On Facebook, Losing Touch, and Grieving: Remembering Carole

On Tuesday morning, I did as I usually do: went to the bathroom, swallowed some Wellbutrin, and grabbed my phone to check my email and Facebook. I don’t expect to find anything earth shattering when doing either of these things. Mostly, my mailbox is filled with Gap discount codes, the latest issue of Lenny and reminders from my child’s school. Facebook is even less eventful–people sharing articles that rage against Donald Trump and parents worrying about over scheduling their kids while simultaneously complaining about the city’s swimming lesson registration system.  My Facebook page is pretty benign and for the most part, pretty boring, although there are lots of cute baby pictures at the moment. (Thanks M & T!)

Tuesday was different. As I was scrolling down, I saw the notice “C.H. was mentioned in a post.” Someone that I didn’t know, and who I wasn’t friends with (Facebook or otherwise) had written: You will be in our hearts forever Carole. You left us way too early. This made absolutely no sense to me. C.H. was around my age and had kids my age.

That’s actually how I met her: She was one of the first people I met at a mom’s group I went to for first time moms. Her daughter was about three weeks older than my son. I remember Carole as being kind, loving to laugh, and full of life. Could this be the same woman?

It was. Googling her name brought me to the page with her obituary. She was just shy of 43, had a seven year-old daughter and a six year-old son. Her daughter was in Grade 2, her son in Grade 1.  I hadn’t seen Carole in a few years–we had both moved out of the old neighbourhood where we had met, and life got busy. The last time I saw her was just before our kids started Kindergarten. We stayed in touch via Facebook through likes and comments, but I’m not sure I would have used the term “friends” to describe us, more like “good acquaintances.”

When I scrolled through Carole’s Facebook page looking for clues, I found none. She had kept her illness private, away from the public eye of Facebook. I reached out to another mutual friend who told me that Carole had been diagnosed with a tumour in the fall and that the doctors were confident following the removal of it. Unfortunately, the cancer had spread to her liver and she went into palliative care at the beginning of February, but was able to return home for her last weeks.

This death has hit me really hard. I’ve been crying on and off for the past few days. Although we had drifted apart, I was still interested in Carole’s Facebook anecdotes about her son’s allergies and the pictures of the cakes she had made for her children’s birthdays. Facebook filled me in on Carole’s life when she was alive and this time it filled me in on Carole’s death.

I cried because in many ways it took Carole’s death to remind me that I am alive. I am alive with my children. She is not. And that’s a really hard thing to come to terms with, regardless of how close we had been.

Having children the same age is what makes it the hardest. I remember sitting beside Carole at the Mom’s Group, holding our brand new babies and learning how to keep them safe, when and how to feed them healthy foods, and how to deal with teething. I remember one time feeling extremely overwhelmed and discouraged. Carole was so reassuring that we could do this–be good mothers to our children.  And then immediately after, telling me that she was expecting again, wanting her children to be close in age. I was still struggling being a mom to one, and I admired her confidence and strength to do it all over again so soon. But Carole knew what she wanted and she was ready to love another.

Today I sat with my oldest, who brought me into Carole’s life and held him tightly when he asked me if I had been crying. Yes, I said. Because I love you so very much. I thought of Carole’s oldest child, who used to play with my oldest. Carole is no longer there to hold her or her brother tightly. Carole is not with her children that she loved so much.  And I am. And my tears return. And that’s okay. Strindberg wrote: Why do people cry when they’re sad?” I continued . . . “Well,” he said, “because sometimes you have to wash the windows of your eyes to see more clearly!”

I see clearly now how very fortunate I am to be alive.

P.S. Cancer sucks. If you feel so inclined, here’s a link to honour Carole: http://www.cancercare.mb.ca

March 19 Addendum: Today’s Facebook Memory from 5 years ago was a note from Carole saying: Hey thanks for the great visit yesterday! It was nice to catch up. C. spent most of the afternoon asking ” where MooMoos” aka Harris…. Bittersweet. They say only the good die young. In Carole’s case, this is 100% true.


Strindberg, A., & Carlson, H.G. (1983) Strindberg: Five Plays. Berkeley: University of California Press.

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Soup’s On!

soup

Photo by: Buu Dang, Pixabay (dangquocbuu)

Soup’s On!

I pick up my spoon
And contemplate leaving you
As you slurp your soup.

                                    –J. Amy

Today’s haiku brought to you by WordPress and their Daily Prompt.

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Stats, Slumps, and Stopping

This poem is in response to WordPress’s Daily Prompt which reads: Go to your Stats page and check your top 3-5 posts. Why do you think they’ve been successful? Find the connection between them, and write about it. 

I don’t usually look at statistics–I enjoyed the end of the year summary from WordPress, which told me where my readers reside (this I find interesting)–but overall, I don’t find them to be particularly beneficial or noteworthy. Not surprisingly, my top posts in the last few days have been the ones I wrote for the Daily Prompt, and the About page, not because they’re the best, but because the Daily Prompts have a higher visibility than my other posts. And the logical next thing to check out is the About page when visiting a new blog.

I’m still working through a bit of a creative slump, so I’m finding these prompts really helpful. It’s like a task for me to complete and even if it’s not my best work, something’s better than nothing.

Enjoy. Or don’t. I won’t check my statistics page!

The Statistical Connection

Seeing my statistics makes me
Think about what I am
Actually trying to accomplish with this blog.
The dream was to share a bit of my writing but since
I have such a fragile writer’s ego I worry because the
Statistics tell me that I have many followers but
That there are way less views in relation to followers.
I‘m not sure if I should keep trying to do what I do or if I should
Change things, but one thing is crystal clear: I need to
Stop looking at statistics.

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And the first shall be last: A is for Amy.

Note: This is a post I wrote a couple of years ago about my name, but I’ve revisited and reworked it. Today’s Daily Prompt from WordPress, which I like to use when I am short on time and inspiration, is about names. This is one story about my (somewhat confusing) name.

Letters of Latvian (Latin based) alphabet in h...

Letters of Latvian (Latin based) alphabet in handwriting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many of you who know me in person, or if you have read the About part of this blog, know that my last name is the same as my middle name. My name is Judy Amy Amy. Technically, it’s Judy Amy Amy-Something, but usually I just go by Judy (Amy) Amy to avoid confusion. Here’s a bit of background regarding my name.

Amy is my mother’s maiden name, and there are not many of us left. My cousin is the last of the direct line.  Like every girl in my mom’s family, I too was given the name Amy as a middle name. The difference is that I also have it as part of my last name. My mom’s family hails from the  Island of Jersey a small British ruled island off the coast of France, although the Amys have lived in Canada for several generations.

My father’s last name (the Something) is easily identified as a religious/cultural indicator of sorts in Canada. And my father experienced none of that–when his parents emigrated from the Old Country, they abandoned their religion, their culture, and their language. When my grandparents immigrated to Canada in the 1920s and decided to raise a family, they became (in their words) Canadian. No more, no less. A loss of culture, religion, and language for sure, but this was their choice of how they would adapt and embrace their new country.

It has always been really frustrating for me to have people assume untrue things about me and my family based solely on a name that has absolutely no deeper meaning to me, except for the fact that it belonged to my father. All this does is cause me to groan in irritation as I try to explain once again that I am not a part of this group, and have no knowledge of the language, traditions, or culture.  In this way, I’m happy for the Amy (even if it’s confusing) because it helps denote that I am not merely my father’s daughter, but also my mother’s. I am a sum of the parts. (Which is also why I would like to legally change my children’s last names to include my name, as well as my partner’s, but that would mean cursing my daughter with the First Name Amy Amy-Something, since like all Amy girls, she also has Amy as her middle name. Am I willing to do that? I’m not quite sure.)

If it weren’t for the fact that my father died, and that I feel keeping his name is respectful, I’d probably take a big black marker and cross the Something off my name. Why? I’ve touched on this above with the assumptions, but also because when people see a girl’s name in front of a hyphen, they automatically register it as my first name, with Something being my last name. I guess hyphenated names still aren’t as common as I think they should be. I often hear “Amy Something” called out at Doctor’s offices, as though my first name, Judy, has disappeared. Sometimes it’s the Judy that remains and the Amy that disappears, so that I am Judy Something on letters. Rarely am I Judy Amy-Something. Which is why I introduce myself as just Judy Amy, and leave the Something for the legal stuff. It avoids a lot of the confusion.

So here I am. A is for Amy. I am proud to be Judy Amy Amy. (and legally hyphen Something) I own it. It’s mine. And, for the most part, it’s really not that big a deal. Except when I’m at the doctor’s office, or god forbid, crossing borders:
“Your middle name is the same as your last name?”
“Yes, yes it is.”

Have you ever encountered difficulties or misconceptions about your name? Names are a funny thing–they are one of the first identifiers of who we are, but how representative are they?

If you would like to contact me about this post or about anything else you’ve read please email me: judyamy74(at)gmail(dot)com or tweet me @JudyAmy74.

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Moving Forward: Some Thoughts on the Ghomeshi Trial

This week marked the start of Jian Ghomeshi’s first trial on sexual assault charges. For those not in Canada here’s a very quick recap: Mr. Ghomeshi was the popular host of a national radio show when numerous sexual assault allegations were made against him in the fall of 2014.

At first, I thought I would follow the trial, like so many of my friends were doing. As one of the biggest trials (media-wise) in Canada’s history, there were no shortage of journalists who were live-tweeting the trial. On that first morning, I couldn’t put down my mobile phone–I might miss what happened next. Then I would Google “Jian Ghomeshi trial” to read more in-depth articles and opinions on what was happening.

As I took everything in, I couldn’t help but think how brave these women were to come forward and tell their story.  I looked for statistics and they seem to vary–the best I could find was that only between 8-10% of Canadian sexual assault cases are reported to the authorities, and of those reported, less than half result in a conviction. So to me, these women weren’t just brave–they were heroes who weren’t just telling their stories out loud, but were gambling with our justice system in allowing their every word and action to be scrutinized by lawyers, judges, media, as well as the general public.

By the end of the first day, I felt physically ill. It appeared as though the defence attorney had done some damage to the credibility of the first witness. The second day, I tried again to follow the trial, but again, I felt ill. I reached out to my friend–a Crown attorney who works tirelessly to put the bad guys away–to reassure me that things would be okay and that I could have faith in our justice system. She didn’t tell me that everything would be okay, but she did explain some of the ins and outs of the justice system which helped me better understand some of the questions I had about the case.

As I was talking to her, I began to cry. Deep, heaving, sobs. Why? Because it’s always there, just beneath the surface.

I thought about how my twenty year old self would have responded in a courtroom, or what my actions looked like in the days, weeks, and months after it happened to me. Or how my actions could have been interpreted and portrayed by a skilled defence attorney. And I cried some more: for the women on the stand, for myself, for all those who remain silent, and for all those who share their stories.

I can’t follow the trial anymore. It’s too hard. I am sure there will be no shortage of news articles or Facebook posts to let me know how everything plays out. One of the last things I read about the trial was a statement from Gillian Hnatiw (Lucy deCoutere’s lawyer) which read in part: There is no right or wrong way to cope or react or move forward with your life.

There is no right or wrong way to cope or react or move forward with your life. This statement gives me hope. It gives me hope that the judge will focus on the actions and conduct of the accused, and not on that of the victims. It gives me hope that the media will do the same. It gives me hope that  we can raise our children to believe this and that our children will grow up to be respectful of one another.

I’m still sad, but I am also hopeful.

Notes: To read my thoughts from October 2014 when the story first started, click here: https://thinkdreamdo.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/it-makes-me-sad/

If you would like to contact me about this post or about anything else you’ve read please email me: judyamy74(at)gmail(dot)com or tweet me @JudyAmy74.

Five Reasons I Fell Off the (blogging) Wagon

Dear friends, family, and random people who found this blog by accident:

So according to my calculations, I haven’t written a blog post in almost 80 days, which I think is basically considered death by blogging. However, I’m here to (very quickly) tell you that I’m back and that I promise (cross my heart) that I’ll be better in the New Year! In the meantime, here’s a quick list of what’s been going on and (possibly) what’s been taking my time away from writing (or blogging, anyway).  In random order:

  1. My youngest, fractured his elbow and we spent all weekend waiting for it to be operated on. Gotta love that Canadian health care system.
  2. I finished my last university course for my Master’s degree: LGBTQ* Issues in Education and Community, which involved a lot of essay writing.
  3. I presented at the International Symposium for Poetic Inquiry (more writing!) where I met many like minded researchers from around the world, some of whom I am now lucky enough to call friends.
  4. Depression. Yep, that son-of-a-bitch never seems to want to let me go. Although I’ve been feeling pretty good for a fairly long time now, I met up with Depression’s little sister: Seasonal Affective Disorder. So basically I’m sad because it’s winter.
  5. Pixy Stix: Not the candy, but our new puppy. (Pixy for short, or Pixie if we’re being posh) She’s a whippet, like our last dog Hudson was, and right now, she’s a bit of a handful to say the least.

So in a nutshell, that’s what I’ve been up to for the past 80 some days. When I type it out, it doesn’t really seem like any of those are good enough reasons not to be writing here, especially when it feels so good to be writing here, right now. I blame it on #4. Four’s a bastard, who fights hard and dirty. Four might have won the 80 day battle, but I’m back to win the war. I hope you’ll stick with me. (If you haven’t already given up on me, and I hope you haven’t)

Best,

Judy

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Eleven Ways my Eating Disorder Continues to Fuck with me Twenty Years After the Fact

The other day I was at my University class, which happens to occur right over the dinner hour. I was starving, but didn’t eat anything. I sipped at my Diet Coke and tried to concentrate on the lecture. It’s not like we aren’t allowed to eat–it’s pretty much par for the course in an evening class and all around me people were snacking on grapes, opening zip lock bags full of cookies, and peeling those tiny BabyBel cheeses. I couldn’t. I can’t.

During my first university degree, I had a pretty serious eating disorder. Somehow I managed to get up, take two buses to get to the university, sit through class drinking Diet Coke, and return to my apartment 8 hours later only to collapse on the couch from exhaustion. I remember that it took too much effort to lift my arms to wash my hair, so I didn’t. If I caved from hunger in the evening, I ate what I could find in the fridge and washed everything down with a carton of chocolate milk. Then I went to visit my aptly named bathroom fixture: American Standard. The next morning, I would begin again.

So of course, during those days, no one ever, ever, ever saw me eat. On dinner dates, I would pretend that I had already eaten previously and therefore couldn’t partake in the meal. I know there were more than a couple boys and girls who were frustrated/confused by my refusal to order anything other than a salad, which I then left untouched on my plate. These days–almost twenty years later–I can eat in public with very good friends, but I can never eat in public around strangers. Some things stick with you.

And that got me thinking about how those four-plus years of my life have affected the rest of my life. In random order, here’s my list of how an age-old eating disorder continues to fuck with my now happy life:

  1. Waking up in the middle of the night to throw up . . . for no apparent reason.
  2. Retching until I throw up first thing in the morning . . . for no apparent reason.
  3. Swallowing a pill . . . and then immediately throwing up.
  4. Coughing during a cold . . . and then throwing up, not because I have the flu, but just because.
  5. Keeping an empty bucket in every bathroom . . . just because.
  6. Brushing my teeth and tongue. . . and then retching. And maybe throwing up.
  7. Eating a little too much at a party . . . and then throwing up. Not because I want to, but because my body thinks there is no alternative.
  8. Looking in the mirror.
  9. Scales.
  10. Looking/Not looking at old photos of the thin but unhealthy me.
  11. Daydreaming about recovering the sense of power and control I felt I had, no matter how unhealthy it was.

Long ago, when I was in Recovery, the doctors told me that my “trigger” for vomiting might be compromised and that it would always be easier for me to throw up. Turns out they were right.  But retching and throwing up are the easy part. The hardest part is looking in the mirror every day and trying to convince myself that I am indeed better off now than I was. Fuck you Anorexia. Fuck you Bulimia. Fuck you. I am better than you.

If you would like to contact me about this post or about anything else you’ve read please email me at: judyamy74@gmail.com or tweet me @JudyAmy74