Archive for Family Posts

published in Death, Family, Grief, Life After Loss, Motherhood by Maryanne | December 5, 2018 | No Comment

This the 3rd blog in the Fall 2018 Life After Loss blog series:

When a Fear Demands to be Faced – Letting Hurt OUT

 

My friend Alan once said to me that perhaps not all our fears are meant to be faced. Some fears, he suggested, are best left alone – for they just might be in place for a good reason.

Some fears, on the other hand, demand to be faced. These are the ones that find their way to the surface and, like a tiger, make their presence known.

For while we can pretend, for a time, not to see an elephant in the living room; when a tiger waltzes in, we don’t get the luxury of ignoring it…if we want to survive, that is.

Such was my experience the day after my Mom passed away in the spring of 2014.

She died quite suddenly on a Monday morning. It was my brother Doug who phoned to tell me the news. By Monday evening, I was back in my hometown of Calgary with my family. Tuesday morning, we went to the funeral home to get the logistics sorted. After that, some of us piled into Doug’s truck and we went to the grocery store to pick up the makings for lunch.

And that, strangely enough, is when things fell apart.

When Doug and Pat returned to the truck from the store, they were carrying the groceries in plastic bags. And for some reason, I ignored the voice of reason in my head that said, “Don’t say anything. Don’t say anything. This is not the time to mention they should have taken re-usable bags.”

But of course, what did I say?

“You shouldn’t be using plastic bags.”

This, not surprisingly, was akin to poking an already wounded tiger – my brother Doug – in the bottom with a nice sharp stick.

KABOOM!

Now prior to this, I had never fought with my brother, Doug, in my life. And trust me, I never will again. Doug is one of my greatest fans. He gets me like no one else. I can do no wrong. This time, however, I did do wrong – and he let me know it. Let’s just say the drive back to my Mom’s apartment was a very loud and fast one, with Doug and I screaming at each other the entire way about who has the worst environmental footprint. Thankfully, the rest of the family members in the truck had the wisdom to know not to intervene but rather just let this play out— and hope to God they lived to see another day.

Now, I would like to say that by the time Doug and I got back to my Mom’s apartment, we had cooled down. But no. In fact, I think we were even angrier at each other by that point. So I jumped out of the truck, stomped over to the building entrance and yanked open the door, smashing it against a bench. Then I ran up the stairs and into my Mom’s apartment, past the concerned faces of my other family members who didn’t know yet what had happened, and into the guest bedroom. And then I did what I always do when I don’t know how to handle my feelings: I wrote.

Ten minutes later, I emerged from the guest bedroom – at the exact same time Doug was coming out of the bathroom directly across the hall. And before I even had to time to think, I threw my arms around him.

“I am SO sorry!!” I wailed. “This isn’t about the plastic bags! I WANT MY MOM!”

And then the oddest thing happened…something that has never happened to me before. I began to sob uncontrollably on Doug’s shoulder. It was ugly. It was messy. It was embarrassing. And it turned out to be the smartest thing I ever could have done.

Doug and I moved into the guest bedroom and sat, side by side, on the bed. And the best way to describe what happened next was that it felt like there was an alien inside me, trying to get out. By this point, I wasn’t just sobbing, I was heaving.

Doug wasn’t mad at me anymore; I think he thought I was possessed.

“Googie,” he said, using my childhood nickname. “What is wrong?”

“I can’t do this!” I cried.

“Do what?” he asked.

I turned to him and heard myself say, “Live the rest of my life without a Mom.”

And there it was: my fear of being motherless. That’s the alien that had been trying to get out. That was the tiger.

“You don’t have our Mom anymore,” he said. “But you still have all of us. And we will always be there for you.”

I managed a smile. “I know.”

“And for the record,” he continued, “I usually do use re-useable bags. I just didn’t happen to have any in my truck today…and it was the last thing on my mind.”

I nodded. “It was completely inappropriate of me to say something, today of all days.”

“Actually,” he said, “knowing you, it kinda makes sense. Because our Mom was just like Mother Nature…tough as they come and, in the end, she was going to do what she was going to do. Just like Mom, Mother Nature always wins in the end. Don’t you forget that, Maryanne. We are pushing Mother Nature to her limits and it’s just a matter of time before she really starts to bite back.”

As it turned out, my meltdown on Doug’s shoulder turned out to be very therapeutic, partly because it was such a physical release of the hurt, and partly because it brought to the surface a deeply rooted fear of abandonment. I cried after my Mom’s death like I never could after my husband, John’s, death – probably because I was absolutely terrified of facing the fact that I had been left behind.

But if I could turn back the clock and go back to John’s death, I would say to heck with the stoicism crap – and proceed to have the most spectacular meltdown/s imaginable.

Because now I know that the sooner the hurt and fears are out, the sooner we can heal.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. To subscribe to the Life After Loss blog series, please sign up here

 

published in Christmas, Family, Food, Humour by Maryanne | December 4, 2018 | 6 Comments

Christmas Cake & the Art of People-Watching

 

MA at the Pink Gazelle Cards & Creations table, Calgary Christmas Market

“You can observe a lot by just watching.”

– Yogi Berra

I may need to leave my writing hobbit hole more often…

My social graces seem to be slipping. Case in point was the Christmas Cake incident at the Calgary Christmas Market this past weekend. All in all, it was an excellent four days. Sales at the Pink Gazelle Cards & Creations table were strong and plenty of my Calgary peeps stopped by to say hi…it was one reunion after another as well as a few first-time meetings!

There were, however, some periods of down-time – during which I would either Instagram to my heart’s content or people-watch…which I should know, by the age of 50, is an art. Done correctly, it can be a brilliant study in anthropological behavior. Done poorly, it can quickly denigrate into just plain rudeness. I shall leave it to up to you to decide which category the Christmas Cake incident falls under ☹

Picture this, if you will: there I am, sitting at my table in the aisle, minding my own business and contemplating which snack to eat next, and up walks this beautiful bi-racial young family. The guy is black, handsome and massive. The woman is white, pretty and proudly carrying their new baby in her arms. Their 3-year-old adorable little boy toddles alongside, toy truck in hand. Another white guy, about my age, follows behind. He seems to be with them but doesn’t say much (I eventually figure out he is the woman’s father…not because I’m brilliant but because she said, “Dad, do you have seventy-five cents?”).

Anyway, they all stop at the vendor across from me and proceed to have an in-depth conversation about whether or not to buy a vaporizer. For some reason, I find this family absolutely fascinating. But I don’t want to be rude and stare too much, so I reach into my backpack and pull out a piece of Christmas cake and in between bites, sneak glances at them.

Now bear in mind, they are only two feet away from me. I suspect my fascination trumps my ability to be discreet because right after I take a very large bite of cake, the guy turns around and looks right at me. Unfortunately, I have bitten off more than I can chew (which happens more often than not, with both food and life in general), so at the very moment he turns around to look at me, there is a large piece of Christmas cake half in my mouth and half out.

Our eyes meet. I am mortified. Busted!

Then he takes a step towards me. So I bite the damn cake in half, madly chew the part that’s in my mouth and put the other half back into the plastic wrap in my hand. By this point, the guy is now standing about a foot away from me and says, in a deep rumbling voice, “Is that rum cake?”

I shake my head, wide-eyed. I can’t answer because my mouth is full (which would be rude…oh, like I haven’t been rude enough?!).

He takes a step closer to get a better look at the remnants of crumbled cake in my hand. “It looks like the rum cake we have in Jamaica,” he says.

Then the little blonde head of his tiny wife peeks around her massive husband and she adds her two bits to the conversation. “No,” she says, after a quick assessment of the situation. “That is not rum cake. That’s Christmas cake.”

Then she turns back to the business of choosing a vaporizer. The man looks at me and shrugs. The conversation is over. As are my days of staring at people…unless I’m wearing sunglasses.

A few photos of the Pink Gazelle Cards & Creations table and some of my visitors:

 

L to R: Ashling, MA & Rebecca

 

MA & Cheryl

 

L to R: Camille, Danielle & MA

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life.

published in Family, Gratitude, Inspiration by Maryanne | September 5, 2018 | 6 Comments

What Are You Grateful For?

 

“If the only prayer you ever say is ‘thank you,’ that will be enough.”

– Eckhart Tolle

I received a beautiful letter in the mail a few weeks ago. It is from an old friend whose husband had a serious health scare several months ago. It is a miracle he survived. My friend requested that their names remain anonymous – but she was thrilled for me to share her letter in my blog, so here it is:

Maryanne,

This is a simple note of gratitude to you. The timing of this letter is obviously late. My only excuse is life. It is my crazy part-time job and those activities within a home which are perpetual. There is, of course, the most important reason. Every single day, several times a day, my sharp thoughts remind me how incredibly, ridiculously grateful I am.

My husband’s doctor has met only two people in his entire career that have survived an aortic aneurysm. My husband is the second one. I am utterly grateful.

Now, when I see the STARS helicopter (Western Canada air ambulance) soar through the blue sky, I take a deep breath. I truly hope the passenger will be alright. When there is a car accident on the road, I wait in my car with no judgement…no matter how long it takes. Why? Because now I truly understand how things could have gone so very differently for my family.

Every year, for the rest of my life, I will buy STARS and Foothills Hospital Lottery tickets. It is my pleasure to do so and I now consider it to be my obligation.

There are simply no words that express how deeply grateful I feel. Here is what I think: a couple of decades ago, I was given one of my life’s greatest gifts: an introduction to the most selfless person I know. On the Family Day weekend, I was given an even greater gift: that my husband is still with us here today.

I don’t think we can ever get enough reminders of how precious life is and how quickly our loved ones can be taken away. I certainly learned this difficult life lesson when my husband, John, died at the age of 32.

May we all take a moment each and every day to be grateful for what and who we have in our lives.

In last week’s blog, I wrote about my experience of visiting Los Angeles and celebrating my friend Nina’s birthday. I received an e-mail from Nina today, telling me that one of the guests I was chatting with at her party passed away suddenly from a blood clot. She was 60.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life.

Coming Sept 13th…

 

The BHC Press edition of A Widow’s Awakening novel will be released on September 13th, 2018 – please click here for details.

To pre-order, please visit BHC Press for a list of on-line retailers.