How Do You Mend a Broken Heart?

Mom and Me

I’m on the play reading committee at our local community theatre.  We read plays and make decisions about future playbills.  One of the plays submitted for consideration was Thornton Wilder’s Our Town.  I have to admit, I wasn’t anxious to read it.  It’s old…and I tend to find old plays dated, not just in their situation but in their message.  I had read almost all of the other plays under consideration so last time I was in the theatre I picked up a copy of Our Town so I could “get it out of the way”.

I was right…and I was wrong.  The characters, the situations, society in general as depicted in Our Town are very old-fashioned.  Probably not much there that young people today could relate to (and we do want to attract young audiences to keep our theatre going!)…and yet…the overall message of the play is timeless…as relevant today as it was when it was written.  All of the tiny, seemingly insignificant moments in life are precious.  We don’t pay enough attention to them.  We don’t get them back.

The message resonated with me…especially right now.  I have been dating the same man for the last three years.  I love him like I’ve never loved anyone before.  He broke up with me three months ago.  I had held out hope that he would change his mind.  He had left quite a few of his belongings behind.  It was a link to him…tenuous…but still it was something.  He hadn’t come to get them…so didn’t that mean he might be considering coming back? Yesterday he came and picked up his stuff.  I pleaded with him to reconsider…and he said no. My heart is broken.

I have only ever truly had a broken heart once before – when my husband left me many, many years ago.  My mother was my comfort then.  She was strong when I couldn’t be strong.  She reminded me I still had my children…and her.  Last night as I sat crying, nursing my broken heart, I found myself sobbing “I want my Mom!”.  I talked to her…but she gave no answer…there were no comforting hugs.  My Mom died in 2012.

When I think about my Mom it isn’t the special occasions I remember…it’s not the Christmases and the weddings and the family reunions…it’s little moments…moments that no one else would remember…moments that were just about us.  The memories came to me unbidden.  The first, when I heard myself say “I want my Mom!”  I remembered a four year old me sobbing the same phrase.  My parents had been married for 12 years by the time I was born.  They had difficulty having children.  I was a last ditch effort…an only child.  By the time I was born any love that may have once existed between them was gone.  They shared only a common determination to have a child.  With that goal accomplished they grew further and further apart.  It’s true that it’s a fine line between love and hate.  They fought.  Sometimes my father was violent.  My mother didn’t back down.  On that particular night I had stood there and watched as the two people I loved most hurled angry words at each other.  …and then my mother left…and I stood and cried “I want my Mom!  I want my Mom!”  My father couldn’t console me.  He started calling around to see if he could find her.  He eventually located her at my aunt’s house and drove me there.  I remained there with my mother for about a week…and eventually we returned home.

I loved my Dad.  He was, however, a troubled man, prone to violent fits of temper.  He grew up in extreme poverty.  He served in WWII and saw first-hand the horrors of war.  His emotional scars left him very difficult to live with.  Sometimes he would fly off the handle for no apparent reason.  When things were more “level”, life was governed by a myriad of rules.  There were rules for going to bed and for getting up. There were rules for what you said and when.  There were even rules for how you walked up and down the stairs.  As long as everyone lived by the rules, a tense peace prevailed.  There were many specific and detailed rules.  One rule applied to the way to eat Jello.  Jello was to be eaten from a small “dessert dish” with a spoon.  It was to be chewed and then swallowed and under no circumstances was it to be “slurped”.

One evening, Mom and I found ourselves home without Dad.  He was out for the evening.  Mom had worked all day and I had been at school.  It was winter so it was already dark outside in the early evening.  I remember distinctly being in the kitchen with Mom…only the light from the stove shining.  Even in the semi-darkness I could see the twinkle in Mom’s eyes.  She went to the fridge and pulled out a large serving dish filled with red Jello.  She set it on the counter and pulled two spoons from the cutlery drawer, handing one to me.  We dug in right there, standing at the counter, both slurping the Jello as loudly as we could as we ate it right from the serving dish, giggling the entire time.  It was just a small moment…but I still remember it more than 40 years later.

I’m going to make some Jello…and slurp it…and think of my Mom…and cry…and miss her.  Take time to notice the small unimportant moments in your life.  You never know which ones will return to you when you need them most.

A Gift from Mom

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I had a couple of errands to run today before my workday began.  First I had to go to the lab for some blood work (nothing serious…just follow-up from my annual physical) and then I had to go to the Service Canada Office to get a replacement social insurance number document.  (I recently went looking for my birth certificate and social insurance number card so I could put them in a safe place, only to realize I had misplaced them!) The blood work I needed to have done was the kind that required fasting from supper time the night before.  In years gone by, whenever I had to have a fasting blood test done, and if I mentioned it to my Mother, she would slip me some change and tell me to get myself a cup of coffee and a “little treat” when it was over. My Mother knew me well.  She knew that breakfast was my favourite meal of the day and that I would be “starving” by the time the blood test was over.  My Mother died in 2012.  I miss her.  I decided that I would “treat” myself to a coffee and a muffin on my way home…just like Mom would have done.

When I returned home from my errands, I tucked my new social insurance document safely away with all of my other important papers.  The loss of the original documents still bothers me.  It’s not like me to lose track of such important documents. Even though I had the new documents safely tucked away, I decided to search for the old ones one more time. I had always kept the old documents in a special little brown plastic card holder in my purse. Perhaps I had moved it into my wallet.  No…not there. I have a couple of “backup” wallets (old ones that could still work in a pinch) that I keep in my dresser drawer.  I decided to pull them out and see if I had tucked the documents in there.  One of these old wallets used to belong to my Mother.  When I opened it I couldn’t believe what I found.  No…I didn’t find my birth certificate and social insurance card.  What I found was much more valuable than that.  In the change compartment of Mom’s old wallet I found coins…coins totalling exactly what I had paid for my coffee and muffin earlier in the morning. It was as if Mom was once again telling me to “have a little treat” on her.

It’s the little things we do for others that make the biggest difference. Appreciate the little things that others do for you…and don’t forget to pay if forward.

Things I’m Loving Lately: September/October Edition

One of the blogs that I follow faithfully is Annie’s Eats.  Mostly, Annie’s blog is a cooking blog…but every so often she publishes something a little more personal.  One of her regular personal-type posts is called “Things I’m Loving Lately”.  She recently published her September/October edition of this regular post and I was struck by how very similar and yet very different Annie’s “things” were compared to my “things I’m loving lately”.  Perhaps it’s the difference in our stages of life (Annie is a thirty-something with small children and a burgeoning career whereas I’m a fifty-four year old empty-nester waiting it out until retirement) … or the difference in our economic circumstances (Annie is a doctor married to a teacher living in a large city in the United States whereas I’m an accountant/software systems analyst living in rural Canada…and my husband left me years ago) … or maybe it’s just that each and every one of us is unique.  Anyway – take a look at Annie’s “things” and then read about mine.  I think you’ll see (and maybe relate to) the similarities and the differences.  Note:  I admit that I followed the form and content of Annie’s post when creating my own…and there were a couple of things that she loved that I knew absolutely nothing about…but when I looked into them I discovered I had a connection after all!

Knitting Bag

The minute I walked into Value Village and saw this bag I knew it was meant to be mine.  My old knitting bag had seen better days.  I drag my knitting/reading/general all purpose bag with me everywhere and my old bag was beginning to look like I had dragged it through the war.  I love the bright colours.  This beautiful bag was mine for the bargain price of $7.99 (that’s $7.99 CDN!).  Thanks so much to the individual who donated it!

Birkenstock FootprintsOh the joys of aging…!  Joints begin to deteriorate and hurt.  I’m afraid there will be no more “sexy shoes” for me.  These days, shoes that offer good support and keep my joints in place are of the utmost importance.  This past summer I purchased my first ever pair of Birkenstock sandals and I have to admit, they were ugly…but they made me feel good…and it seems to me that when you feel good you look good…ugly shoes and all.  I decided a second pair of Birkenstocks were needed for the winter but when I investigated, I discovered that the only type of even semi-closed in Birkenstocks available in Canada were clogs (or a work shoe for nurses).  I wanted something that would go with my jeans so I headed to Ebay and look what I found!  Loafers!  …and only $44.49 CDN including shipping.  Not exactly Annie’s sexy little flats…but between you and me…she’s going to be in Birkenstocks someday too. RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!!!

Dovobet OintmentNow…on to the section about “beauty products”.  Fall of 2013 finds Annie donning nail polish in a lovely deep purple shade.  Meanwhile, here in Canada, I’m rubbing a lovely, sticky ointment on my knees and elbows every night before I go to bed.  Recently, my nurse practitioner referred me to a dermatologist to find out what was causing the dry, red cracking ugliness on my elbows and knees.  Turns out this old girl has a touch of psoriasis.  I am thrilled to report that this stuff really works!  Things are improving and I’m hopeful that within the next few weeks my elbows and knees will be pink and smooth once again.  NOTE:  You require a prescription to purchase Dovobet.

The next two sections in Annie’s “things” post dealt with knitting and reading. All I can say is…”back away from the keyboard”.  This old girl has been knitting and reading since before you were born!

SocksAnnie’s blog indicates she has a definite thing for fingerless gloves at the moment. My recent knitting focus, on the other hand, has been on socks.  Last year I made a few pairs and gave them away as Christmas gifts.  That prompted many requests.  Who knew handknit socks were so popular?  I promised that this Christmas, everyone on my gift list would receive a pair.  I am also making the cutest mini mitten Advent Calendar.  I got the pattern on the Ravelry website.  It’s called “Smitten”.  My goal is to knit one mini mitten per day until all twenty-four are completed.

SmittenI feel very fortunate.  Unlike Annie, because I am at a different stage in my life, I have time for knitting.  Poor Annie can only browse longingly through patterns and plan for future knitting projects.  There is an irony in all of this, though.  I finally have more spare time…more time to do the things I love…like knitting and reading…and now my eyesight is starting to fail me.  OK…now I’m going to insert a dirty word here…so prepare yourself…are you ready?

MENOPAUSE

There…I said it…that nasty condition that makes the female body dry up like a prune.  Everything dries up, including your eyes.  No one told you about that, did they?  When your eyes are dry you simply can’t make them focus.  Yes, you can put drops in your eyes but then you have to wait for your eyes to absorb the moisture…and you still can’t focus for a while.  BUT…where there is a will there is a way!  Personally, I have discovered that after knitting for so very many years (they used to call me Mme Defarge in high school…way back in the 70’s…and no, I didn’t disco dance…all right…well maybe just a little) I can now knit pretty much by feel.  That takes the strain off the old eyes.  And reading?  All I can say is “God bless technology”.  Audiobooks have become my constant companion.  Bonus!  I can read and knit at the same time!

I plan to check out the books that Annie recommended on her blog. I checked my local library to see if they had them.  One is on order and the other one is currently loaned to another user but I placed a hold on both of them. (One of the books is actually from the “Young Adult” section of the library…you know…the teenager section of the Children’s Library.  Won’t I raise some eyebrows when I check that one out?!)  Meanwhile…I just finished reading/listening to…

Books-the-end-of-your-life

No!  It’s not what it sounds like!  I’m not dying!  The book is about a woman who has terminal cancer and her son and the books they read and discuss during the last months of her life and how those books help them communicate about what’s happening to them without speaking about it directly.  I lost my own mother last December.  She was almost blind during her final years and could no longer read.  I read to her.  This book spoke to me at a time when I was still grieving the loss of my own mother.  I am thankful to have found it.  Plus…it provided me with a whole list of books I now want to read.

I have to admit, there were a couple of items in Annie’s post that I just couldn’t relate to.  I had absolutely no idea who Ryan Gosling was.  (No, I don’t live in a bubble…I just don’t get out much!) I asked the fellow I work with if  he knew who he was.  He did…and furthermore he informed me that Ryan Gosling’s Uncle Perry lives in Port Elgin, a town nearby.  Apparently, Uncle Perry used to be an Elvis impersonator.  Now Elvis…him I know.

The other thing I have to admit knowing nothing about is “hash tags”.  In my mother’s day, hash was something you ate.  In my day, has was an illegal drug.  Now apparently it has something to do with the internet.  Perhaps if I knew more about hash tags, more people would read my blog.

So you see…Annie and I definitely have some favourite things in common this month…we both got new bags…we both got new shoes…we’ve both been reading…and we have both been planning our Christmas knitting (I’ve been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to do some).  Our favourite things are, however, different…a handmade tote vs a Value Village special…sexy little flats vs Birkenstocks…fingerless gloves vs socks…young adult fiction vs “The End of Your Life Book Club”.  Similar yet different…but isn’t that what makes the world an interesting place?

P.S. – Annie…if you ever read this post…please know that I sincerely hope I haven’t offended you.  I love your blog.  You are an amazing young woman and I admire you greatly.

Digesting the Written Word

I love my local library.   The building itself is beautiful.  It’s an old Carnegie library with a modern addition on one end.  The original building was constructed in 1914 with funds from the Carnegie Foundation.  In 2003, the “great hall” of the Carnegie building was restored to its original grandeur.  There is nothing better than curling up with a good book on a wing chair in front of the fireplace in the Carnegie section of the library.

As lovely as the building is, however, my favourite thing about the library is its wonderful and ever-growing collection of books.  I feel like a kid in a candy store when I’m surrounded by all those volume-filled shelves.  And the very best part is I can borrow whatever I like…free!!  I visit the library at least twice a week.  I usually know what I’m looking for when I arrive (I find one book  leads me to another).  On the rare occasion when I arrive without a list of titles in hand, however, I head to the shelf reserved for new titles.  There typically aren’t any bestsellers on this shelf (the bestsellers are already checked out and usually have long waiting lists) but every once in a while I uncover a hidden gem.  My most recent read was Susan Vreeland’s latest novel, “Clara and Mr. Tiffany“.

“Clara and Mr. Tiffany” is fiction based on fact.  It tells the story of Clara Driscoll and her work for and with Louis Comfort Tiffany (Tiffany stained glass), son of Charles Lewis Tiffany (Tiffany Jewellers).  The story takes place at the beginning of the 20th Century in New York City.  The world was changing and so was the role of women in the world.  Through Clara we learn of the struggles of women to pursue and maintain a career.  We also learn of the significant contribution of Clara Driscoll and the “Tiffany girls” to the art of stained glass, in particular the development of the Tiffany lamp.  The Tiffany girls had to maintain a high moral standard both on and off the job.  Any deviation threatened the existence of the entire women’s department.  At one point in the novel, Clara discovers  that two of the women in her department have been spending time in the company of a married man after business hours.  If this serious indiscretion is discovered by the management of Tiffany Glass, Clara is certain the women’s department will be dissolved.  In order to have a private talk with the women in question, Clara arranges to take them out for lunch.  They enjoy a meal of “chicken hash” with applesauce and cornbread and ice cream and chocolate sauce for dessert.

I don’t know about you, but reading about food makes me hungry and when I read Clara’s description of her lunch-time meal I decided I wanted to recreate it.  Cornbread and applesauce were easy enough make.  Even the ice cream and chocolate sauce weren’t new (thanks to David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop).  I have noticed a lot of posts recently on Foodbuzz regarding “vintage” recipes.  Clara had enjoyed her chicken hash in the first decade of the 20th century.  That meant I definitely needed a vintage recipe.  I headed to my cookbook shelf and there nestled between Fannie Farmer and the St. Stanislaus Church cookbook was a notebook filled with recipes that were definitely vintage.  It was my mother’s high school notebook from her “Household Science” class, circa 1933-34.  In it I found the following recipe for “Brown Hash”.

Mom’s recipe provided me with the general idea for creating hash.  I modified it slightly to create a 21st century version of Clara’s chicken hash.  I took 2 cups of cooked chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces.  I processed it for a few seconds in my food processor until it was roughly chopped.  I combined the chopped chicken with 2 cups of mashed potatoes (I mash my potatoes with a potato masher to leave them with a “mealy” consistency…the way my Irish grandfather said potatoes should be mashed), a bit of chopped onion and just enough gravy to give it a bit of flavour (about 1/4 cup).  I heated the mixture through in a frying pan sprayed with cooking spray and coated with a bit of olive oil.  I served it with carrots,  gravy, cornbread and applesauce.  It was yummy…and I thought of Clara the entire time I was enjoying it.

Canada Day 2011

Happy belated Canada Day to one and all.  July 1st was a busy day for me…no time for blogging!  The weather couldn’t have been more perfect.  Even the timing of the holiday was optimal with July 1st falling on a Friday and July 4th falling on a Monday, providing both Canadians and Americans with a long weekend.  More

Happy Birthday Mom!

On June 25th, 1917 Peter and Agnes Myatt welcomed their third child.  Gwendolene Elizabeth Myatt eventually married Harold Garnet Murphy and together they had a daughter…me.  On June 25th, 2011 my Mom celebrated her 94th birthday.  She suffers from various health problems including dementia and so Mom now lives at Hannah Walker Place, a retirement home in Owen Sound.  More

Variations On A Family

There is a piece of art that hangs in my bedroom.  It was created by my son Michael when he was just eight years old.  Most parents hang their children’s artwork in a place of special prominence in their home (usually the refrigerator door) where it is admired for a few weeks and then it is replaced by a new creation.  I felt this particular picture, however, required preservation for the longer-term.  You see, Michael created this work of art about a year after his father moved out of the family home.  To me it speaks volumes.  It says that my ex-husband and I handled our separation in a way that maintained our identity as a family unit.  Michael’s painting shows that even though we no longer live together, he still views us as all members of one family.  More

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