My Faves: Kauai Part 2


Way back when I told you about a few of my favorite things Kauai has to offer.  Here’s a few more.

#7 Kayaking the Wailua River and Hiking to Uluwehi Falls

The Wailua River was one of the most scared places on the islands to the ancient Hawaiians.  Kayaking this sacred river and hiking through the forrest to have a swim in Uluwehi Falls is a must do while you’re on Kauai.

Since we had zero kayak experience, we booked a tour through Wailua Kayak Adventures.  We did the morning tour and went with them because they’re the first tour group out on the water, so we started out with the river all to ourselves.

I’m usually too nervous to do adventurous things, so I was pretty proud of myself for kayaking the river, even though I know it’s not really that adventurous.  I think if Michael and I were on The Amazing Race, we’d do decent in a kayaking challenge.

The guide was full of interesting information and took us on a route through the remains of ancient Hawaiian gardens.

And, of course, we got to swim in a waterfall.

#8 Jojo’s Shave Ice

The best shave ice I’ve had on any of the islands!  Get the Colada Special.  It’s a combination of pina colada, banana colada, strawberry colada, vanilla colada with a macadamia nut ice cream centre and haupia cream topping.  So good!

#9 Kalalau Trail, Na Pali Coast State Park

Originally, the plan had been to hike from the Ke’e Beach to Hanakapi’ai Beach and then on into Hanakapi’ai Falls.  Once we got to Hanakapi’ai Stream and saw the crowd of hikers on its bank watching other foolish hikers struggle to cross it in waist deep water, that plan changed.


The trail has a reputation of being dangerous, and when the stream is above your knees, it’s not safe to cross.  I didn’t fancy getting stuck on the other side or swept out to sea trying to get back across it.  Michael wasn’t too impressed when I made him turn back, but he felt better when we reached the trail head and saw that they had closed it due to poor weather conditions.  At least we had got to hike part of it and see some stunning views of the Na Pali Coast, which is more than the late arrivals could say.  Moral of the story is, start early and check the website for updates before you go.

I am really glad we got to hike the part that we did, and hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to go back and hike into the falls.

#10 Kauai Nut Roasters

Delicious macadamia nuts with so many interesting flavors!  My faves?  Coconut kona coffee and coconut pineapple li hing.  They also have pecans, walnuts, and almonds too.  Oh, and I did I mention they have free samples?

#11 Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail


I think this was my absolute favorite thing we did on the trip!  One of the most stunning stretches of coastline I have ever seen.  I couldn’t get over the color of the water.  Just gorgeous!


Starting from Shipwreck Beach, the trail runs 2 miles each way to Ha’ula Beach.  You start out on a lithified sand dune and continue on to secluded coves with interesting rock formations, and even through sacred heiau ruins.  Walk it all, or turn back at any time.  You won’t regret it!

#12 Glass Beach

As an avid beach comber, who was taught from a young age to look for sea glass when walking on the beach, and I heard there was a glass beach on Kauai, I knew I HAD to go.

When we arrived, we actually thought that we were at the wrong beach.  The pieces of sea glass are so small, they really look like sand!  They may have been tiny, but if you looked closely, you could find blue, red, and pink pieces.


And there just so happened to be a monk seal sunning himself while we were there too.

BONUS:  Of course doing a helicopter ride and seeing waterfalls are also great ideas!

Have you been to Kauai?  What are some of your island favorites?

My Faves: Kauai Part 1

In March I traveled to Hawaii for the fourth time.  This year,  Michael and I went for two weeks so we spent one week on Hawai’i and one week on Kauai.  We hadn’t been back to Kauai since the first time we went to Hawaii, and on that trip we were only there for three nights, so we didn’t do it justice.

Plus, you can never have to much Hawaii, really.


Kauai is amazing!  There are so many things to do and beaches to explore, and it’s a smaller island so it’s very quick and easy to get around.  A rental car is a must.

In no particular order, here is part one my favorite things in Kauai that you should check out if you find yourself on the island.

#1 ‘Anini Beach

Beautiful beach on the North Shore.  Crystal clear water.  There was also a view Kilauea Lighthouse on the cliff off in the distance, which we had been planning on visiting but couldn’t because it was temporarily closed.

#2 Waimea Canyon State Park and Koke’e State Park

Waimea Canyon has been called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.  The park offers numerous lookouts with stunning views.


If you continue on through Waimea Canyon State Park you end up in Koke’e State Park which also has some amazing lookouts offering views of the Kalalau Valley.


Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t the greatest when we were there so we didn’t end up hiking as much as we had planned and some of our views were obstructed, but we were lucky that the mist cleared at the Pu’u o Kila Lookout that we were able to see down to the coast.

#3 Poipu’s Beaches

Poipu offered some delightful beaches, close to restaurants and beach gear rentals.  We spent some time at Poipu Beach Park and were lucky enough to spot some monk seals coming ashore here.

I also unintentionally swam with a sea turtle here!  One poked its head out of the water nearby while I was swimming and I was super excited!  I was also slightly terrified that a shark might be nearby looking for lunch.

#4 Hanalei Valley and Bay

More beautiful scenery from.  There’s a lookout of the Hanalei Valley where you can see the taro fields.  A little further down the road a fabulous view of Hanalei Bay, but there’s nowhere to stop, so drive slow around the turn and take it in!


Of course, you can also walk along the beach at Hanalei Bay or take surf lessons.  And be sure to check out the Aloha Juice Bar.  I had the most delicious caramel macadamia nut milkshake from there.

#5 Eat Tacos

If I could only eat one food for the rest of my life, it would be tacos.  Kauai seems to love their tacos too, as it seemed like there was no shortage of taco restaurants.  Check out Island TacoTiki TacosAl Pastor Tacos, and Monico’s Taqueria.  Yum yum!

#6 Salt Pond Beach Park

A great place to relax or go for a swim.  For us, it was convenient because it was on our way back from Waimea Canyon and we stopped here for a swim, but it would be a great beach to spend the day at!

Stay tuned for part two of my Kauai favourites!

My Mom’s Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies

It’s about time I posted a recipe, isn’t it?

As I mentioned last weekend, I am fundraising for the Walk For Alzheimer’s in support of the Canadian Alzheimer’s Society.  In addition to opening my AFreckleInTime Etsy shop, I decided to raise money by having some friends over for coffee and treats.  They brought  donations, and I supplied the food!

Special shout out to my friends – the ones who attended and the ones who couldn’t make it.  You are one generous bunch!  The amount of money you donated far exceeded my expectations.  THANK YOU!

So what yummy goodies did I provide for them?


Why, these chocolate chip cookies of course!

Since I’m fundraising in memory of Mom, and it was Mother’s Day, I knew I had to bake these cookies.

Whenever relatives came to visit when I was younger, Mom always made a batch of these, and everyone always asked for them.  If my cousins were staying overnight, they would sneak cookies in the middle of the night.  When I was going back to university after being home for the weekend, Mom would send a batch of cookies back for my roommates and me.

They were one of the first things I baked on my own.  I had to learn!  How else would I solve the cookie cravings once Mom’s stash was gone while away from home?  Every roommate had a job.  Someone stirred.  Someone dropped the cookies on the pan.  Someone ate the cookie dough…

Some people prefer these cookies without the chocolate chips.  Some people prefer the taste of them after they’ve been frozen and thawed out.  I prefer them fresh out of the oven with a nice glass of milk.


Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 bag semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven 350 degrees.  Cream butter, shortening, and sugar together.  Add in eggs and vanilla and mix well.  Add baking powder and flour, one cup at a time, mixing until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Drop from a spoon on an un-greased cookie sheet.  Bake at for 8-10 minutes until starting to become golden around the edges.  Oven times vary.  Start checking for doneness after 8 minutes.  Cool on wire rack.

** Recipe Notes:  You can use coconut oil instead of shortening.  Your cookies may have a slight coconut flavour (Mom never made them this way, but I have and I think they taste the same, depending on the brand of coconut oil you use).

** Recipe Notes:  I’ve also frozen the dough before so I can have fresh cookies whenever!  I drop the dough on a parchment paper lined pan and then freeze for 30 minutes.  Then remove the frozen cookie dough to a plastic resealable bag.  Then when I want cookies, I take however many I want and bake from frozen.  You may need to add a few additional minutes of baking time.

** Recipe Notes:  You can also freeze baked cookies and thaw at room temperature overnight.

Thank you once again to my amazing friends!  

Open for Business!

Remember four months ago when I told you I had taken cross stitching up as a hobby?  Well, not I’ve turned that hobby into an Etsy shop!

And guess what my shop is called?  AFreckleInTime!

I’m going to use it as a fundraiser.  Money I earn from AFreckleInTime on Etsy will be donated to the Walk For Alzheimer’s and support the Canadian Alzheimer Society.

As Michael Scott would say, it’s a win win win solution (Did you ever see the “Conflict Resolution” episode of The Office?  Check it out!  It’s on Netflix).  I win because I have fun cross stitching these colourful designs, and I find the finished cards just adorable!  The person who receives the card wins because they are just so cute to look at.  And the Alzheimer’s Society wins, because awareness and money is raised to help support them in their fight against this horrible disease.

So check it out and spread the word to all your friends!


** Special thanks to designers Lucie Heaton and Maria Diaz (0n behalf of The World of Cross Stitching magazine and Immediate Media Co) for their kind permission to use their beautiful patterns.

Looking Back on 2015

After the pain of watching Mom’s health go from bad to worse so quickly and losing her in April, I thought I would be glad to see 2015 go.  But when I started thinking about it, even though 2015 was an incredibly difficult year, a lot of good things happened too.  It’s like my yoga teacher says: Life is made up of moments.  Some of them are bad, but some of them are good.

So let’s take a look back at the good, shall we?

2015 was the year…

… I started a book club.

I’ve always wanted to join a book club, but couldn’t find one that fit with my schedule, so I suggested starting one to a friend while out for coffee and she was so enthusiastic about it, I actually did it.  We started with five members in February, read nine books, and grown to eight members.

… I held a sea pony.


I went on my third trip to Hawaii in March and finally got around to touring the seahorse farm.  I prefer to call them sea ponies though.  Did you ever watch My Little Ponies in the 80’s?  Remember the “Call Upon The Sea Ponies” song?  Shoo-be-doo-shoo-shoo-be-do?  I may have gone around singing that song for weeks before we went to Hawaii.  Not annoying at all.  After I held the sea pony I supported the Seahorse Hawaii Foundation by spending copious amounts of money in their gift shop.  I couldn’t help it!  Seahorses are so cute!  I kind of want one as a pet.  You can do that, you know.  They’ll send you one in the mail.

… I made friends with honus.

Also in Hawaii, I found my new favorite thing to do – go honu spotting!  It all started when the weather wasn’t so great so we pulled into Waikoloa for lunch.  While we were at the Lava Lava Beach Club we heard people talking about seeing some turtles up the beach a little way so we decided to go look for them too.  They’re so cute!  We went back to Anaeho’omalu Beach to look for more turtles on a few other occasions and it didn’t disappoint.


When deciding where to go in the fall, I wanted to head somewhere in the Southern US.  New Orleans was in the running, but when I found out Charleston had a sea turtle hospital at their aquarium, that’s where I wanted to go!  That’s where I met the loggerhead sea turtles, and I didn’t think it was possible, but I think they’re even cuter than the Hawaiian green sea turtle!  I love their faces!  I met Botany while I was there, and since my visit, she’s been released back into the wild.

… I realized just how strong I am.

Seeing Mom so sick in the hospital and watching her lose control of such simple bodily functions as swallowing was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.  Her whole illness was rough, but I don’t think I was prepared for that.  Until you lose your mother, you don’t know just how devastating it is.  Everything started happening after I got back in Hawaii, and those next months were hard to get through.  I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much.  But I got through them.  I visited Mom and sat with her in the hospital.  I brought Dad freezer meals and cooked for him while I was home.  I made it back to work.  I kept going, although at times I felt so alone.  I made it through the 12 hour shift at work the day Mom and Dad’s wedding song came on the PA and I lost it and had to go ask them to change the music to another decade.  I started running again.  If I could handle losing my mom to Alzheimer’s and make it through chemo, surely I could run on a treadmill for thirty minutes.

Music helped.  As strange as it may sound, finding the Backstreet Boys Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of documentary on Netflix and that album helped me through the tough times.  The songs Madeleine and Soldier, even In A World Like This and the title track, made me feel better.  “Hold on, don’t let go.” “Rise up, rise up, rise up, Madeleine.  The sun will come out again.”  “If your heart is getting colder, you know I will always be your soldier.” Yes, BSB, I will rise up.  Yes, my heart is cold.  Yes BSB, you can be my soldiers.  Also, Rod Stewart helped, which is ironic because my sister and I vehemently despised his Have I Told You Lately That I Love You song.  But Rhythm of My Heart and Forever Young soothed me.  I think of Mom every time I hear Forever Young.  “And when you finally fly away I’ll be hoping that I served you well.  For all the wisdom of a lifetime no one can ever tell.  But whatever road you choose I’m right behind you, win or lose.”  I feel like Mom is saying those lyrics to me, and it helps.

… I learned how much my mom meant to everyone.

Perhaps the only good thing about someone dying is that everyone shares stories of just how loved she was.  I never realized just how much Mom meant to my cousins, and it was touching to hear.

… I found some new hobbies.

I’ve heard you should do the things that made you happy when you were ten years old.  Besides playing with Barbies, which I don’t think is an appropriate adult activity, I liked to do crafts when I was younger.  Perhaps that’s why I’ve enjoyed taking up cross stitching.  I found some supplies when going through Mom’s stuff in April and now I’m hooked!


I’ve also embraced coloring too.  And I would like to point out that I was introduced to coloring mandalas a few years ago, before it was trendy, by my yoga teacher when I did the yoga teacher training course.  Sticking my beautifully coloured “Today is going to be awesome” picture to my fridge had a surprisingly positive effect on me.  For Christmas I got three new coloring books and I’m super excited!

… I went to a plantation.


Ever since reading Gone With The Wind, I’ve had a fascination with the south.  While in Charleston in September I visited Boone Hall Plantation, and it was stunning!

… I threw a themed party.

Planning my sister’s baby shower helped save me.  I was feeling really down around the six month anniversary of Mom’s death in October, and it was really busy at work and I felt really discouraged.  Then I  went on Pinterest looking for nautical party ideas and creating her baby shower gave me something fun to do and pulled me out of my funk.  This improved state of mind has been with me ever since, and helped me get through this first Christmas without Mom.

… I became and auntie!


2015 could also be called the year that everyone I know had a baby, because quite literally all my married friends did have babies.  I’m most excited about my sister’s baby!  I love baby snuggles!  And I love buying cute baby things.  I can’t wait until she gets older and I can buy her Duplo and Play-doh and teach her how to bake.  I know my sister is so incredibly sad that Mom will never get to hold her baby, but I’m determined to love little Roslyn enough for both of us.  And while I won’t be able to sew her Halloween costumes, I can teach her how to make her Grammy’s chocolate chip cookies.

… I hosted a festive gathering for my friends.

I’ve realized if you want to get people together, someone’s got to organize it, and that’s the most difficult part.  So, I took it upon myself to organize a baby friendly (see above) dinner at my apartment, including Secret Santa gift exchange.  It was lots of fun!

… I’ve been cancer free for five years!

Got the all clear at my last hematologist appointment in December.  I’m still scared of long term complications, such as heart disease and breast cancer from the treatment, but it’s so much easier to not think about it all the time.  I also think the whole experience has given me a greater sense of empathy for the cancer patients I encounter at work.  I know the system sucks, and you have to advocate for yourself to make sure your paperwork doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.  I know what it’s like to spend time in the Medical Day Unit hooked up to an IV and that awful saline taste you get.  I know what it’s like to have to go for radiation treatments five days a week.  I know how how it feels to be anxious about a scan or a follow up appointment.  I’m glad all that is behind me, and I hope I never have to go through it again.  As Kanye West said, “that that that that don’t kill me can only make me stronger.”

… I became a person I know my mom would be proud of.

For a long time, I felt that my lightness was gone.  Even though things have been rough this year, I don’t feel so dark anymore.  I’ve tried hard to be a good person, a loving daughter and sister, and a supportive friend.  I thought this Christmas was going to be rough without Mom, but maybe all those other Christmases when she was sick helped prepare me for this one without her.  I found it comforting helping my family out, putting up both my sister’s and my dad’s Christmas trees, doing the Christmas baking, and helping my sister’s mother-in-law make Christmas dinner.  In Mom’s cheesecake, cookies, fudge, and stuffing, I felt like she was there with us.  She gave me those skills, and she helped me become a kind and caring person.  I saw a poster at the yoga studio once that said “If there is light in the soul, there is beauty in the person.”  I feel like I’ve found my light again.  And I know I’ve done Mom proud.

Book Nook – Life After Life

Last winter I started a book club.  I had been saying for ages that I wanted to be part of a book club, but I didn’t really know where to look to find one and the one full or random people I did find always met when I was working.  So I decided to start my own.  I suggested starting a book club when I was having coffee with a friend one day and she thought it was a great idea which provided me with encouragement because she didn’t laugh in my face, so to Facebook I went and Book Club was born.

We’re not hard core literary critics.  We’ve read seven books so far of varied subject matter and writing style.  I’ve definitely been exposed to some books I wouldn’t have picked up otherwise, and enjoyed them all.

My favorite of the books we’ve read was Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.  It’s about Ursula, a girl born in the middle of a snow storm in the early 1900s, and how if just one thing is different, it can affect her whole life.  Due to various unfortunate circumstances, Ursula meets several untimely ends, but she always starts her life over again, right back at the beginning, being born again during that same snow storm.  If one thing in her life is different, like an artist painting an ocean scene, she survives that incident, and continues on until the next problem.  She has multiple chances to get her life right.

Let’s just say it took her quite a few tries to survive the Spanish flu epidemic.

It’s such an interesting topic to me because sometimes I think about what my life would be like if one thing was different.  I’ve wondered where I would have ended up if my family hadn’t moved to a new province when I was ten and I had graduated high school with the same people I went to kindergarten with.  I never would have met my high school friends, and if I hadn’t met them, would I have gone to the same university?  What if my mom hadn’t gotten Alzheimer’s?  What if I never had cancer? Would I still be the same person?  Is there a parallel universe where all these different paths play out?

As the book goes on, Ursula develops somewhat of an awareness that she’s been in a particular situation before, almost like deja vu or intuition, and she is able to manipulate the situation to avoid a negative outcome.

In these months after Mom’s death, I find myself questioning some of  the choices I’ve made, and wondering if they were the right ones.  Sometimes I feel almost paralyzed by the weight being an adult and too stuck to do anything about any of it.  And then, because of my new awareness of mortality, I figure I should be living my life to the fullest and not wasting a moment because this is it.  There are no second chances.

I think that’s why I found this book so interesting.  I don’t think I believe getting a “do over” for life is possible, but imagine if it were?  Wouldn’t that take the pressure off getting it right the first time around?

I really enjoyed this book, and I just found out that Kate Atkinson has written a companion book called A God In Ruins, which chronicles the life of Ursula’s yonger brother, Teddy.  I can’t wait to read this one too!

In case anyone’s curious, our next book club read is Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick.  Apparently he’s the same guy who wrote The Silver Linings Playbook.  Should be interesting.

Auntie Throws A Baby Shower

My sister’s having a baby!  She’s due quite soon actually.  This will be my first niece or nephew and already I want to spoil the munchkin rotten!

In the summer my sister, Sara, brought up what I’d want to be called by her child.  And I said, “Karen, of course.  What else would it call me?”

Growing up, my sister, brother and I always called our aunts and uncles by their first names… nothing else.  Not “Aunt” so-and-so or “Uncle” whatever.  First name basis.  Done.  I just assumed that when I became an aunt, my niece/nephew would just call me Karen.

My brother in-law came from a family where they used Aunt and Uncle before the name.  Hence the question “What do you want to be called?”

Aunt Karen was suggest, and I immediately nixed that one.  I felt like it makes me sound like an old lady.  Then my sister suggested “Auntie Karen” which is a little better, but again I said I’d prefer to be called just my name.  And then much laughter ensued and jokes were made about “Auntie Karen” and I think that’s what I’m going to end up being called, whether I like it or not.

So, as any good auntie should, I threw my mom-to-be sister one pretty awesome baby shower!

Once I decided to give it a nautical theme (that was one of Sara’s nursery ideas and I’m determined this baby is going to love the beach!) and started looking for ideas on Pinterest, things really took off.  I actually had to cut myself off to prevent me from trying to tackle too much.

As the big day drew near, I started to have panic attacks that my grandiose ideas would turn out as one epic fail… just like those “Nailed it!” pictures you see on Facebook of people’s botched Pinterest attempts.

I’m glad to say it turned out pretty good, although Sara and I realized after the shower that we should have taken more pictures, but it hadn’t really occurred to us at the time.  Don’t mind the horrible lighting in some of the ones I do have.

Here’s how I did it:

“Baby on Board” Banner  – inspired by this banner I saw on Etsy


I found myself a onesie template on the internet and printed it, cut it out, and traced one for each letter plus two spacers on alternating red and blue scrapbook card stock.  I used my Martha Stewart circle cutter (yay for scrapbooking supplies!) and cut out circles from anchor scrapbook paper (one for each letter).  I also found letters on the internet and printed those out and used them as templates to trace onto blue and red card stock and spell “Baby on Board.”  Then I used double sided tape to attach the letter to the anchor circle, and then the anchor circle to the onesie.  I used the opposite color of the onesie for the letter.  When ready to hang, cut a piece of string (I found awesome red and white string that matched the nautical theme perfectly in the $1.50 bin at Michaels!) to desired length, affix to wall, then hang onesies from the string with clothespins.  It will be heavy.  We sort of used the top of the window frame to help bare the weight.

Streamer Garland  – method adapted from How Does She?

I don’t think I’ll ever go back to hanging streamers the old fashioned way.  These are so easy to make and look amazing!  I cut various sizes of red, white, and blue streamers (roughly 12″, 14″, 16″, and 18″).  The real instructions are to sew them together with a sewing machine, but I don’t have them, so I used tape.  I cut a piece of string (I had to estimate how big Sara’s windows were and how much I’d need, but it worked out great!).  I laid the string out on the floor and taped the streamers in alternating sizes/colors to the string.  I basically looped the top edge of the streamer over the string about an inch and taped it to itself so it would hang.  Keep going until string is full and hang.  Then I hung it up on the wall and folded the bottom of each streamer lengthwise and cut a triangle out to make it fancy (see the real directions for what I mean).

Candy Table – ideas from all over the internet

I used a white table cloth to make the red and blue candy pop and got glass jars of varying sizes and a fish bowl from the dollar store.  Fill them up with your favorite red and blue candy.  I used gummy sharks, red swedish fish, sour blue rings, and red, white, and blue jelly beans.  I also had goldfish crackers and made blue sea glass candy (I used regular old vanilla to flavour instead of flavour oil).  One of Sara’s friends and her doula thought the sea glass candy was actually real sea glass!  I also had Dad bring back the lighthouse lamp that was at the cottage so I could use it since it matched the theme so perfectly!  And I couldn’t resist picking up the crab toy to use as a decoration on the table.

And of course I made cupcakes.  I made these piña colada ones because they’re Sara’s favorite.

Baby Pool Game – found on Pinterest

Pretty easy – Markers and a piece of bristol board.  There’s a Tim Horton’s gift card up for grabs.  It’s serious business.

Sara or Karen? Game


I really thought this was quite genius.  My sister and I look alike and are always asked if we’re twins, even though there’s two years between us, so I decided to put her friends to the test.  I printed out baby pictures of either her or me, numbered them, and stuck to a poster.  Then her friends had to figure out who was who.  It was quite the conversation piece, and with another Tim Horton’s gift card on the line, a very serious matter.

And that’s how I threw my first themed party!  It was such a success, I sort of hope Sara let’s me throw the baby’s first birthday party.

“After Every Summer We Fall”

I don’t even know where time is going.  Yesterday I was talking to a friend and realized her baby is five months old, and I’m pretty sure it feels like she just had him.

It also means the six month anniversary of Mom’s passing is coming up.  How can she have been gone for half a year?

Summer is my favorite season and I always feel better in the summer.  I love the sand beneath my toes, the sound of the waves, and sunshine on my face.  I love flip flops and bikinis and my hot pink beach towel with sea turtles on it.

This year was different.

I would describe the summer of 2014 as being about acceptance and making the best of things, and sunshine and happily driving to PEI listening to Matchbox 20 and the Goo Goo Dolls.

This year didn’t have the same cheerful vibe to it, although it still had beach time and flip flops and family,  it was almost more about just getting through it, if that makes sense.  The sunsets didn’t feel as beautiful.  I was driving around listening to “With You In Your Dreams” by Hanson and Backstreet Boys.

I’ve realized I have a strong will.  Maybe it’s all that character I developed as a child.  Whenever I complained about something I didn’t want to do, my parents told me it would “build character.”  I may struggle and feel down at times, and it would be so much easier to curl up at home, but I don’t give up, I keep going, and I keep making the effort to improve my situation.  I need to remind myself I’m strong. When I’m on the treadmill and want to stop, I tell myself “you’ve gone through chemo and lost your mom to Alzheimer’s. You can keep going.”

My yoga instructor would talk at yoga about life and summer being made up of “moments” and how everyone always wants to have a super awesome summer and puts pressure on themselves to make the summer the best ever, but when you break it down, you’re going to have some great moments and some not so great ones.

My grandfather passed away in August, and that brought up a whole lot of feelings.  I felt guilty because I hadn’t spent as much time with him since I started working because he lived far away and it was harder to make time to visit.  I also felt guilty because I had forgot to send him a birthday card last year, and had told myself I was going to make sure to send one next year, but now I won’t get that chance.  The funeral was also deja vu, with going being in a receiving line at the funeral home and my cousins all being pall bearers again.  It brought up feelings about Mom.

I went to a couple of weddings at the end of the summer.  I was really looking forward to them and seeing a bunch of friends from university I hadn’t seen in a while.  What I wasn’t expecting was how I’d feel awkward around them because I felt like my mom’s death was the elephant in the room.  It was the first time I’d seen a lot of them since Mom’s death.  No one brought it up, and I’m not sure if it’s because no one thought it was important, or because it’s awkward and people don’t know what to say.  My sister told me when it gets too much for her when she’s at an event like a wedding, she goes and hides in the bathroom for a bit.  That’s some good advice.  I also wasn’t expecting how seeing the Mom of the Bride and the acknowledgement of family members who had passed on and couldn’t be at the wedding would affect me.

Take this as a learning experience.  Weddings = supporting friends on their special days + dance floors/wine + fun = missing Mom + sad she won’t be at my wedding (if I’m ever lucky enough to get married) + feelings of loneliness.  Be prepared to take the bad with the good.


Signal Hill in Newfoundland. Visited this landmark while in Saint John’s for a friend’s wedding over Labour Day weekend

I made it through my first birthday without Mom.  I had seen my sister go through hers in April and I thought mine was going to be really hard, but maybe because I had thought it was going to be awful, it turned out better than I expected.  Even though the weather wasn’t great, I still got for a walk on the beach and cake with my family, and a Frosty’s ice cream.  Hmmm… maybe that’s why my pants aren’t fitting as good??


Birthday nutty dip with my brother at Frosty Treat Dairy Bar

I also went to Charleston on vacation recently.  The interesting thing is, missing Mom wasn’t the first thing I thought of every day when I was on vacation.  Sure, I thought about her, and how I would love to be able to tell her about the sea turtles and the beaches in South Carolina and show her the different types of shells and partial sand dollars I found, and the thought crossed my mind that the inn keepers at the bed and breakfast had no idea that I lost my mother this year, but feeling like I missed her and wanting a hug from her didn’t come up as much as they do when I’m at home.


Pineapple Fountain in Charleston

The days are getting darker.  The nights are getting colder.  And my last trip to the cottage is probably going to be for Thanksgiving.  I’m apprehensive about the winter and the darkness.  With winter coming, I know I won’t get to PEI as much, and I don’t like the thought of not being over there and seeing Mom’s grave until next summer.   I don’t think the real hard part will hit until January.  I’m trying to be optimistic and focus on the good things coming up like Thanksgiving dinner at the cottage, my sister’s baby shower and birth of her baby in November, and of course Christmas.  All of these things will keep me busy and are something to look forward to, but I know they’ll all be different this year.

What Grief Looks Like Three Months Out

It’s been three months since Mom passed away, yet somehow it still doesn’t feel real or quite make sense.  Surely, she should be showing up to sit with me on the deck while I drink my morning coffee, joining her circle of friends to gossip on the beach, and always making sure I get one last swim in before I have to leave the cottage.

Unfortunately, she isn’t and that’s the reality of it.  Death is permanent and irreversible.  There will be no one last ice cream cone or walk on the beach, and I’ll never have a hug from my mom again.  I’ll have to settle for drinking my coffee out of the mug with her name on it.

A mother’s love is unconditional and irreplaceable, and while watching Alzheimer’s Disease steal my mother from me, I felt like that love and support was missing for years, but now I realize that it wasn’t as gone as I thought it was.  I thought losing her physical body wouldn’t be so bad because I’d already lost so much.  The truth of the matter is, although it was hard watching Mom struggle with her illness, you couldn’t get up and go as quick as you’d like because Mom would need help putting on her coat and shoes, and it was hard listening to her protest as Dad tried to give her her pills or help her in the shower, she was still here.  There were still sweet moments when she would make a joke and I could still give her a hug…  Do I ever wish I had given her more hugs.  It was very difficult emotionally, but it’s a whole other kind of emotional pain now.  And a void.  I don’t have a mother on this earth anymore.  That’s a tough pill to swallow and I think my brain is still trying to process it.

One of my mom’s friends, who has also lost her mother (another special lady, who lived a long, happy life) said that it doesn’t matter how old your mother is, it’s still hard, and after her mom passed away she told a friend that nothing felt the same.  Her friend didn’t understand what she’d meant at the time.  Recently that friend lost her own mother and said that now she understood.  My sister echoed similar thoughts.  She’s had friends who’ve lost their mothers to cancer, and while at the time she knew what her friends were going through was sad, she didn’t fully understand just how sad and difficult it was for them until we lost our mother.  Maybe it’s something you just can’t understand unless you’ve been through it yourself.

I agree with Mom’s friend.  Nothing feels the same.  Something is missing.  I’m told it gets better, but that “different” feeling never completely goes away.  I’m told to remember the happy memories, and there are lots of them to choose from.  I’m told it gets easier with time.

Shouldn’t I have a very carpe diem attitude now?  After all, I’ve been through cancer and now I’ve lost my mother and I’m only thirty.  Instead, I feel like my focus has narrowed and the thought of the future exhausts me.  I have no desire to plan an exciting vacation or make plans for months down the road.  Trying new recipes and cooking doesn’t even interest me that much right now.  Small things like paying bills on time and RSVPing to weddings feel like daunting tasks.  It’s like all I can think about is getting myself to work, which at least distracts me for a little while.

I’m so grateful I was on vacation last week.  I’ve never felt like I needed a vacation more than I did a week ago.  I spent my vacation at my parent’s cottage.  I guess I can’t call it my “parents’ cottage” anymore since I only have one parent now.  I never thought of that subtle difference between parent’s and parents’ until now.  I’ve been having an internal struggle over what to call the cottage now.  it just doesn’t feel right to call it “Dad’s cottage” because it was always more Mom’s than anyones, and in my mind I guess I still think of it as belonging to both my parents.  Can it still belong to both of them, even though one of them is gone?

I still feel this loneliness that must result from the lack of a mother’s unconditional nurturing and support, but it was easier being on PEI.  There were lots of family and friends around and I could talk about Mom and ask them questions about her.  There were people who’ve lost their own moms, so they understand what I’m going through.


I honoured Mom by baking biscuits using her recipe and eating strawberry shortcake.  I took bouquets of lupins and peonies to her grave.  I wrote “Mom” in the sand and watched the waves wash it away.  I didn’t have to worry about day to day responsibilities or ringing phones or people waiting for me.  I could eat my meals uninterupted.  All I had to do was read my book, cross stitch, go to the beach, and the most strenuous thing I had to do was help Dad a little bit with supper and doing dishes.  I hunted for blue sea glass everyday and I thought that if I found one, it would be a sign form Mom that she was watching over me.   I had found a piece of blue sea glass the day of Mom’s burial, back in June, but I didn’t find any this visit and I was extremely disappointed.  I was jealous of other people when they found pieces.  Eventually, I had to stop searching so hard because it was making me feel worse.   Maybe I’m being unrealistic expecting her to provide me with blue sea glass everyday, but I want to feel comforted.

My sister and I have noticed that people will often ask us how our family members are doing, but not ask us directly how we’re feeling.  I’m sure it’s because no one knows what to say.  There are no magical words to fill the void.  There is no perfect thing to say.  How does one even answer that question, “How are you doing?” anyway?  Try to be strong, and say “Alright.”  The more truthful, but still socially acceptable, “Some days are harder than others.”  Or the most honest answer, that I still feel like crying somedays.  That I’ve fought back tears at work and that my eyeballs have been known to start leaking at yoga, prompting strangers to ask me if I’m OK.  Maybe people don’t even need to ask that question.  Just say hello so the grieving person knows you’re thinking of them.  Show your support just by being there and being understanding.


Dad and I were driving along one of my favorite routes on PEI, taking in the stunning views of farmers’ fields, Malpeque Bay, and the pink, purple, and white lupins that lined the ditches, when I said to him that I thought PEI was the prettiest province in Canada.  He said, “Do you think you were influenced at all?”  Mom had always had an intense love of all things PEI, and you know what?  I am my mother’s daughter.

I’m A Poet And Didn’t Even Know It

Tomorrow will be the first Mother’s Day that I don’t have a mom to celebrate with.

After Dad found those poems in Mom’s file she’d saved and I found them comforting, I searched for more memorial poems on Pinterest and found so many lovely ones.  Looking at poems on the internet doesn’t quite have the same feel as holding a yellowed newspaper clipping, but they were still touching.  I was inspired to write my own memorial poem.

I haven’t tried to write a poem in years, not that I ever was much of a poet to begin with.  Although, there was that one epic grade eight English assignment known as “An Anthology of Karen and Natasha’s Poems,” which earned us an Outstanding++ grade, that I re-discovered tucked away in a drawer when I was home visiting Mom at Easter.  Finding that gave me a laugh.

This is what I came up with for my memorial poem, and I’m actually pleasantly surprised with how it turned out.

Poem for Mom