XXV

I’m sitting on the couch watching the rain pour down outside, with Say Yes To The Dress Canada in the background, when I can hear it over the whine of power tools.

Twenty-five years ago, I was in my wedding dress, taking photos with my bridesmaids in the sunshine and preparing to get married.

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It couldn’t be more different from today.

I’m on vacation this week. The Big Guy is at work. He’s going to take off Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. This has raised some eyebrows. At first, I was disappointed, but I look at it this way; like my wedding day, my 25th wedding anniversary is one. day. In the 9,131 days we’ve been married, there have been many amazing days. Some of them were better than our wedding day. I’m not hinging my happiness of more than 9,000 days on the contents of one.

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Which leads me back to my wedding day, and the young women on Say Yes To The Dress Canada. So much energy, emotion, drama, MONEY for one day. You hear it in what they are saying and how they act. The dress has to be PERFECT. The day has to be PERFECT. Everyone has to love the PERFECT bride.

<PAUSE> May I take moment to share my thoughts about the unending focus on the bride. Yup, she gets the fancier outfit, but she’s only one-half of the equation. If the groom doesn’t show up, this is nothing but a Prom For One. And yes, I’m basing this on a heterosexual relationship because that happens to be what I’m in – and what they seem to cater to on SYTTDC. <PLAY>

So let’s say the day is PERFECT. The weather cooperates, the guests arrive on time, the venue is stunning, none of the key players are a) inebriated b) quarrelling. The bride is stunning and the dresses, flowers, and elementary school bridal attendants are Instragram worthy. The service is the ideal ratio of reverent, emotional, traditional, modern and contains no less than three Facebook worthy posts. The food is scrumptious, the music is perfectly selected and the party never seems to end.

Until it ends.

And you wake up six months later with the person you vowed to love until the end of days. There are no more bridal showers with amazing and unnecessary items to replace the “old” household items that have served you perfectly well while you lived together. No more two-day bachelor/ette parties in remote locations. No more spotlight. Just life.

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The perfect couple, right? WRONG!

Because life is why you side up for, both in content and in term. Yes to the awesome days when you both are in a great mood. Yes to the days when you want to throw in the towel on life. Yes to an empty bank account and Yes to a surprise dinner out when one of you gets a raise. Yes to not talking for three days because you are so busy you don’t realize it’s  almost the weekend. Yes to your own form of shorthand when you talk, text, or need to relay info telekinetically in the middle of a disastrous family gathering.

TBG is the first guy I dated. I said yes the first time he asked me to marry him. There has not been anyone else I’d rather hand 25 years over to. I understand when he doesn’t communicate so well. He tolerates when I over-communicate. He is a perfectionist – I am not. We work. And we work well together. A quarter of a century and two kids later, I think we’ve proved that.

Happy 25th Anniversary Big Guy. Here’s to 25 more!

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The Big Guy’s first selfie. After all, his arms are longer than mine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ch Ch Ch Changes

Overnight a day changes. A month changes. A year changes.

I’ve encountered two kinds of people – those who reject change or find it difficult, and those who embrace it. For some, even changing a new hairstyle is too much. For others, they thrive on the difference that change brings to their lives. There is some easy change, like a new purse, and then there’s more difficult change, like losing a job.

This past year has brought some of the more challenging types of change. I do enjoy change, and like to have goals I’m working toward because I like the feeling of moving forward, progress, evolution. I haven’t liked all the changes this past year has brought. I lost sight of the evolution that happens to all of us and it’s not always timed the way we want it to be. Some people leave our lives and we struggle to see things the same way without them. Some people come into our lives and because they are new, it can be difficult to fit them into our world. Status quo is comfortable. It doesn’t challenge us. We are lulled by our comfort.

Christmas is a time that brings changes to the fore. Changes that don’t matter in July are overwhelming in December. We need our traditions to give us a sense of continuity over time, starting when we are children. Change at this time can be especially difficult. It’s been remarkable how many times change has come up during this recent holiday season. Anything different is painful and hard to accept. If we don’t  have Grandma’s china on the table, is it still Christmas? If we don’t gather on the 25th of December, can we still celebrate?

Change, even the hard change, is good. You can’t flip through any family photo album and not see the changes. Children grow, new family members join the photos, older members leave seats around the table, which are then filled with new children. Do we not want things to change? No, we want the good stuff, but it’s the uncomfortable change that we’d rather do without. Unfortunately, we don’t get to pick our change a la carte. It’s ordered for us, delivered to our door and there is no returning it to the kitchen.

So what’s the answer to adapting to the shitty change? Flexibility and perspective. I look back at my own life and can see the times that the times that I was part of change may have been difficult to people around me. Some of them were gracious and accepting. Some of there were not. Some of them were downright cruel. I am not going to be one of those people.

I am going to look at all change as a challenge in flexibility; witnessing my family and friends evolve and grow. Someone new coming for dinner? BRING IT! Changing a tradition we’ve had for 40 years? Guess it’s time for something new.

I’m looking at 2018 as a year of growth and success. The past several years have had their fair share of challenges. Last year felt like pushing Jell-O over sandpaper. It’s time for change, either brought to me or created by me.

I’m looking forward to that change, very much.  Happy New Year to all of you!

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!

 

Without Tradition, We Have Nothing

Anyone who has read The Bowery Girl for any length of time knows that we really like Christmas and take our decorating rather seriously.

When it comes to Christmas trees, we like them big, and we like them to be real.

And we aren’t above risking life and limb to get the “perfect” tree!

It has involved going out into the wild yonder with a saw in hand. Then there was the task of getting it into the house.

But this year’s tree was truly unique. As Little Sister now lives at my parents’ former home, we didn’t think it would be cool to hike back and steal a tree. We’ll let them get their boxes unpacked before we start helping ourselves. You know, manners.

So we went to the neighbours of my parents’/my sister and brother in law, who, ironically, own and operate and Christmas tree farm. I’ll let you think about that. Yes, we have been slogging trees out of various bush areas for the past several years when we could have simply selected a pre-cut tree while sipping hot chocolate and cider under twinkle lights while being serenaded by festive music.

Yup. That’s how we do things around here. The hard way.

Which takes us back around to this year’s tree. Once again, we needed the “perfect” tree. Something that had the ability to inspire the Christmas Spirit even in the most jaded of Grinch-like hearts. It needed to be the one thing that people remembered about The Bowery Girl Christmas, because, once again, we were hosting at least one side of the family.

Yes, we were asking A LOT of one tree.

So when I came upon a stunning blue spruce, full and lush and standing well over 7 ft tall, I   knew I was in love. The Big Guy questioned whether or not it was too tall. I think he forgot about this tree…

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To be clear, that tree is above the eavestrough.

First Bon Son was not nearly as convinced.

“I don’t like it,” he declared, no particular reason given.

Second Born Son was more accommodating. He gave it his blessing.

To appease everyone, we purchased a smaller, Charlie Brown-like tree in a pot that we can plant in the spring. The boys agreed they would put one single decoration on the tree, although I did lend them a star and some garland so it didn’t look so naked.

After the appropriate pruning and trunk trimming, the blue spruce was in the corner of the living room awaiting embellishment. I was particularly excited because TBG agreed to a new colour scheme for our Christmas decor. Instead of the red, green and gold we had used for the past 22 Christmases, this year we would go gold, silver, white and rustic – burlap bows and pine cones.

FBS left before the decorating began, declaring that he had contributed enough to the family tradition. It was his silent protest since he still didn’t approve of a perfectly beautiful blue spruce.

This left SBS and TBG to help put the new decorations on the tree. I strung the new ornaments and the two of them placed them on the tree. When it was done, it was stunning.

Breathtaking, wouldn’t you agree? The colour and textures were spot-on. We wrapped up the Sunday evening in our jammies, admiring the afternoon of work we had put in. I take a photo and text it to FBS, who is back at college. He begrudgingly admits it looks good.

TBG decided he was ready for the nest around 10:30 p.m. and, as every good owner of a real Christmas tree knows, he unplugged the lights. While he was under the tree, the festive masterpiece went from a 90 degree angle to a 45 degree angle, only saved from further horizontalness by the black leather love seat that broke it’s fall. This sudden stop, however, launched the brand new glittered star from the back corner of the living room, clear across to the opposite end of the space. The TV dogged a bullet…as it were. A third of the ornaments were on the floor. Of those, half were broken. We could tell because the shards were floating across the hardwood laminate floor in the water that had been in the stone filled bucket we were using to anchor the tree.

TBG swore, jumped up, grabbed the tree and yanked it upright. It fell over. He swore again. More broken ornaments. More ornaments the floor. 98% of the water is now creating a tsunami across the living room. TBG said all the words. ALL of them.

SBS launched from the couch and grabbed dry towel in our house. Unfortunately, due to an old war wound, my back prevented me from doing anything other than holding the tree, which seemed to be incapable of staying vertical.

Upon inspection, it became clear that the tree was rather off balance. Almost all of the ornaments are on the front side of the tree. When TBG unplugged the lights, he disengaged the only thing keeping that thing upright.

SBS is moping the floor like he’s getting paid. I’m trying to evaluate how many ornaments have been lost, how many I can salvage and how many are still on the tree, when TBG turns to me and asks to hold the tree. I oblige. HE SHAKES THE TREE. FOUR MORE ORNAMENTS FALL ON THE FLOOR AND SHATTER.

I look at him in disbelief.

“Are you FREAKING kidding me?!?!”

Without missing a beat he replies, “I wanted to see if the trunk shifted in the bucket.”

I shoot him the death stare.

It took another half an hour to get everything picked up, the floor mopped up and the dehumidifier strategically placed in the middle of the room. Ever my son, SBS made the perfect observation.

“You know, it could be worse,” he said, “this could have happened at 3 in the morning and we might not have heard and woke up to the tree on the floor and the floor would have been ruined.”

So proud. He was absolutely right. Except his father begged to differ. He was heading back to the shower in an attempt to de-adhese himself of all the sap on every square inch of him. TBG is in the pit of despair. It’s like someone gave him a lump of coal after telling him that  there was no Santa Claus. And that he’s allergic to chocolate. And there’s no gravy for Christmas dinner. It was THAT BAD.

Which I understand, because the tree is a sad shadow of it’s former self.

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You thought I was exaggerating, didn’t you. I sent this photo to FBS. He texts back, “I told you there was something wrong with that tree.” He’s lucky he’s an hour away.

Back on the home front, we have glitter in the floor, in the loveseat, in parts of our bodies that we didn’t realize were exposed to glitter. I’m fairly certain I’ve eaten more than a peck of glitter.

TBG’s foul mood continued once he was re-bathed and tucked into bed. He relived the moment over and over again. Ranted about how upsetting the incident was. How his ENTIRE CHRISTMAS WAS RUINED!

<PAUSE> Not kidding. He said that. You should note, he’s weeks away from his 50th birthday. Not 5. Forty nine. <PLAY>

Throughout this so-called Christmas Catastrophe, I’ve been the voice of calm. THIS is when I finally lose it.

“SHUT UP! I’m the one who picked and bought the ornaments. I’m the one who will have to replace the old ones. I never yelled or blamed you for making it front heavy. SBS is absolutely right; we could have found it in the morning and the floor would have been ruined!”

“Well,” he said, “we won’t know about the floor until the morning.”

I take a fist and drive it into his stomach.

I then remind him about the real trees we had before having kids when we were at our previous home. It always fell over. There was the decorating of the tree, and the redecorating of the tree after TBG picks it up off of me. The answer was to anchor the tree in the corner to the hinge of the front door we never used. We simply had to find another solution for this house.

Three days later, when TBG had finally cooled down enough to discuss the “tree situation”, and I had purchased the replacement ornaments, and it was certain that the floor wasn’t ruined – just really clean; we tried decorating 2.0. And counter balanced with a tractor weight wrapped like a gift.

Some families have traditions of eating certain foods at Christmas. Some have specific songs they always play. We have a collapsing Christmas Tree.

Hope your Holidays were magical, and dry…..

 

Full Circle Moment

Once upon a time, a little boy invited all his friends in his neighbourhood to come to his house on his birthday. The date was set and his friends promised to come.

The day of the event rolled around. All of the children from the neighbourhood arrived at the allotted time, dressed for a party with gifts in hand.

The only problem was, it wasn’t the little boy’s birthday at all. And he hadn’t told his parents about his guests. His mother, mortified, sent the children home. With their presents.

This took place approximately 70 years ago.

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Last week, First Born Son came home told and told me about a conversation he had with the young son of a family friend. His birthday was coming up and he wanted to invite FBS to his party.

“You can bring your Mom too!” he stated, and FBS recounted with a laugh.

Touched by the young man’s thoughtfulness, and chuckling over his precociousness, I headed out to find the perfect gift. Two John Deere T shirts for a “hard working” young man.

Although FBS couldn’t join me due to his work schedule, I took the gift to the wee lad’s house. There was no party. His parents weren’t even home from work. His grandmother, who is a caregiver for him and his older sister, was taken aback to when she came to the door. The boy and his sister were delighted to see me, and he gleefully took the gift and shredded the colourful paper. The grandmother sputtered appreciation for the gift, how kind the gesture was, how unexpected, how her daughter and son-in-law would be surprised to learn their son, the birthday boy, had made such a bold invitation.

This boy’s birthday was June 10.

The first story is about my father. His birthday was June 9.

The only thing more striking is the resemblance between this little boy and his grandson at the same age.

The only thing more striking is the resemblance between this little boy and his grandson at the same age.

Although it’s been two years since he passed, I found it somewhat comforting that this story, that he told us many times, came to me in the moment that I realized that I was invited to a party that wasn’t happening; for a young man who just wanted to have some people over to celebrate.

Happy Birthday Duddy!

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Resolve

Resolutions.

It’s the annual tradition around this time of the year to reflect, and therefore plan for the year to come.

I hate resolutions.

I’ve done it a couple of times, but quickly found that my personality isn’t suited for them. You can start with the best of intentions but then, life happens. Then there’s the guilt and the sense of failure.

I’ve decided to take a different approach. Instead of looking at the things in my life I want to change, that should I fail will make me feel bad about myself, I prefer to look at the beginning of the year as a chance to challenge myself. Last year, it was to say YES to things that are outside my comfort zone.

I started with food. Specifically, Sushi. Then I moved on. To Indian food.

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Mmmmm – Butter Chicken!

I didn’t just leave it to dining out; I tried new foods at home, and it was pretty much a success each time. I liked the idea of challenging myself, and feeding my family healthy, flavourful meals. We have some new favourites now! (Spaghetti squash anyone?!?)

Then there was recommitting to Yoga. It helped that The Big Guy was willing to give it a go. We’ve made Monday night “date night” as we Downward Dog ourselves to healthier bodies!

I’m also trying to look at better ways of taking care of myself. While it’s traditionally accepted to pop a pill or chug a manufactured syrup, I’m trying to figure out WHY I’m ill, pained or otherwise out of sync. A couple of people have looked at me funny when I show them I’m wearing a crystal or using an essential oil to give myself comfort. Those who have opened their minds to these things are quick converts themselves! Keep learning and keep young!! 😀

So long story short – look at New Year’s Eve as a chance to dust off the bucket list. As I sit here this evening, I’m thinking of what I want to tackle in 2016. It’s certainly more fun than contemplating a diet or deciding what I want to “quit”.

Happy New Year! 2015 was certainly a step up from 2014. Can’t wait for 2016!