Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Winter of my Discontent

To a kid, Christmastime is magical. It's about Santa Claus and toys, a Winter Wonderland, playing in the snow. To an adult, Christmas can be stressful, expensive and snow is just a nuisance -- shoveling, driving in bad weather etc. I suppose some people actually like Winter. I DETEST it! I can't stand the cold. Not to mention dark days without sunlight (as I've mentioned several times I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder.) Being sick with pneumonia made it that much more unbearable. I wanted to make Michelle happy. I wanted her to enjoy everything that winter and Christmas had to offer, but it was more of a struggle this year than ever. Physically and emotionally drained, I felt like Hell. Trying to force a smile for Michelle's sake somehow made it even worse. But what else could I do? I couldn't ruin Christmas for my little girl. I should have been in bed resting, trying to get better instead of what I was doing -- going to work, Christmas shopping, playing in the snow with Michelle, taking her to see Santa. But I felt like I had no choice because there was no one else to do these things for her. I didn't want Michelle to miss out.

I felt awful. I couldn't sleep. Zombie-like, I was beyond exhausted 99% of the time but I kept pushing myself. I kept thinking I've got to get better one of these days. I'd been sick since November. Surely this had to end sometime. Then I read that it could take MONTHS to fully recover from pneumonia. That was not good news. I didn't want Michelle to see how miserable I was, so I forced a smile for her sake. I feigned excitement for Christmas coming. I held back until she was at school or asleep and then wept to myself. Of course by suffering in silence, not taking care of myself, I couldn't get better, instead I seemed to keep getting worse. At one point I was out in the snow, pulling Michelle on a sled. She said "Faster Mama!" but I told her I had to stop because I couldn't breathe. "This is insane," I thought, "I have PNEUMONIA. I should be cozy in bed with the covers pulled up to my chin. Instead I'm outside in the freezing cold making snowmen and pulling her on a sled while I'm coughing and it's hard to breathe." But without a dad there to say "You rest honey, I'll take her outside to play!" I felt like I had no choice and I couldn't ruin Michelle's winter and Christmas just because I was suffering.

At least Michelle never got my pneumonia. We both got checked out. Michelle was pretty much sick off and on since she started school in September. The doctor(s) said this was normal. Kids catch everything and it helps them to build up their immunity. But it was rough. Especially when she was coughing through the night. I barely got any sleep. The doctor gave me a narcotic cough medicine to suppress my cough so I could sleep through the night. It came with 3 pages of instructions/warnings. One of the first possible side effects listed was death! A bit drastic, from coughin to coffin but by this point I was desperate. (Apparently that's only if you have a heart condition or combine it with other medications but still, it was a bit creepy.) I read further and it actually affects the part of your brain that makes you cough, essentially PREVENTING you from coughing, again, super creepy but desperate times, desperate measures. So the first night I took it, it COMPLETELY knocked me out. I felt drugged. I thought it was great. I actually got a little sleep. The effect didn't last though. As I continued to take it each night it stopped putting me to sleep. If anything it seemed to have the opposite effect and caused me anxiety so I stopped taking it and switched to NyQuil which I love the taste of and is somewhat comforting and helps me to sleep a little. The puffer the doctor had given me didn't seem to do anything. I could never really tell if I was getting anything from it. Still, when it was really hard to breathe I thought I'd try it.

I got Michelle a homeopathic/natural kid's cough/cold remedy. She loved the taste and it actually helped to stop her cough overnight. I also got a vaporizer and Vick's Vapo Rub after the doctor suggested it. I figured it may help both of us to breathe easier. Michelle wasn't much of a fan of the Vick's. I found it comforting.

My chest X-ray had confirmed pneumonia and I had a "crackling" in my lungs. My breathing was laboured. There was thick green mucus in my nose and throat. My family doctor prescribed me an antibiotic that was supposed to be strong. It was also expensive. Because I didn't have a drug plan at the time I asked the pharmacist if he could recommend something comparable that wasn't as pricey. So he did. Unfortunately it still set me back $30. And then it didn't even work. The doctor had given me 7 days worth and then asked me to come and see her in a week to see how I was doing.

It seemed like I was never going to get any better. If anything I kept feeling worse. I kept thinking I'd be so grateful if I just wasn't COUGHING constantly! I'd be so happy if I didn't feel so tired and dragged out! I'd be so relieved to just not be coughing and blowing out green mucus all day long! It was like a never ending nightmare that didn't end it just changed/evolved along the way.


So, I wasn't the happiest camper but luckily being sick off and on didn't dampen Michelle's Christmas spirit. She never got it as bad as I did and it never affected her energy level. She was bouncing off the walls most of the time. She loved drawing Christmas pictures and making crafts. She wanted to make her own ornaments. She drew them, cut them out and added stickers. She'd helped me decorate the tree and understood that we had a white, silver and turquoise theme going so she didn't insist on putting her home-made ornaments on the tree (where they would of course clash with the decor. She's 4 years old and understood this. I dated a man in his 40s that argued with me about putting his golden apple ornament with all my silver ones. AS IF.) So Michelle was content instead to hang her little treasures on every door knob in the house.

I was trying to get into the Christmas spirit but it's hard when you're sick and tired of being sick and tired! Not to mention supremely stressed out and depressed. On top of everything else I had to contend with there were some things going on at work. My future seemed uncertain. There were financial and other issues at home. Health problems and lack of sleep made me fragile. I was just spent, overwhelmed. I needed a rest but it didn't seem to be in sight. I couldn't sleep at night for coughing, thinking, worrying about everything that I had to do, everything that was coming up. I was running on less than empty. And of course the winter season itself being bleak, cold and grey didn't help my mood any. I was trying so hard to be enthusiastic for Michelle's sake but I really wasn't feeling it. AT ALL.

Michelle has a little book on the Christmas Story and we read it together. It made me cry. I know that that is the real meaning of Christmas -- the birth of Jesus. How God sent us His only Son to save us. Christmas is God becoming human. Against all odds, a baby being born in a manger. Peace, Hope, Love and Light coming into the world.

I prayed to Jesus to help me to get through all of this, to feel better. Day after day, coughing, feeling awful, weak, tired, utterly drained physically, emotionally and in every way became unbearable. I worried I would never be well again. The irony is that Winter is always a hard time for me even when I'm healthy (although now that I think about it I usually get sick in the winter so maybe that's part of what makes me so unhappy!)

Ordinarily when someone asks how I am (especially a stranger) I mutter an automatic (albeit disingenuous) "Fine thanks, and you?" to be polite but I got to the point where I couldn't even muster that. I was grocery shopping one day (because of course sick or not we still had to eat something -- though I was eating a lot less, mostly chicken soup and orange juice.) I looked like Death. Pale, bloodshot eyes, red nose, coughing like an old man in a hospital, nose stuffed and red, feeling weak and tired, chest aching from coughing, trouble breathing (and getting dirty looks from passersby as well I might add like how dare I leave the house like this. But no one is going to bring me supplies and I had run out of Kleenex, soup and OJ so I had to go out and get them!) When I went to cash out the cashier asked "How are you doing?" and I just didn't even have the energy to lie. "Hanging by a thread," I answered, "and you?" She looked slightly aghast, didn't know what to say and just went about bagging my items in silence. She should have known to look at me, that I was not good. Not at all. I tried to leave the house as little as possible because it wasn't pretty. One day while waiting for Michelle outside her school I coughed so hard my cough lozenge flew out of my mouth. I really hoped no one had seen it happen. Standing out in the cold, feeling sick as a dog, I wanted to just curl into a ball and cry. But when Michelle came out exclaiming "Mamaaaaa!" and ran toward me I managed to smile for her.

I was inspired to write a song and decided to record it, even though my voice wasn't up to par. I don't drink, smoke or do drugs. Writing is one of my outlets for dealing with stress. Yoga helps too but feeling so sick and weak I didn't have the energy for that. This is the vicious circle (cycle?) of being sick -- you get tired and run down and get sick so you don't have energy to exercise which makes you feel more tired and weak and sick. Exercise, if you can force yourself to do it, actually helps to give you more energy, sleep better, feel stronger. But I was just too fatigued, feeble and felt too terrible to even attempt any physical activity. Plus I could barely breathe without coughing. Here is a link to the video, "Hanging by a Thread":

No matter how bad I felt, Michelle was happy and that was all that mattered. Her joy was irrepressible. Even when she was sick. Even when it was cold and dark and snowing. No matter what, my girl was smiling and laughing. Then again, of course she's a kid. She doesn't have to go out to work and buy groceries and worry how she's going to pay the bills. They say that the average child laughs 300 times a day while the average adult only laughs 15 times. I don't know how they compiled these statistics but it makes sense. Adults have more worries and responsibilities. We don't just get to play all day (if at all.) I try to maintain my childlike sense of wonder and enthusiasm but sometimes it's close to impossible. In the winter and when I'm sick and tired, it's hard to find a sense of fun. Sometimes I do laugh in spite of myself though. And it does warm my heart when my girl smiles. 

I adore my girl. She really is all that keeps me going sometimes. I am so grateful for her. She's so sweet she's always drawing me pictures and writing me notes saying "I love you Mama." I put little love notes in her school lunches as well. "I love you Michelle! xo Mama."

Unfortunately once in a while it feels like Michelle is trying to kill me! She is a ball of energy running around, sometimes running into me. One night she was jumping on the bed and fell on me, elbow into my chest, on the right side. It hurt like a mo-fo! I screamed. I already had chest pains and trouble breathing on that side (and possibly fractured ribs) from coughing so this definitely DID NOT HELP! I told Michelle please be careful with Mama because I was already feeling extra fragile and she just might BREAK ME! Still, even in my weak state I would carry Michelle into the house, up the stairs and into bed in her heavy winter coat and boots when she would fall asleep in the car on the way home. I would be so out of breath and weak I almost collapsed. What else could I do? There's no one else to carry her in. I'd reach for the puffer and eventually catch my breath. Sometimes I REALLY wished I had a partner to drive us home, to carry Michelle into the house. My Mom said "You can't keep doing this! You'll hurt yourself! She's too heavy. You're going to have to wake her up and make her walk." I just didn't have the heart.


Michelle was always thrilled to see the snow. I was decidedly less than thrilled. (As I mentioned before it's different for kids -- magical winter wonderland versus a living hell for Mama.) It dragged the life out of me (and I was already running on empty.) Still, I tried to smile for Michelle's sake. I bundled her up in her pink kitty hat/scarf combo and she loved it. She was cozy and happy. I felt like the cold went right through me. Even in my winter coat. Being in sub-zero temperatures when you're already suffering from pneumonia is quite an experience. I'd never liked Winter, but this was downright cruel. Bitter bitter cold. I didn't know how I could keep going. But I did because I didn't have a choice. And for the most part, Michelle didn't see how supremely miserable I was.
"Mama can we play in the snow?"
"Can we make a snowman?!"
"Well it's not really packing sn--"
"Ok." Sigh.
The only part I liked was going back inside to get warm after and having some hot chocolate or tea. (I'm not a fan of tea generally but when I'm sick tea with honey and lemon is comforting.)


"Mama! Can you pull me on the sled?!"
"Ok. Just remember Mama is having trouble breathing so I can't do it too long..."
I was gasping for breath even without pulling a 48 lb kid on a sled but it made her happy so there I was. "Faster Mama!" Michelle was merciless. Of course she didn't realize how awful I was feeling. I ran in circles around the yard pulling her, gasping for breath, so weak I thought I would faint. I remembered my sister saying her how her friend with pneumonia got to stay in bed for 3 weeks while her hubby did everything for her. I wanted to cry. But there wasn't time.

And because I'm obviously a glutton for punishment I agreed to take Michelle to see Santa Claus. Let's be real, I couldn't NOT take her to see Santa! It was getting close to Christmas and I had the weekend off and this was the only time I could take her. It was also the weekend of my work Christmas party which I'd told her about and promised to bring her to. It was the first year we'd been able to go (I'm usually working that weekend.) So we got dressed in red and headed for a visit to Grandma, to Santa and then to the Children's Christmas party the next day. Michelle was psyched for a holly jolly weekend of fun. I was absolutely dreading it and wondered how I would survive the weekend. I was still coughing like an old man in the hospital. Green mucus in my eyes, ears, nose and throat. Chest pains (on the right side so I figured it wasn't a heart attack at least) which I assumed were from coughing so much, though a four year old jumping on my chest may not have helped either.


Even in my weakened state I couldn't resist the photo op! Michelle loves dressing up almost as much as I love dressing her up. I took several pictures of her by herself and I even got in a couple with her. I had a kitty Christmas shirt (I'm actually not sure if it's supposed to be a pajama top but I didn't care.)

We were both thrilled to have Michelle dolled up in her red Christmas dress to see Santa. She was so excited. She was going to ask Santa for Torch the Dragon (an animatronic dragon that breathes fire -- actually gives off mist from distilled water but it's a cute illusion. I told her that it was too expensive and a bad idea so I wouldn't get it for her but maybe Santa would.) Now was her chance to ask. I hoped that the line up wouldn't be too long but considering it was a Saturday and close to Christmas, the prognosis was looking pretty grim for Mama...

This was my favourite pose! The curtsy.  I love that Michelle cooperates with me now and doesn't fight me on getting photos. She actually seems to like the attention and doesn't mind modeling for me. She smiles and everything and even comes up with ideas for cute poses on her own.

Not everyone dresses their kids up to visit Santa but I figure, it's a total photo op so you might as well make the most of it.

I decided to head to Grandma's neck of the woods so I could take Mom out for some Christmas shopping as well. Also the mall near Grandma is a little nicer, with a better Santa photo op...The one year I'd gone to our local mall was a bit of a fiasco to say the least. Not that I always had much luck at either mall. One year I accidentally showed up on Dog Day (Santa was ONLY taking photos with dogs...What are the odds?!) Another year we arrived just as Santa had left for his lunch break (aka feeding the reindeer) and I had to work night-shift that night. Things are rarely easy. Especially at Christmas. Murphy's Law is usually in effect. "Figures. This could only happen to me!"

We waited in line for over an hour. I don't know if you've ever stood in line in a crowded mall waiting for Santa while you're sick with pneumonia but I wouldn't recommend it! I couldn't stop coughing. Random strangers ahead of us in line were giving me dirty looks because I was coughing. I was giving them dirty looks because they were ahead of me in line and extending my torment. I started mentally calculating how long it would take. Doing a head count multiplied by 5 minutes per kid... Meanwhile I was just waiting for someone to say something about my coughing. I started playing out the confrontation in my head: "You should be home in bed instead of exposing us to your germs!" and I would have launched into a single Mom tirade the likes of which they had never seen... "Oh NO YOU DIDN'T! Listen F*%ko! You think I WANT to be here?! I crawled here off my friggin DEATHBED because I'm a single Mom and there's no one else to take her but me! I'm not ruining Christmas for my kid!" But no one dared to say anything (not to my face anyway. Though I'm sure I heard a disgusted "Tsk" or two.)

Finally it was Michelle's turn and it was WORTH THE WAIT! She talked to Santa, smiled for the pictures! It was a roaring success! On top of the souvenir photo that the mall takes, I snapped several of my own. I was thrilled. This was photo gold! When Michelle was a baby she was terrified of Santa and I actually had to settle for a picture of myself holding her, crying, next to Santa. Now she is an outgoing girl and not nervous about talking to Santa at all. She smiles and talks with him. She even high fived him. And she made sure to tell him that she wanted Torch the Dragon for Christmas. (Coincidentally she actually asked Santa for a stuffed dragon last year and he complied!)

I figured it would be too much to ask to get Santa to look and smile as well. Considering he does this for hours each day with who knows how many kids it would be too much to expect him to smile the whole time. I was SO happy with Michelle that she smiled. I was relieved that we had survived the whole Santa visit thing and I just wanted to get back home. Unfortunately we still had to find Grandma in the mall before we could leave. Meandering through a crowded mall of Christmas shoppers while I'm sick is not my idea of a good time. I wound up getting a couple of things for Michelle. (As a kid when I went shopping with my Mom and asked for things, the answer was always "No!" so I tend to do the opposite with Michelle and pretty much get her everything she asks for. Within reason. If it only costs $5-10 why not?) I was grateful at least that most of my Christmas shopping was pretty much done. I wouldn't survive much more of this.

Nerd that I am, I even managed to grab a selfie with Michelle and Santa. We were off to the side after getting our souvenir photo and I held up my cellphone. Hilariously Santa even turned to look so I got him looking over our shoulders. This shot cracks me up. When I think of how awful I felt that day it's ironic how happy I look in this picture. I can't resist a photo op, even at my worst. You can't even tell how red my nose was. And that's the thing about photos. You smile and everything seems shiny and happy and perfect, regardless of how you actually felt. This is the Instagram generation. Everything is great! I have the photos to prove it! (Meanwhile dying inside!)

We decided to sit and have an ice cream while we waited for Grandma. I barely touched mine. (Dairy isn't a favourite somehow when your nose and throat are filled with mucus.) But it was nice to sit down for a minute and Michelle was thrilled. Plus, as a kid my Mom never let us have ice cream when we were out. Most of my decisions as a Mom are based on doing the opposite of what my Mom did (aka spoiling Michelle, coming from a place of Yes rather than No. My Mom's excuse would be that she had 4 kids and blah blah blah but honestly how do you say no when your kid wants ice cream at the mall?! It's inhuman!)

The next day was the Children's Christmas Party. If I had any sense I wouldn't have tried to go. (It should be clear by now that I don't have any sense!) I was sick. I had already pushed myself the day before with a trip to the mall. Plus it was a long drive and they were calling for snow. But a promise is a promise. I told Michelle I'd take her and I didn't want her to be disappointed. I will always put her happiness above my health and well-being. I gotta be me. Since this was the first work party I'd been to I really didn't know what to expect but I'd heard that they were great fun for the kids. Clowns can be a little creepy at times but this was a nice girl one so Michelle wasn't afraid and was happy to get her face painted with a little Christmas tree. She loved her purple poodle balloon too. They had activity tables set up for the kids, a room full of bouncy castles, a room full of presents and as I would soon learn, Santa was going to be visiting. "D'oh!" I had waited in line an hour to see a mall Santa when she was going to be seeing a Christmas party Santa anyway. Oh well. Two Santa visits in one weekend? Mama is a hero.

They had a photo booth set up with a table of funny hats. The booth wasn't working so I set the self timer and snapped a photo of the two of us anyway. I used to love those old fashioned photo booths in the mall where you'd squeeze in with your friend/boyfriend and do funny faces for a few different poses. That was the age before digital cameras/cellphones. Now that everyone has a camera phone they don't bother with those booths anymore. Booths in general have become obsolete -- photo booths, phone booths... I'm old school so I miss things like that. How would Clark Kent turn into Superman now?!
Then we sat down while Michelle wrote a letter to Santa. Of course she had already told him, in person, that she wanted a dragon, but you might as well put it in writing to make sure! They had little stickers you could add as well. They also had beads and accessories to make bracelets so Michelle made a red and white candy cane bracelet. She's good with patterns so she knows to alternate. Her printing is very good though she needed my help with spelling. I showed her how to write "Please bring me the dragon. Love, Michelle."

I would make sure to send her letter to the North Pole. (Even though we'd already seen Santa the day before and would be seeing him again later that afternoon. It was a very Santa-filled weekend!) No way Santa could forget her dragon after all these reminders!


At a fair once, Michelle refused to go in the bouncy castle because the fan was "too noisy." Well apparently the noise didn't bother her anymore now that she's a little older. Michelle had a BLAST jumping around the bouncy castle. She was running, bouncing and laughing her head off. It looked like so much fun I was <almost> tempted to join her. I tried to stifle my coughing as much as possible when I was around other people. I explained when people asked that I had pneumonia. While pneumonia is not contagious per se, the germs that you carry coughing and sneezing can still be passed on.

I had been invited to an adult party as well but decided I shouldn't inflict my presence on people there and ruin it for them. I shouldn't have gone to the kid's party either but I didn't want to disappoint Michelle so I toughed it out for her sake. Michelle's needs > Mama's needs. The truth is I would have loved to go to a grown up party since I don't have much of (read: ANY!) social life to speak of anymore but being sick I wasn't really up to it and I didn't think people would appreciate me coughing around them. Plus I don't drink and somehow being the one sick and sober person at a party didn't sound like the best idea...

Some kids were playing in the gym and Michelle wanted to try her hand at sports. She played a little hockey and basketball for fun. Her aim wasn't the best but she was enthusiastic and got lucky once in a while. Her biggest strength is running. She is FAST! She wanted me to play with her. I wasn't really feeling up to it but I gave it a go. I even managed to shoot a few hoops and actually got it in the net a couple of times! I don't think I've ever done that! Not even in high school.

All in all, Michelle had an AMAZING time at the party and seeing her happy more than made my suffering worth it.

We had pizza for lunch, picked up Michelle's gift and then we waited for the guest of honour to arrive...

Another day, another Santa! My camera(s) weren't cooperating this time so my shots were somewhat blurry and not the best. I was glad that the professional photographer caught this great souvenir pic anyway.

After the party we headed back to Grandma's so I could take Mom shopping again. Christmas was fast approaching and my Mom was panicking that she didn't have her shopping done yet. Since my parents don't have a car anymore it's much more difficult for Mom to get out to stores and she still had some things to cross off her list.

Unfortunately the snow storm had started. I worried that it would be a tricky drive back home that night. I had no idea just what I was in for...

Yes that's a Santa painted on my face. Amazing what I'll endure for my girl. I had asked for a snowman but it wound up being a Santa Claus which was cute too. Michelle loved it. Mama is nothing if not a good sport.

Completely exhausted, I couldn't wait to get home to bed. Unfortunately I would have to wait. The weather was horrendous. The one hour drive wound up taking more than two hours. And took years off my life...

I didn't have snow tires. I tried to avoid expenses where I could. I had gone years on bald tires with my old car so I figured normal tires on a fairly new car shouldn't be so bad. Unfortunately this year we seemed to get more snow than ever or maybe I was just on the road/the highway at the wrong time -- on a weekend, at night, before they had a chance to plow, salt or sand the roads. It was a trip through HELL!

There was a LOT of snow. You couldn't see the lines on the road so you had to guess where your lane was. My night vision isn't the best to start with so with giant snow flakes flying at the windshield it doesn't help. Traffic was terrible. It was so slippery I took it REALLY slow. Luckily EVERYONE was going slow. You didn't have much choice with so many cars barely moving. I was terrified. I can't stand the sensation of being out of control. I tried to keep my distance from the car ahead because even stepping on the brake lightly the car slid. Luckily Michelle was sound asleep so she couldn't see what I was going through -- stuck in heavy traffic, white knuckled, petrified, moving at a snail's pace because the road was so slippery the car was fish-tailing. I was praying that we'd make it home OK. I passed a couple of cars in the ditch. Some had spun out and were facing the wrong way down a deep ditch. "This is AWFUL!" I thought. It almost seemed like the end of the world, an Apocalypse of Snow. I had visions of the road and the whole sea of cars buried under snow.

I had a couple of close calls where the car was sliding and I couldn't control it. Thank God I didn't hit anyone. I was cursing myself that I didn't have snow tires! I had no idea it would be this bad. I was hoping we wouldn't get much snow and figured I'd just take it easy when we did. I wasn't prepared for this. Snow tires were so expensive and I had myself convinced it wasn't practical -- what would I do with my old tires? I heard that some people paid to store them somewhere. I figured snow tires are for rich people. I was a struggling single Mom. But the bottom line is that Michelle is my top priority and I didn't want to put her in danger. Having her in the car made me more nervous. "Please God let us get home safe!" Nothing could happen while she was in the car! I was relieved when we made it to our exit off the highway. Little did I know things would be even worse on the side roads...

You don't realize how steep the roads actually are until you are trying to go up them, in the snow, without snow tires! My car couldn't make it up the hill. The tires were squealing, the back end was fish-tailing. It was sliding and squealing and I was getting a little symbol on my dashboard warning me that the car was sliding. "You THINK?!" I exclaimed, "thanks for the tip!" People were honking at me and trying to go around me. I wasn't even in the right lane. I was in the middle of the road trying desperately to inch up but the tires wouldn't grip in the deep snow. I was horrified. I was shaking. The stress, on top of the coughing and exhaustion was almost unbearable. My chest tightened. This was fight or flight, full on PANIC MODE. Somehow I made it up the hill. And the next one. "Why are there so damn many hills?!" I thought. I tried to think of a different route home. I'd never paid attention to how steep the streets were before. I guess it could be worse. At least it's not San Francisco, CA (I'm pretty sure they don't get snow! Well there was that one time in 1932...) but GHEESH!

Somehow we made it home alive. Somehow I carried sleeping Michelle (who is 48 lbs but feels like 100 lbs when asleep and in her coat and boots) up to bed. Then I sank to the floor and wept out of sheer exhaustion and relief. I called my Mom to let her know that we had finally made it home. "I'm going to have to get snow tires though," I told Mom, "I CAN'T go through that again! EVER!"


Whether it was the stress (SHEER TERROR!) of the night before or the ravages of the cough, the next morning I had severe chest pains (on the right side at least, not the left) and trouble breathing. The antibiotics hadn't worked and I needed a new prescription. On top of that I thought chest pain and breathing problems probably warranted another trip to the doctor. The problem was that my doctor was an hour away and I refused to drive in the snow again. So now I had to somehow get snow tires AND book a doctor's appointment while I was coughing and having trouble breathing. Good times. I toyed with the idea of calling 9-1-1 and having an ambulance take me to the hospital but that seemed a bit dramatic and I was worried what an ambulance trip might cost. Besides, everyone knew that the chest pain would be on the LEFT side if it was your heart, right?!

I don't know when people normally buy snow tires. Sensible people probably get them in the Fall before the first snowflake even falls. Then there are the desperate last minute scramblers like myself who thought they could avoid it but cave after a bad snowstorm nearly kills them. I got out the phone book (I know, right?! I'm OLD SCHOOL!) and looked online for some tire dealers and started working my way down the list. It was discouraging to the say the least. I thought of Canadian Tire first but they only had expensive top of the line tires left in my size (my car's size that is!) plus they wanted to keep my car there all day and charge me to rent a car. I wasn't in love with that idea. Unfortunately every other place I called either the line was constantly busy or they wanted $1000 or they had a line-up out the door or they were sold out. I didn't know what to do.

Finally I was in tears. I was speaking to one guy and blurted out my situation: "Look. Is there anything you can do to help me? I'm a broke single Mom. I can't afford expensive snow tires. I have pneumonia. I'm having chest pain and trouble breathing. I need to see my doctor but she's an hour away and I'm terrified to drive in the snow again because I nearly got killed trying to drive home on the highway last night!' Yeah. I could imagine how pathetic I sounded. I didn't care. I was desperate. "Sorry Ma'am. Wish I could help you. Good luck..." Finally I figured I'd call Canadian Tire and go the expensive tire/rental car route. A major bonus with going to Canadian Tire was that they had a NO FEE NO INTEREST payment plan where you use your MasterCard and make monthly payments instead of paying all at once. That sounded extremely appealing! So I called and got an appointment. Now I just had to make it to the store alive! I was a nervous wreck. I had to wipe tears from my eyes when I was there. They filled out the paperwork and got me my rental car. "Does IT have snow tires?" I asked "or I'll be afraid to drive IT!" I'm always nervous in a strange car, especially in the snow but I just had to make it back home. Then I called the doctor to make an appointment. I told them the situation and they squeezed me in the next day.

So the following day I dropped Michelle off at school, dropped off the rental car and picked up my car with its new snow tires. I was pleasantly surprised that the old tires fit nicely in the trunk and weren't as heavy as I'd imagined. Even with trouble breathing/chest pain I managed to put them away in the garage and headed to the doctor.

After all I'd been through my nerves were SHOT. Feeling pretty fragile I was trying to hold it together at the doctor's office. Unfortunately there were sentimental Christmas carols playing in the waiting room. "I'll be home for Christmas..." and it was like a knife through my heart. I kept my sunglasses on and tried to hold back tears. My lip quivering. I tried to be inconspicuous but people glanced over at me when I went into a coughing fit. At least at home you can cough up the green mucus and be rid of it. In public you're sort of stuck with it. Hawking and spitting is frowned upon in civilized society. Especially for a lady. Now it hurt so bad every time I coughed I thought my ribs were cracked "This is just cruel." I thought, "I can't take anymore." As soon as I stepped into my doctor's office the dam burst. Through sobs I told her all that I'd been going through, still sick with pneumonia, then the scary drive in the snow, chest pains, getting the snow tires etc. "But you did it!" she said "No matter how bad you felt you still managed to get it all done." She made me feel better. By the end of the visit I was even laughing through tears. I told her about my trouble breathing and pain in my ribs. I'd been coughing so much I asked her if it's possible to crack your ribs coughing. She said yes unfortunately it is but that there's nothing you can do about it. You can't put a cast on it. It just has to heal on its own. This was not good news.

She gave me a prescription for a different anti-biotic this time since the last one had no effect. Again I had to pay $35. I hoped this one would help at least. I was so sick and tired of being sick and tired. I felt like I'd been through a war. Emotionally and physically ravaged.

Then it seemed like things were turning around. The second antibiotic seemed to be working. I started to feel better! My coughing and other symptoms lessened. I had more energy. I was sleeping at night. I wasn't 100% but now it just felt like a mild cold. This was wonderful! I figured I'd be all better in time for Christmas. The doctor prescribed me a week's worth of pills. and booked an appointment for me to see her in a week and see how I was doing.

Though I felt great for a few days, unfortunately by the end of the week the antibiotics brought with them a new symptom -- antibiotic diarrhea. We're talking EXPLOSIVE, OUT OF MY WAY I HAVE THE *RUNS*! RUN!!! Now this wouldn't be so bad if I was just at home and could run to my own bathroom. Unfortunately on one day when this occurred, I was out Christmas shopping with my Mom. One minute I was walking around, feeling a little weak/listless but OK otherwise. All of a sudden, out of nowhere. I HAD TO GO. I had to go like there was no tomorrow! Unfortunately there were a couple of challenges in my way: 1) the public bathroom was way on the opposite end of the store 2) It was locked and you had to buzz for a store attendant to let you in. I don't know what sort of panicked look I must have had on my face by the time a clerk let me in. I *almost* managed to make it to the toilet in time. Like a volcano trying to hold back an eruption, it was a valiant effort on my part, I thought. Sphincter muscles: A+! The tiny stain/skid mark was a testament to my extraordinary restraint. It was a close one though. Too close. I almost wished I'd been wearing Depends. After a rather violent anal exorcism (and the toilet WOULDN'T FLUSH PROPERLY! AWESOME! Because I haven't been through quite enough indignity!) I exited the bathroom feeling more weak and listless but ready (I thought) to move on with my life. I just wanted to find my Mom and get the hell out of there ASAP and go lie down because I felt faint. Then another wave hit me. LIKE A TSUNAMI! My insides, churning and burning. I didn't know if I could hold it back a second time. And I was almost in tears because now I had to run to the other end of the store AGAIN and buzz for someone to let me in the bathroom AGAIN! And thank goodness there were two stalls because one of the toilets was out of order (thanks to yours truly!) To say it was a nightmare would be an understatement. Then I found my Mom and whispered what I had gone through and explained that I had to get the HELL out of there before I died either of embarrassment or dehydration. Or both. Fun times. But at least I got to hear the soothing tones of Christmas carols as a background soundtrack to my little excursion through hell. "Well the weather outside is FRIGHTFUL but the fire is so DELIGHTFUL..." (Sorry, I know this is way TMI but I wear my heart on my sleeve so why not my colon? That didn't come out right. Nor should it.)

After weeks of not eating much more than soup followed by days of diarrhea, not surprisingly I wound up losing weight. I got down to the lowest I had been since before being pregnant! I was thrilled! Usually every winter I wind up GAINING 10-20 lbs (and I did actually put on a few pounds in November after binge eating chocolate bars after Trump was elected President.) Now I had actually LOST weight in the winter because of being sick. Every dark cloud has a silver lining. So when I went to see the doctor, it was in a healthier, happier mood. The doctor was relieved to see me this way instead of falling apart like last time. We wished each other Merry Christmas. I was feeling good. I was on the mend. I still had a slight lingering cough/cold but nowhere near what it had been. Or so I thought...

It would be too much to expect me to actually have a Merry Christmas without being sick, wouldn't it? (It hasn't happened in years. Somehow I ALWAYS wind up sick on Christmas. Sometimes the whole family is sick.)

Christmas in our big crazy family is CHAOTIC. A lot of people, a lot of presents. My Mom was concerned there was no way we would fit in the car with all of us and the presents to head to my sister's on Christmas day. So I made a trip to drop off a load of presents at May's ahead of time. Michelle was thrilled to have a visit at Auntie May's. She always says it's her favourite place in the world. She loves playing with her cousin Reggie. There's so much room to run around and they have a play room full of toys in the basement. May and Shane had their tree up. It wasn't quite as massive as some years (some years it was two stories high and so wide that they couldn't fit the couch in the room anymore!) but still bigger than your average Christmas tree! Michelle was so excited for Christmas and now that I was feeling a little better I was getting into the Christmas spirit too. I didn't even change the channel anymore when carols came on the radio. Sometimes I even sang along.

Unfortunately Michelle was still sick off and on with a cold and cough. Never quite as bad as mine but still a nuisance. Then Michelle even got a 24 hour bug where she was throwing up. That was hell on earth. Cleaning vomit out of the bed 10 times took years off my life. I had a bowl by the bed but sometimes I just couldn't catch it in time. So you tear off the sheets to wash them, AGAIN. I was running out of clean sheets. It was an endless cycle -- rinse in sink, washer, dryer. Another set. Rinse in sink, washer, dryer. Michelle had a fever too. I was so worried I even called Telehealth. They had me conduct a test to make sure Michelle didn't have meningitis. Thankfully she didn't. She was alert and responded to my commands. It was just a fever and throwing up. I put a cool cloth on her head. I didn't sleep that night. I lay there and watched her nervously. My eye was twitching. I cried quietly. It's awful being sick yourself but there's NOTHING worse than when your kid is sick. The next day I just gave her water and juice, then a bit of soup and a bit of toast to eat. I was so relieved when she was better. She wound up missing a few days of school and most upsetting she had to miss the night of her school's Christmas concert. Photoholic that I am it broke my heart to miss a potential photo op -- Michelle up on stage singing with her class. I was just glad when Michelle was feeling better. I would definitely never forget this Winter. It seemed like a never ending nightmare -- you think you're over one thing and the next one starts. I was hoping now the worst was behind us and we could just enjoy Christmas together as a family.

I can always count on laughing at May's place! No matter what is going on in my life, they always manage to cheer me up!

Shannon and I played with some Christmas apps on her phone. The reindeer were my faves. the Santa beard and shades was a little weird... I really wish I had the app on my phone but then I suppose I'd be playing with it all day and get nothing done! It just never gets old!

It was a good day. And for a couple of days I was REALLY getting into the Christmas spirit. I found myself singing Christmas songs. And then I got some great news from Michelle's teacher: they were doing the Christmas Concert again in the afternoon during the school day and I was invited to come! So Michelle would get to sing and I'd get to watch the whole thing (and take photos!) I was over the moon! Michelle was a bit less enthused. She sounded nervous about the concert. I thought she would have loved the opportunity to sing on stage but she seemed to have stage fright. Maybe because she hadn't been in school and didn't even get a chance to rehearse. Still, when she heard I was going to be there, she was excited.

Michelle was happy to spot me in the audience. I was thrilled I got to watch the concert. Each class did their own song/performance. I thought the kindergarten classes would have gone first and the older kids later but it was actually the reverse so I had to wait until the end to see Michelle sing with her class. It was adorable of course. I was in FULL Christmas spirit mode now! It seemed like the dark days were behind me. I still had a bit of a runny nose but nothing compared to what I had been through. Now we would have a healthy, happy Christmas...Right?!

Michelle was stoked for Christmas! I got some silly Santa hats and reindeer antlers at the dollar store and got some photos of us posing in front of the tree. I even had mini reindeer antlers for Ali but the cat wasn't impressed and they didn't show up very well in the photo anyway.

I let Michelle open some of her presents ahead. I had quite a few things for her because I'd started buying months and months earlier -- anytime I saw something go on sale that she'd asked for, I'd pick it up. She's so easy to buy for -- buying toys is fun, especially for a girl. There are so many cute/pretty toys it's hard to resist. I even like them myself (I always had a thing for dolls -- Barbie especially.) Now I get to live vicariously through Michelle and play with toys with her. We sang Christmas carols. We watched Christmas movies. We were psyched!

I love Michelle's smile here! And we even got Ali to look at the camera. This was a cellphone selfie. I often don't have luck with them, without a flash the pictures are often blurry but these ones turned out. I figured out how to use wi-fi at home so I could post pictures on Instagram.

Unfortunately after a few days without antibiotics, I was sick again. I didn't know whether it was the same cough/cold/pneumonia or whether I'd caught something else but now it was mostly a cold. It's like the green mucus had moved from my lungs but now it was in my nose. Great. Looked like I'd be having a green Christmas after all.

So on top of singing "Rudolph the red nosed reindeer" I got to BE Rudolph with a red nose. I had a cold. This was ridiculous. How could this be happening? I thought I was getting better! How could I get worse again?! Then I started to worry I'd actually created a superbug by overusing antibacterial gel. (I'm OCD and tend to use antibacterial wipes and gel often at work, in the car etc.) At home I wash my hands 100 times a day but when I'm out and can't always get to soap and water, I use gel. What if between the antibiotics and antibacterial gel I had created a bug that was immune to anything?! Maybe I would have been better off rolling around in dirt and never washing my hands than being a germophobe that ironically drew germs to me like a magnet! They say you shouldn't use antibacterial gel but what am I supposed to do when I pump gas and then have to eat something in the car? (I commute A LOT. If I didn't eat in the car I would starve to death!)

So, red nose. Even my eyes were a little red. I would wake up in the morning with my eyes crusted shut. I still had green mucus in my nose and throat. Now it was in my eyes too. And I had a slight ringing in my ears. (It was NOT jingle bells!) WTF?! Hadn't I been through enough?! I would have gone to see the doctor again but now it was Christmas I'd have to wait. The last time I saw her I told her I was getting better because I really thought I was but it didn't last! This was too much. I couldn't take anymore. I'd been too sick for too long. I was sick of it! Enough is a enough!

Somehow I still smiled for the photos and for Michelle's sake. Because you have to. And the beauty of photos is you can fake it for an instant. You can't really tell how sick and miserable I was. RED nose and eyes, GREEN mucus, I guess being ill was festive in its own way...
To cheer myself up I made one of those "Elf Yourself" videos. It's become sort of a tradition every Christmas now. Every year Staples has a free site where you can add your photo to create an Elf video. You can pay to purchase the video (and I don't know why I've never done it!) or just have the free one until it expires in January. I snapped a photo of the video at least to have as a souvenir. I made elves of Michelle, Ali and I. I got a chuckle out of it anyway and Michelle laughed her head off. 

I let Michelle open her presents from me on Christmas Eve day. Christmas day would be too busy/chaotic with the family and there wouldn't be time. I wanted her to take her time opening them and be able to enjoy/play with her new toys without me having to say "Hurry up! We've got to leave for Auntie May's!"

Michelle loved her presents. I didn't realize how carried away I had actually gotten until I went to bring them all downstairs to put under the tree. I just kept stockpiling things as I got them and putting them aside in the guest room (aka the "present room.") Once I went to wrap them I thought "Whoa. I may have overbought." But most things were inexpensive/on sale.


Michelle never tires of stuffies even though she has so many already. Michelle has an extensive collection of teddy bears, stuffed cats, bunnies, unicorns, you name it. Some she inherited from me (yes I collected stuffies myself even BEFORE I had a child. "I don't want to grow up. I'm a Toys R Us kid!") others we picked up along the way. Michelle loves stuffed animals. She's very affectionate and always has one to hug going to bed. She always brings one along to school, for car rides etc. Some kids have a comfort blankie, she has comfort animals. And which one is her fave changes all the time. She's a fickle girl. Sometimes it's a bear, other times it's a stuffed cat or a bunny. You just never know who will become her new inanimate best friend to take with her everywhere.

Of course Michelle's favourite cuddly animal isn't a stuffie but her real furry sister, Ali! Ali is a big cat. She weighs almost as much as Michelle (I got her a diet food but she just eats twice as much of it!)

Michelle loves dogs too. She has asked about having a dog and I told her it would be impossible with my schedule. Dogs are very needy, almost like children. Cats are more independent. You leave them food and water (Ali has endless feeders that would last a month or at least a couple of weeks) and a litter box and they're good to go. Of course they like affection and attention sometimes too (on their terms!) but they can at least be trusted alone for a day without destroying the place.

I snapped a lot of pictures. Many of them were blurry or had Michelle with tissue paper in front of her face but sometimes I actually got lucky and caught a smile. My Mom would say that I'm spoiling her but Michelle is so sweet and always so grateful for everything that it makes me want to do things for her. Besides I get to play with her toys too! So it's like they're for both of us. Honestly I have more fun shopping at Toys R Us than anywhere else. To me, kids are what make Christmas fun. She won't be a child forever so why not enjoy it as long as it lasts? I remember being a kid and being so excited for Christmas. As you grow up you start to lose that. Although I guess there are adult versions of "toys" they're usually expensive electronics and honestly nothing ever quite elicits the same thrill as you felt getting toys as a kid. Most adult presents are more practical than fun. Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking a cozy pair of pajamas or socks but honestly how excited can you get about a pair of socks?

One thing Michelle had asked me for were Qixels. I was reluctant to get them because to me they didn't really make sense to me. Her cousin Reggie had them. They're these little plastic beads and you put them together in a design and then spray it with water so that they glue together. Then you have these flat pixelated (is that even a word? Spell check is saying no...) things. So I wasn't impressed but then I saw them on sale and thought "Well, she did ASK for them..." A lot of the things she asked for she'd seen in commercials. Marketing at its best. One thing she'd asked for that I wasn't able to give her was a Hatchimal. I asked several times in several different stores and they had been sold out everywhere and no one was getting more in before Christmas. I didn't know what the company's (Spin Master, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada apparently!) problem was. How do you have a sell-out product and then MISS THE CHRISTMAS MARKET! Would you not do everything in your power to manufacture and ship them ASAP to cash in on CHRISTMAS SALES?! Dudes, I don't want to tell you how to run your business but COME ON! (I actually heard later that there were some problems with them -- the robot creatures being defective, not hatching from their eggs etc so I guess they had some bugs to work out but still. I also heard that the company chose to ship all that they had to the US market so that Canada was shafted -- how's that for loyalty? I still can't comprehend it. I mean I don't know much about the manufacturing process but I would imagine if I had a sell-out product that millions of people wanted I would DO EVERYTHING WITHIN MY POWER TO MAKE MORE AND GET THEM INTO STORES for the biggest sales period of the year! We're talking CHRISTMAS! It's now or never! I was so relieved Michelle didn't ask Santa for a Hatchimal because apparently even Santa himself couldn't have gotten his hands on one!

Michelle had a ball opening her presents. It took quite a while. Then she had fun playing with them. I told her we'd be going to Auntie May's the next day for Christmas and there she'd get her presents from the rest of the family -- Grandma and Grandpa, Auntie May, Uncle Chris and Christina, Uncle Mike and Auntie Barb. I knew it would be sheer anarchy with so many people and so much going on. It was nice to have a day to celebrate Christmas with just the two of us and then another Christmas with the whole gang. I just wished that I was feeling better. It was so frustrating when I thought I was on the mend and then it only lasted a couple of days.

I was so exhausted by the time we got to Christmas Eve that I couldn't wait to get to sleep. I still read "Twas the Night Before Christmas" which is a family tradition. Mom used to read/recite it to us every year and now I do it. I was also thrilled to hear Michelle read a story entirely by herself! A friend in her class gave her a book about a puppy at Christmas. It's a level 2 reader but Michelle got all through it (with a little help from me) sounding words out. I was so proud of her! She started off reading simple books with one or two words per page and then worked her way up to books with a sentence or two per page. I was ecstatic! Seeing your child start to READ ON HER OWN is one of the most exciting moments as a parent! I am SO PROUD of her! I'm amazed at what she can draw and read and write at 4 years old. I'd like to think I can take some of the credit because I was reading to her even before she was born and she has loved books since she was a baby. I figured it's never too early to read to your child. My Mom read to me in utero and she thinks that's what started my love of words/writing. (Thousands of poems, songs, some stories and of course this blog!)
Michelle was excited for Christmas morning. Would Santa come? Would he bring the Dragon she had asked for?  She was concerned that because we didn't have a fireplace maybe Santa wouldn't be able to get in. I explained that not everyone has a fireplace but that Santa finds a way.  And sure enough, when we went downstairs Christmas morning there were presents under the tree for Michelle and I from Santa! Michelle was SO EXCITED! 

Yes Michelle got her Dragon! She loved it. I had to admit Torch was pretty cute. He moved his little head around and made adorable baby dragon noises. His mouth lit up and some mist came out that looked like smoke. Michelle wanted to bring him with us to Auntie May's but I explained that he might get broken and it wouldn't be a good idea to bring him out in the cold and snow. She could play with him again when we got back home. I told her she could bring a soft toy with her for the trip but not a robot. Besides she'd have other new toys at May's and we'd have enough things to have to transport back home after.

I took a lot of photos of Michelle with her dragon but this is my favourite. I love her smile here and I caught the dragon just a the moment that his mouth is glowing red and it looks like he's breathing fire! (Luckily I had C batteries and distilled water handy! Not included! Santa doesn't think of everything!)


Then we headed to May's for the big Pincivero Christmas celebration. I wanted to get a picture posing with the presents before they were all torn apart. In my imagination, people would take turns opening their gifts in a calm and orderly fashion, everyone watching as one person at a time opened one present at a time. Of course that would take forever. Instead it was anarchy -- a blur of everyone opening everything at once. It was tough for a photoholic like me trying to capture the moment when there were too many moments happening all at once. And then, within moments, it was over.

I have the best sister in the world! May got me a Happy Light -- a special light to help me with my Seasonal Affective Disorder. I was so moved. I had thought about getting one for myself but didn't. It was so thoughtful. I hoped that it would help. Fall and Winter are always tough on me. The lack of sunlight translates into a lack of energy and depression. I had read that having a light that simulates sunlight can make a big difference. Years ago when I'd gone tanning in the winter I found that just a few minutes under those bright lights made me feel like I'd been in the sun and it was a HUGE mood boost on a dark winter's day. I hoped it would be something like that. Maybe there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Literally. Of course May IS my happy light a lot of the time. She's the one who can usually cheer me up when no one and nothing else can. But she can't be there ALL the time. So at least now I have a light I can plug and help me on those dark winter mornings so I don't have to call May EVERY DAY!

Of course if you follow my blog then you know I ALWAYS insist on getting the group photo for every occasion and let me tell you -- it is NOT EASY with this big group! People usually grumble about posing but it is not negotiable! Everyone must attend! It's a challenge but we did it and we're all looking and most of us smiling. Since most of them wouldn't be seeing my dad for his birthday too we did a combination Christmas and birthday celebration for Dad. One of the downfalls of having a birthday close to another occasion -- you kind of get lumped in with it. I always have separate Christmas and birthday presents for Dad though. It wouldn't be fair to do a two-for-one.

And naturally I always have to get the group shot with the cake, even though sometimes the candles look like they're going to burn down by the time the camera clicks. It's not easy trying to sing Happy Birthday, set up the timer, count to 10 and then run to pose all at the same time but someone has to do it!

"Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear Da-add (Grandpa/Tony/etc) Happy Birthday to you!" (Whoever wrote this song is a genius by the way. Imagine if they could actually collect royalties on it!)

Michelle and I still saw Grandpa on his actual birthday. I was feeling pretty rough.The cold portion of my cough/cold/pneumonia/illness since November was in full force. My nose was stuffed and my eyes were red and sore. As long as the pictures weren't too close up you couldn't see quite how red my eyes or nose were.

It had been a rough go but at least we had made it through December! 2016 (horrible year that it was for a number of reasons!) was ending. January was a new start. I was hopeful that 2017 would bring brighter days ahead...

Shannon had outgrown her pink and purple phase and wanted to paint her room a more muted periwinkle. May and Shannon asked if I would help them paint. I like painting walls as well as canvases so I said OK even though I was still sick and feeling pretty rough. It wasn't as though resting at home in bed was an option anyway. Michelle was off school for Christmas break and wanted me to play with her all the time. She was up early every morning and wouldn't let me sleep. So I might as well be doing something useful. Going to May's is one of the only breaks I get from Michelle because she goes off to play with Reggie and doesn't need me to entertain her. I loved Shannon's room when we were done. The pink and purple phase must be something all girls go through. Michelle wants to paint her room pink and purple. I may do it in the Spring when it's warm enough to open the windows. I'll try anything if it will make Michelle sleep in her own room which still hasn't happened...

When I still wasn't getting better I made yet another trip to the doctor and got another batch of antibiotics, this time for 10 days. This time, sadly, they did NOTHING. The doctor explained that if it's a viral infection, the antibiotics won't help. But it was worth a shot. The doctor listened to my lungs and the "crackle" was gone. So the pneumonia was gone. This was something else now. A cold? A viral infection? "So you mean to tell me I hadn't even fully recovered from being sick with pneumonia and I went and CAUGHT SOMETHING ELSE ON TOP OF IT?! How is that fair? Like can your body not cut you some slack?! Oh she's already sick, let's not bother her with SOMETHING ELSE! Don't I have an immune system AT ALL?!" I thought this was the same never-ending illness and it just kept changing. Instead, maybe I was sick with several different things! The doctor tried to explain how stress and sleep deprivation can weaken your immunity so that it's more difficult to fight things off. "Stress and Sleep Deprivation is the story of my life!" I said. Aside from all the stress and chaos of the Christmas season and being sick I was also grappling with changes and new challenges at work. I would be working many more hours/days, commuting a lot more. I didn't even know how I was going to do it. Even at the best of health it would be tough. Being sick, it seemed insurmountable. Logistically and in many ways, my life was getting much more complicated, much more exhausting. This was not good news for someone who was already hanging by less than a thread. The only good news was that at least I was going to have benefits from now on so my next prescription would be almost free. Woo hoo. Free meds! That don't help anyway...

After a few particularly exhausting days out of town traveling, working etc I was relieved to finally return home. All I wanted was to crawl into my cozy bed and go to sleep. I carried Michelle up to bed (which is always a feat but when I'm bone tired and sick as a dog, it nearly kills me.) As I went to take my coat off I realized how cold the house felt. It was weird. It was very cold OUTSIDE. We'd fallen on some of the coldest days of the winter,  like 5 F (-15 Celsius.) But it shouldn't be this cold INSIDE. I went to check the thermostat. I had it turned down to 65 Fahrenheit when I left the house a few days earlier. It was now at 45 F! (That's 7 Celsius for you metric folks...) Yeah pretty cold for the indoors! WTF?! I couldn't believe it. Of all the times for the furnace to break down on the COLDEST DAY OF THE WINTER?! ARE YOU FRIGGIN KIDDING ME?! So I went down to the basement. I flipped the furnace switch in the control panel off and on. Maybe there had been a power failure? I switched the furnace off and on. (Because truly, the extent of my skills as a techie or handyman are turning it off and on and hoping that fixes the problem! If that doesn't work, I'm stumped.) At first it sounded like the furnace was working. "PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE GIVE ME HEAT!" I went and checked the vents. Nope. Cold air. Not warm air. I couldn't believe it. Hadn't I been through enough?! I'd been through pneumonia now I had a freezing house! It was a fairly new house. with a Lennox furnace (I thought they were supposed to be reliable.) How was this possible?! I called the number of the company on the furnace. I spoke to a woman who said that someone would get back to me in 2-4 hours. "I have a child here. It's winter. Please. It's an emergency." "Yes." the woman said, "I understand. Someone will call you." But she didn't understand. How could she understand what it was like to be a single Mom who was beyond exhausted after working 14 hour days; who was beyond drained after months of battling pneumonia/cold/cough/flu and God knows what; and who now came home to a freezing cold house and would be up with bloodshot eyes all night now when ALL I WANTED MORE THAN ANYTHING WAS TO GET SOME SLEEP?! It was close to midnight and I was exhausted but I was too stressed out to sleep anyway so I sat up and waited. For a call that never came...Not within two to four hours anyway. 

Michelle at least was sound asleep all cozy under the blankets and completely oblivious to what I was going through. I finally cried myself to sleep with the phone next to me. The next morning a repair guy called me and said I had misunderstood. The woman had said someone would call me within TWENTY FOUR HOURS not two to four. Nice. So they would leave a woman and child to freeze to death and call like a day later. That's comforting. Turns out that although my furnace was fairly new it was somehow, bafflingly (spell check says that is not a word. I say screw you spellcheck! It SHOULD be a word!) NOT covered under warranty and they suggested I call a local repair place instead because they were far away and would take forever to get there. Thanks for nothing! I called my Mom and sister for moral support. They both thought I should keep calling repair places and get someone to come ASAP but I'd had it. I needed an escape. 

Before any of this furnace nonsense I had promised Michelle we would go to the movies to see "Sing" that weekend.  It was a cute and funny animated film about a quirky bunch of animals in a singing competition. I figured we might as well go somewhere warm anyway and I needed to forget my problems for a couple of hours. Plus I figured I'd go to a nearby Walmart afterward and buy blankets and a heater (I didn't even have a space heater!) to keep us warm while we waited for a repair guy (who may or may not show up within 24 hours!) So we went to the movie and we loved it! You know a movie is entertaining when it makes you laugh in spite of the fact that your furnace is broken in the dead of winter! Afterward we got supplies at Walmart and headed home. I called a local furnace repair place and they were great. The guy was quite sympathetic and was there in under an hour! Apparently it was a switch that had to be replaced. I was so happy and grateful to feel heat wafting from the vents again! Unfortunately it wound up costing me close to $400 which I needed like a hole in the head after Christmas but what are you gonna do? Sh%$ happens. Especially to me apparently. At the end of the day, you have to be grateful for what you have. Certain things -- like having a warm place to stay -- we tend to take for granted. But I tell you that night I appreciated the heat like never before! The relief bordered on euphoria! And I had the best sleep I'd had in several months! Now if only something REALLY GOOD would happen for a change!

I had also promised Michelle that I'd take her to the indoor playground that weekend. She had a ball. I sat in a corner feeling sorry for myself and trying to hide my red eyes and runny nose. I watched Michelle running around and laughing. I envied her youth and enthusiasm. I envied that she got to just play and have fun while someone else got to take care of things and do all the work and the worrying. I missed being a kid. I missed having someone to take care of things. I wished there was someone to take care of me or even a partner to help.

At one point a girl fell and got hurt. She was sitting in the middle of the floor crying. I wanted to help. I asked her where her Mom was. "I don't have a Mom!" the girl cried. "Well your dad then? Who are you here with?" "My dad," she said. There was no sign of him. I asked what he looked like and what his name was. His name was Bob and he was wearing a hat. I went around asking random hat-wearing men (there were surprisingly quite a few of them!) whether their name was Bob. In the back of my mind I thought this might have actually been a good opener to meet a single dad if I didn't look and feel like hell. After asking three men who weren't Bob I started to feel stupid and gave up. "Sorry honey. I can't find him. Hopefully he comes soon..." Eventually the weeping girl's father wandered over from across the room where he had been texting on his phone, oblivious to his child's distress (OK I'm trying to be non-judgemental but I'm a helicopter parent so I'm hovering! And yeah don't worry I'll check on your crying children while you're texting on the other side of the room!) I almost wanted to tell him off. "Um you're daughter was crying for quite a while and you were NOWHERE TO BE FOUND. Someone could have WALKED OUT WITH HER and you wouldn't even know!" But I didn't bother to say anything. I just shrugged and went back to my corner chair (which thankfully hadn't been taken in my absence). The reality is that out of the 100 parents there, roughly 97% were texting on their cellphones and not watching their kids. Not too many were neurotically trying to follow their child's every move like I was. For a while even I tried to look like a casual, hip parent and text on my phone, so I messaged my sister. I couldn't keep up the pretence of smug nonchalance however and still kept looking up to check on Michelle. Blue slide. Yellow slide. On the ropes. And any time I heard a kid cry I made sure it wasn't her. But that's just me. I guess it's different for everyone. Especially Bobs in hats. (It's a slight generalization but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that more often than not dads tend to be a little less attentive than moms. But I know there are exceptions to every rule so please, doting dads, don't send me hate mail! This is just what I have observed at various locations with kids and parents! If you are a friendly doting dad and single however, feel free to send me mail! I'm sort of kidding! Not...)

Michelle and I played table hockey and I let her win of course because that's just what I do. At some point I should probably stop because she's getting too overconfident and thinking she's invincible (or that Mom's a loser, or a combination of the two!) It was just so cute watching her face light up when she got a goal. Ordinarily I would rather have a root canal than play hockey but anything to make Michelle happy. And table hockey isn't quite as bad.

I'm not into sports myself but I will support Michelle 100% in whatever she wants to do. I just hope that she leans more toward ballet and gymnastics than say hockey/soccer. Michelle has so many interests I think she could do just about anything. She has a lot more confidence than I did as a kid (or as an adult for that matter!) I was always plagued with self-doubt, telling myself I couldn't do things. I hope Michelle always believes in herself and doesn't let anything hold her back. Then she can take on the world!

I took several pictures of Michelle but I always like to get a couple of us together. Setting up the timer is tricky in a crowded place. You set it down, count backwards from 10 and hope for the best. But of course sometimes you end up photobombed. Sure enough. The coast was clear but then some random kid managed to run right in front of the camera just as it clicked. We still managed to fit in the frame behind his head. I like Michelle's expression and how her foot is curled up for no reason whatsoever.

Most people look at me like I have three heads when I pull out my old school Nikon camera to set the timer. Anyone else just holds up their cellphone camera at an arm's length for a selfie. It's just not the same to me. They're too close up and usually blurry and/or unflattering. I gotta be me. I am a dinosaur. I will carry my Nikon as long as I can (scratched lens and all.) It's in my purse everywhere I go! You never know when a photo op may happen. Be prepared!

I adore Michelle's artwork. To cheer me up one day she made this "birthday" picture for me. "Happy Birthday Mama!" Michelle exclaimed.
"Well thank you sweetheart but... it's not my birthday for several months," I explained.
"I just want you to be HAPPY Mama!"
"Thank you baby, YOU make me happy." A very merry unbirthday to me! I wished I could be like the Mom in the picture: To be all smiles and rainbow hair... Unfortunately most of the time I was feeling weary and anxious and things kept happening to stress me out even further. And my thin hair seems to get thinner by the day. (Post-partum alopeica I've been told. And STRESS doesn't help...)

Then I had a bit of a breakdown at work. I was running on less than empty. Still sick, no sleep, stressed to the max, working more hours. I just couldn't take anymore. Someone asked how I was doing and as soon as I tried to talk about my life I started to lose it. It's like you could have knocked me over with a feather. I was already on the edge and it didn't take much to push me. I started to cry and I couldn't stop. I couldn't work in that state and wound up going home sick. The next day my eyes were COMPLETELY RED. I looked like a monster. I called my doctor and got an appointment right away.

I broke into sobs as soon as I walked into her office. I was rambling a mile a minute: "How can you tell if you're having a nervous breakdown? Maybe I'm having one? I'm just spent. I can't sleep. I'm stressed about work and finances and then my furnace broke on the coldest day and I'm still sick since November and it never goes away it just changes and now my eyes are completely red, I look like a monster and there's still green mucus in my eyes, nose and throat and a weird ringing in my ears and can I get something for my eyes and the antibiotics don't work and..." The doctor suggested I take some time to recuperate, try to relax and get some rest. She also assured me I didn't quite look like a monster but she gave me a prescription for eye drops to clear up the infection. She told me it sounded like I had a lot to deal with but that I would get through it. She also gave me a wonderful compliment that helped me a lot. "You have a lovely little girl and you've done an amazing job with her. You should be proud of that." It meant a lot to hear that from my doctor. I mean my Mom says it but she's my MOM! What else is she going to say? (Actually Mom is pretty negative and always finding fault so it is nice to get compliments from her too!) The last time the doctor had seen Michelle she was impressed by how well-spoken, polite and bright Michelle was. Sure my life might be a bit of a disaster, I might be a hot mess myself right now but my daughter was doing well because of the sacrifices I had made for her. As long Michelle was OK I could get through anything. "You do have to try to take better care of yourself though," the doctor reminded me. People at work had suggested the same thing. 

The best person to talk to of course, the one who has helped me through many of my darkest days is my sister May. I ALWAYS feel better after talking to her. She is the best sister and friend anyone could have. She always understands, listens without judgement, knows what to say to put things in perspective. And she always makes me laugh! I'm so grateful to May. She gets me. Not a lot of people do. I'm a bit of a an anomaly and sometimes I feel like no one can really relate to/understand me. Sometimes even those with the best intentions wind up making me feel worse. I've been called neurotic/irrational/crazy (and that's from friends!) Since becoming a single Mom it seems there are even fewer people I can relate to. I can't relate to single people or married people. Those with kids or without. Even single moms -- because every situation is different and most people haven't quite been in mine -- can't always relate.

One single friend that I was close to before becoming pregnant I never hear from anymore and I stopped calling her as well. I remember one of the last times that we spoke was while I was breastfeeding. I was struggling with it. Michelle, even without teeth, was chewing me to bits! I was feeding her on demand, just about every hour. I was getting very little sleep. She was draining the life out of me literally and figuratively. I was trying to do the right things but it was killing me. My friend called to see how I was doing and she caught me at a very fragile emotional moment. "Why don't you just bottle feed?" she asked me incredulously, "Why keep putting yourself through this!" She had known other women who breastfed and had a rough time with it so they gave up and switched to formula. I was determined not to do that. I know that she meant well but she just didn't get it. "Breast feeding is so much better for the baby," I explained. "There are so many nutrients and antibodies in mother's milk that they can't replicate with formula! Plus formula is expensive and I'm broke and my own milk is FREE!" I was adamant that I wouldn't stop. There were too many good reasons to make it work. She didn't understand. She told me I was "crazy." Maybe I was. I certainly looked unstable with my disheveled hair and stained clothes. I didn't care about anything but trying to be the best Mom I could be for my new baby. Now, in retrospect I get that she was didn't mean to hurt my feelings. She was just worried about what was best for me. She didn't realise how much being a Mom had changed me. I wasn't single anymore. It wasn't about ME anymore. I would do anything for Michelle. Even if it killed me. I realised that she didn't get it and that I couldn't make her understand because until/unless you carry a little human inside your body for 9 months and then look into her angelic face and know that you alone are responsible for her well-being and your heart wells up with so much love it might it feels like it might explode, then you CAN'T understand. Just like my sister tried to tell me before I had a child of my own that having a child changes you and you feel more love than you thought possible. She was so right! Anyway, it felt like my single friend without kids couldn't relate to me anymore. I wasn't the same person she used to know.

Stubborn and determined, I didn't give up on breastfeeding. I got a pump which helped me to store breast milk for bottles to supplement nursing. A nurse at the hospital tried to scare me saying that my baby wasn't getting enough milk and I'd have to supplement with formula. That would have ruined everything. Instead by breast-feeding more my milk production increased (it's all about supply and demand! The more you give, the more you have. If you feed less, the milk dissipates. I think some women get bullied into quitting by nurses and well-meaning friends. When the going gets tough they're too quick to say "Try formula instead!" but if they just kept trying their milk might come in full strength and it would be so much better for baby and Mama! It's also a bonding experience that's extremely comforting for baby and Mama. There is nothing like it. But I'm rambling!) The point I'm making is call me crazy if you will but my baby comes first and I won't budge on that! Being rational has nothing to do with it. You follow your heart when it comes to your kid. How can you not? Even at its worst (and I had some rough times) I have NO REGRETS about breastfeeding. I know it was the right thing to do.

It's ironic because I had always considered myself a fairly selfish person, if I'm being honest. I wasn't terribly self-sacrificing. My version of love was conditional. In love relationships I liked to be in control and get my way. When the going got tough, I got going. I wasn't a big fan of compromise. That was my twisted version of "romantic" love. And it was usually a disaster! (Romeo & Juliet, Heathcliff and Catherine -- a dysfunctional co-dependent HOT MESS rollercoaster ride between bliss and despair, love and hate, DRAMA!) I didn't know how to have a healthy relationship. But now this was an entirely different kind of love. A mother's love for a child, I discovered, is much more profound. Truly UNCONDITIONAL. It trumps EVERYTHING. You love your child MORE than you love yourself and you love them NO MATTER WHAT. Now I was living for Michelle. She mattered more than my own life. So when people told me I was crazy to breastfeed or let Michelle co-sleep or commute for hours so that she could be with her Grandma instead of leaving her with a random babysitter my response was -- I WILL ALWAYS PUT MICHELLE FIRST and do what I think is BEST FOR HER regardless of the toll it takes on me physically etc. It's the maternal instinct -- like the mother lion with her cub, you would literally give your life to protect your baby. That's just what you do. It isn't easy. Sometimes it's a trip through hell but if your child is your #1 priority then you do whatever it takes. It's non-negotiable. A primal maternal instinct. And it kicked in the instant I found out I was pregnant. It's like a switch went on: I will live to love, nurture, care for and protect my baby AT ALL COSTS!

Now maybe I'm an extreme version and the maternal instinct doesn't affect other Moms this way. We are all individuals and experience life in our own way. I can't pretend to speak for anyone else. This is my diary and my experience. I won't say that it's right or that it's universal. It is my experience. But I also won't apologise for it. And I don't appreciate it when people try to make me wrong for it. Tell you what: Agree to disagree. You do you. I'll be me!

Everyone has their opinion on how you should parent your child. And unfortunately they will share it with you whether you want to hear it or not! (If I want your opinion, I'll ask for it. Tip: don't hold your breath!) Some advice-givers/fault finders may mean well and are actually trying to help you in their own way. Some of them are just mean-spirited critics who like to tear others down. Regardless of their intentions, you can't let what others say or think affect what you know in your heart! You have to do WHAT FEELS RIGHT FOR YOU. This is what I feel is right. It's not easy. It may not be for everyone (or for ANYONE else for that matter!) but she's my child and from all accounts (my family, her teachers, her doctor) Michelle is a healthy, happy, intelligent, sweet, energetic, amazing girl so I must be doing something right! I love her more than my own life. No one is going to make me wrong for that! If you can't say something nice, please shut up!

As much as we may like to make things black and white (and there do seem to be two opposing parenting camps who can often be as militant as Republicans vs Democrats!), when it comes to parenting there is a LOT of grey area. What's right and wrong can be a matter of opinion. It depends on your situation, values, beliefs, personality, etc. Aside from providing the necessities of life, there are vastly different opinions on how to raise a healthy, happy child. It is a delicate balance between giving them enough freedom to grow and develop independence yet enough structure to keep them safe. You can be accused of being overprotective on one end or neglectful on the other, too strict or too lenient. Many of the things that the so-called "experts" said about parenting and doctor recommendations in my Mom's days were later changed after further study. The reality is that even eminent child psychologists and pediatricians don't always agree on what is "best." The bottom line is that YOU LOVE YOUR KID and you do what YOU think is best for them and tell everyone else to mind their own friggin business! No one knows everything. What worked for you may not for someone else. And at the end of the day, we are NONE OF US PERFECT! We are all human and just trying to do the best we can! Namaste.

Michelle and I made another trip to the indoor playground when I was feeling better. In the nice weather we go to the park. In the winter we hit the indoor playground. Kids need somewhere to run around and get rid of all that excess energy. Michelle always has a ball. Sometimes she meets another little friend her age as well and has fun playing with them. I sit and relax (or try to) on one of the chairs and watch her as best I can. Sometimes in the upper level of the playground she disappears from view and I sort of panic. I frantically look around and then find her playing with another kid. "Where were you?" I ask. "I got worried." There are certain parts in the upper level where you can't see your kids and it's a bit unnerving. Most people would just think "Oh well, they're all kids up there anyway." But sometimes there are Moms and Dads up there crawling around with the kids. I'm always watching like a hawk to make sure she's OK. I wish I wasn't a worrier. I wish I could be laid back and just assume everything is fine. Unfortunately I'm not built that way. My Mom was a worrier and she passed most of her neuroses down to me! The difference with me is I feel all the same fears but I still force myself to do things that scare me sometimes (like flying on a plane, climbing mountains, doing stand-up etc!)

I was feeling somewhat guilty about working more hours and having to leave Michelle more often. It wasn't my choice but I still felt bad. I tried to look at the positive. At least financially things wouldn't be so tight now that I was working full time hours. Of course to compensate for feeling like Michelle was getting less of my time I always promised her we'd do something fun on my weekends off. I'd ask what she wanted to do and she'd usually say "Go to the indoor playground!"

This time I even managed to get a photo of us together without being photobombed. (Except of course by a stuffed zebra lurking in the shadows...)

In the midst of her running amok and playing sometimes she'd run over to me and hug me. "I love you Mama!" "I love you too sweetheart!" I'm glad she's so affectionate.

"I love you Mama!"

I never tire of hearing it. And I love getting Michelle's sweet pictures and love notes. I may not have a romantic partner but I have more love in my life now than I've ever had. I have never loved anyone so much or so unconditionally. Even when she drives me crazy I told her that I will love her no matter what, no matter what she does, no matter how old she is, always and forever. Sure there are times she tries my patience, frustrates me, even physically hurts me (accidentally!) I loved this picture she drew of us with an I love you, kisses and hugs and a rainbow heart. I keep it in my purse with my calendar so I can see it all the time. And if I'm having a rough day I look at it, or I look at Michelle's picture and she keeps me going.

As proud as I am of how well Michelle is doing academically (her reading and writing skills improving all the time) I am even more proud of how kind and caring she is. Her teachers have told me how well she gets along with other kids. She is kind, compassionate and reaches out to help others. One day the teacher gave her a reward for a "good deed:" Apparently she comforted a boy in her class when he was hurt. Michelle was so happy with her little hedgehog. She named "Hedgie." Of course she has many toys but this one was special because it represented her act of kindness. She made a little room for Hedgie, setting up furniture for him and wanted me to make a voice for him.

I couldn't be more proud of my clever, imaginative, sweet girl. She often says she wants to be like me when she grows up. "Thank you sweetheart but just be yourself. You can do a lot better than me!" Aim higher, kid! You can do, be or have anything you want!

One day I got to be in class with Michelle. I volunteered for Scientist day (yes I know, I'm not ordinarily the science type but anything for my girl!) There were tables representing various sciences: chemistry, astronomy, marine biology and (what wound up being my table:) paleontology. I thought I'd get to be with Michelle the whole time but instead the kids were divided into groups and rotated so that everyone got a chance to explore all of the tables. At my table I had to help kids make a "fossil" (basically pressing a plastic dinosaur into a lump of clay), they could also do etchings, look at books, play with dinosaur toys and puzzles. It was slightly overwhelming dealing with so many kids and I had a new respect for those brave enough to be kindergarten teachers! The kids were mostly good. I noticed a difference between boys and girls. Most girls could write their own names on their bags while the boys could not (or opted not to at least.) Michelle was so happy when she got to be at Mama's table. I reminded her I'm not Mama for now I'm wearing my teacher/volunteer/scientist hat!

Even in the dead of Winter, it's always Spring in Michelle's world. The flowers bloom, the sun shines, everyone smiles. I love this world. Michelle will say "I made something for you Mama!" and it's another of her adorable drawings that invariably say "I love you!" somewhere on them. I'm not sure why this rainbow only had two colours (hunter green and eggplant) but it's OK. Rainbows are a favourite theme of Michelle's even though she's only ever seen a real one a couple of times. I guess she sees them often in cartoons and movies. Michelle and I both love Spring. Of course she doesn't hate Winter the way I do. Michelle can see the good in everything. Every season has its fun.

A visit to Auntie May's is ALWAYS a good time for Michelle and me. They got their Wii fixed so we could play the Just Dance game and had a ball. It is quite a workout! I get really into it and was happy to be the top performer a lot of the time. There were too many of us for everyone to register but Michelle just does her own thing anyway. Michelle LOVES to dance. She has so much energy. I had been sick for so long that I hadn't tried to do anything aerobic for a while and it felt really good to get a good sweat going! Even my Mom did it. She did pretty well and gave us a run for our money. Not bad for a senior!

Total photoholic that I am, I'm always happy to have more pictures of Michelle (even though I take literally thousands myself!) Her teacher was kind enough to share these snapshots with me (taken from September 2016-January 2017.) She'd mentioned before that if I gave her a thumb drive she'd copy the pictures for me. I finally got around to getting one. I was so happy to have the pictures and get to take a trip down memory lane from when Michelle started school. I recognized this dress from picture day. Michelle LOVES dressing up and I love to dress her up. I was afraid that being at school she'd wind up wrecking the dress between lunch and running around at recess but she did pretty well and other than her hair being a bit ragged she looked almost the same by the end of the day, pink floral dress intact! It looks like she's holding up a number 4 made of blocks here maybe to show that she's 4 years old.

This shot is cute with Kindergarten 2016 in the background and a prop apple on her desk1 Photo op! I told her teacher how I always have to take pictures of everything so I was glad to hear that she snapped photos of the kids sometimes since I wasn't there to capture Michelle's moments.

This little black and white bow dress is one of a few dresses I picked up at H&M. I just LOVE H&M children's wear! It's awesome! The clothes are really cute and so cheap! I think this dress was only $5! They have a lot of adorable t-shirts and dresses with cute animals (kittens etc) on them too.

In the nice weather I put a dress on Michelle almost every day. She has so many. It's so easy to dress girls. So many options with dresses and skirts and pants. It wouldn't be nearly as fun to dress a boy. Thank goodness I got a Princess!

Michelle LOVES making patterns -- whether it's drawing, colouring, with crafts or with blocks and toys. I see that she has a yellow and green/octagon-triangle pattern going here. She also loves puzzles. She does 48 piece puzzles by herself. She can get through some 63 piece ones but usually wants a little help from me (and I like doing puzzles with her anyway.) I haven't tried any 100+ piece puzzles with her yet.

I love this picture of Michelle smiling but not looking at the camera. She looks so grown up in her black floral print dress too. My little girl is growing up SO FAST! It's hard to believe she's 4 years old. It's like she was my baby just yesterday. Of course she'll ALWAYS be my baby! Time flies. They say time flies when you're having fun but the truth (as I've learned in the past few rough months!) is that as you get older, it still flies, even when you're going through Hell! November-February have been challenging to say the least and they still flew by in the blink of an eye now that I look back!

Whenever the jackpot is high ($10 million+) I buy lottery tickets. Lately whenever I get a ticket and the cashier says "Good luck!" I counter with "Thanks! I figure my luck's got to change sometime!" It seemed like one thing after another would go wrong and I kept waiting for better brighter days ahead. I thought, come on, let something GOOD happen for a change! A PLEASANT surprise! I'm due! But instead it seemed like it was just one damned thing after another to add to my winter of discontent (sorry for ripping off Shakespeare there. I'm sure he won't mind!) At the end of the day however, even on a REALLY BAD day, I have to be grateful. It could be so much worse. Just a glimpse at the news and you see the tragedies happening every day around the world. Bottom line is: if you have love and you have a roof over your head, you are blessed. Keep it in perspective. Enjoy the good. Endure the bad. This too shall pass.

I'd like to say that things did get better/easier after January but...not so much. February would have its own new set of challenges. Different sh$%, different piles. But somehow we'd get through that too... My least favourite month of the year for a host of reasons, February is always wonky. This one was pretty messed up too. (Of course, I'll save that story for the NEXT blog...)