Posts Tagged With: Challenges

The stand after the fall

Nothing like a good fitness class to clear your mind.

I went to Vandie’s class today carrying the weight of my memories.

At first, those memories were heavy and indeed felt like lead weights.

I got mad.

I fought back – and kept pushing.

I forgot about the memories trying to focus on the class.

The music propelled me through.

I felt great – I had a bounce in my step.  I heard the music.

I enjoyed the beat and lost myself for a while.

My heart pounded like it would explode.

I was MAD!  NO!  I would NOT stop!  I pushed through.

Screw the pain – screw the past – screw cancer.

For then – for now – I am the victor – not the memory.

I was lost in fitness and it felt wonderful.

I still feel wonderful.  I realize it takes more courage to go back to fitness than it does to do fitness.

It is the stand after the fall that is the toughest part.

It is the living after the near-death that is the greatest challenge.

To return is to face your weakness – whatever it may be.

So – back I go.

And I’ll go again.  I WILL step out of the shadows of cancer.  Damn it!

Categories: cancer, determination, inspiration, journal, life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Where Does the Journey End?

I have not had much to say lately.

Mom and Dad continue to be on my mind – often – but I just don’t know what to write.

Maybe it’s writer’s block?

Maybe it’s grief?

Maybe it’s time to put closure to something else?

This blog, and all you wonderful readers, have been a great source of comfort for me through a very challenging time.  I’ve lost both parents in less than 18 months.  To me, this has been traumatic.  It has been a long, long, journey.

I wonder now, though, if the journey is coming to an end?

Is it time to put this blog to bed?

The condo up for sale.  I have a difficult time going back there to even check in on it.  It’s difficult to go “back” in time.

Yet, I sit faithfully in front of the digital photo frame as images of our lives fade in and fade out.  I sent some new photos to it the other day and I enjoy watching those fade in and out too.

What would it feel like to say, “good-bye” to this sentimental journey – or rather TTFN?  Letting go is the hardest thing to do, yet I think I need to know my limits and not stay too long.  I feel like the guest that never left… not knowing when enough is enough.

I need to move on – but how much of the past do we need to break from?  Does the past propel us to the future?

Does the past help us to build a foundation, yet anchor us to the ground?

It is inescapable, haunting, yet at the same time it is still my greatest source of comfort.

Should I stay or should I go now – I believe someone else used that phrase and sang a tune along with it (grin).

Maybe the falling leaves have brought this feeling of loss to front and centre.

Where is my faith? What is my purpose?  When will “this” sentimental journey end?

I guess today is a day of questions.  And having said that – maybe today begins a new “quest” for closure.

How is closure best achieved?

And the photo frame flashes images at me like pieces of a patchwork quilt.  They all blend together in an odd, yet harmonious blanket of comfort.

TTFN  – for now.

Categories: Family and Friends, Life After Dad, Life's Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments


I could not bring myself to turn around.

I don’t know why.

She was there.

She was there for me.

She was there for us.

Janine.  My colleague, my friend, my angel.

I was at school on Friday, preparing for the up-coming school year and I heard her voice – her laughter – in the front office.

Janine.  So happy.  So loving.

I just couldn’t turn around.  There was too much to say to her that could not be said in the hustle and bustle of that place.

She supported me throughout the entire decline of both Mom and Dad.  “Stacey, if your father wants to eat his meat in whole pieces because he enjoys the texture – it is not up to you to tell him otherwise.”

Another tidbit of wisdom, “Stacey your parents have been making decisions about their lives long before you came along – it is not up to you to take over their decisions now.”.

Janine gave me back my childhood.  Thanks to her I became a daughter again.

And I remained a daughter throughout the entire two days of Dad’s final moments.

Thanks to Janine, my Dad had wonderful quality of life and wonderful quality of death (if that’s possible?).

Janine guided me throughout Dad’s final journey.

She gave me books, she gave me her shoulder to cry on, she told me how strong I really could be. “You can do this, Stacey.”, she said.   She checked Dad’s breathing, she affirmed how to speak to him as though he were still with us, she told me to keep him posted about the time of day – even when he didn’t open his eyes anymore. “Your Dad will still worry that you have not had dinner, so tell him it is dinner time and you are going to go and eat.”  Wise.  “Tell your Dad it’s morning and describe what a beautiful day it is – open the blinds.”  Wise.

Janine helped us to “live” though this journey – and helped my Dad to “live” until his final breath.

How do I say, “thank-you”? to a woman like this whose gift was far greater than any gift I could have asked for?

If you are reading this, Janine, I wish you peace.  You were a gift to my family and I – and I know you continue to be a gift to all of your students too.

To you, Janine, my colleague, my friend, my angel… I toast you, “Sante”.


Dad:  You done good, kid.  Thanks for looking over my family.  In turn, I’m looking over you!  TTFN


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Helen’s Mountain

Never climb mountains alone.

The flowers remain on the dining room table, as fresh as the day they arrived. The table, however, is empty where there was, only days ago, a cornucopia of never-ending goodies.

The best part about the Malloff reunion (Mom’s side of the family) is the arrival of the clan and everything afterwards.  The worst part is when they leave.  I get the sense of what it feels like to be “empty-nesters”.  Yuck.

Leaving Auntie Helen, Mom’s sister, at Toronto International today was like losing Mom again.  The two could not be more different – nor could they be more alike.  Nonetheless, it was our clan’s matriarch, Auntie Helen, who brought everyone from across Canada and the US to celebrate our family.  This reunion happens once a year but this year was the first when neither my Mom nor Dad were in attendance.  Well, at least they weren’t here physically.  The were certainly here in spirit and we never once forgot that.

The day before she left I took Auntie Helen to visit Mom and Dad’s final resting spot.  It was then when Auntie Helen said good-bye to her sister and life-long friend.  She gave a kiss to each name mounted on the outside of the niche housing their remains.  Time stood still.  She asked for some time alone and I could hear her talking once again to Mom and Dad.  It was her time for closure.  Each person has to have closure and each in his/her own time.  My son David and I sat on the bench by the main path and an older gentlemen must have caught us wiping away each others’ tears as he kindly offered us some flowers to give to whoever it was we were visiting.  He didn’t know.  Our tears were not for our loss – but for Auntie Helen’s loss.  I remember how difficult it was to see Dad grieve the loss of his bride of 61 years.  And that was tougher to take than it was for me to even lose Mom.  This was no different.  I can only imagine how painful it must be to lose a sister that you have know for 84 years.  Actually, I can’t.  But I do know that Auntie Helen mourned in peace and with grace and dignity.  She placed a carnation for Dad and a white rose for Mom.  Dignity.  She wished them, “good-bye”.  Dignity.

We then went to visit the old property where the owner graciously invited us in to tour the home.  There had been many renovations completed and in spite of the changes, the spirit of the old place still seemed to be there.  Tina, the new owner, invited us to go back into the woods if we liked.  So we did.

Slowly, we moved through the bush and reminisced about each nook and cranny.  Auntie Helen had been there so often, she knew it just as well as I did.

Through the woods and around the corner – there it was… her names-sake, “Helen’s Mountain”.  It really was a very tiny incline no more than 2 metres – and very gradual.  But this mountain had been a challenge for Auntie Helen years ago during her virgin voyage on cross-country skis.  She was terrified of the incline – which was a decline from her original approach.  She took off her skis and walked down the slope.  Well, the story was told so often about this scary spot that it eventually had to be re-named, “Helen’s Mountain.”.

I asked Auntie Helen if she wanted to tackle that mountain one more time.  She jumped at the opportunity – and so, with cane in hand on one side, and my son David on the other, she approached the mountain, walked half-way up, turned and posed for a photo.  She did it.  One fear conquered.

We climbed back into the car and made our way home after a stop at Brown’s Farm and once more to Mom and Dad’s condo.

I guess each of us has a mountain to climb and Helen, during this family reunion not only tackled one, but she tackled yet another – the loss of her sister and brother-in-law who were my Mom and Dad.  How did she do it?  Well, it certainly was not tackled while she was on her own.  The mountains Auntie Helen climbed this past week were climbed hand-in-hand with family – family of both past and present.

Categories: Family and Friends, Life After Dad, Life's Lessons, The Farm | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

The George Straits

(A memory from my brother, Jamie) 

One thing that I admired most about Dad was his sheer determination.  Mom would often refer to this determination, however, as him being stubborn.  Be it what it may, Dad’s tenacity literally moved mountains.  

When Mom and Dad decided to build the cabin back by the beaver dam and pond, Dad also knew he would need to build a good road on which to get to the cabin.  The dam and the pond were at the very back of the property.  The road would see its travelers through thick brush, tall grasses, a meadow, a hill (Helen’s Mountain), before they would arrive at the cabin. 

After breaking the trail all the way to the back of the property, Dad came upon a massive rock. He couldn’t move it with the tractor or the Plymouth, so he detoured around. But the more he drove by that rock, the more it bothered him. One day, I couldn’t take it any more.  He decided to pitch his will against THE ROCK. He bought a rock chisel and a small sledge hammer and set to work.

Dad had never tried to split a stone before, so he just started pounding away at it with no effect to the rock Dad used to explain, “It (the rock) was silently laughing at me and shrugging off my blows with impunity.”

Grandpa – Dad’s Dad was up to the property for a visit one time, and my Dad mentioned his frustration and ineffectual attack on THE ROCK. Grandpa asked “Are you using the fault lines?”

“What do you mean?”  Dad had no idea what he was talking about and said as much.

Grandpa said, “Let’s have a look at this rock of yours”.  

The two of them went out and he walked around the rock a couple of time with chin in hand, humming and hawing. After a few minutes of inspection Grandpa said “If you start the split here, and work the chisel over to here, then back again a few times this rock should split almost in half. If the halves are too big you can split them by chiselling here and here”.

Well, Dad had nothing to lose and he was certainly not making any progress my way. So the next day he went back to THE ROCK and started working the chisel and hammer back in forth along the fault line … And if after about two hours of hammering, didn’t that rock split in half with a mighty CRACK!  Dad was on a roll, so he started working on the halves where Grandpa had suggested.  After an hour or so Dad had the rock down to manageable chunks and moved them off to one side with the tractor.

Once that “rock” was out of the way, Dad could plough in the new road with a great sense of victory.  

For ever afters that new section of the road was referred to as the “George Straits”.  

This lesson in tenacity – never give up – really hammered a lesson home for all of us.  

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The Dam

As much as I love animals, there is one that has stymied me for years.  This creature is hard-working, tenacious, and capable.  In most circles, if this animal were a corporate employee, it would be fast-tracked up the corporate ladder.

I first encountered “the beaver” in 1967 when Paula and I purchased an 82-acre tract of land just west of Craighurst.  Yes, this is the place I’ve written out in previous posts (On Duff’s Pond, The Night Bandit to name two).  It was the boonies in 1967 – nothing near by.  No humans to slow the growth of the beautiful maple forests or the old oaks.  Nothing to obstuct Mother Nature except God himself – God…. and the beavers.

There was a beautiful stream that ran through the property – it was spring fed.  Those waters were crystal clear and mighty cold.  This stream was a perfect habitat for minnows, frogs, and the summer supply of water cress.  The beavers loved this stream too and when Paula and I explored into the back 40, we found that they loved the stream so much, they had build and established quite an extensive dam.  The dam must have been more than 40 feet long with two overflow channels.  It incorporated several trees and flooded an area that was navigitable (and we did build a raft for the kids to ride on) by vessel.

At first blush, anyone would have thought, “Gee, this pond is beautiful.”  The kids would often sit in the shade of the wild cherry tree that stretched its branches over the waters of the pond and do their best at fishing.  I have to admit, it seemed like a real oasis.  The sound of the water trickling over the spillway of the dam was quite calming.

When one walked upstream, however, one could observe quite quickly that this beautiful little oasis came at a price.

I guess the beavers had a good life there with all the nice soft trees so close at hand – and no humans around.  They propegated and their family grew.  With a growing family comes a growing appetite and the beavers needed to make the dam bigger to host the larger family.  They knew the current dam was at its limits so, instead, they went upstream and began the construction of the “granny suite”.  Of course, the second dam flooded a great deal of land where beautiful trees were growing.  If the trees remained flooded for too long they too would die.

I knew I was in for a fight.

I recruited some help from my cousins and early one morning we headed upstream to dam # 2.  To deconstruct a beaver dam by hand takes a great deal of strength and time.  The branches are so interwoven into the structure and glued together by mud!  It was tough work.  Eventually we were able to get a hole large enough to create a slip-stream for the backed up water and we let the water pressure behind the dam take care of the rest.  The water gushed through the dam.  Soon, well, in about an hour or two, the water was back to normal and I could hear the trees saying, “thanks”.

We headed home – tired and quite pleased with our work.  We had left the branches and twigs and such beside the dam with the intention of taking them away to clean up the next day.  I had a great sleep that night and was anxious to get back to cleaning up the next morning.

After a fantastic farmer’s breakfast, my cousins and I headed back to the dam.

Well, the beavers had not slept that night – they had been, in fact, very busy.  The water level of the pond was right back where it had been the day before!  I must admit I was a little stunned.  How on earth they had managed to stop the water and re-build I’ll never know – beavers are quite the engineers.  My cousins and I decided that the only thing to do was to rip the dam apart a second time.  “Surely that will discourage them”, I said.  So – away we went to work again.  This time we removed the wood at once.

Tired, and dirty and mosquito bit, we headed back for Paula’s culinary delights.  Once again, we anxiously awaited the next morning to see what would happen.

I saw it in the distance this time – I knew this meant war.  I had under-estimated my opponent.  The dam was re-built – this time better and stronger than ever.

From that time on, I had a new respect for this wonder of nature.  I always imagined the beavers watching us struggle to dis-assemble their engineered interlocking wood – and laughing.

The fight was won… but the battle was far from over!

Categories: Duff History, The Farm | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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