Camp Widow Tampa

Hey… could you help a girl out?

My plans for the next 2 1/2 years involve being in school… a LOT.

Timing for Camp Widow San Diego & Camp Widow Toronto SUCK for 2015 & 2016.

But… if I had the money… I could go to Camp Widow TAMPA in 2015.   It’s…. like… 2 months away.

Could you help a girl out?    Spare a couple $20 bucks?   Little more mebbe?

Camp Widow has been so pivotal in my journey, and I know I won’t be able to attend for the next two years… so this is one option to go until I’m out of school.

If you can?   Click HERE

IF I don’t raise enough to get me there – the money will go straight to Soaring Spirits for someone else to attend.   So if you can help… it may be me… or it may be some other widow you’re helping out.

Either way… the money goes to getting someone to Camp Widow.

Well Loved 2014

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Hope Matters

Apparently today is #givingtuesday.

I don’t know exactly what that means, beyond we give to something that is important to us.

What I do know… is that Hope Matters, and without Soaring Spirits… I wouldn’t have had the hope I do for my future.

Soaring Spirits is changing the face of the widow.

Soaring Spirits Andrew Soaring Spirits Luke Soaring Spirits ME

Soaring Spirits and Camp Widow gave me hope.

Adventures of Camp Widow Toronto – pt 5 – the Gala Dinner

One of the most amazing things about Camp Widow is the Gala Dinner.  The sit down, high class dinner that is designed SOLEY to get us all dressed up, fancy-like, and show us that it is STILL OK TO HAVE FUN.

We all get dressed up to the 9’s (and 10’s and some of us just drop dead gorgeous no matter what we’re wearing). And head down for drinks and mingling before dinner.

Dressed up  Connie & I

There was an awesome photobooth where we got to put on some props and get our pictures taken .

Sugar Mamma

We’d pre-ordered our dinner so there was no worries or surprises about what to order or what we’re going to eat.   As per usual, I’d forgotten what I’d ordered until we actually got there.

There was a bottle of wine at the table for the guests to share.  My table-mates didn’t drink wine – so I asked the server to fill up their glasses with red and, well, I got 4 glasses for the price of one 😉  worked well for me 🙂

My chicken dinner was superb.   My friend sitting beside me didn’t finish hers so I got to taste the amazing steak dinner as well.

During the cocktails, we had the option of putting our loved one down on a piece of paper with whatever anniversary/celebration to be honoured at dinner.

I put Mark on there, for 27 months since he’d died.

In terms of life experience, it seems so very long.  In terms of thinking about it… OMG it’s been so short of a time.  Only 27 months since he took his last breath.  Only 27 months since I stopped being his wife and became his widow.  Only 27 months…  I am barely a toddler in the journey of widowhood.   At the same time I am like one of those starving kids in Africa who had to grow up and learn too fast.   A toddler who is wise beyond her years.   But a toddler none the less.

When they called Mark’s name, I went up for a hug and to get the heart they were giving out in memory.

Memorial Heart Heart

It amazed me – when I took a picture of the heart, the lights that shone in it.  The bits of life showing that yes, this had meaning.

Dinner was over fairly quickly and then the dancing began.

Dancing at the Gala

I’m not big on dancing.  I don’t like how I jiggle, I don’t like how things wiggle, it’s not a comfortable feeling to have your belly slap your thighs when you move too enthusiastically.   I used to like dancing.  And maybe I will again eventually.  If you look closely, you can see me somewhere in the middle sitting sorta behind Connie.

So I sat at the table, chatting, I flitted from table to table being a social butterfly, and eventually landed back at my table with Connie.

It’s not my story to tell, but Connie wasn’t having the greatest of nights.   I was given the opportunity to be there, to be present, to be someone to lean on, literally and figuratively.   I was given the opportunity to be a friend,   I was given the opportunity to get closer, to cement a friendship that had blossomed a bit over breakfast.

Connie and I talked.  Rather, Connie talked and I listened.

We were hiding in a little alcove for a while, her letting out what needed to come out.  Me, just being there for you.

We decided not to do the message release.  We had done a mini-release the night before, and we were both feeling that was sufficient and heading back to the room for quiet time and contemplation would be a better option.

We hugged people, said our goodnights, and watched as everyone else headed out to do the message release.

It was beautiful, from what I was told and saw in the pictures.

Message Release

Connie and I went back to the room – got out of our pretty clothes – and sat down on our beds for some decompressing.

We both had some minor regrets about not going to the message release… but I think overall, we were where we were supposed to be.   There were some things she needed to get out and I needed to be needed, I think.

The gala night was incredible.  The people I got to hang out with are incredible.   And for a while… we got to just *be* and have fun.

Hard to believe it was almost over… that in less than 24 hours I’d be back in Vancouver…

Adventures of Camp Widow Canada – pt 4 – Sleepless on Saturday

4 am is NOT a good time of day to be getting back to your room and going to sleep if you have a 7am yoga class.

I did not make the yoga class.  AGAIN.  Last year I missed it as well.  Dammit.   Ah well.  That’s life; sleep was more important.

I was awakened at 8-ish by Connie, one of the “other” roommates that I didn’t know that well.   She let me know that it was almost time for breakfast and the keynote address.

I stumbled out of bed, grateful to have been woken.    I didn’t mind missing yoga but I didn’t want to miss Michele’s speech for anything.   She’s rather amazing when it comes to putting things into perspective and showing us that yes, hope matters and yes, we CAN build a life after loss.   If you weren’t there – I highly reccommend taking an hour and listen to it here.  It’s amazing.   I am building my life and creating my foundation and my cement mixer (purple with polka dots) is full of things I can build on.

After the keynote address, I realized that breakfast hadn’t been enough to satisfy. It was a typical continental without any protein and I was *hungry* so Connie and I decided to head over to the restaurant.

We sat and had breakfast and talked.   Got to know each other.  Got to understand each other.   My breakfast was pretty awesome:

Breakfast in Toronto

Its interesting how you don’t KNOW someone until you’ve taken the time to talk to them.  (yah yah…. that seems just… logical, yanno?)  Found out she’s a pretty awesome person.  We have a lot in common.  We are kindred souls on a number of levels.

After breakfast, we decided we’d go check out the really cool church located right beside the hotel.   We both love old churches and buildings, so it seemed logical.

Toronto Church

The church wasn’t open on Saturdays.  We said a few choice words… and then sorta looked at each other and headed back to our room.

By this time, my lack of sleep was catching up to me and I was having trouble staying awake.   I told Connie I was going to lay down for a nap.  I missed out on two of my workshops – but I think I needed the sleep more.    Scratch that, I KNOW I needed sleep more.   I had to be up for my 2.45 workshop (Grieving Teens) because I was the workshop monitor – basically making sure the presenter stayed on time, handing out and taking back feeback sheets and so on.

It was an ok workshop.  I felt it could have been longer or perhaps started in on the “meat” of the workshop sooner as it didn’t start getting interesting or relevant (to me) until about 15 mins left in it.   It didn’t give me what I needed and didn’t address some of my concerns but others seemed to get lots out of it.

After that workshop was over, I ran to the next one.  I was scheduled for “My Husband is Not  A Rainbow”  but Taryn’s other workshop was on at that time and the rule was if you were waiting by the door – and someone didn’t show – you could get in.

I got there, and there were only 6 of the 8 registered participants.

I waited breathlessly – the others saying “there’s no way anyone would skip this”

But yesterday, a couple someone’s had.   Extras got in.   So I waited.  And hoped.

Finally – the time came – and I was IN!  WOOT!!! SO freaking excited.

I was just getting settled – and there was Dana at the door wanting to talk to me.

She assured me that the spot was MINE but because I’d taken the workshop before – there was another person who wanted to get in and was I willing to give it up?

I thought about it.   Seriously considered the fact that I KNOW Taryn’s workshops are freaking amazing.  And that I get SO much out of them.   Finally decided.   “If it has been a shorter time since their spouse has died, I’ll give up my spot”

I peeked while she went out to find out how long for the person waiting… and it was a FRIEND of mine!!! EEP!   I felt so bad… she didn’t have less time out than me, but she’d never been… augh!   I shed the guilt and went in to participate.  I’d made my decision and I wasn’t going to feel guilty about taking care of myself.

The workshop was one I’d taken before.  It was just as magical and amazing as it was the year before.   We’re in the middle of our guided meditation when Taryn says to think of our love.  Last year?  Mark came to mind immediately.   This year?   Mike showed up.  In my mind AND in text at that exact moment.

Oh.

My.

GAWD.

So freaking embarrassing.  I forgot to put the phone on silent.  I stood up and fixed it and hoped that everyone else had kept their eyes shut so they didn’t see WHO forgot to make sure the phones were on silent.

The rest of the meditation was lovely, if a bit hard for me to get back to.

After meditation, we discussed what it was like for us, and then she told us about the arrow exercise.

I did this last year.  Blogged about it here.

Last year, I was the first to volunteer.  I stood up, put the arrow tip to my throat and walked through.   No problems.  No issues.

This year?  This year it HURT.  I couldn’t wrap my head around it.  I couldn’t get out of my head and into my heart.   I waited as long as possible, second to last.

I got up to the wall.  Stared at my piece of paper.   Put the tip of the arrow to my throat.  Taryn adjusted the fletching end against the wall.   I took a half step… and panicked.

It HURT so much more this year.  I had a harder time getting out of my own head and into my heart.

Finally… I stepped.  And stepped again.  And got out of my head, focussed on the goal and ignored the pain.

I broke the arrow.

A side note:  Last year, for whatever reason, my pictures of the arrow breaking either did not turn out or did not make it to the page.  I have never seen them.   I’m still waiting for Michele to post this years’ photos.

Once the arrow broke, so much broke inside me.

Walls inside me that I’ve been putting up and reinforcing.

False beliefs about my abilities.

And the dam that holds my tears back.

And I cried.

Taryn hugged me and I almost couldn’t’ hold myself up.  That beautiful, tiny woman had enough strength to hold ALL of us up as we broke through.   She held me when I couldn’t hold myself.   And I cried.

Finally letting go, I sat down in the circle and the last participant went.

It’s hard to adequately explain how incredibly freeing that workshop is.   I’ve seen the ones where they bend rebar, I’ve heard about the one walking on glass, and the thought that we can move past the pain, move past the hurts that hold us back, it’s uplifting and enlightening.

I wish Taryn lived closer so I could spend more time with her.  She amazes me.

We had a small debriefing and the class disbursed.    It was time for the gala dinner.   And to get ready.  All fancied up.

The dinner?  That’s for part 5.   Who’d have thunk that 3 days would turn into 6 or 7 blog posts?  LOL

Not me – last year I did one and that was it LOL

Adventures of Camp Widow Toronto pt 3 – Friday

I had volunteered to man the registration desk on Friday morning.   For me, it was a nice way to give back, to meet the widows coming in and I didn’t have anything else to do in the morning since that block of workshops didn’t appeal to me.

Fred and I sat there, working together to get everyone checked off and given directions.

Registration Desk

There was an initial rush of people between 8.30 and 10 and then it trickled.  Sarah showed up with Timbits.   Awesome breakfast, Timbits.   She was wandering around on a sugar high, offering them up to anyone interested.

Around 10.30 I asked Fred if he could handle the remaining 20 or so left to check in, and at his assent, wandered off to find where the workshops were.

My first workshop was a round table:  Widowed by Illness or Diagnosis.

Out of 30? 40? people there… I was the only one whose spouse did not die from cancer.

The only. one.

I listened quietly for the most part while people talked about the cancer, about the horrid-ness about the disease, about how awful it all was – and could not relate.

Mark didn’t have a terminal illness.   He was supposed to get BETTER dammit!!!

Finally at one point, one gentleman asked about hearing so much about the disease and I kinda lost my mind.   I don’t have a “disease” or an “illness” foundation to volunteer for or give money to for research to prevent it happening to another.  And that frustrates me.

That was towards the end of the round table.

My next workshop was Signs and Synchronicity.  It’s heartwarming to hear the different signs, the different ways that our loved ones come to us and let us know they’re still around.

My last workshop of the day was the Heart & Soul intensive with Taryn Davis and Rae Patterson.

Oh.

My.

GAWD.

I am so blessed to have met Taryn last year at Camp Widow – and meeting Rae just enforced the path I feel that I’m heading to.

I’m not going to lie.  When I first saw that it was a workshop run by two presenters, I was a bit disappointed.  The workshop with Taryn last year was SO freaking amazing.    And then I got “stuck” with Rae and working with her when they separated the group into two.   And I was disappointed because I was SO hoping to work with Taryn again.

But things happen for a reason.  They happen for a purpose.  And I am SO grateful that I got to work with Rae.   She is amazing.  She is phenomenal.  She is a woman that I am SO blessed to have met and worked with.

I can’t even describe the workshop – but it allowed us to get in touch with our hearts, open things to a greater level of love.   I left the workshop feeling slightly dazed, slightly overwhelmed with the energy and emotion that came from that workshop.

It’s been just over a week and I don’t really remember what happened at dinnertime.  I’m trying to figure it out… but it seems that my brain has just blanked on that point of the day.

But after dinner, we did a mini-release at the water feature outside.   I hadnt’ planned on it – but I ended up helping one lady with her lantern.   In helping her, I realized I really did want to do a mini-release and quickly put together a lantern.

It was beautiful.  The water flow kept the lanterns all in one place just in front of us.

Lantern Release

I was off, emotional.  I wandered over to the labrynth beside the water feature and walked the labrynth for a while.  I submerged in the emotions of being a widow and wondered where and when I would surface.

.

.

.

I surfaced at the hotel bar.

I was still in the emotions of widowhood, feeling weighted down, when I realized I couldn’t get into the room I was staying in.   I didn’t want to disturb the women I was staying with – they were out having a good time, so I decided to have a drink with the people who stayed at the bar.

I sat there, having a drink or two with other Camp Widow attendees.

Side note: that’s one thing I love love love about Camp Widow.  I can be miserable.  Sit down beside other widows.  And they will TALK to me. INCLUDE me.  HUG me.  LOVE me.  And laugh and cry and just BE with me.  Everywhere.  Everyone.  We’re all included.

I started chatting with the guy next to me.  He wasn’t a widow – he was the son of a widow.   There volunteering his time.

We talked.  We laughed.  We got silly.  We flirted a bit.

We went on a random walk to 7-11 for hot dogs.   Tried to break into the pool.  Worked out in the weight room.   Talked some more.   Dangled our feet in the water feature.   Checked out the raccoon that was hanging out in downtown Toronto.

Talked some more.  Laughed some more.

I don’t remember the last time I just laughed and had fun and did not worry about anything.   I don’t remember the last time I was just me.

It was 3am before I realized I needed to go to bed.   At that point, I realized my roommates were probably all asleep… and I didn’t know how to sneak into the room without waking them.

Finally, at 4am, I went to bed.   I carefully opened the door, stealthily grabbed jammies and ducked into the bathroom to change.

Came out of the bathroom to climb into bed and there was Angel, thinking I couldn’t get in.  Scared the CRAP out of me.   Good thing I didn’t yell out.

Sleep came quickly.

Quite possibly that was one of the best nights in a LONG long time.   I am so grateful for Jeremy being there to help me remember that yes, I can have fun.  Yes, I can enjoy life.  No, laughter is not dead.  It’s a beautiful, rare thing for a widow to forget for a little while how much is missing in her life.

However… 4am is NOT my friend… I almost missed breakfast… but that’s for part 4.

Adventures of Camp Widow Toronto – pt 2 – The Spaghetti Factory Dinner

We arrived at the hotel around 7pm after Angel & Sarah finally got off the plane.   We had to go FIND the car rental place, get the vehicle she was renting and THEN drive to the hotel.

Dinner reservations were for 8.

So we get there, say hello to everyone, check in to the hotel and then back to the lobby while we figure out how to get to the Spaghetti Factory.

There were about 15 of us.   A few more than would fit in the 8 seater vehicle she rented (which was oh so awesome to ride in, yo!)

I want to say 7 or 8 of us decided to walk.  It wasn’t that far.  Only 5-7 blocks.  The fun part is that I got cursory directions, looked at a map for 30 seconds and then I became “THE ONE”   You know – the one who knows where I was going?

<insert maniacal, hysterical laugh here>

I’ve never been to Toronto before.   I get lost WITH a GPS.   Seriously.  And I’m in charge of trying to get us there??

We head out.  My lovely friend Sarah, whom is a Canadian by osmosis (married one, birthed one, but never became one herself) and visits Canada a LOT, was on the lookout for where to buy ketchup chips, and if there was a Tim Horton’s coffee shop in the vicinity (for Timbits, don’tcha know! – they ARE different from whatever y’all have in the US)

As luck would have it, our route took us past 7-11 AND Tim Hortons.   So we knew.  We knew where to get the coveted items.

Several times during the walk I was asked… “Are you sure you know where you’re going?”

<I didn’t, but dont’ tell them.  I was hoping I remembered enough to get us there>

Finally… we arrive.   (In my head I’m going “YAY!!! I didn’t get us lost!!!)

We have this awesome spot in the restaurant that’s set up like a carousel.  I SO wanted to ride the horses… was convinced otherwise by people wiser than me who knew they wouldn’t hold…

I was sitting beside two awesome men.  (favourite place in the middle!!)

Arnie:

Arnie & I(photo courtesy of Arnie – his camera)

How do I describe Arnie?   Big, boisterous and someone you’d be blessed to have in your life.   Widowed just over 2 years.   Full of love to give.   And a flirt.  OMG such a flirt.   I had fun with him all weekend.

And David:

David & I(photo courtesy of Judy Kaan)

David was so amazing.  Widowed only a few months prior and here he was, in another country connecting with other widows/widowers.   I’ve been the one lost and alone before so I made sure to chatter with him and pay attention to him.  He was quiet, understandably so.   He was so sweet.   We agreed to share a bottle of wine, which turned into two, which turned into a lot of fun chatter and conversation.  I read his blog after and he had had a good time, which is what I’d been hoping for.

It was a good time.  Lots of fun, lots of laughter, lots of life and LIVING.

Spaghetti Factory Dinner

We had our dinner… and then came the walk back.

Yeah.  The walk back.

Did I mention there was a Tim Horton’s a block away from the Spaghetti Factory?

Yep, there was.  And it was closing at 10.   We had 15 mins to get there.   And Sarah and I RAN! LMFAO

Get to Tim Hortons, descend on the poor lady working closing (what do they do with the leftovers?  I’ve never been around a Tim Horton’s that wasn’t 24 hours??)  And ask for timbits.

How many?  She asks…

All of them.

There’s this confused look on her face….  A..a..all? of them?

Yep.  All of them.  We’re going to take ALL of them.

86 timbits.

She was nice and only charged Sarah for 80 of them.

But yeah.  She bought EIGHTY-SIX timbits at 10pm.

And then proceeded to eat them on the walk home.  Shared a few with a homeless lady (Gawd Arnie… really? she’s diabetic???)  and headed back to the hotel.

It was a night SO full of laughter, memories of people we’d lost but mostly laughter for me.   I know another woman, Angel, was honouring the 3rd anniversary of her wife’s death and Judy was honouring the 3rd anniversary of her husband’s death.    And we all had losses or birthdays near… but it was so lovely to just BE.

And be silly like clearing out all the timbits in the store.

And skipping along on the walk home.

And flirting with men I’d only see for the weekend and then not likely again for at least a year.

And smiling.

And laughing.

And forgetting for a moment… just a moment in time… that I’m different than everyone around me at home.  That I carry the weight of loss, the knowledge of death, the uncertaintly of life with me all the time.   But at Camp Widow… I get to forget that because WE ALL do.

The next morning… the timbits made their rounds…. but that’s for part 3…