Cycle of Life, Death, and Grief

Lately my writing has been private. This is due to my mother dying on January 30th. I have had a lot to process as I travel between Ohio and Pennsylvania. The stress of losing a loved one, aiding three wildlings under 7 in their grief and understanding of death, managing an estate, cleaning out a house, and dealing with my personal cycle of grief.

One of the things that has made this most difficult is that she chose to not have a memorial service. The lack of a closing ritual and space to celebrate her life has been extraordinarily difficult for me. Now that I am done with the bulk of travel I am going to perform my own ceremony, but it will not be the same. I am used to the concept of an old-fashioned Irish wake where you get together and share stories, memories, food and drink.

For a variety of reasons I am estranged from the remainder of my biological family. Contact has gone very well, but obviously awkward for not having spoken for years. Plus without a history and foundation of trust and support I find it difficult to take assistance from them because I do not know if there is a hidden motive or if they are altruistic.

This reinforces the bonds I want to have with my children and for them to have with each other. It has also enabled me to reach out to other family members about connecting more frequently and consistently once I am done with this part of the travel.

This life cycle experience has also reinforced where my spiritual and devotional practice falls in my life; as well as my writing. Priorities always come to light when major life events occur. It is a good time to take stock and evaluate/re-evaluate what is and is not important.

I have asked for more help in the last few weeks than I have in a very long time. I will continue asking for help as well. Without this help, there is just no way I could keep up on managing two houses in two different states, plus keep family life as stable as possible.

Blessings,

Sassy Viking Mama

Wildlings, Errands, and Parental Judgement

The snow is calming my spirit. I am drained from school prep and two errands with my wildlings. This morning was an inability to focus and by the time I had one kid dressed another was undressed, sigh. However, we made it to school in time.

Off to the grocery store. Only one trip running off and chasing the youngest while telling the middle child to stay put. Only one unknown item in the cart at checkout;caught before paying thank you!

Library. Dear gods I am exhausted from the library. Teaching the youngest to not run off ; not remove all the books, and not climb the shelves. Reminding the middle boy to stay off the computers … books please! Keeping them both within eyesight. The men’s room there is nice. I know this from having to fish the two year old out of there.

Then we rode the elevator upstairs so I could check out two books. We’re fine, we’re fine. Elevator stopped. Alarm sounded. Okay, I got this. Running off once I got where I needed to be. Fine. Fine. Some illusion of control maintained. Long enough to get two books and go back downstairs.

Mad toddler because I wouldn’t let him set off the alarm. He laid on the floor crying while I checked out. It’s fine. The library staff was nice to me. Okay. Coats on, trying to leave and toddler meltdown commence.

And there it is. A screaming, kicking, tantruming toddler. Refuse to walk, fine. I tried to pick him up; now the kicking, thrashing, and sliding out of my hands. We make it outside; oh yeah my coat isn’t zipped and it is 18 degrees out. I can’t keep ahold of him and don’t want to drop him on the sidewalk. I attempt to put him on his feet.

Down and on the ground screaming tantrum. A mom and her kid walk by me, muttering comments and giving me dirty looks. Thanks for the judgement lady. I didn’t need that. What i needed was a moment of kindness. Would it have been too much to pick up the bag of spilled books and help me out? No, instead taking a shot when I was already feeling defeated is exactly what I needed.

Why is it so hard to be kind and supportive? Maybe you are lucky and have never had a child so strong willed that cooperation takes longer to learn. Maybe you have forgotten or never had kids.

I love my wildlings but teaching them how to best communicate, act in public, and getting them to listen can take longer. In the meantime be patient with the parents as we navigate our children and take the time to teach them without breaking their spirits. Have kindness for us because that can be what we need to survive the hard moments. The moments our kids are arguing and we are digging deep for strength and patience, that is when we need kindness because self-doubt about our skills might already be the loud voice in our heads.

Solidarity!

Irisa

We were finally able to stop yelling

Over the last few years I became the parent I never wanted to be. I became a yeller . The more frustrated I became with repeating myself, the more frequently I yelled, the more frustrated I was, the more I yelled. I despised looking in the mirror. I was evaluating myself and my mental and emotional state. Researching postpartum depression, parenting techniques, anxiety and anger connection, etc, etc. I was convinced there was something terribly wrong with me or that I was just a horrid parent. Turns out the main underlying cause was much simpler.

At age 2 my daughter had her first ear infection. We took her to the doctor, put her on antibiotics and situation resolved. Not really, however we did not know that. She is a lovely little girl with an amazing imagination and love of art. Getting her attention has always been difficult. We figured she was wither day dreaming or hyper focused on her tasks as all her wellness checks had always been fine.

As she got older and started school she frequently told us that she didn’t hear us. After rounds of hearing tests and wellness checks with no negative results we simply thought she wasn’t paying attention. Meanwhile, we became louder and louder to get her attention. Frustration was building on all sides and this pattern continued.

During her fifth year ear infections came back with regular frequency picking up into her 6th year. They were not frequent enough to warrant discussing tubes (2-3 times a year) but we were tracking. Her wellness checks still came back fine but we were concerned over lack of focus, difficulty paying attention, constantly saying she cannot hear, continued. Thankfully, we have a fantastic doctor who doesn’t dismiss us and make us fight to be heard. We kept the lines of communication open and were exploring options as to potential causes because these childhood symptoms can be anything from maturity to mental health to physical. Meanwhile, during one of our frustration sessions she had a breakdown and cried asking why she couldn’t hear like other kids. Insert heartbreak here.

Finally she failed a hearing test! Off to the ENT. With our doctor as an advocate we were in within two weeks. Turns out that her growth spurts were the problem. Our daughter’s adenoids needed removed and tubes in her ears. Within three weeks she was able to get her surgery. The center was amazing and the tour had her excited for this surgery. She was excited to resolve the issue and be able to hear.

We are two weeks post-surgery and I have a different child. Within hours of her surgery we noticed she wasn’t whispering and saying what all the time. Her dad hid his mouth and whispered “can you hear me?”. Her response was “what did you say?”, slightly louder he repeated himself and she was like “yes”. We explained to her that daddy was whispering, not yelling and she heard him!

Over the last two weeks the frustration has been disappearing from all of us. She can hear us, we don’t have to yell. I don’t constantly have to research, study and evaluate trying to figure out what is going on with my frustrated, upset child and my parenting. The lack of yelling has changed all of us, including her two small siblings. We are still working on the overall loud, as that has become a habit, but the frustration is gone. There is joy again and we look forward to the continued changes that will come from her being able to hear.

I am glad that I kept searching to understand. That I kept advocating for my family. I knew something wasn’t right. I knew this wasn’t who I was or who my family was. It didn’t feel right. Trust yourself, advocate, fight, research, don’t give up on your kids or yourself ever.

Blessings,

Irisa MacKenzie

Serenity of the Heart

The beauty of Land, Sea and Sky can be found during any season. The following was written after shoveling in 17 degree weather; huddled around a cup of tea.

The snow is absolutely beautiful. It is a bright white fluffy snow unbroken by footprints. The creek covered by a thin layer of ice looks like a dark onyx surrounded by glistening moonstone.

Ice encases the trees in a serenity that protects their hearts until the warmth of spring penetrates their branches, illuminating their soul until their joy bursts forth as blossoms. Spring breezes carrying their songs of joy as scents in the air.

Blessings,

Irisa MacKenzie

Passionate Commitment

We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out. ~ Ray Bradbury

Bradbury once told me that the way to let the good stuff out was to write every day. Allow the words to pour out of yourself onto the paper. Some will be rubbish, some will be good. So I committed to writing each day. Eventually, well-meaning advice, life, and non-believers beat me down until I stepped back from my passion.

Now, I am re-committed to my passion. I will write each day. I will share writings. Some will be good, some will be bad. I won’t worry about formulas, themes etc. I will develop my passion and see where it’s love takes me.

What passionate journey do you embark upon?

Blessings,

Irisa

Why my 7 year old does her own laundry …

One of the many battles I had this summer was with my two older kids regarding laundry. I wash and fold, they are supposed to put away. A day later no one has clothing. How??

I have come to find they would either put it right back in with the dirty clothing, shove it under furniture or hide it in toy boxes. It was a mess of explaining, punishing, yelling, frustration and blech all summer. Last week mom snapped.

I explained to my children that me doing their laundry is a privilege. We have front load machines and they are old enough to do this chore. If they cannot respect the work I am doing for them, they can do their own work.

My 7 year old is now entirely responsible for her own laundry and the 4 year old is on warning. She has a laundry basked in her closet. When it gets full she must bring it down and ask mom or dad to show her how to run the washer.

Here are the rules:

  • You cannot go to school in dirty clothing
  • You cannot be late for anything because you waited to wash your clothes
  • No whining to me that your favorite whatever is dirty
  • No getting your brother or anyone else to do this

This weekend she received the full experience. I reminded her to check her basket. It was full so she brought it downstairs and asked for help. We got everything in the wash, then dryer. She brought her clothing int to he living room to fold. I went back to cleaning the kitchen.

A short time later she came to me in frustration, near tears, because her 2 year old brother was unfolding her clothing and throwing it around the living room. Her 4 year old brother was refusing to help her and playing with the 2 year old.

I calmly looked at her and let her know that this is exactly what I have to deal with every time I fold a load of laundry for the last 6 years. She needs to take a breathe and figure out how she wants to handle this situation, but this is her situation to handle. A few minutes later I poked my head in the living room and reminded the 4 year old to not give his sister a hard time because his laundry privileges were also on the line.

By the time I was done my chores things were progressing peacefully. I asked her if she had a better understanding of why I was getting so upset this summer about the laundry. My daughter proceeded to tell me that doing this work with the boys was really hard.

Sometimes, experience really is the best teacher. She is still responsible for her own laundry. Honestly, I do not see any reason to take this chore back from her at this time. As her school responsibilities increase she may get extra help from me, but for now we will continue with her laundry being her sole responsibility.

Sassy Viking Mama

Irisa

Goodbye Judgement and Toxicity

As your family grows you need to grow. This includes your parenting style and how you relate to your children. I am constantly re-evaluating our families needs and interactions and adjusting as best I can. This was a hard summer for me. There were a lot of adjustments and things to be dealt with.

Due to my husbands work schedule I did a lot of solo parenting which left me pretty exhausted and stretched thin. I started to hate who I had become, which was a short tempered and burnt out mom. This isn’t what I wanted for myself or my family.

The additional pressure of information overload and judgement on parenting did not help. I have found there to be very little to no support for parents but miles of judgement. I am tired of being made to feel constantly shamed and criticized for my choices. There are lots of voices for that but miles of empty fields when you reach out for help and support.

This became abundantly clear to me when I moved to this city. Suddenly, I lived near and developed new support. I have more support now than I ever have before. People willing to give their time and lend a hand. Something as simple as the neighbor popping in for coffee and to sit with the youngest while he naps and I run over to the school for my oldest has made a world of difference.

I am done with the judgements and focusing on what we want and need as a family. I am done with toxic parenting. For me that means those who judge parents but never offer help. Who offer no empathy and support only criticism. I have cut other toxic relationships out of my life, now it is time to dispose of the toxic parent judges.

I am an unusual mix of strict and lenient with my kids. I want my children to have manners and be respectful. However, they can do that without cutting their personal boundaries. We love video games, board games, tabletop games, movies and YouTube. I encourage questions, self expression and emotions.

Do you need to throw a temper tantrum? Go ahead, in your room scream, yell and cry. Then come back down and we can work thru this together. Need to get out aggression? We have foam swords and shields, gardening and yard work. Emotions but no ideas? We have art, cooking and a million other creative things. Express yourself, then we come come around and work through it.

I am working with what works for the 5 of us and I am done apologizing for it.

Finding Strength every day.

Your Sassy Viking Mama

Irisa

Early fall days

The first true cold snap of the season has brought us interesting times.

Little monster was sick for his 15 month appointment. Therefore, the 2 year wellness check included catch up shots and the first part of his flu shot.

Bear cub has been bored with siblings feeling blah, weather changes and mom being exhausted. He is binge watching Hilda and cooking shows.

Princess superhero is sick. She is trying to convince me she can go to school tomorrow. Nope, you are working hard on getting full blown larangytis.

Freyrson has been traveling every week since mid August. His body finally had enough and his back gave. He is recouperating slowly.

Me. I am exhausted. everyone has managed to bump or hit where I got my flu shot. Add in our furnace went and after months of single parenting my plate is now over full. Thankfully, we had expected it to go and have a home warranty. Because I knew this was going to happen it hasn’t pushed me over the limit. We also have 2 space heaters from our old house and great insulation. Sadly, I hadn’t gotten our chimney cleaned and inspected yet.

All in all not too bad. I am exhausted but everything is fixable. We have a roof over our head and food in our bellies. Most importantly we are together.

A day of cuddles, bonding and leftovers. My neighbor brought us bread pudding. I am turning yesterday’s pot roast and root vegetables into shredded meat with gravy, vegetables and noodles. Later the leftover pasta and meatballs will be added to zucchini, onions and sauce.

Happy Fall!

Irisa

Self Expression, Chances and Consequences

We express ourselves in a variety of ways: art, music, literature, gaming, cosplay, reenactments, physical activity, and personal connections are some examples of what we do. These activities are chosen because we have needs. A need to feel alive, to be heard, to make a difference, to express our emotions, share ideas, etc. These activities express our needs.

To find things that make us feel something becomes harder as the world becomes bigger and expectations become more materialistic. As a kid we are promised the golden life if we simply follow (insert magical path here). Life is not that simple. Choices have consequences. Common ones are college or not college. Go to college for the dream job and spend your life paying an impossible amount of debt that keeps you from your true dream of owning a home or travelling or raising a family. Don’t go to college and struggle for a decent job because you don’t have a piece of paper that says you can work in this non-specialty field.

Follow your passion is another dream we are told to follow; often up until we reach an age of double digits. Then we are told to be practical. What if the practical and the passion don’t match? Do you spend a lifetime reconciling those sides of yourself or spend a lifetime sacrificing one part for another? Who or what do you make happy? Yourself? Your bank account? Your family? Your friends? Each choice has a consequence.

Consequences don’t have to be negative or dire. However, they must be understood. Also, choices are rarely unchangeable. Just because you can change something doesn’t mean you should be careless with the big stuff. Conversely, because there are consequences doesn’t mean you should be afraid of choices and chances.

I suffered in silence for decades. Living the life I was supposed to live. The life everyone told me would make me happy. The life that was the ideal I was supposed to want. I was miserable and sick. I dealt with depression because I felt ungrateful that I didn’t want what “normal” people wanted.

My reality was that I gave up my passion for a when I had time hobby; in exchange for a decent paying job that sucked the life out of me. Literally, I had migraines, got sick constantly, became suicidal and was self destructive.  But my family and friends were proud of me. Everyone thought I was living a dream. Perhaps I was, but it was not my dream.

I tried to go to college to make my parents happy. I hated it. I didn’t want to go. I wanted to run away from home, so I did by doing what they wanted. In the end I burned out, made inexperienced life choices, trusted the wrong people, and ended up with a huge financial burden and no college degree.

I was dating someone who moved in with me. My family hated it because I wasn’t married. We got engaged and the night before my wedding I sat in my apartment throwing up. I knew this wasn’t what I wanted and felt ungrateful because I had someone who wanted to marry me and a decent job and I was miserable. I wanted to pack my bag and take off for the mountains. So, I said I do. Later I learned he had his own doubts and we spent years making each other miserable before I got the courage to leave.

I tried to find myself in shopping malls, silk suits and well-paying corporate jobs. Every credit card bill, fluorescent light and expected social gathering left a part of my mind shrieking in pain and a false smile on my lips. I was embarrassed by social connections and cringed when praised for those connections.
On weekends I drowned myself in whiskey and frivolity. The more uncomfortable I was, the more I drank and shopped. Looking for answers in dulled senses and esoteric items. But my mind drifted to the lake and the woods. The smell of campfire and crunch of dirt and gravel under a tire as you drive into the woods losing cell and radio signal.

One day I snapped. I no longer cared if I was alone or disappointing everyone. I saw happiness and I ran towards it, never looking back. Seven years ago, I emptied my bank account and retired from a 20 year career. I had no plan other than to follow my heart. It was the biggest leap of faith I had ever taken as I was in my 30’s and starting over. I may not have a retirement plan and life is a lot more day-to-day, but I have traded one set of values and ideals for another that is in line with my heart and my head. Not other people’s expectations.

There isn’t much I miss about my old life. This life brings me closer to bliss described in the fairy tales I read growing up.  Being truly content and happy terrifies me half the time. I have a circle of friends that I consider family. Three amazing humans that call me mommy and a best friend to share this craziness with. I may not live on a mountain, but I have trees, space to garden and a creek with an active ecosystem and wildlife. I find myself more comfortable in my own skin than I ever thought possible.

We have options in our lives. We are not trapped by choices of our youth. Life is precious and we need to balance financial needs with emotional needs. Find a path that gives you that balance. Balance isn’t the same for each person. Nor does balance stay the same throughout our life.

Stay true to yourself and those in your care. Find your personal balance. Weave your magic. Magic is what we make.

Magic is what we live and weave each moment of each day.
Blessings,
Irisa MacKenzie
Sassy Viking Mama

Urban sanctuary

I invite you to make the time to slow down and find a spot in nature. A place where the surroundings call to your soul; calming you in a way you have not felt since innocence. Just breathe and listen. Close your eyes and feel the elements against your skin. Open your eyes and see what is around … not critically, but curiously. The wonder of a child finding their place in this world.

This morning I drank a cup of coffee from my porch and watched the storm clouds rolling past …. fat, gray and searching for a place to release their storms. My sanctuary is just a few blocks from a city street. The sounds of an urban neighborhood mixing with the call of the birds and sting of mosquito.

We moved at the beginning of the month. For the first time in years I feel like I can breathe. The call of the sun and moon is not being drowned out by anxiety. All of us are lighter. Watching the kids dig thru the garden for bugs. Learning ebb and flow as the creek rises and swells during the Summer storms, then returns to normal.

Nature gives many opportunities to learn and teach. The creek that runs through our property is one such lesson. The first time she swelled with the storms I had to discuss the dangers during this time with them. A fine line between scaring them and being honest if they fell in.

My middle child is four and his response to the conversation was to make offerings to Thor for protection. The second time storms rolled thru and the creek began to swell the six and four year old double checked the doors were safety locked so their baby brother couldn’t get to the yard. Then they asked to do offerings.

Each day we are finding our place in a new city. Our house becoming a home. Becoming in tune to the rhythms of our place in the world. Each of us growing tall and becoming rooted.

How can you blossom were you are currently planted?

Irisa MacKenzie