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You belong among the wildflowers

5 Oct

My oldest son turned 9, the big kids started school, and then September just… disappeared.  

October drifted in, drizzly and grey.  A friend posted on my Facebook wall that Tom Petty was in critical condition after suffering a full cardiac arrest.

No!

The day flew by in a confusion of conflicting news reports.  Was he alive?  Was he dead.  When the official family/publicist statement was released, the uncertainty evaporated.  

Tom Petty died on October 2nd at 8:40pm.  He was surrounded by his family and friends and his band members as he passed into the great wide open.

What an odd feeling, to be so downtrodden and devastated by the death of a public figure.  I’m not his daughter or his sister or cousin.  I’ve never met him.

I wasn’t his friend.  But he was mine.

I remember it so well.  Grade 9.  Turning on MuchMoreMusic at my friend Sarah’s house.  It was Pop-up Video and Walls by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was playing.  A bearded forty-something, sitting with guitar in a blooming lotus prop.  


Some days are diamonds, some days are rocks…

It wasn’t a crush.  Ridiculous. 

It wasn’t a teenage fantasy.  Insulting.  

It was magic.

One of the pop-up bubbles said that Tom Petty was born in 1950.  I thought, while glancing at Sarah’s father’s immense CD collection, well, that’s kind of old… I wonder if Sarah’s dad has any Tom Petty CDs…

He did.

Damn the Torpedoes.  

Hard Promises.



Sarah’s dad let me borrow the CDs and I took them home and immediately transferred them to cassette.  Then I returned the CDs and wore out the cassettes.

Then I began the hunt.  

I slowly but surely gathered up all the Tom Petty I could find.  At that point, Wildflowers was the most recent Tom Petty solo release and She’s the One was the most recent Heartbreakers release.  I found it all, of course.  

What a time to be on the hunt for treasures.  Waiting to hear a song on the radio, waiting for a particular music video, picking up bits of news from the most popular music magazines.  

I had the Internet at my finger tips and yet, it wasn’t just instant gratification.  I’m part of the in-between generation, where I grew up without internet but it became a part of my daily life in my late teen years.  I understand what it’s like to be without but I also understand what it’s like in a world obsessed.  

I scoured eBay for all the old music magazines with any heartbreaker cover stories.  I perused all the second hand stores for cassettes, cds, and records.  I found out the news in both the cyber world and the real world of music magazines.   

I remember in late 1998, this kept popping up in magazines: 


I was awe struck when I realized and understood that my favourite band was releasing a brand new album.  

After my initial Tom Petty discovery, all the music I had collected was pre 1996.  Much of it from the 70s and 80s.  I’d categorized the Heartbreakers into music of the past.  The possibility of new music never even occurred to me.

It was truly a wondrous feeling to go into HMV when Echo was released and buy it with my own money.  

I can’t even pick a favourite Tom Petty album (How would I?), but that one?  Purchased on my own, as a teenager, with my own money.  Much like seeing the video for Walls play for the first time, it was a defining moment.

And brand new music videos to accompany the new album?

She went down, swingin’, like Benny Goodman…


I got a room at the top of the world tonight….


And more albums followed.  

And more videos.  

And one of the greatest days of my life: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in concert.


And then another concert


And then another 


How lucky was I, to see my musical idol in concert not once, not twice, but three times?!

How lucky am I, that I can listen to any one of the Heartbreakers’ thirteen studio albums whenever I want?  

Or the three solo albums.  

The two Traveling Wilburys albums.  

The two Mudcrutch albums.  

The music videos. The documentary.  The recorded concerts.  The books.  It’s all there.  For me and millions of fans, whenever we want.

Through his incredible legacy, Tom Petty will continue to live.  Every time we press play, it’s going to playback.


How can it have affected me so?

It’s obvious now, isn’t it?

The soundtrack to my high school years and through four years of University.  The music that accompanied me into marriage, motherhood, and eventually, divorce.

What does a person do when experiencing great joy?  Turn on the record player.  What does a person do in times of immense grief?  Pop in a CD.  

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have been there with me through the best and the worst times. The songs are tied to specific memories and feelings.  

The words speak of universal themes, yet, feel strangely personalized.  The music appeals to the masses, yet, burrows it’s way into your psyche and feels as if it’s yours alone.

Joyful.  Mournful.  Musical accompaniment to life’s greatest tragedies and triumphs.  

Tom Petty.


I didn’t know him; I wasn’t his friend.

But he was mine.

Rest In Peace, Mr. Petty.  My heartfelt and sincere condolences to your wife, your children, your grandchild, your brother, your band, and to all who knew you and loved you.  

Thank you for the music.  

***

And as usual, the rule for coming to see me:

Our Children

20 May

Over the past few years, we’ve watched open-mouthed as young black men have been gunned down in the United States.  

One was an unarmed father of five, selling cigarettes.  One was trying to walk home from the store.  One was a 12 year old boy in a park. There are so many others.  It was heartbreaking to hear about again and again.  Canada, as a country, grieved with the parents.  

We grieved from afar but also patted ourselves on the back because that kind of awfulness just doesn’t happen in Canada.  

After all, our gun laws are stricter.  

After all, we’re just so darn nice here.  

After all, we embrace multiculturalism and diversity.

We say sorry if we bump into each other; we tell each other to have a nice day, eh!

But truthfully, we are no better.  Not really.  We proudly proclaim Canada as the epitome of human rights, while ignoring the very people who were here first.  

2017 marks Canada’s 150th birthday.  150 years as an official country.  To many that’s a major cause for celebration.  For others it’s a stark reminder of broken promises, residential schools, missing and murdered indigenous women, reserves with never ending boil-water advisories, and dead children.

The children.  Oh my heart just breaks thinking about what their parents and family members have gone through.  Are going through. 

The past decade in Thunder Bay has seen nine teens pulled from the same river.

These are their names: 

JETHRO ANDERSON

CURRAN STRANG

PAUL PANACHEESE

ROBYN HARPER

REGGIE BUSHIE

KYLE MORRISOW 

JORDAN WABASSE 

TAMMY KEEASH

JOSIAH BEGG

These names are important.  

These young people need to be remembered.

Nine young indigenous teens, ranging from 14 years to 18 years old.  All of them were in Thunder Bay for schooling (or appointments) and far from home.  They were away from their families.  They ended up in the river.

Why?  Why did these young people end up in the river?  Were they pushed?  Were they drinking?  Were they alone?  Did someone push them?  Was it accidental?  Suicide?  Murder?

I have no answers and no solutions.

What I can do, however, starts at home.  I have three white (perhaps) heterosexual sons.  

At this point in their lives, they barely understand the concepts of racism and bigotry.  We talk about it in age-appropriate ways and they have a basic understanding that some people are treated badly because of their skin colour or where they were born, what they believe, etc.  They think it’s unfair. 

Like any parent, I worry about my children.  One thing I don’t often think about though, is whether or not my sons will be shot by police officers.  Or whether or not they’ll end up in a river.  

I mean, it could happen, but it’s statistically improbable.  I just don’t spend time worrying that my sons will get shot by police officers or attacked because of their skin colour.  Nobody is going to call my sons derogatory names becsuse of their skin colour.

This is my privilege.  

I recognize it; I own it.

I don’t know what the future holds.  But today I’m telling my almost nine year old about the young boy who was pulled from the river, like the many before him.  

I’m talking to him about safety and personal responsibility.  Soon I’ll tell him that if he’s in a scary situation, he can ALWAYS call me or his dad or his Gramma. 

I don’t know what happened to Josiah and the others, but I do think about the what-ifs.  Was he alone? Was he with a friend?  Did he have a cell phone?  Was he unable to call anyone for help?  Did he call and nobody came?  Was he scared?  Did he know he was about to die?  Was he even aware of what was happening?  

That poor child.  His poor mother.  

It’s so easy to look at this situation and dismiss it outright because it happened to someone else.  But that someone else is still a person.  He’s a son and brother.  He had hopes and dreams.  He had friends.  

Josiah was Sunshine Winter’s child but really, he was our child.  A child of Canada, of Turtle Island.  All these children are our children.  This country is hurting and has been for centuries.  

We can’t change the past, but we can work towards a better future.

The children are the future, we can’t let them down.

Let’s do this.

***

Resources if you’re interested in an overview of the current situation:

Fifth Estate Segment discussing police activity in response to the deaths of these teens.

Article about the most recent deaths causing concern about police practices. 

An article about the inquest launched into the deaths over the last ten years.

Girl Blogger

23 Mar

I’m still neglecting this space. 

It’s the whole, having-three-kids and having-a-new-love in my life that are occupying a lot of my time these days.  Naturally.

I’m also having so much fun with my not-so-side-project, People of Port Arthur.  Have you checked it out yet?  

It will likely be more interesting if you live in Thunder Bay or you’re from Thunder Bay.  I love talking and I love learning about people; I’m having so much fun introducing readers to the people I meet on my daily travels throughout my part of the city.  

It’s my own little Sesame Street.  

These are the people in my neighbourhood…

Now remember, if you don’t live in or work in the Port Arthur half of Thunder Bay, you can still be featured.  It’s not a hard and fast rule, it’s just a lovely little bit of alliteration (PEOPLE of PORT ARTHUR) that appeals so greatly to me!  Plus, I am not a frequent visitor to the southernmost areas of our city.  

If you see me out and about, you’re welcome to approach me and ask for a feature on People of Port Arthur.  I have a backlog of people so it wouldn’t actually happen immediately.  But it would happen eventually!  

However, if I’m with my kids and they’re screaming or running into traffic or punching each other, it’s best not to approach unless you want an exasperated eye roll for a response.  You know, you gotta feel the room.

Another little pastime that’s been consuming my hours is a new art endeavour.  

Pop Art Prints by Eating Dirt.  

It’s something fun and creative that has the potential (through commissions) to earn a bit of pocket money.  And by pocket money, I mean grocery money.

So!  Despite my neglect, it was really nice to see this article in The Argus today!


First there was Amanda Bay of Bay Awesome: 


Then me:


And Sabrina from ArcticSabrina:


Each blogger had a lovely description following the picture.  It was interesting to know that someone out there considers me a badass.  Me?  Little old me???  I think I’m pretty strong and resilient so I will take that badass label and wear it proudly.

I spend a lot of time writing about other people and I’m pretty good at writing about myself with honesty and objectivity.  It’s interesting, a bit surprising, and humbling to read what someone else has written about you.  

Thank you to the author, Leah Ching, who used such kind words to describe me and my fellow girl bloggers.

One thing is definitely for certain: I’m in great company, here in Thunder Bay.  I’m lucky and blessed to know so many creative and talented people and even luckier to be counted in their numbers.

Thank you readers for continuing to come back.  I may not write as frequently as I used to, but I’m not going anywhere.

Upcoming Travel

17 May

Our plan was to fly to Edmonton and meet my brother there and we would all head back to his farm, 3.5 hours north.  

I remember three years ago, we were going to visit my brother and we were worried about the forest fire situation.  Nothing ended up happening and we had a nice visit.

This year, everybody in the world (it seems) is aware of the Fort MacMurry fires and I was wondering if it would affect our trip.  Jesse didn’t seem worried because the giant Fort Mac fire is six hours away from his property, though he did mentioned there were closer fires.  He said the air was smokey but nothing seemed to be happening.  

Then two nights ago, a small fire near his town exploded from 80 hectares to 800 hectares and my brother’s tiny village was evacuated.  Jesse was sitting on his couch watching a movie and waiting for the police to come knock on his door.  He grabbed his cat and the emergency bag he had packed and took off to a friend’s house.

He’s safe for the time being and his house is still standing, but there’s talk of the larger (nearby) town (where he is currently residing with a friend) being evacuated and there’s talk of explosion warnings, should the oil wells catch fire.  Jesse says half the able-bodied employees are helping fight the fires and the rest are working night and day to keep the oil wells drained.

So, needless to say, our original plan of visiting Jesse on his farm isn’t happening.  We’re still going to Alberta (me, my mom, R1, and R2) but it’s going to be a different kind of trip.  My mom’s brother will pick us up from the airport and we will go from there!

We may or may not see Jesse.  We may or may not see his farm.  We aren’t quite sure what’s going to happen, but we’re going anyway and, once the boys get over the disappointment of not staying with Uncle Jesse on the farm, we’re going to have fun.

Hopefully I’ll be able to update with some travel blogging sometime in the next week!

Nothing says ‘mother love’ like a pink bra

8 May

This morning I went searching for gifts that my older boys had hidden in their bedrooms.  We played the most ridiculous game of hot/cold ever and the first present I fond seemed more appropriate for Valentine’s Day….  

Jason snapped a picture of me with the special present that R2 picked out.  I couldn’t stop laughing and he didn’t understand why I found it so funny…

I asked R2 how he knew what size to get.  He said the salesclerk had a wheel in the store and he spun the wheel and it landed on “mommy size” and that’s how they got the right size.  

Jason says the wheel was actually for discounts and this bra ended up being 40% off.  I’m definitely ok with that kind of bargain!

If you look on the top right corner of this card R2 made for me in class, you can see he’s been thinking of the perfect Mother’s Day gift for quite awhile.  Yes…top underwear. 


But it wasn’t all pink and shiny top underwear!  As usual, my guys are pretty good at surprising me with fun little trinkets, hand made and store bought.

We went out for lunch and now we are just relaxing.  It’s been a nice day.

What would I be doing if I had never had children?  What kind of person would I be?

That’s an unanswerable question because close to eight years ago I started my motherhood journey and it’s a journey with no ending. 

A wonderful and horrible shit-show of beauty and chaos.

I love these boys so much!

A Prayer for My Sons on International Women’s Day

8 Mar

I always wanted daughters, but I was given sons.  Well, I wanted sons and daughters, but I always wanted at least one daughter.  

I think we are given the children we’re supposed to have because the universe has a plan.  I believe Jason and I were meant to have these boys because we are good parents and the world needs more decent and compassionate men. 

To my three sons

You’ve been born into a position of privilege

You have pale skin and light hair and an XY chromosome.

We’ve never gone hungry and we’ve always had shelter.

We are privileged and wealthier than most people on the planet.

I love you all so much,

but I also have worries.

Every day and every night 

I breathe out prayers to the creator:

prayers for your souls and prayers for your futures.

As parents to sons, we’ve been given a huge responsibility.

We pray for all the regular things: 

that you’ll grow up strong and healthy.

That you’ll grow up to find love,

to find happiness, 

and to find peace.

But we also want you to live consciously as an ally,

to women

to the disabled

to people of colour

to the entire spectrum of sexuality and gender

to all the disenfranchised.

We want to you to have pride and self love, 

but we have high hopes that you’ll use your position of privilege to dismantle.

Please use your voice to offer support, but don’t take over the conversation.

Use your ears to listen and offer help, but let the marginalized lead the way.

Use your voice to build people up and never let words like “faggot” and “pussy” and “retarded” and “gimpy” be used to tear people down.

Use your voice to offer kind words of respect and love, but let not harassment and cat calls cross your lips.

Use your voice to ask for consent and understand that no means no.

I pray that you will all continue to grow and understand 

that it’s ok to cry, it’s ok to show emotion and it’s ok to be friends with girls.

I pray that you’ll always remember that colours and toys and tools and vehicles do not belong to a specific gender.  

There’s no such thing as “boys will be boys” and there no such thing as “be a man!”

There’s no such thing as sugar and spice and there’s no such thing as snakes and snails.

Both boys and girls can grow up to take on the world.

Both boys and girls can grow up to be themselves.  If we let them.

I pray that you will all grow up to be beautiful individuals 

full of respect for all the daughters out there

and the sons.

To all women everywhere

we are raising our boys to be part of the solution.

My three beautiful sons…   

    
    
 

January Blahs

16 Jan

I heard, back in my university days, that the reason reading week is in February was because it is the bleakest and most stressful time in the life of a student.  They are all bogged down and hopeless and the highest number of university student suicides occurred in February.  Of course, I have no citations to back that up, but it did make sense to me.  I wasn’t usually bogged down in February though, it was moreso Mr. March that kicked my butt every year.

Now that university is long behind me, I find January to be the toughest month.  Or at least it’s been pretty tough this year.  

Not tough as in we are leaning on the brink of homelessness and despair, but tough as in mental and emotional exhaustion.

It seems like the harder my husband works in December (so he can enjoy Christmas with his family), the less effect his hard work will have counted come January.  It’s a new month and a new year, he was theoretically just recharged by having a few extra days off, but the stress is worse than ever.  The bleak outlook is compounded by the fact that he barely makes a living wage, his approximate 100 hour work-week, and nobody seems to appreciate or notice his hard work.  

Sure, he’s doing what he “loves” but at what cost to his health and personal relationships? It’s hard to see anything positive about the situation in the dreary days of January.

I’ve also been sick since before Christmas and I’m still sick now.  The doctor says it’s no longer contagious but I’ve been left with a hacking cough and aching ribs from the relentless hacking.  It’s difficult to heal a cracked rib when the coughing won’t stop. And every time I try to read a story to the kids or talk on the phone or go outside in the colder air, I’m besieged with new fits of coughing.  I know people have it much worse but I am getting a little weary of mind and body; a little discouraged.

And I can’t deny that the Eating Dirt house was kind of shaken by the recent string of celebrity deaths.  

First it was Lemmy of Motörhead, right after Christmas.  That was sad for Jason more so than me, though I do enjoy a fair bit of the Motörhead musical catalogue.  

It was quite upsetting for us both when we woke up January 10th to the news of David Bowie’s passing.  I know some people think it’s ridiculous to mourn a celebrity, but his music was a big part of mine and Jason’s life.  We are allowed to feel sadness.  

Then, a few days later, cancer claimed another of our favourites: Alan Rickman.  I can’t pretend that I didn’t love him because he played Snape in the Harry Potter movies, but he was so much more than that.  We loved him in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and Sweeny Todd; we loved him in Dogma, Die Hard, Galaxy Quest, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Sense and Sensibility, and many more. He was known to be a genuinely lovely person and he and his wife had a lengthy and lasting love story.   

   
It’s also the anniversary of Jason’s mother’s and grandmother’s deaths; emotions of sadness and regret surrounding those events are kind of permeating the household.  This year those feelings have leached into a new situation with one of my own family members.  

Jason has a weird relief/regret sense of loss about his mom.  Relief that she is longer suffering from addiction, depression, and no longer inflicting her illnesses on the people who loved her.  And regret that he couldn’t help her or make her get help.  

I’m dealing with something similar, though my family member hasn’t died.  

I have an aunt who has suffered many abuses and hardships in her life.  She is a now a bitter and lonely person dealing with paranoia, depression, anxiety, among many other things.  She can be the sweetest person and she has always been very generous in the past.  But that generosity comes with strings attached.  

I’ve suffered her emotional manipulation and extortion for 30+ years now and I’ve always just dealt with it and made accommodations to her and her whims.  But it has started to affect my husband and likely it would soon start to affect my children.  

After years of thinking and stressing and begging that she seek professional help, I’ve decided to reduce our level of contact to zero.  That may or may not be permanent, but for now I’m just done.  It somehow feels wrong to cut off someone who is obviously very mentally ill but when it started to affect my little family, I needed to put myself and my own mental health before hers.  

I have to accept that I can’t help her and she will never change.  I’ve done my best and I’ve played the role of devoted and caring niece to the best of my ability, but the situation is what it is and I have to move on.  

I wrote a long and detailed letter to my aunt as a way to get my thoughts down coherently and out of my head.  Some people said don’t mail it to her and others encouraged me to do so.  In the end I mailed it to her; to say it was NOT well received would be the understatement of the century.  But I have to be ok with that.  I said difficult truths that needed to be said and I ended with a plea for her to get help and make 2016 the year she sets herself free from the past.  

That’s all I can do.  Though I may need to change my phone number…

Aaaaanywaaaaay, that’s what’s going on over here with us dirt eaters.  The kids are adorable and frustrating, as usual, and we are all looking forward to February. 

R2 is very excited for his Rainbow Disco Dancy Birthday Party next month and that will definitely shine some multi-coloured light into our freezing Northwestern Ontario winter.

Peace and love to you all!