picture it: you walk into the DMV, where you would normally expect to wait in a long line for up to 2 hours. However, someone greets you enthusiastically at the door and escorts you into a room with horns, levers, and switches on the wall for you to play with. A TV plays an exciting car racing documentary narrated by Dwayne Johnson. Going to the DMV is fun!

2) Thumbs Up and Clapping
As your seat belt buckles and your ride is about to begin, each and every Universal Studios employee on each and every ride in the park enthusiastically gives you the "thumbs up" to signal that life is about to get really fricken great. As your ride comes to an end, the employees eagerly clap for you. You've done it! You've saved the world/brought ET home/killed all the aliens. You are a success story! You feel awesome!

My Proposal
Obviously we need to incorporate the thumbs up-clapping dyad into our working world! I can picture it already: I'm walking little Dreasean to speech therapy. I pass the year 3 Teacher who eagerly gives me a thumbs up. As we walk past the library, the Librarian signals her thumbs up through the window. I can do this! This is going to be great! On the way back from speech therapy, all Teaching Staff line the corridor, clapping enthusiastically for our successful speech therapy session. Brilliant!

3) Adrenaline rush
I must say, I have never free-fallen off of skyscrapers, been rocketed into outer space, been plunged into the ocean, or saved the world so many times in one day. You walk out of Universal studios on an incredible adrenaline rush. Although it really is too much to stimulation to experience in 8 hours, it made me think that I do really need a bit more adrenaline rushing through my veins on a regular basis.

My proposal
Every day at lunch time, find a few coworkers (preferable ones who like you) and participate in a trust fall. You know, you close your eyes and fall backwards and hope that they catch you. This should result in a quick jolt of adrenaline and increase feelings of trust and loyalty with your coworkers (unless they don't catch you, in which case, it's time to find a new job).



4) Costumes are cool
As I wandered around the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I was surprised to see so many adults donning wizard robes and flicking magic wands with big stupid smiles on their faces. Where and when else will it be appropriate for a grown man to dress like his favourite character from a children's book? I couldn't help but feel a little sad for these adults who spent at least a few hundred bucks for the thrill of dressing like a fictional character for 1 day. What about the other 364 days?

My Proposal
Let's change "Casual Friday" to "Costume Friday. " 'Nuff said.

5) Always stay in Character
When you work at Universal Studios, it is apparent to me that you must remain in character at all times. Whether you are an MIB secret alien agent, a mechanic for the Fast and Furious, or a minion on roller skates, it is vital that you never break character. It really does add to the authenticity of the attraction.

My Proposal
Try remaining in character at work for an entire day! For example, "Today I am the world's best Speech-Language Pathologist, saving the world by remediating one bad /r/ at a time!" I do not make snide remarks to my colleagues about minor annoyances. I do not lose my temper with students who insist on licking my walls. Why? Because I am the world's best and it is my duty to save this world from weally wotten awticulation ewwows.



There. You are welcome.

Cheers!

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Joy after Grief

Just over a month ago I felt as though I would never feel true happiness again. My life felt empty without my buddy Monty. I felt his absence every minute of every day and I was struggling to see a bright light at the end of the dark tunnel. So when I woke up this past Monday morning and my face hurt from laughing so much, I initially felt surprised that my mind and body would allow me to feel so much joy when I had just recently felt such great emptiness and sadness. The feeling of surprise was immediately replaced by feelings of guilt. How could I allow myself to laugh, smile, and feel  joy when I had lost someone so important to me?

I suppose grief is complicated. It would seem that I am moving into a new stage. I still feel the loss of Monty every day. I don't look for him at work anymore, but I still feel a heaviness in my chest when I pass by his desk or his parking spot. That loss is even experienced at night when I am dreaming. I find myself wandering aimlessly in my dreams looking for someone - I don't know who, but I know that he's no longer with me, and I wake up feeling heartbroken. That being said, I am finding it easier to focus during the day, especially at work. It surprises me when I can hear myself laughing with my kids and complaining about the trivial things that I didn't even care enough to think about a month ago.

This past weekend we traveled to Little Cayman for our annual dive weekend. This year, our Canada besties, Darren and Allicia Hunter joined us. We've been friends with the Hunters for over 10 years now - everything about them feels familiar and comfortable. We have history. We have taken many vacations together (we even watched Darren break his nose on a blow hole),  and practically lived together for about 5 summers! They are family (but the family that you really like! haha). The last time that I saw them was the day after Monty passed. Allicia held me while I cried, but I was so overcome with grief that I never had the opportunity to say a proper goodbye or to thank them for being such incredible friends.

So when I saw their faces for the first time in over two months last week, contentedly sipping margaritas on the beach, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt joy again! That joy extended for the entire time they were here - 6 consecutive bliss-filled days! Our island besties joined us, and together as a group, seven of us resided in our beautiful rental house on the beach in Little Cayman. We experienced fabulous dives on the renowned Bloody Bay wall, sipped cocktails while floating on inflatable avocados, ate delicious meals together, and even created our own alcohol-infused dance party on the last night of our stay (sorry knees! 😬).











It was just an incredible weekend filled with so much laughter with wonderful friends. I did think about Monty. Instead of feeling sadness and loss; however, I felt a great appreciation for the friends that I had with me. Monty and I had so many good times together and it never once occurred to me that those times would come to an end. I guess now I find myself more grateful for these experiences with my buds. I feel as though I need to soak up my friends with a sponge, and ensure that they know just how much I love and appreciate them. I also feel fearful that someday I will lose them as well.

So...I did allow myself to feel that guilt for a little bit...guilt about moving on, feeling happiness, and laughing without Monty. It's a strange thing to experience 2 opposing feelings at the same time. Then last night I had a vivid dream and Monty was actually there. He even smelled like Monty! We hugged. I told him how much I missed him. He told me that he missed me too. He told me that he missed all of us. He told me that he was really busy and working really hard. We goofed around a bit like we used to do in the office, he laughed his Monty laugh, and then he disappeared. Instead of waking up and feeling heartbroken, my heart felt full and I felt so grateful to have spent some time with my bud again.





I know there isn't a prescribed path to follow when you lose someone who means so much to you, so I guess I will just allow myself to feel what I feel and be Ok with that.

Cheers to good friends and great adventures!

Saturday, October 5, 2019

At least I was doing something cool?

Hey Friends,

It's been a rough month. Heading back to work after Monty's death has sucked the big one. The addition of way too many changes at work combined with feeling the loss of Monty every single day has made this one of my most challenging months yet. It's strange. I find myself bracing myself for moments that I know will be difficult - pulling up to my school and not seeing Monty's CRV parked in its spot, heading up to my desk in the office and sitting next to Monty's empty chair, the one with a piece of masking tape on the back with the word "nerd" written on it (I did that about a year ago and he, surprisingly, never took it off!), and heading to Friday happy hour knowing that Monty would not be sauntering in, predictably donning his trusty black t-shirt. Those moments are Ok because I'm prepared. It's the moments that I'm not prepared for that hit me the hardest. One day as I walked my student to my therapy room I thought I heard Monty's voice. I turned quickly and then my heart sank. Of course it wasn't Monty. Monty is gone. I felt such an intense pain in my chest I thought that I would fall over. I hadn't prepared myself for that one. The same thing happens occasionally when I am driving. The thought suddenly pops into my head, "Monty is gone." The hurt is so intense and I find myself bursting into tears.

I saw a grief analogy that explains this phenomenon perfectly. Grief is like a box with a ball inside. On one side inside the box is a pain button. Initially, in the early grieving stages, your ball is massive and takes up the entire box. It just constantly sits on the pain button. As your grief begins to subside, your ball gets smaller. It bounces around the box. It doesn't hit the pain button as often; however, you just never know when it will bounce directly on the pain. When it hits, you have no warning. Makes sense. I just really miss my bud. We leaned on each other when things at work were hard. Work is really hard right now and he's not here to lean on, nor is he here leaning on me. When things sucked at work we used to play "hands slap" to blow off steam (You know...you try to slap the person's hands before they can pull their hands away). What I wouldn't give to play that stupid game again. I'd even let him win. Sigh. It just sucks.

In other news, I apparently tore a ligament and stretched a tendon in my hand. It's ok though. At least I did it doing something cool. One of my frustrations about my stupid cartilage disease is that I never have a good story to back up my injury. Do you know how many times I've wanted to lie and tell someone that I hurt my knee skydiving or whitewater rafting in the Rockies? "I'm on crutches because I have a disease in my cartilage" is so freakin' boring and lame. So although a torn ligament and stretched tendon is not such a serious diagnosis, at least I am able to back up this injury with a decent story.

As I'm sure you know (because I shamelessly bragged all summer), my knees were quite awesome and I was able to get back to one of my favorite sports, wakesurfing. With increased confidence and bravado, simply surfing the wake was not enough, so I began incorporating a few tricks into my surf. One such trick, known as the "fire hydrant," is comprised of placing your right hand on the board in front of you and lifting your right leg out behind you. I actually landed the trick a few times over the summer, so I wasn't too nervous about giving it a whirl during each surf. Unfortunately during my last surf of the summer I lost my balance mid hydrant and jammed my fingers and knuckles into the board as I fell. My hand swelled up and I couldn't close my fingers for a few days, but eventually it subsided and although it still ached, I assumed it would ultimately heal on its own with time.

Cue 9 weeks post "fire hydrant fail." My hand is still swollen and my fingers are stiff. I get shooting pains down my fingers when I try to hold a pen or open a jar. I really didn't want to deal with it until it began to affect my ability to stably grasp my wine glass. At that point I knew it was serious business. Once it interfered with one of the few things that is currently bringing me joy, I knew intervention was necessary. After numerous appointments with my Doc, X-ray, and physio, it has been determined that I suffer from a torn ligament and a stretched tendon. So...physio it is. I'm really good at physio and looking forward to showing off my physio skills to some new poor unsuspecting physio. Hey, at least when she asks, "How did you do this?" I can show her this:

#winning #sorta 


So that's how things are going. There are days when I wonder if I will ever feel true happiness again. I don't want to wake up each day just wishing for it to be over. But then there are days when I hear myself laughing at something one of my kids said, days when I catch myself smiling with a friend, and days where things feel OK-ish. So I guess eventually I will. I need to try harder and choose happiness. I know that...but easier said than done. Unfortunately the reality is that  regardless of how small that ball gets, it will always be bouncing around the box.


stupid ball 

Cheers Friends. Take care.



Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Monty

On August 10, at 2:30am, Ev and I got a phone call that would forever change our lives. A best bud, an island brother, Monty Larrew, had died. His death was sudden and unexpected. I had just been texting with him 5 hours prior! It couldn't be true and I sat up all night pinching myself in hopes that I would wake up from this nightmare.

The last few weeks have been a blurry roller coaster of ups and downs, or as Monty would describe it, "peaks and valleys." While we operated on foggy autopilot, our family and friends helped Ev and I pack up our belongings at Candle Lake and we made the long trek back to the island with the pets. As we touched down in Cayman, my eyes filled with tears. I didn't want to be here. Monty was always the one who picked us up from the airport ("You guys look... 'fresh'" 😬), and I knew that this time Monty's silver CRV wouldn't be waiting for us. It just didn't feel like home anymore and nothing on this island would ever be the same. I wanted to remain on that plane and go anywhere but Cayman. But...we got off the plane and faced everything head on. Monty had been staying at our place before he was admitted to the hospital. Thankfully, Stacey had gone in earlier and took his belongings out, but Monty's signature scent lingered, and his coffee mug remained in the sink. It was just so hard to believe that he had recently been right here and now he was just...gone.

Monty's Mom, Fran, reached out from Eads, Colorado and asked me to write a tribute to Monty for the service in Colorado. That was a blessing. I immersed myself in my writing for two days, wanting so desperately to accurately depict Monty's life in Cayman. I wrote furiously, thinking, "What would his parents want to hear?" I knew that I had to communicate Monty's love for the children with whom he worked, his incredible work ethic, as well as his friendships with such a diverse group of people on the island. I wanted them to know what a thoughtful man he was, always bringing in treats for the office, helping me after surgery, and giving his time to any friend in need. I wanted them to know that he was so loved and respected here in Cayman and that he was living a good life. When I knew that Fran had received my written piece and that she liked it, I went to bed and stayed there for a few days. I alternated between being okay and sobbing uncontrollably. But....I could hear Monty's voice, "Ok buds, settle down," and I would force myself out of bed to walk the dog.

Evan and I, along with a small group of Monty's close friends, had the honour of flying Monty's ashes back to his family farm in Colorado. The trip was hard. It was long, gruelling, emotionally and physically exhausting...but one of the most rewarding trips that Evan and I have ever taken. Monty's family was so thankful and grateful to us and it felt so good to embrace his Mom and Dad and to meet his four siblings and nieces and nephews. It was soon evident to us that Monty was the perfect combination of his Mom and Dad. He possessed his Dad's mischievous twinkle in his eye and "stand up for what you believe in" attitude and his Mom's fun-loving "first person to arrive and last person to leave the party" personality and nurturing demeanor. We could feel Monty's presence everywhere - on the porch swing, on his John Deere combine, in the garden, and in the den where he read every night with his parents during summer break. For the first time since Monty died, I felt like he was still with me, that he was okay,  and that maybe I would be okay too.





Monty's parents, Fran and Randy flew back to Cayman with us. The last time that they flew was seven years ago when they visited Monty on the Brac. I felt terrible dragging them on a horrible red eye from Denver, but they never complained once, and it was our only option. Once we landed in Cayman, it was a whirlwind of dinners, services, celebrations, and condolences. The Department of Education held a service for Monty on Friday, which was an unprecedented government event. It was a beautiful ceremony - the hall was donned in flowers arranged in a farm theme, people whom Monty respected greatly read tributes, one of Monty's students sang the Cayman National Song, a tear-jerking slideshow with photos and videos was presented, and our beloved Music Therapist played Bob Marly "One Love" on the steelpan drums. I was so thankful for my island bestie, Andrea, who stepped up and read the tribute that I had written for Monty beautifully. I think that his parents felt overwhelmed by love and support and I hope that they felt proud of themselves for raising such a special human who had impacted so many lives. Saturday was the "friends event" at Monty's favourite beach bar, Calicos. We watched the sun set over the Caribbean with Monty's buds and the stories, hugs, and tears were shared over drinks and Monty's favourite songs. On Sunday we attended a quiet ceremony on beach where we prayed, shared a few words and stories about Monty. We watched one last sunset with Monty, spread his ashes in the sand, and released lanterns into the night sky. This ceremony felt like a final goodbye. It was all a LOT to take in, but overall, all three events were exactly what Monty would have wanted and truly represented who Monty was and what he meant to us and to Cayman.







It's kind of incredible how your body reacts to tragedy. With adrenaline coursing through my veins all weekend, I shed a few tears, but mostly operated without full awareness/feeling, ensuring that Fran and Randy were doing okay and distracted by the logistics of each event. I can't count how many hugs that I received. I'm not much of a hugger, but I found myself holding on tight to each and every person who approached me. I heard "I'm so sorry," more times than I can count, but my only reply was, "I'm sorry too." I'm sorry for Monty's students, I'm sorry for Monty's friends and co-workers,  and I am so deeply sorry for Monty's family. What else can one say? I am so sorry that this happened.

Having Monty's parents, Fran and Randy here with us was such a gift. I don't know if they realize how their presence has helped so many of us heal. This trip must have been exceptionally difficult for them, yet they attended each and every meal, meeting, and ceremony with a smile on their face, interested and engaged in every conversation with anyone and everyone who wanted to share a Monty memory. Their strength really helped me maintain focus and stay relatively present for each of the events. I know that Evan and I have developed a lifelong connection with Monty's family and it gives me comfort to know that we will maintain ties with them forever.



I don't know how to do this island without Monty. Monty was a part of my work life, personal life, and "family" life here in Cayman. I don't know how to do this island without Monty, but I know that I will figure it out. I will go back to work, but I will have to begin each day without Monty. Monty will no longer be knocking on my school office door every morning to discuss our daily schedule and hash out our issues. I will have to be more assertive in meetings, as I will no longer have my passionate bud present to advocate for our students. I will have to step up and be more sensitive to my officemates moods and feelings because we no longer have Monty as the equilibrium of our office. I will have to continue going to the gym and taking care of my knees, but Monty will no longer be on the rower cheering me on. I will have to continue to organize happy hours, island tours, and Sunday barbeques for our friends but there will be a huge void left without Monty's sarcastic comments and contagious laugh. We will have to continue to travel and see the world, but we will no longer have Monty taunting us with his Exit row. I will do all of these things because that's what Monty would want. But I will have to do them all without Monty.











Eventually I will figure out how to do this island without Monty.  But at this present moment, I need some time. I feel so tired. I feel empty. My knees, which have been happy all summer, ache every time I move. My eyelids feel so heavy, yet when I attempt to sleep, my eyeballs twitch beneath them. I alternate between being ravenous and feeling sick at the thought of consuming food. I fluctuate between feeling so incredibly sad that my chest hurts and laughing out loud at some stupid punchline that I've heard hundreds of times on a "Friends" episode. According to the literature, these are all "normal" symptoms of grief. A book that I am reading, "Option B," discusses how brutal everyday life feels during acute grief. It advises against numbing or suppressing the pain with alcohol or drugs.  The book encourages you to "lean into the suck" because the suck is inevitable. I feel like I'm not just leaning into the suck, but am completely immersed in the suck right now. It hurts a lot, but it makes total sense. We just lost one of the most important people in our lives. We lost one of us. We lost a brother. It should fricken hurt. And it will...for a while.

I have so many memories of Monty, but I have one simple one that I am presently clinging to. It was a Friday in June. We had just finished DIBELS testing, an intense literacy test administered to hundreds of students by Ed Psychs and Speech Therapists three times a year. Monty and I were exhausted, but riding a high because we had just completed one of the most productive weeks of work. My car was in the shop so Monty gave me a ride home. Monty rolled down the windows that day and the hot tropical air was whipping through our hair. Monty stopped and grabbed us a Red Stripe for da road. He handed me his phone and instructed me to text Matty from Bob FM with a song request. I asked Monty, "Can we listen to Toto - "Africa"?" Monty knew that I loved that song. He smiled and said, "Sure Kirstie -  because God knows it's always all about you!" (He loved that line!) Matty obliged and "Africa" was on the radio within minutes. Monty cranked up the volume and we sang at the top of our lungs, "Gonna take a lot to drag me away from you!" We sounded pretty awful, but we smiled and shouted out the lyrics with no shame. When the song ended Monty looked at me, grinning from ear to ear and said, "That was real good, bud." Monty, I hope you know just how much I loved you.

Cheers Friends.


Monday, July 29, 2019

Pour some sugar on me

I'm sure almost everyone has "a song." You know...that special song that conjures up incredible feelings? That song that transports you to a time when you were at the peak of your awesomeness. Perhaps at some point in your life, "that song" began playing at a bar and all your friends screamed your name and pulled you on the dance floor. Maybe "that song" played during your midget hockey warm-up when you still believed you were destined for the NHL? Maybe "that song" was playing on the radio the night that you kissed your future husband for the first time? Everyone has "a song"!

I most definitely have a song. My song is "Pour Some Sugar on Me" by Def Leopard. Back in my beer slinging days, when I spent my summers drinking for free bartending/waitressing at Rick's Lounge, Candle Lake, "Pour Some Sugar on Me" was my summer anthem for nearly 5 summers. Rick's Lounge had a DJ every weekend in the summer. His name was Steve. When Steve couldn't make it, another DJ filled in for Steve, but because Candle Lakers aren't too keen on change, we all referred to him as Steve 2. I'm pretty certain that there was a third DJ in case of emergency. Naturally we referred to him as Steve 3. Regardless of which Steve was DJ'ing, all the Steves knew that Def Leopard was my jam. At any point in the night, the eery echo, "Love is like a bomb...bomb...bomb" would fill the stale bar air. That was my cue to drop my cash caddy on the spot. As Joe Elliot beckoned, "Step inside...walk this way...you and me babe...hey! hey!" I was met on the dance floor with all of my Candle Lake buds and any hope of being served a drink for the next 4 minutes and 28 seconds by "Thirsty Kirstie" were completely out the window. I danced on tables, I danced on the bar, I played the smallest air guitar in the history of air guitars during the famous guitar solo. I even riled up the crowd by yelling the most epic line of the song, "Do you take sugar? One lump or two?!" Confession: I actually sang the incorrect lyrics for 5 years, "Do you take sugar? One more time!" Oops. No one appeared to notice or care so whatevs, right?






 I even brought Def Leopard with me to our wedding in 2005. While Ev maturely visited with our guests and thanked them for attending our big day, I danced precariously on my cousin's shoulders, arms raised in the air, bridal gown obscuring cousin Mark's view and shouted, "Do you take sugar? One more time!!!" Anyway, you get the drift, right? Pour some sugar on me was the anthem of my carefree party like a rockstar 20's. Unfortunately now that I've reached the ripe mature age of 40, my rockstar stage has disappeared. The Westin frowns upon tiny air guitars during happy hour and, let's be honest, these knees aren't capable of demonstrating just what being "hot, so hot, sticky and sweet from my head, my head, to my feet" looks like anymore. But still...I have the memories and Def Leopard will always have a special place in my heart.





Fast forward to 3 days ago in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Ev and I decided to leave the lake for a night and spend an evening in the big city. We rented a room at the Delta Bessborough in downtown Saskatoon and went out for dinner and cocktails. As I was checking out Friday morning, I noticed 3 giant tour buses parked outside the hotel. The buses were pimped out and obviously belonged to someone who would be considered a BIG DEAL.  I tried to peek inside but the tinted windows clouded my view. As I headed to our vehicle, wondering who the hell could be in the buses, I noticed a man sitting on the ground near my car, begging for money. I told him, "sorry," and carried on to my car only to realize I had forgotten my keys back in the hotel. As I walked past the tour buses again, I began thinking just how much Saskatoon had changed over the years. I couldn't recall anyone begging for money when I lived in Saskatoon in 1999, and now there appeared to be homeless people all over the downtown area. As I passed the tour buses, I also passed a greasy looking man with long hair and grubby jeans. I was a little shocked to see that the man only had one arm. My immediate thought was that he was probably going to ask me for money as well, and I realized that I did have a toonie in my pocket. I decided that if he asked me for money, I would give him my toonie. Life with one arm can't be easy! As I passed the one armed man, he gave me a head nod and walked toward the tour bus. "Oh!" I thought to myself, "he must be a roadie." Doesn't every great band have a one-armed roadie?

I pondered the tour bus situation as I drove back to Candle Lake that afternoon. My mom came over to the deck for a few bottles glass of wine and I described the buses and the one-armed roadie to her. My mom looked at me incredulously and responded, "Kirstie. Google the drummer for Def Leopard." I picked up my phone and was shocked to see that Rick Allen, the drummer for Def Leopard, has one arm. And...Def Leopard was headlining in Saskatoon that night. SHIT! You mean...I walked past Def Leopard and didn't even realize it? I had a chance to thank the man who contributed to my popularity and great success as the world's smallest air guitar-er and I missed it?? Thank God I did not toss him a toonie! In hindsight, it's probably for the best that I was completely oblivious to the fact that I was in the presence of greatness. As you all know, I get kinda weird around bands and do creepy, awkward things... so the cool head nod was a much better alternative than jumping Rick Allen and singing, "Do you take sugar? One more time!!!"



Cheers friends!