I Get It Now

It seems self serving to say I’m not racist, but given the climate right now, I need to. But at the same time, I was naive.

Naive in that I don’t treat anyone different based on their gender, colour, or sexual preference. You judge others as you judge yourself. The first wake up call for me was when Trump was elected president. How could there be so many people who feel that he was the best option? God Bless the Electoral College.

Now, in the wake of the disaster that was the Charlottesville demonstrations, I get it. There is a segment of the American population that is feeling threatened. They see there has been a shift in society and they want things the way they used to be. Like 150 years ago. A demonstration to preserve a statue erected for General Robert Lee, one of the losing generals of the Civil War, was purported to be a stand for history, for the fabric of the American culture.

Except, that history was white washed.

There are countless web pages devoted to the “real” (fill in the blank general, politician, founding father). They were human, they were flawed, and many of them agreed to the accepted norm of the time; that owning another human was not just legal, but their God-given Right because they were born the whitest shade of pale.

The insult to the injury of these statues is that most were not erected at the end of the Civil War, in fact, the last monument, built in Arizona (not even a state during the war) was installed in 1975!?!?!? This was a conscious effort to remind African Americans that in spite of perceived advancements in their station in life (voting, non-segregated education, not being owned) the shade of the past was a literal and figurative presence.

The next realize for me was one it was pointed out that following World War II, there were no statues erected in Germany in honour of Adolf Hitler nor any of his evil cohorts. No schools are named after them. No bridges. No parks. The horror of the Nazis was erased from the country with only history books and the memories of the Holocaust survivors to give voice to the madness. That is why there was such shock when the Auschwitz-Birkenau Holocaust Memorial was opened; you had to see it to comprehend the nightmare.

Imagine being an African American child who walks to school every day, past the eternal monument giving tribute a man, who fought a war to separate your country, over his desire to own your ancestors, which he had the right to torture, rape and kill. Now imagine knowing that this same marker is a meeting place for racists TODAY, who still subscribe to such asinine theories as intellectual superiority based on skin colour.

Can you imagine that child’s frustration to open a history book and learn that not only is his community white-washed of any reality regarding what slavery was actually about, but also his education. White students beside him are taught the same thing, which perpetuates the Myth. White is good. White brought advancements. White is right.

We know differently now. Stories, movies, books, memories all tell of a different reality. This one involves fear, prejudice, assault, abuse, torture and a facing the reality that in the 21st Century that the first black man elected to the highest office in the land will be followed by another white man, who incites hate and fans the flames of the KKK and Neo-Nazis. Two steps forward, sixty years backward.

I turn my gaze to my own country. How easy it is to judge, but, those in glass houses…..

What of the pain of a Japanese child, separated from family and placed in housing in B.C. during the Second World War? What of the ongoing profound injustices done to aboriginals from the time the first European settlers stepped on dry land – not the least of which involved church and residential schools. Just two samples of wrongs that didn’t make into my history book, not sure about yours. Don’t understand why the Aboriginal Community is outraged? Because we still aren’t teaching what happened, so we can stop perpetuating our own Myth.

Many feel the reparations the Federal Government has attempted are a waste of time; after all, why should we make amends, WE weren’t the ones who offended. But actually, we are. As long as we force these minority groups to feel the white washing of the past lives on today, we continue to injury them. We need to see history for what it was. – a one-sided account. Recognize the imbalance and injustice, and fix it so that they are not bleeding today from the wounds of our forefathers. We need to own the mistakes of the past to not repeat them. I think that’s someone elses’ quote, but since we are talking about appropriation here….

I seriously debated writing this column on this topic, not because I’m worried about backlash, frankly, I don’t give a shit. If you don’t agree with my position, and identify with the morons who showed up with torches, chants and starched and ironed golf shirts on Friday night, keep rolling pal, ain’t nothing for you here.

But I was given pause because there is already so much talk about this topic. I feel we need action. I have family and loved ones who are Gay, Jewish, Black. The chants from Virginia felt like stabs into everyone of my people’s souls.

That’s when I realized, it might be the first step to actually do more with my white privilege than to yell at a TV screen. We’ve had several talks around the dinner table about what this all means and what our role in this humanity can be. We won’t be standing by in tense silence when there is a slur, a sign, a posting. We will not be ok thinking that we are the silent majority, and that most of “us” don’t think that way. Even one person spewing this kind of filth is one too many. We must speak up. We must push back.

Trump felt justified in saying that, and I’m paraphrasing here, “two wrongs don’t make a right” with regard to the riots in the Charlottesville park. Hmmm. If we were talking about a shoving match in the kitchen about the last cookie in the jar, I’d be onboard with it. But we are talking about the exact opposite extreme – an attach on humanity, and you cannot judge the motives of Anti-protests trying to stop hate with force, using the same stick as the Protesters who came to the park chanting Nazi slogans and instilling fear in anyone who wasn’t one of “them”. If the suggestion is that Good lowers itself when it fights Evil, then why the Hell did we have World War II? The Allies should have stood back and said, “Gosh, Mr. Hitler, we’d really like it if you pull your armies back from Western Europe, and when you are done, COULD YOU STOP PUSHING PEOPLE INTO GAS CHAMBERS?”

I think we all know what that response would have been.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” ~ used by lots of white guys

When is “Sexy” Ok?

Who would have thought Dancing With the Stars would have stirred up a deep and profound conversation about female sexuality in relation to society?

DWTS is easily one of my favorite shows, partially because it’s one of the few programs that The Big Guy and I watch together. Truth be told, First Born Son and Second Born Son have been known to drift in and out to watch a couple of minutes as well, but I doubt they would admit it without prolonged interrogation.

This season that wrapped several weeks ago featured a great cast of celebrities, including American Simone Biles, who is a gifted Olympian in Gymnastics. The girl is AMAZING. Other gymnasts have taken part in the program, and done very well. The first week alone proved that she and her professional dance partner would go far in the competition. Her feet flew, her jumps were massive and she could pull out any trick in the book to wow the audience.

While some would write the show off as reality dance competition, it has come to mean more to the participants. Year after year celebrities discuss the evolution they go growth, the growth as a person.

After a few weeks of being dazzled by the tricks and flips, the judges were asking Simone for more. “More,” they would say, with urgency, asking for emotion and connection. She would take their notes with a fair amount of confusion on her face.

Finally, her partner explains during their following rehearsal, that the judges want her to be emotive, and sexy.

<PAUSE> Simone is 20 years old. For most of her life, she has been training to be an Olympian. This does not mean discovering how to feel comfortable in her skin in a sexualized manner. This means that the only thing she sees when she looks at herself, is a machine that must be in peak condition to be better than her competition. The costumes they wear, while somewhat revealing to the novice spectator, has no emotional or sexualized meaning to the athlete, outside of the flag or national colors that are incorporated into its design.<PLAY>

So smoldering looks? A come hither glance? Hell most 20 year olds don’t do that well, never mind one who will tell you up front that she’s been shelter in a world of competition and practice since she was a child. Emotionally she was stunted and she was becoming more and more aware of this each passing week.

Here’s the rub: another contestant, The Real Housewife of Beverly Hills reality star Erika Payne, known for her overt sexuality, was being chastised for showing it. Was it because she was 20 years older than the young Simone? Was it because she was mature enough to know what she was doing?

It occurred to me long after Erika Payne was eliminated, that for some reason, society is okay with a woman owning her sexuality, within reason, and when society deemed it appropriate.

And “appropriate” was a moving target. If you are younger, and hopefully naive, you can get away with a little more demonstrative. If you cross that line, and seem to know what you are doing, (read here “mature and/or experienced”) you will be told it’s inappropriate. Even younger women who are overtly sexual are accepted or their image is rehabbed. Think I’m off base? May I remind you of Kim Kardashian? I rest my case.

I felt sorry for Simone at the end of her run, which happened to be only a week after the very public instruction to tart it up. She didn’t know what to do, and her frustration was evident in her next performance.

She is back to prepping for the next Summer Olympics, which is more in her comfort zone. Hopefully society will stop criticizing her “hotness” and focus on the other use of her body, being an extraordinary athlete.

 

3 Years

Hard to believe it’s been three years.

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In some ways, we talk about you enough that it seems like you are still here. In others, it’s downright painful to see how much you’ve missed. Like yesterday. I know how proud you would have been about First Born Son’s graduation. You would have loved how he dominated his course. How he landed a job months before he graduated. How he bought a truck that you would have fallen in love with.

You would be delighted to see the growth in Second Born Son; literally and figuratively. He’s taller than his father and will soon look down on his brother. He is making decisions about his life that would astound you, as it does us. He reminds us of you.

In some ways, year three has been a bit easier. We don’t look at holidays like the top of the big hill on a roller coaster; unavoidable and rather unsettling. We’ve got some new ways of doing things. Little Sister is living at your home with her family. They are doing amazing things with the property, including looking at organic farming down the road. I can hear you saying they are crazy and then in the same breath, saying that’s what you would have liked to have done. Mom is settled in a new home. It’s perfect for her. She’s walking, close to the library and doesn’t have to weed gardens, so she’s got it made.

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But there are STILL days when a certain song comes on, and you never know which song that will be, that you find you stop singing along because you can’t breathe. Tears and a tight throat prevent you from enjoying it. Instantly transported to a time when you were dancing it it in the family room.

The hard days are farther apart. But they’re not gone. In a way, we don’t want them to be, because they remind us of you. I’ve heard that there is a need to grieve. “You need to grieve.” “You still haven’t grieved.” I don’t know what that means. I do know that being at your grave isn’t where I feel closest to you.

Know that we are missing you, remembering you, and hoping you are having fun with all the dogs in heaven.

 

The Little Boy Who People Said Couldn’t, Became the Man Who Did

I will never forget this moment for the rest of my life. I’m sitting at a teeny, tiny desk with The Big Guy, First Born Son’s Grade 1 teacher and the school principal. They are trying to tell us that while our son is lovely and polite, cooperative and friendly, he is a poor student. So much so, that the teacher is telling us that she believes he has ADHD.

I remember how I felt in that moment. That they got it wrong. In a big way. Here was a kid who had a vocabulary that rivalled most teenagers. He already knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life; be a farm, drive a truck.

When TBG and I voiced our doubt of this off the cuff diagnosis of his academic failure, we were told we were in denial.

<PAUSE> It is my opinion in this day and age, that the label ADHD is a quick “bandaid” solution that is far from a quick fix. I know people whose children legitimately fall into this category. We also knew from TBG’s aunt, a retired teacher who worked most of her career with ADHD and children on the autism spectrum, that FBS was absolutely NOT ADHD. If this was the case, we absolutely would have followed up on this. We were told we were trying to avoid a problem. I felt it was insulting to children who had this disorder and their families, to simply throw ADHD at parents as a “solution”. <PLAY>

I suggested that he be held back a year, and was told, no, not a good idea, because he would have issues with his peers. I shot back with “you worry about his education and I’ll worry about his social life.” He wasn’t held back.

EDUCATION

They told us we should expect that FBS might not graduate from high school. We should keep our expectations low. You can’t imagine what it’s like to have someone tell you that the future for your child has already been set for him, and it isn’t good.

We knew early on that we would have a struggle with FBS and his academic endeavours. Hours upon tear-filled hours were spent wrestling with math, reading and science. The only class he truly enjoyed, and seemed to do well in, was gym. French was a nightmare, exaserbated by the fact that the French teacher didn’t like that learning didn’t come easily to him. She just wanted to teach the easy learners.

This became a pattern in school; the teachers who didn’t want a challenge, were harsh. The teachers who knew he was trying were kind, but still didn’t know how to help. In Grade 6, a glimmer of hope. The teacher gave him an award for his positivity and outstanding efforts. For the first time since Kindergarten, FBS felt he was good at something in school. It was a turning point. Unfortunately it would take two more years before another teacher would make the effort FBS needed.

In the mean time, his self esteem plummeted. He was frustrated by his lack of ability to understand his school work, which was compounded by bullying that started in Grade 3. So much for keeping him with his peers!

It was his Grade 8 teacher who took the time to look into what was going on with our son. Testing, research and investigation paid off in time for high school where FBS became strong academically. It came down to this; what takes most people three or four times to understand, takes many more times for FBS. He can understand if he ‘s shown HOW to do it, and not simply told. He needs to keep math in front of him throughout high school, especially once he’s determined he wants to get into welding, a skill that requires ALL the math. Learning tools were offered and implemented. We immediately saw a difference in our son, and his schooling, but it would take years before he could truly hit his stride.

In his Grade 12 year, he told his father and me that he wasn’t going to to his graduation. We replied with, “The hell you aren’t!” It was at that time that we told him what was said in Grade 1, that he’d been written off by a system that didn’t take the time to collect students who fall through the cracks. It gave him pause. He didn’t realize how far he’d home; the obstacles he’d faced and triumphed.

He went to his high school graduation. He was an Ontario Scholar, on the Honor Roll and achieved his Specialist High Skills Major. Not bad for a kid who’s highest expectation would be to sweep floors at Tim Hortons.

FBS then applies to college and is accepted at his first choice. He wins not one, but two awards for his outstanding work over his two-year program. It’s obvious the story of his perseverance in elementary school is motivating him in college.

Today he graduated from that program. He’s been hired at a reputable company and will be making more money than I am!

A couple of weeks ago, he decided take some of his saved funds and splurge on his first new vehicle. It’s a truck.

Tonight, as we left a dinner with family to celebrate his graduation, he made a startling revelation.

“You know, I’ve accomplished just about everything I wanted to; I got into the college I wanted, I graduated, I got a job welding and I got a truck. All I need now is a farm!”

We have no doubt that will happen. And we look forward to cheering you on, as you prove everyone wrong.

Congratulations Sweetheart! Could not be prouder!

 

Bathroom Part II

I believe that your relationship will survive anything, if it can survive a renovation.

I say this with ample experience. We had a massive renovation/addition at our previous home that involved our back entrance, master bedroom, kitchen and adding an ensuite. That was almost 15 years ago! Things are looking good for us!

While you “lived” through our emergency bathroom reno from last year, I’m thrilled to let you know that, yes gentle reader, we hate ourselves enough to subject our marriage and family to ANOTHER bathroom renovation. Thank Sweet Baby Jesus that there are only two bathrooms in this house.

Mercifully, there is no dire, structural emergency prompting this reno. Thanks also to the experience (also known as “character building”) of the first bathroom, we are far more prepared for the cost. This time, we are PREPARED!

So let’s start at the beginning…

SHOWER

This is the “shower”, which is only 3/4 of a standard shower, made more difficult to access by the dumbass door which only allows you a foot and a half to squeeze through. The Big Guy and First Born Son took to this bathroom when we moved in, which makes ZERO sense because neither of them can fit under the door frame never mind the shower head. Since the last reno made the upstairs bathroom too “nice”, Second Born Son has taken to showering down here too. Again, at 6’2 this is not logical. ANYWAYS!

TUB

To the right of the door is the Jacuzzi tub. Yes folks Jacuzzi – trademarked and everything. I’m pretty sure this was the first generation, if not the prototype. I tried using it once, and dared not to activate the jets as a quick pre-soak inspection told me everything I needed to know about the condition of the calcified tube work. We were also fairly suspect of the condition of the wiring for the motor after 30+ years.

I’m going to assume you judged me for my poor choice of wall color, but that’s ok, because now you can see there isn’t much you can do with calf-scour brown tiles. Yes, those ARE the same tiles from the upstairs reno. So observant you are! Gold star! 1-inch tile was all the rage in 1983.

You might think the tiles are my favorite feature of this area, and I would say “No, good sir, you are mistaken!” It’s the du-lux hand-held shower modification. It ALWAYS leaked and because a Jacuzzi is not designed to be “shower tub”, water that didn’t hit directly dead centre of the tub, and ended up on the top of the tub, and was instantly redirected around the walls of the enclosure to the floor. Basically, if you tried to bathe in this beast, you’d have a flood on your hands or a fire. Good times.

CLOSET

Here you get a much better angle of the aforementioned shower basterdization modification. You will also see the staining in the tub. Did I mention we have crappy water? Fear not, we spent a small fortune on that too. Nothing like investing in new bathrooms and having them look like century-farm indoor plumbing within a year!

Here you can appreciate how the owner/builders maximized the use of space. Not only did they have a shower installed that could only fit adolescent girls, but they also crammed the world’s smallest linen closet. As we were going to update our doors, TBG pulled this one off as well, only to find out YOU CAN’T ORDER DOORS THIS SMALL ANYMORE. Son of a Doorknob! Yes, I did suggest he go back to the repurpose area of the landfill to reclaim the old door. No, he did not do it. I’m hitting Pinterest hard for a solution. I’m open to suggestions y’all!

SINK TOILET

This is the image that gives me nightmares. We have removed the toilet already, to protect the more sensitive readers amongst you. What remains is what a raw plaster wall looks like when you don’t paint before the plumber comes…30 years later, that is. The shower is to the right of the sink. Not a big room, but a main one as this is the one our guests tend to use. That’s right, we allowed friends and extended family to use this space looking the way it did. Hey, we don’t discriminate!

It was right about this time when I came with an idea! “I’ve got an idea” no longer fills TBG’s heart full of fear, but rather a knowing dread that this “idea” is going to involve him. And perhaps some money.

Originally we were going to close in the dinky shower and use it for a closet, but then I thought, “Why waste the storage space in the bathroom?” While the shower was tiny in its current form, it would make a great pantry for the kitchen which is across from the outer wall!!

Thankfully TBG agreed and made it so.

SIDE BY SIDE

Apparently I like plaster dust throughout my house, because let me tell you, this did it! The attempt at tarping you see in the image on the right was noble, but not as effective as one would hope. Therefore, I’ve suspended any house cleaning until this project is complete. It’s been a month with no end in sight. Don’t drop by, we are days away from being condemned for being a public safety hazard.

DOORWAY

Here he is. The Creator of the dreams I come up with. He spends all his spare time, such as it is, working on this. No comments on the kitchen floor – he doesn’t have time for a kitchen reno right now.

Next year darling???

 

The Circle Of Life

As with any spring around the Boweryville, the flowers are blooming,

the sun rises and sets,

and my dog is murdering wildlife.

This is Cane. He’s truly loveable, unless you are a rodent or other small mammal. Yes, that is a dead groundhog between his legs.

Every spring, it’s the same thing; the temperatures rise, the animals start moving, and before you know it, Cane has a carcass on the lawn. Think I’m kidding?

This was April 30 2016. This is a spinal column of a cow. He found this treasure in the field behind our house thanks to the local farm who spread it on the field. Yes, it’s caked in manure, and yes, he’s eating it. Because for him, this is a like a double stuff Oreo with a layer of chocolate fudge.

THIS is the jawbone of a cow. It goes with the spinal column above. We think. There was also a leg bone, but I think you are getting the point by now.

Cane really likes bring his hunts home. It’s like a form of bragging.

This is a raccoon. This lil’ darlin’ was dropped LITERALLY at our front door last year, the night before Mother’s Day. I’m going to assume it was his idea of a gift. The Batman logos on the patio add a certain je ne sais pas.

This is Cane and his brother Roman looking for the next victim. A little thing like a wood pile isn’t going to stand in his way.

He just starts pulling out pieces of wood.

Now, you might think this is no biggie. He’s a big dog with a keen hunting instinct, which is to be expected from a working breed like German Shepherd. However there is a small issue. Literally, tiny.

WHAT. A. FACE!

This is Eco. He’s Little Sister’s dog. He’s adorable, and while he’s a little bigger than this now, it’s certainly no groundhog. We did arrange for a cousin meet and greet a couple of weeks ago, with all humans on deck, ready to extract Eco from Cane’s grasp. It did go well, with no blood shed, but Cane made it very clear near the end of the playdate, that he’d had enough, and this little nipper needed to be packed up before he became a Timbit.

So now that it is spring, we’ve come to expect that the days to get longer, the temperature to rise, and the bodies to stack up.

 

 

Time Marching On

Time is moving so quickly right now that I’m referencing spans of time by hair appointments, as in “I feel like I just got my hair cut last week!” But, you know, it’s been a month.

It seems like yesterday that Second Born Son got his driver’s license, but it has been four months. But maybe I’m not a good gauge of time since I think this was last year….

Cutie Patootie!

…when this was last year….

You don’t want to know what went into this document….

 

So you will understand why I’m a little twisted around about the idea of this infant going to ANOTHER COUNTY on ANOTHER CONTINENT for TEN DAYS!!!

Seems like only yesterday that he told us about the planned Vimy Ridge trip, waaaaaay off in the Spring of 2017. The trip sounded amazing and included a couple of days in England, followed by 8 days in France. Several students from his school are going and they get to be part of the the 100th Vimy Ridge Celebration on April 9th.

I am proud and jealous at the same time, but mostly excited for him and the experiences he will enjoy. This is a wonderful age to travel and observe such an important tribute to Canadians and their contributions and sacrifices in World War I.

So, the bag is packed, the documents are in place and the momma isn’t going to get weepy when it’s time to say goodbye.

‘Cuz we got him a great cell package and I’m sure we’ll hear from him daily…..