A Year Can Change A Lot

“The old ones will leave…and I do believe…that I’ll surrender to it all…cause the best-laid plans…unfold like fans…then snap tight on the spot…and a year can change a lot…another orbit around the big star…guess I’ll give it another shot…’cause a year can change a lot” ~ Chris Velan (singer songwriter)

One year ago, on March 1, 2015, I met up with my dear friend Shannon, for lunch.  Shannon like all of my friends, has been instrumental in helping me through the past year.  She is an amazing and patient listener.  And when I might have droned on too long on any given subject, our eyes would meet and we would both get a silly grin on our faces.  Shannon, knowing that I knew what had to be done, and me, knowing and admitting that I needed to let it go.

On that day a year ago, we went to lunch at Le Cheese, a grill cheese dive in NDG.  Grill cheese…comfort food…the best comfort food.  We talked.  We laughed.  I probably cried.  And on that day Shannon said to me, “Julie, in a year from now when we are together, you will look back and will have come so far.”

At the time, it was so hard to imagine.  Back then I was dealing with heartbreak.  With putting one foot in front of the other.  With trying to eat.  With trying to sleep.  With trying to help my kids grapple with the reality of their new life.  With trying to grapple with the reality of my new life.

It was so hard to imagine days without tears.  Days without pain.

Yet.  Here.  I.  Am.

Days without tears.  Days without pain.

I am not with Shannon today, March 1st, 2016.  But she is not far from my thoughts.  Today, all of my friends are on my mind and in my heart.

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As I post this, I am lying in bed.  Listening to the sound of the ocean outside my window.  The sun is shining and the beach is calling.  My schedule today, and for the next 6 days will consist of sleeping, reading, yoga, spa treatments, tea.  All on repeat.

No tears.  No pain.

One year later from that comforting lunch, I can look back and see that I have accomplished so much.  That I have come so far.  Because of the love and support of my friends.

Some highlights of my year include (and will be expanded upon in future posts…yes there will be more):

I saved my dog’s life.

Learning how to change a flat.  Not on my car but on my bike.

I embarked on a fitness journey that has made me stronger and more fit than I have ever been in my entire life.

Running 10 kilometres without stopping.  And doing it in 60 minutes.

Developing a slight obsession with taking pictures of sunrises and flowers.

Buying a new bed and putting it together myself.  It’s from Ikea.  I have been sleeping on it for 6 months and every morning I wake up grateful, not that I was able to put it together, but that I am not on the floor!

I took a trip on my own to New York City.

I took the kids on a long ago promised trip, to New York City.  For Christmas.

I got a part time job.

I took a semi-intensive french class for 4 weeks.

I took the class at the same time that I started my job.  The kids and I all survived the numerous 12 hours days.

I started a new blog which was raw and real.  It allowed me to write exactly what I wanted to write.  Say what I needed to say.  Get it all out of my head.

And so here I am.  One year later, on March 1, 2016.

It is time to bring my two blogs together.  That one and this one.  The new blog and the old blog.  Time to move forward.  Time to write like I always did, about my family, about my days.  My new family.  My new days.

Thank you for being patient in my absence.  Over the next while, my blog, this blog, will transform.  One day, one step, one breath at a time.

Just like I did.

Just like I am.

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How to Save a Life

So.  My dog.

Really, he was not meant to be my dog.  I am not even a dog person.  But, in the end, he is my dog.

Tyler joined our family in 2006.  He wasn’t the dog we were supposed to get.  The dog we were supposed to get was a black lab and his name was going to be Magic Bubbles Puppy, or something to that effect, named by our daughter, who was 4 at the time.  Instead of a black Magic Bubbles Puppy, we got a blond Tyler.  The dog breeder did not have any black labs, only black labradoodles.  We did not want a labradoodle, so we settled for the yellow lab.  And thankfully we managed to convince her to change his name

Tyler has been a great dog.  Not the brightest bulb in the socket, but not destructive like the famous Marley for which most yellow labs are named.  As a puppy his greatest joy was eating sweaty, stinky socks from my 2 year old son.  We would find them deposited randomly in the yard.  In his older years, he has moved on to tissues, used kleenex.  And today, it was a bottle of his own pain medication.

A few days ago, my girlfriend K called and asked if I would be interested in going to a ball.  Did I mention my favourite Disney movie is Cinderella?  Well, it is.  My first reply was YES!  However I could not afford the ticket price, nor did I have a dress to wear.  The ticket was taken care of, and a dress?  She suggested going to our friend M’s closet and seeing what I could find there.

The ball was a fundraiser for our city’s Children’s Hospital.  I have never been to a fundraiser of this calibre before.  Needless to say I was excited.  I went “shopping” in the closets of two friends, and in the end had three dresses to chose from.  I even managed to snag a pair of shoes.

I was so excited.  I might have mentioned that already.

I did all the things that a woman does to get ready.  Showered.  Shaved my legs.  Put on “my face”.  Blew dry my hair and managed to get the nicest little flip.  I even found time to do my nails, and they turned out perfectly.  Ten minutes before departure, I finally put on my dress and a bit of jewelry.  I go into my daughter’s room to ask her how I look.  She loved the dress.  And being the wonderful daughter she is, said I looked very nice.  And although it was a little black dress (covered with black satin flowers and grey pearl bead centres), I felt a bit like Cinderella.

As we start to discuss the plans for the evening I hear it.  This gnawing noise.  It sounded like Tyler was chewing on a bone.  I even thought to myself, “wonder where Tyler got the bone?”  By the time I go and investigate, probably 20 seconds, I find Tyler, his pill bottle, and that is all.

I grab the bottle which thankfully has the vet’s phone number on it, and immediately call the vet.  While I wait on hold, I quickly calculate how many pills he would have eaten and come up with approximately 10 to 12 pills.  However, because he only takes a half pill a day, it is between 20 to 24 doses.

It is suggested to me that I can either bring the dog in to the vet right away or I can try to induce vomiting on my own, at home.  I look down at my dress and realize right away that Cinderella is going to be late.

I am told that I can induce vomiting by administering hydrogen peroxide.  I did not have hydrogen peroxide.  They told me that I could grab a handful of table salt, and throw it into the back of Tyler’s mouth.

This might be a good time to remind you of the facts.  I am a single parent.  My daughter is 13 years old.  My son is 11 years old.  Tyler is a yellow lab and weighs 88 pounds.

I cannot, for an single second, fathom how on earth the three of us will be able to manage getting salt into Tyler’s mouth to induce vomiting.  The image alone makes me chuckle and shake my head.

Off goes the dress.  Cinderella turns back into mom.  I rush off to the drug store to buy hydrogen peroxide.  I get lucky and find a parking spot, on the street, but realize I do not have money for the meter.  I only have my debit card.  Great.  The money I am trying to save by being Dr. Mom instead of going to the vet, is probably going to end up costing me parking ticket.  I don’t even check the meter.  It does not matter if there is any time left on it from a previous driver.  I run down the block.

I find the hydrogen peroxide and of course, there is a line up at the cash register.  Tap tap tap goes my toe.  Come on, come on.  A customer tries to leave the store and they set off the anti-theft alarm.  You’ve.  Got.  To. Be. Kidding. Me.  After handing a number of items back to the cashier for scanning, the customer tries to leave and again the alarm goes off.  At this point I become a bit like a mad-woman.  “I really need to pay, my dog has eaten a bunch of pills and I really need to get back with this so that I can help him”.  Sympathy abounds.  The cashier lets the potential thief pass by even though they may have put something into the bottom of their stroller, the woman in front of me pays, and finally it is my turn.

I rush back to my car and for the second time today (my meter ran out on me earlier in the day) I have been blessed by the meter fairies, and there is no ticket.  Those of you who live here, know this is a great feat.

I get home and start giving Tyler the peroxide by syringe.  As instructed, I give him 15mL, a tablespoon’s worth.  Nothing.  He looks fine.  Doesn’t even seem to mind.  I try again.  My syringe only hold 5mL.  Now I’ve given him a total of 6 syringes full of peroxide.  And still, nothing.  I call the vet back.  “Keep giving it to him until he vomits, and when he vomits, it will be very foamy”.

Let me just tell you, to save time and agony, I lost count as to how many syringes it took for him to throw up.

And when he did, it was foamy, just like she said it would be.  And as he did, all I could think of was a) the ball, b) the beautiful dress, c) I think I can still make it, and d) crap, that was $70 worth of medication he just ate and now has thrown up all over the lawn.

Another phone call to the vet, has me disappointed.  I can find no evidence of the pills in the vomit (sorry…I know…too much information), and that is disconcerting.  She wants me to bring Tyler in.  This, I was hoping to avoid.  Vet bills are expensive.

Off we go to the vet.  It is at this moment that I can no longer keep it together.  This is my first “crisis”, so to speak, since ex left.  In the past, a crisis like this would have warranted a phone call, resulting in support, advice, concern, encouragement.  This time?  It was all me.  Even though I was not sure I could afford the visit, I knew I needed to take Tyler to the vet.  I would never forgive myself if something avoidable had happened.  On the way I called my friend, N, and sobbed my way through the story.  The sadness, the disappointment, the worry, the frustration.

At the vet, Tyler is fed a can of “gourmet” wet dog food which has been mixed with charcoal, to absorb any remaining medication.  The bowl is full of something that resembles black tar.  Tyler being a good and dutiful Lab, eats it right up.

I stop to pay on the way out.  My heart starting to sink to my stomach.  The receptionist and the technician are trying to find the charcoal price on the computer.  They talk about price per millilitre.  It was a really big bottle of charcoal.  I start to feel overwhelmed.  They finally find it.

“Twenty-three dollars”, she says.

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Ticket to the ball.  Free.  Dress.  Free.  Shoes. Free.  Clutch and shawl that I did not get to use but can use another time.  $40.  Bottle of hydrogen peroxide.  $2.70.  Money saved by the parking meter fairies.  $100.  Vet visit.  $23.

Listening to Tyler snore beside me.  Priceless.

Where Do We Go From Here

Sometime last August I lost my desire to write. Maybe desire is the wrong word. Motivation? Inspiration? And then in January I lost all desire to cook. A blog requires writing. And a blog which includes recipes requires at least the desire to create, cook and eat. Thankfully all of that, including the writing, has returned.

Since my last post I have been thinking about moving forward. Not only in my personal life but with this blog.

The obvious choice would be to take this blog and use it as an outlet to share, maybe help others in my situation, and to heal. But something doesn’t sit right with using my blog in that way.  Maybe it is because my previous posts have been anecdotal?  Lighter in nature. Or tongue in cheek. Not only did I enjoy sharing recipes that my family and I enjoyed, but also the day to day stories that put a smile on one’s face or produce the slightest of chuckles. I like to tell stories.  It is certainly hard to write in a light hearted way when my heart feels anything but.

Yet I feel that moving forward in my life and in my blog are truly one and the same. While some would say this is a time to re-invent or re-create myself, and my blog, I would feel disloyal to myself, and to who I have been for the past 20 years, to do so. Let’s see if I can explain it.

To re-invent or re-create conjures images to me, of something that needs, requires to be destroyed, torn down, and built again, in order to be better than what it was.

While the past months have been hurtful, I have not been destroyed. I do not need to be torn down. I don’t even need to be  built again. I have a good foundation, good structure, good bones. I can work with what I have and make it even better.

Life is like a recipe. And in my case, that recipe has just had a big blob of cake batter spilled across it. When we wipe off the mess, the words become blurred and we no can longer read the recipe.  We scramble to remember the recipe. We go online to see if we can find it there. We come up empty handed. And for a moment or two, or weeks or months, we panic.  How do we move forward without the recipe?

Music break… “Someone left the cake out in the rain. I don’t think that I can take it. Cuz it took so long to bake it. And I’ll never have that recipe again…”

We need to take time to appreciate the recipe we lost and to reflect on what we enjoyed about the recipe. What parts of the recipe do we want to copy down, and what parts will we decide are not needed? Remember the components of the recipe. A recipe consists of ingredients, and instructions.  Hopefully, if you combine it all correctly, you achieve the desired outcome.  Let’s say the ingredients are the things you have in your life, what is at your finger tips.  The ingredients are your emotions. The ingredients are your skills and abilities.  The ingredients are your family and friends.  The ingredients can be your character, the kind of person you are. The ingredients can also be your motivators, the reason why you want the desired outcome. The instructions are how you use, mix, combine, beat, whip (who knew cooking was so violent!) the ingredients to get the desired outcome. Put the two of them together and voila!  You have a new recipe.

And that’s the thing.  Before this chapter of my life, I was happy. I was happy with my life, with my ingredients and instructions and desired outcome. Was it the best and perfect recipe?  Absolutely not. Were there ingredients and instructions either of us (me, ex-beloved) could have changed, substituted, left out?  Absolutely. It all comes down to your ingredients and instructions. Your needs, desires and wants. And in any great meal, or relationship, the recipes should be complementary.

So here I am today. Do I want to re-invent and recreate me, my recipe?  Or rather blossom and grow into who I am?  Who I want to be?  I am proud of who I have been up to now.

So reinventing, recreating, is not an option.  Tweaking, fine tuning?  Sign me up!

One little anecdote. I was talking with a friend a couple of months back. He was giving me financial and life advice. At one point I looked at him and said “B, I am so lucky,  My friends have been so supportive and caring and kind.  I don’t know where I would be without them.”  His reply, “It’s not luck, it is how you have lived your life up to now.”

IMG_0907So where do I go from here?  I get to assess my ingredients and my instructions, my recipe and my life.  I will add ingredients, and take some away.  I will work on the instructions and aim for the desired outcome.  Happiness.  And like a tv chef, I will share with you along the way, through my blog. So moving forward, I will keep the name of my blog as “by the recipe”.  I still want you to “be inspired”. Whether it is in your cooking, your reading, your music, your life, I will still aim to inspire.