Erin's Journals

Monday, September 13, 2021

Just a thought… We’re all in this together and that’s the beauty of our family. Loss brought us together, but love keeps us close. [Brooke Russell]

You can watch a video version of this journal on my Facebook page, or here on YouTube.

Welcome to Monday and a brand new week. We’re away for a few days – three of them, actually – as we immerse ourselves in family and celebrate Grandparents’ Day! It’s Phil and Brooke’s first time out of the house with the kids overnight since they moved here a year ago, so we’re up island in a place called Nanoose Bay. We rented a house where the kids can (gently) have the run of the place, we can enjoy some nice time reconnecting – although we do see each other all the time – but just time together that we haven’t had since they stayed with us a month in July of last year.

So let’s talk about grandparenting. Rob and I are in a unique situation, but one that a lot of grandparents find themselves in, and that is one of welcoming a blended family. Of course Colin, is our grandson and then 2 years ago on the 30th of this month, along came sweet baby Jane.

At first we were like – okay…so how will this work? We’ll want to be her grandparents, but will we be? And then we found that, just as we welcomed Brooke into our lives when Phil started seeing her, we just had to open our hearts. And once again, WE were the winners here, too.

I mean, look at these two.

At almost seven years old, Colin is an amazing big brother. He dances with her, puts up with getting hit now and then, wrestles with the remotes and all of those sibling things. But most of all, he loves her to the moon and back. And he makes her laugh. Even when he’s having a sleepover with us, he’ll FaceTime her and it will usually turn a grumpy girl into a happy little sister.

But I have to tell you about a truly memorable and magical moment that happened just a week ago here.

We were at our place, saying our good-byes as the kids were all going home, getting ready for Colin’s first day in grade two. He ran out to the car and was ready to go, but Jane stayed and gave me her version of a hug, where she walks up, puts her face against my legs and says “Bye Grama.”

Then, something happened that none of us expected, but all of us witnessed: she went over to Rob, put her cheek to his thigh and said, “I love you Grandad.”

Rob started to cry. Tears welled in Brooke’s eyes, and Phil put his hand on his chest. I just watched it all happen. This moment, this unforgettable moment.

It had a bittersweet element, because Brooke’s dad is no longer here and HE is her grandad too. I was thinking of that in the moment and wondering how her heart was holding up. But the sweetest part of it was seeing a bond that had formed between these two: Grandude and Janey, right before our eyes. A flash that none of us will ever forget, when Rob had a little girl tell him that she loves him, just as he did so many times, a lifetime ago.

And then I laughed, remembering what Lauren would do (as I mention in my book Mourning Has Broken): she would say to us both, “I love you,” and I’d say, “Thank you honey.” And then with a wry smile, she’d add, “I was talking to Daddy.” I’m waiting for that from Jane: “I was talking to Grandude.”

Here’s to the joys and gifts of grandparenting in all its forms: the so-called “traditional” families, and those that are chosen out of love. The quote above is how Brooke so beautifully put it; I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Have a gentle week and I’ll be back with you Thursday. Brooke’s going to put ME on the hot seat for a journal you’ll have to see – a hipster lingo questionnaire – so it should be awesome. Or awkward. One of those AW words.

Rob WhiteheadMonday, September 13, 2021
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Thursday, September 9, 2021

Just a thought… Whoever said “Out of sight, out of mind” never had a spider disappear in their bedroom. [Author Unknown]

You can watch a video version of this journal on my Facebook page, or here on YouTube.

Welcome back – hope this week of big adjustments is going smoothly for you!

I have a story to tell you today which really needs a picture, but I’m not going to show it – for your benefit. You see, my friend Lisa, with whom I took a road trip in August, has truly opened my eyes to the outright terror some people feel about things, like, say…spiders. So don’t worry – I won’t share a picture, but I’ll tell you our story and make it as gentle as possible. Stay with me here.

We checked into the first of two of our hotel stays on the Monday. Since we were early, we had booked massages, which were, to quote Lisa, “the best she‘d ever had.” I’ll vouch for that! She went first, but when I stumbled to our room, I was jolted out of bliss by what looked like a police search happening. The rug was rolled out, the sofa pulled away from the wall, not one but two people were there with brooms and, for all I know, hunting rifles.

Then Lisa showed me a picture she captured of what we now know was a wolf spider that had been resting in the arm of her bathrobe (that is, until she went to put it on after her post-massage shower). She screamed bloody murder when she saw him, she tells me, then called front desk, which sent in the cavalry. But Wolfie, as we named him, was nowhere to be found.

So how do I describe this little guy without making your skin crawl? Okay, first of all, definitely not little: his body was the size of a toonie, his legs (even bent) would have reached the circumference of a coaster. So yeah, not at all your regular arachnid. Not to us, anyway.

William, one of the brave cavalry, ID’d him from Lisa’s photo, and said they’re harmless. I later Googled and found that a bite might sting, but wouldn’t kill me. Good to know?

‘Cause you see, here’s the thing: we never found Wolfie. So we surmised that he was hiding somewhere, possibly in the pull-out bed that was to be Lisa’s, in her plans. (She had placed our luggage while I was getting my treatment.)

Will and his co-worker put our room back together and left us to sit, Lisa with her feet up, purse on a table, taking every precaution to make sure that Wolfie didn’t find another hiding spot near or on her, while I sat with my feet up on the sofa. We pondered our situation and decided I would move to the downstairs room with the pull-out – which was always my plan – and just hope that Wolfie wasn’t a cuddler. (Eight Arms to Hold You: wasn’t that the working title for a Beatles movie?)

Lisa has had some really nasty run-ins with the eight-legged type and I’m not at liberty to share them. Trust me, like all anxieties, this one is not to be scoffed at. I respect her fear but I don’t have it. I could have shared her king-sized bed – that offer was made – but I really didn’t mind. Plus she’s a super early riser. This gal needs her beauty rest!

As I turned off the light that first night, and again the second, I said good-night to him and asked him not to visit. And perhaps I might have sung him a little lullaby. Do feel free to sing along, won’t you?

The giant honking spider went up poor Lisa‘s arm

Down came the staff to shield us all from harm

Up he went to run, and hide himself away

And we never again saw that Wolfie, not to this very day.

Now for a really nice sleep story, Google Drift with Erin Davis and download it for FREE wherever you get your podcasts. You may hear of dragons but no spiders! Just lavender and love that I hope will bring you the kind of rest you should get after a massage.

Enjoy your weekend and, if you’re up on Saturday morning at 7:30 EDT, I’m a guest on Zoomer radio in Toronto with Kathy Buckworth’s show “Go to Grandma,” talking Grandparents’ Day which is Sunday. Take care.

Rob WhiteheadThursday, September 9, 2021
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Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Just a thought… Anyone who stops learning is old, whether 20 or 80. [Henry Ford]

If you ordinarily just read this journal, I’m really going to urge you to try the video version. The content, in terms of words, won’t be any different, but I promise it’ll be worth it. Come along for the adventure. It’s really easy. You can watch a video version of this journal on my Facebook page, or here on YouTube.

Well, Happy New Year, my friend. I haven’t lost my marbles (okay, not entirely) but the first day after Labour Day has always been one of fresh starts, of new beginnings. So let’s do that. And by the way, my hat is off (while my mask is on) in salute to teachers everywhere today. You’ve been toiling under extraordinary pressure and challenges over the past 19 months and we are SO grateful for the impact your dedication has made on the lives of the little ones we love.

Speaking of learning, we’ve upped the curve here a bit for journal video viewers. I’ve gotten myself a green screen and changed things up: not the content, just the background. I want you always to have something to look at besides this face, and Rob has patiently gone along with my plan. Of course, it means more work in post-production and that I can never wear anything green or I’ll just be a floating head, and there will be mistakes, but what the heck, right? You’re worth it. And I love to learn.

I can talk to you from Mission Control. What’s that, Houston? No problems? Good. Thanks. Keep up the great work!

I can take you on our trip to Egypt…and share with you the heat and wonder of the Abu Simbel temple, moved in 1968 during the creation of the Lake Nasser reservoir.

But mostly, my friend, my backdrops will be from home: of places I’d love for you to experience, or that will make you feel as if you’re here having a coffee with me. Just as our friend Lisa Brandt did – having made the trek from Port Stanley, Ontario to be with us.

As I trust you read in Lisa’s blog, there were some wonderful sights: from our perch on Salt Spring Island right near downtown, to up island near Courtney and including a rainy day trip to Campbell River. If you haven’t seen her pictures, please go to voiceoflisabrandt.com and check out last Tuesday’s blog.

The best part of our trip, which spanned five days together on the road, wasn’t the food (which was good) or the sightseeing (which was spectacular) but the talk. The company. The advice we shared for each other, the perspectives and the memories. Get two women with over 60 years combined radio experience and, oh, you’re going to get memories. I don’t know how either of us survived the misogyny and insanity of those early years, but here we are. Sober and sane and laughing all the way.

Have a lovely week and I’ll be back here with you Thursday. I’ve missed you.

Rob WhiteheadTuesday, September 7, 2021
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Thursday, August 19, 2021

Just a thought… The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair and confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing…not healing…not curing…that is a friend who cares. [Henri Nouwen]

As always, you can watch a video version of this journal on my Facebook page, or here on YouTube.

This will be my last journal until after Labour Day – you see, I have a very special friend coming this weekend. Gee, that sounds like my period, but that ship (with a P!) has sailed, thankfully. No, it’s Lisa Brandt, former broadcaster, current voice artist extraordinaire, writer, blogger, soul sister, longtime confidante and forever partner in dark humour. We’ve been through hell and back a few times over the past two decades and in two days she’s getting on a plane and coming here from Ontario. Girl’s got her vax and she’s prepped to relax.

After her body clock adjusts a bit, we’re taking a Thelma and Louise top-down (the car, silly) road trip for four days across to Salt Spring and then up island. Just Lisa and Erin and a whole lot of talking, sight-seeing and breathing in the bliss of our company and the beauty of our surroundings.

There’s something almost indescribable about a friend, who has been with you through the worst parts of your life, who is irreplaceable, and nothing brought this home more to me than an article in The Atlantic online magazine.

It was a long read about a couple, the McIlvaines, who lost one of their two sons in 9/11 in the twin towers terrorist attacks, a horror that is coming up on its 20th anniversary next month. While we know never ever to compare grief, reading the father’s reaction – which was to go down every single rabbit hole there was about conspiracy theories and “truthers” surrounding 9/11 – and the mother’s, was eye-opening to me.

In fact, I can’t let go of it. I can relate to her grief in some ways – not all, of course, as my daughter’s death wasn’t a worldwide news story, a “remember where you were” moment that will be indelibly marked for decades to come, and an event that affected everything from travel precautions to wars and countless other parts of our lives. In no way do I compare my own loss to hers. We don’t compare grief and I’ll keep saying that until I’m blue in the face.

But in that Atlantic article, the things that mom Helen said which resonated with me most loudly (in fact, they’re in my book) included the dreaded “at leasts” and the well-meaning pep talks with statements like “no parent should have to bury a child.”

Their son Bobby’s soon-to-be fiancée also said something that jumped out at me: “Don’t tell me I’m going to be okay.” Because, at that moment, Jen’s life had fallen apart and she did not want to hear that, even though the words came from her own future mother-in-law who was, at the time, begging for one of her son’s journals to be returned to her. She knew Jen would still have a life; Helen, the mom, was just clinging to what she could from her son’s existence. Boy, do I get that!

I’ve told other parents who’ve reached out to me in their rawest grief that every day does get a little bit better and the weight on your chest a little lighter. But never would I say, “You’ll be okay.” The truth is that there is no finish line when your child dies. It’s a cross-country marathon and, if you’re lucky, eventually the hills get gentler and fewer.

The friends who are there at the marathon’s hydration stations to hand you water (when you wish it was wine), who will listen to you talk about stuff like this – to hammer out the progress, the possibilities, the common threads that have tied you together all of these years – those are the ones who have you counting the days, the hours and the blessings that come with seeing them again.

I wish you a friend like Lisa – and I’ll be back with you here on the 7th. In the meantime, I’ll be posting daily on Facebook.

Rob WhiteheadThursday, August 19, 2021
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Monday, August 16, 2021

Just a thought… Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom. [Rumi]

You can watch a video version of this journal on my Facebook page, or here on YouTube.

Now, today I’m not talking about grief – stay with me – it’s about what can happen afterwards and the joy that can await you.

I have a couple of special people in my heart and on my mind today. One: my dad. Yes, you’ve met him and I’m so glad we had that trip to see him in June, when we took that boat trip on the Okanagan before the whole area surrounding Kelowna became one big smoky smudge, with temperatures daily in the 30s.

Mind you, here on Vancouver Island, we’ve come through another hot stretch with temperatures in that same range, although today’s high is a much more normal 22. Mind you, Rob and I are lucky because, although we don’t have central air, there’s a heat pump system with three units that cool the house. Most folks and almost all resorts up island have no AC at all. It’s time to start looking at the future and this new normal, I fear.

At long last, more governments (including ours in BC) are mandating that all people who work in long-term care facilities now have to be vaccinated. It seems a no-brainer, but as we’ve discussed here before, there’s a shortage of intelligence and common sense abounding.

The second person about whom I’m thinking a lot these days is a new/old friend. Her name is Mira and I met her when Rob and I picked up some new addresses on our weekly meal deliveries for a community centre. Next week she’s turning 96.

Mira is a gift to us: one of the most lively, active, sharp and funny women of her age – and almost any other – that we’ve met in years. She greets Rob and me with an offer of ice cream bars from her freezer; she has started stocking new choices every week and no matter what we have after our deliveries, we are now making sure we have time to be with her, to sit, to make a small repair here or there, or to share our stories, listen to hers, or just talk about the weather.

She has no air conditioning, but she’s faring well enough with little ice packs on her wrists and that freezer of cold treats. I wish we had a fan we could have lent her during the last wave. They’re nowhere to be found these days, as you can imagine. But trust me, she’s lived in the middle east; she can handle this, as she’s been through so much more.

Mira was in a work camp as a young girl during the Second World War. She and her future husband, who lost his entire family during that awful time, moved to Israel in its aftermath, as her country (the former Yugoslavia) no longer existed.

She came to Canada when that loving husband died suddenly while visiting one of their sons here. That was nearly 50 years ago. And so here she is, a Canadian for the past 15 years. Her life, her memories and her spirit are such a bright light and Rob and I feel fortunate even to share a slice or a scoop of it, every week.

Mira even introduced me to a wonderful former Toronto resident who was invited over in time for our meal delivery a few weeks back; the woman happened to know who I was when Mira spoke of me on the phone, so there was a lovely familiarity. Unfortunately, that woman is moving back east in a few weeks, but she’s introduced us to other couples so that we might make some more friends in our new homeland. All about connection, right?

I’m touched almost beyond words by the kindness that has come into our lives just because we stepped through doors and out of our own comfort zones. Even during these times of delivering in a mask and gloves, of taking precautions and keeping our distance, we can still forge bonds of the heart. We never know how long they will last, but as Mira says of us, we are already in each other’s hearts. She’s one in a million and a literal reminder that you cannot spell m-i-r-a-c-l-e without Mira.

Have a lovely day and I’ll be back here with you Thursday.

Rob WhiteheadMonday, August 16, 2021
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