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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.

2016 in review

1 Jan

Summing up the year in pictures.  

Starting in December and traveling back in time to January 2016.

So many lovely friends:

Christmas with the triple Rs: 

Ashley:

A non-Christmas party success by three fun hosts:

A fun photo shoot:

A tattoo:

Got back into drawing and art:

Halloween fun:

A new blogging venture:

A therapeutic photo-shoot:

A tattoo:

New steps for my new abode:

A fun day at the amethyst mine:

August in Alberta:

Exploring my new neighbourhood:

My birthday with my boys:

Moving day:

Ashley:

Last day of school:

Last photo taken as a family of five:

 

A little boy turns one:

May in Alberta:

Speaking on a panel for online authors:

Meeting Lynn Johnston:

The big boys start learning the fun of interacting with a growing baby brother:


It was fun going through a year’s worth of pictures, but very difficult to be concise.  I’m never concise.

Looking through the pictures, it’s clear 2016 was a big one.  There was lots of change.  

The pictures don’t really show the heartbreak and sadness, but they do show the happiness.  

One special picture I’d like to share sums up the last quarter of my year is this: 


Love finds you when you’re not looking for it and when you’re definitely not expecting it. 

What a high note upon which to end this strange year.  

I have good feelings about 2017.  

Bring it on.

Selflessness and Selfishness

2 Nov

Yesterday, when the boys got off the school bus, R1 told me about a man he saw out the window on the way home.

He said, “Mom, I saw a man on the side of the road and he was under a tarp.  I think he was homeless.  Can we get some food and walk back to him?”

This coming from my more self centred older child.  Sometimes I’m so busy comparing him to his loving younger brother that I forget he too has a sympathetic heart.  It’s just a bit less flamboyant and in your face.

I must have looked hesitant, because he backtracked and said it’s probably not a good idea for us to approach a stranger without Daddy around and maybe the guy wasn’t in the same spot anymore anyway.

We talked about safety when approaching people we don’t know and we talked about the importance of generosity and kindness to others, regardless of their station in life.  He brought up past instances where he remembers me giving people on the street money, bus passes, or whatever food I happened to have.

He remembers past kindnesses and that tells me I’m doing something right.  He has seen what I do and it’s made a lasting impression.  My greatest wish is that I can raise up my boys to live decent and empathetic lives.

R1 then said, “Mom, do you know what my greatest wish is?  That there would be no more homelessness and that nobody would be hungry.”

I’d be lying if I said my heart didn’t turn to goo right then and there.  Actions speak louder than words of course, but it has to start somewhere.

Then R2, overhearing our conversation, piped in with his own wish, “Do you want to know what my greatest wish is, Mommy?  I really wish for a soda pop!”

Nice.

Balance, my friends, balance.

Yes, I want my kids to grow up to help people and understand privilege.  But I also don’t want them too burdened too soon.  

Sometimes, we should grab some food and give it to the person under the tarp.  And sometimes, you just need to take a break from reality and have a soda.

Take care of others, but take care of yourself too.  The best life lessons come at you, right off the school bus, when you least expect it.

Kindness

24 Jul

Earlier this week, I posted this on my personal Facebook page and my Eating Dirt Instagram: 

So much really HAS happened.  And it all happened in a relatively short time.  We broke up, we put the house up for sale, I found a new house, the house sold, we moved, we decided to switch the kids’ school, and we are all settled in and unpacked.  

And throughout the whirlwind of transitions, I’ve felt so much love and support.  These past five weeks and in the months prior, I’ve been buoyed up by amazing kindnesses of friends, family, and acquaintances.

It feels weird to say this, but I am also thankful to Jason for how supportive he’s continued to be, even though he doesn’t want to continue the marriage.  As I said in the above image, I know we are going to stay friends.  

I’ve been told by others who’ve divorced, that their ex-husband’s decided they were done and then just left.  Jason told me he would have left if I wanted him to, but I wanted him to stay.  I hated the thought of him being there one day and then gone the next and I really want bedtime and overnight help with the kids for as long as possible.  

I know Jason will be a very loving and supportive father but it will be different when he isn’t under the same roof anymore.  Part of me kind of hates Jason for abandoning me with three kids who are all still so needy.  But I know I won’t actually be abandoned… as I said, some things are going to take longer to forgive.

In and amongst these conflicting feelings, I feel both unforgiving AND thankful to Jason.  It’s a strange juxtaposition but I’m not going to fight it.  The feelings will come and go and each one needs to be felt.

I’ve in a perpetual state of thankfulness over the last several months and weeks and I’m continually blown away. Even though I’ve expressed my gratitude in-person to most of these people, I want to acknowledge them here.  One day I’ll want to look back on this list.

To Amy S, thank you for the monetary gift, to purchase something for the new house.

To Devon OM, thank you for hopping into your car and coming to me when I was in need.  Thank you for the help with moving.

To Sarah dB, thank you for leaving work and coming to me immediately.  Thank you for arranging delivery of my new mattress.

To Monique C, thank you for taking me out for lunch at the drop of a hat and for taking me for drinks.

To Lisa H, thank you for coming to sit with me and bringing me food.

To Cat F, thank you for dropping by with a bag of food and treats and donating some items to sell at our yard sale.

To Jen M, thank you for mowing my lawn.

To Kyle L, thank you for helping us move, for finding us a love-seat, and finding interlocking foam tiles for my basement.

To Shelley, thank you for the bag of books and treats.

To Amy V, thank you for the handmade goodies.

To Matt, Julie, and Rob W, thank you for taking our garbage to the dump and for committing to helping build our kids’ new play structure.

To Krissy, thank you for all the boxes to pack up our house.

To Linda, thank you for the new double mattress.

To Will and Leigh, thank you for the love seat and the end tables.

To Chrissie, thank you for the rocking chair.

To Greg M, thank you for the help moving.

To Chris M, thank you for the help moving.

To Ian K, thank you for the help moving.

To Robin C, thank you for the help moving.

To Janna Z, thank you for the kitchen pantry.

To Heidi G, thank you for arranging transportation of the kitchen pantry.

To my dad, thank you for helping me move boxes, put beds together, and fix the screen door.

To my mom, there aren’t enough words in existence to properly express my gratitude for the never ending love, support, and help you’ve given us over the last 13 years, the last few months, and the last few weeks.

To my brother, a bottomless well of reassuring words and support.

To the following people:

Amy S, Devon, Monique, Marie, Lindsay K, Autumne, Tara HC, Andrea K, Lisa, Tracy P, Stephanie P, Shelley A, Julia & Scott H, Lily D, Kathy K, Jen M, Melody, Amy V, Chris & Shawnwee P, Stacy S, Marla & Brian D, Chrissie B, Kyle L, Laura H, Wendy G, Amiee K, Megan C, Corrie W, Mandy B, Dayna S, Ashley W, Kim M, Adrienne H, Melissa W, Lori B, Kris M, Allison M.

Thank you for listening to me vent, commiserating with me, grieving with me, reassuring me, giving me great advice, crying with me, laughing with me, telling horribly inappropriate jokes with me, and for offering me prayers of support. 

Please note, not everybody in that list was offering prayers.  Don’t want to offend my atheist friends, haha!

And to so many other people, thank you for the supportive messages and offers to help sent through email, text, and messenger.  There are too many names to list here, but I copied and pasted each one into a word document in order to preserve the love and kindness that surrounded me.  There were over 100 personal messages and comments and each one was appreciated.

If I’ve forgotten anyone, please remind me.

Even though I was at my lowest a few short weeks ago, I feel high now.  I’m high on love, support, joy, positivity, and so much silliness! 

I have moments of quiet reflection, where I still can’t believe this is all happening because it seems so unreal and the element of shock is still present sometimes.  

But it is real and so very obvious to me that the good is wrestling its way to the top, spitting in the face of the bad.  The good is triumphing and the bad is shrivelling.

I have no doubt that the kindnesses will continue because I have amazing people in my life.

You’re all so, so amazing.

End of an Era

24 Jun

I seemed to have jumped the gun a little bit by posting that beautiful anniversary post last week.  I’ve since taken it down.

The morning after our lovely anniversary date, we went to Pride as a family: 


Later that day, after the kids had gone to Gramma’s house, the marriage was over.

I was devastated and hurt more than I ever thought possible.

By Monday I was angry, more angry than I’ve ever been.

But a couple days later I woke up feeling calm and peaceful and even happy.  I have no idea what’s going to happen next week, next month, or next year, but I’m excited.

I can sleep well at night knowing that I was ready and willing to give it my all; I had no intention of ever giving up and I was committed for life.  But I can’t be in a marriage by myself.  

I also refuse to be bitter and regretful and angry.  My children are my top priority and Jason and I will work together to ensure they are loved and all their needs are met.  

Even though I probably won’t ever understand why Jason didn’t want to keep trying, I know he is a wonderful and committed father.  I’ve never doubted his love for those kids and I trust him completely to be there for them and care for them.

I’m sure I’ll write more about this topic in the future.  For now, it’s onward and forward.

One Year Later

14 Jun

I was planning to give this magnet to my Gramma on her 92nd birthday, last April.  I couldn’t find it though and just sent a card (and called her on the phone of course).  

I found it after she died and my first thought was, good thing I didn’t give her that magnet!

I think my Gramma would have enjoyed this magnet though; she would have thought it was funny.

Even after a full year, I still think to myself, “I need to tell that to Gramma” several times a week.  The kids talk about her a few times a week too.

I miss her, but I’m not really sad anymore.  Does that sound harsh?

Initially, yes, of course I was sad.  It was shocking and so very upsetting to hear about my Gramma’s sudden and swift terminal diagnosis last year.  I think a part of me really did think she was going to live forever….  But in the days following the diagnosis, it was easy to find acceptance.  

It was really hard to be at home with my new family of five when my Gramma was dying four hours away, but I know she understood.

This is a woman who had lived a full life and she was very tired; she was ready.  She lived a good life and she actually died a good death, it happened the way she wanted it to and even the way she expected.

We love you Gramma, one year later and forever.

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!