4 Years

Facebook reminded me that it’s four years tomorrow since my father died.

Amongst the memories of sunsets, flowers, dog and kid pictures is a photo of my Dad. The one we used in his obituary. I catch my breath every time I see it. I remember taking the picture. I remember it was Father’s Day. I remember we knew he was sick and that we needed to squeeze every last memory we could out of the days we had with him. I remember telling him that this was his Father’s Day gift, photos of him with all his grandkids. I remember knowing I was lying to him because the photos were for us. Cancer has a way of destroying the memory of how your loved one looks. It lays waste to the body and forever imprints in your mind how hard they are trying to fight, and yet, losing.

DAD 2015

He didn’t look like that yet. It was coming. But on this day, he still looked like Dad.

So as the fourth year rolls around, part of me feels guilty because I haven’t been feeling as heavy as I have other years. From the beginning of June I start to dread the 6th. It’s the first of a two-part whammy because his birthday is on the 9th. I’m more emotional and sentimental. Not this June. Life has been stupid, crazy, busy and I find myself facing the eve of this anniversary and it starts to sink in…I’m not heavy. I’m used to this pain at this time of year.

I feel guilty that I don’t feel that way. I wonder what it means.

Second Born Son got his full licence on Monday. As I think about it, I’m struck by the thought that the world I’m living in now is moving so much farther away from the one my father lived in. He kicked me out of his hospital room to apply for the job I now have. The one I’ve excelled in and worked so hard at. I was told I had the job two days after his funeral. So many times I’ve thought, “He’d love to hear this story” regarding something that happened at work. First Born Son is in the working world. He was in high school when Dad died. He didn’t even know if he wanted to go to college. FBS now has his dream truck, his life planned out and graduated college. SBS has one year left of high school and will be going to college. He’s as tall as his 6’4 brother and is going to be a heartbreaker. He was in Grade 8 when my father died. He didn’t get to see FBS or SBS graduate into high school because of his illness. We are making changes in our life that we never thought of when he was here. In some ways I think he’d be lost if he came back and saw where all of us were today.

We moved on. Without him. It feels wrong.

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I still cry. Usually it’s a song or a photo. Something that hits an emotion. Music and memories get me. I spent his last night on earth bunking with him in his hospital room. Neither of us slept much.

I still dream about him. One just a few weeks ago that was so real I didn’t even take much notice that he was in the dream. It was so natural to be talking about the dogs with him in this dream, just watching them bounce around. He was there, petting them, commenting on how big Cane was, how sucky Roman was. Dad never met Cane since he wasn’t born until a couple years later. Dad loved dogs. I woke up from that dream and was absolutely convinced the conversation had taken place. He was THERE.

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Maybe that’s how I’m supposed to look at theses years moving away from my father’s life. He’s not HERE but he’s here. He knows what’s going on. He would love the Jeep. He would be absolutely stoked about the renovation. He would be singing the praises of FBS working toward his dreams and would be congratulating SBS on his licence and upcoming prom. He would be thrilled to see what I do for work.

It doesn’t make June 6 any easier. It just means the wound isn’t throbbing any more. It’s a scar.

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I Now Pronounce You…

It’s been many moons since The Big Guy and I vowed to fight over blankets and morning routines. Sometimes I look back and shake my head over the things that were deemed important and necessary to have a wedding in the early 90s.

Although there was some small movement away from traditions, (we didn’t have a traditional receiving line – GASP THE HORROR!)  we were pretty conventional. Except, when it came to my name.

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I was drawn back to a conversation I had with my future in-laws about 25 years ago, after reading this article. It seems crazy to me that a quarter of a century after I hyphenated my name, there is still a debate about women taking their husbands’ surnames.

It never occurred to me NOT to take TBG’s name. I just didn’t want to have to give up MY name. For some men, the issue of a woman refraining from linking last names is too big a picture. They need to look at the root of the matter; you are asking someone to change what they call themselves. I was Sarah B for the first 21 years of my life. I was actually called that in classrooms when there was more than one Sarah and we had to tack on the first letter of the last name to distinguish between me and Sarah K. It was a small school and it we knew it was going to be a long year whenever we realized we were in the same class – the only two Sarahs.

I don’t recall a specific moment when I decided I was going to keep my name. I do remember thinking for a while before getting engaged, that there were no males to carry on the family name. It was important to me to carry that on, and to preserve my identity. I had also done some research into the family I was joining and learned that there were not one, but two previous Sarahs. I’d be Sarah The Third with this last name. I didn’t really think about my future kids, but figured we’d sort that out down the line. I know when I told my father of my plan, he was quietly pleased.

But the aforementioned conversation with my soon to be in-laws took place about six months before the wedding. There was a discussion about the service and how we would be introduced as Mr. and Mrs. Big Guy. My oh-so helpful future brother-in-law, who knew of my plan, said, “That’s if Sarah takes TBG’s name.” Two pairs of eyes were on me.

“You AREN’T taking our name?” asked my future MIL with a look of disbelief on her face. My FIL didn’t speak but had an equally perplexed expression.

“No, it’s not that,” I tried to explain, “I’m actually going to hyphenate my name.”

Silence.

“Did you tell TBG this?!” demanded his mother. I stated that we had talked about it, and that he was in complete support. Conveniently, TBG was not in the room for this charming exchange.

This was more than shocking to my future parents-in-law. I don’t think they personally knew of any other woman who had done this, and it was outside their understanding. I’m sure for them it was an insult, but they could have chosen to see it as a young woman who had a more independent mindset, wanting to demonstrate her commitment to her husband, while still being autonomous. It had nothing to do with how much I cared for my fiancé. In fact, the idea that he was supportive of this, and wasn’t threatened by it, made him all the more attractive to me. Gotta love an open-minded man!

On the day of our wedding we were introduced as “Mr. Big Guy and Mrs. Maiden Name – Big Guy.” An easy way to let our family and friends know how I was addressing myself.

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When it was time to have children, the agreement was that they would only have their father’s surname. If they decided they wanted to have a hyphenated name, we would pay to change it. TBG agreed.

Traditionally, women were considered the property of men – that’s why her father would hand her off to her husband on her wedding day; a transfer of ownership – and with that was a name change. Times have changed and the issues surround the surname have become somewhat complicated. When a woman divorces, the dilemma is there – do I change my name back to my maiden name? Do I want to have the same name as my children?

In this era of women fighting for, and being recognized equally in most modern relationships, it seems a little dated to argue over what she calls herself. And a little archaic to insist she have the same moniker as her spouse. Welcome to the 21st Century!

 

 

 

 

Clean up in Aisle Five!

One of the more mundane life jobs that I really don’t mind, is doing laundry. I love the feeling of accomplishment when the piles of clean, folded laundry are before me.

The same cannot be said for grocery shopping. Trying to figure out what we need for the coming week. Trying to figure out what I’m going to feel like cooking four days from now. Trying to spend less than $300 a week, which is only possible while First Born Son is away at work. LOVE YOU SON!

Then there is the experience of acquiring the groceries. There’s the hauling of the empty bins and bags so that I’m environmentally responsible. Next, I have to make my way through a sea of humanity to vie for the same bundle of green onions as the person beside me. I shop at two stores; one that packs my groceries for me – and I only go to trusted cashiers who won’t demolish my bananas, and another where you are forced through like cattle in a chute and need to bag your own groceries with speed and dexterity that is best demonstrated on Survivor.

Grocery shopping brings out the worst in people, myself included.  Thoughtless individuals leave their carts unattended in front of a display of discounted canned soup, while doubling back 20 feet to find the crackers they passed by.  I’ve witnessed kids trying to shoplift, couples have full-blown domestics and countless meltdowns – and they weren’t all from children.

The checkout process is just as painful. Customers who ring through all their purchases and then realize they forgot their wallets at home are the BEST. A close second are those who clip coupons. There’s a special place in hell for them.

One of my part time jobs as teen was working in a grocery store, so perhaps I’ve carried over some latent issues from the 80s. Forgive me.

But by far, my favourite grocery store tale was just a couple of weeks ago. There I was, minding my own business, about half done the weekly torture session that is grocery shopping. As I approached the end of the aisle, I noticed a staff member chatting with a customer who has a small child in a grocery cart. They appeared to know each other, and immediately I constructed a plan to get around them without hitting them.

The customer turned toward me as she sensed me drawing near.

“HOLY FUCK!”  she yells. YELLS.

<PAUSE> For those of you with delicate constitutions, this blog post features the word “fuck”, which is not part of my personal vocabulary because I don’t like saying it, but apparently I have no issuing writing it. Conduct yourself accordingly. <PLAY>

In the nanosecond that she yells this, I engage the Fight or Flight reflex. I must be a heartbeat away from a tragic canned fruit stoning. Perhaps there’s a tsunami of 2% milk bearing down on me?! I actually flinch and glance over my shoulder.

“YOUR HAIR IS FUCKING AWESOME!”

<PAUSE> Knowing that I don’t use this word with any kind of regularity, I do find it interesting to see how it is employed by those who do. On the very rare occasion that I have used this word, it has been during extreme duress with the utmost urgency. Not that that’s an excuse, Mom.<PLAY>

I’m in shock that this woman is offering this kind of language a) in the public place, b) with a child within earshot, c) about something as innocuous as HAIR.

I do what I do best when faced with public embarrassment; pretend like everything is normal.

“Oh, thanks!” I offer, trying to negotiate between her hind end and the industrial shelving that offers every kind of cake mix known to man.

“No, really! I love the colour! And it looks so…” she gestures wildly around her head. “I wish I could wear my hair like that. FUCKING AWESOME!”

I smile and squeeze through the narrow channel, pointing my cart to freedom. The customer turns back to her employee friend and continues to extol the virtue of my truly exceptional coiffure.

For the record, this is what the fuss was all about…

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…and I can give you the name of my hairdresser so you can have FUCKING AWESOME hair too.

BTW – I now wear a peaked cap to the grocery store.

If You Don’t Laugh, You Cry

So apparently that last post got some people worked up!

Good.

To be fair, within half an hour, I heard from two male friends who expressed, a) horror that this had happened to me, b) support. Within a week I had much more support from both male and female readers. I completely understand why commenting on the post itself was not something they were comfortable with. It’s an uncomfortable topic, and for some, it was triggering. I feel for anyone who has gone through this as well. It’s not a fun club to be part of.

However, anyone who knows me knows I don’t do “victim” well. Never have. That doesn’t mean that I was born as a jaded little scrapper, it means that when faced with adversity/negativity, I tend to look for solutions or positivity. I have coworkers who are annoyed with my “glass half full” outlook. It means when life tees up my order of lemons, I’m looking how to deal with all that lemonade. Didn’t get the job? Wasn’t meant for me. Don’t have an overflowing bank account? I’ve got a great marriage, family and solid health. Think that’s schmaltzy? Ask someone who is sick how awesome being healthy is. “Getting through” is a powerful life skill.

I have also been reassured by some readers that there are still “good guys” out there. Yup. There are. Now those good guys need to get their back up when they see this happening. Don’t just be embarrassed for the woman. Don’t feel ashamed because a member of your gender has made it tough for the rest of you by looking like an asshole. Stand up and speak up. You have mothers, sisters, girlfriends, wives, daughters, granddaughters – again, I would suggest at some point in their lives, they too have had to deal with this. They just don’t post it on a blog. Ask them. Support them. Don’t question their actions, reactions or even their desire not to talk about it. That’s their Right. It doesn’t make them less brave for not sharing. They are brave for enduring it and continuing to live their lives as broken, glued together women. Sometimes it makes you stronger. Sometimes it doesn’t.

I have two mottos for my life: The Best Revenge Is To Live Well; and If You Don’t Laugh You’ll Cry. I’m still the same person I was two weeks ago. I don’t live this in my day to day existence. I will continue to have a bent sense of humor, and say things that might be painful in their truth, but I’m not going to a victim and I’m not to look the other way.

If my last post bothered you, then I hope you’ll do the same.

…and I promise the next post will be a little lighter…

The Best Kept Worst Secret

It’s been radio silence lately because the only thing that has motivated me to write is the 10th rate frat movie/soap opera that is the United States of America. But really, we all have the same opinion, so I can’t offer anything to this discussion.

It wasn’t until the shit-show that is Harvey Weinstein came to the fore that felt the need to formulate more than thoughts, and write. You might think I’m a little late to this “party” but the fact of the matter is, the only good to come out of this scandal is that the biggest Club in the world has finally lifted it collective head and said, “We’re not gonna take it any more.”

I’ve had more conversations with women about our shared experience of assault, abuse and embarrassment in the past two weeks than you can imagine. Social media is flooded with #metoo, which, when I posted it, felt empowering, and yet each time I saw a friend posting it, somehow it made me feel worse. There are too many of us.

Here’s heads up – I’m going to use language that may make you uncomfortable. I’m sorry if that’s the case. But I ask you to question why it makes you uncomfortable. If it’s because these types of things shouldn’t be discussed, I would suggest that thinking is part of the problem.

***

The first time I was exposed to this type of conduct was when I was a child. I can’t bring myself to write about that experience, but suffice it to say, it wasn’t dealt with properly and to this day, the emphasis has been on the “poor” offender.

***

Uglyness of Men reared it’s head when I was in Grade 9, and a Grade 12 student took a shine to me. He made it his mission to stalk me in hallways. For some reason my friends only thought it was creepy because he wasn’t ‘cute’. Apparently stalking is more palatable when you are attractive. He elevated his game to calling my home and not talking when I answered the phone. It wasn’t until I flat out told him he was a freak show  for his inappropriate conduct that he stopped his unsettling behaviour.

***

It continued when I was in Grade 12,  when a male guidance counsellor suggested, with a rather inappropriate look on his face, that I was “selling (myself) short by not going to university. (I’m) far too pretty to go to college.” I left his office immediately after.

<PAUSE> Please know that I am well aware of my outward appearance. I don’t take myself for a raging beauty, nor do I think I’ve been hit with an “ugly stick”. I float somewhere around the middle – acceptable. Which is likely why I felt so uncomfortable that he commented on my appearance. I was never evaluated in such a way before. It’s also likely why I’m not comfortable with comments on my appearance in general. <PLAY>

***

Ironically, my issues where always with males who were older than me. Boys my age; I didn’t exist to them. Perhaps that was a blessing.

Now I’m dating someone a bit older than me, and we are going out for New Year’s Eve. His friend, a mutual acquaintance, corners me during Auld Lang Syne and kisses me after inappropriately asking if my date has kissed me yet during the course of our relationship. I try to defer the conversation in an attempt to seek out the guy I came with, and would like to be embracing. Just before he plants it on me, I see my date across the floor, looking for me. I’m treated to an alcohol flavored slobber. He thinks it’s funny.

***

Next, I’m a married woman around 23 years old, who is attending a Stag and Doe for a family member. I’m dressed for the summer evening wearing an A-line dress with a V neckline. Another relative slides up beside me and has a rather uncomfortable grip on my midsection. He then angles his head so it is directly beside mine and looks down.

“I can’t believe you just looked down my dress,” I exclaim loudly. This is enough for his head to snap back and the arm to retract. I continue, “I saw you do that! Who looks down his (family relation’s) dress?!” He now adopts a stance where it appears as thought I’m bat-shit crazy and he’s protecting himself from an unwarranted barrage from a hormonal female.

Three other people saw him do it, and heard me call him out, and said nothing, but shot daggers at him. While one individual thought the exchange was “embarrassing”, it was worth it given that the offender stayed as far away from me as the room would allow.

***

Now I work for an organization where part of my role is to mingle and develop relationships with patrons. There is a free bar and I have comfortable relationships with a number of the individual at this reception. One individual, who is obviously putting on a show for his friends, puts his arm around my waist as he introduces me to his group. While I’m not a fan of such physical contact at work, this is common practice by both male and female patrons and is largely interpreted by employees as gesture of friendship. This individual completes his praise of the evening, then pulls me in and gives me an open mouth kiss, which – in and of itself was disgusting, and was further traumatizing because of the food that was not completely masticated in his mouth. I pull away, make a gracious exit (because remember, I don’t want to embarrass HIM!) and advised my supervisor. He brushes it off and suggests I don’t go back to that party’s table for the rest of the evening.

As we drive home, my supervisor in the front passenger seat, and his supervisor driving the mini van. I attempt to block the evening’s events from my mind by reclining in the middle row of the van. Suddenly I’m drawn to the conversation in the front seat.

“Sarah had a problem tonight with (name has been removed to protect the guilty).” said Supervisor 1.

“What was it?” asked Supervisor 2, not at all concerned in his tone or word choice.

“(Name has been removed to protect the guilty) kissed her. On the mouth.” said S1.

S2 laughs. I am @#%*ING awake now!

“I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as she’s letting on,” he replies.

“Actually, it was worse because he had a mouth full of food,” I stated. The van jerks on the roadway as S2 didn’t think I was listen to him make a grade A chauvinistic asshole of himself. He then tried to downplay what he said, and generally smooth over the incident, saying sometimes people just drink too much and these things just “happen.”

“I didn’t think prostitution was part of the job description.” I finished. Apparently I was hormonal again, because the two of them stopped talking. Although two supervisors are aware of this incident, it is never brought up again, and the perpetrator is never spoken to.

Don’t worry – I left this position shortly thereafter, as I had applied for a promotion that was all but assured. Honestly, I had co-workers and patrons telling me I was going to get the promotion, how hard I’d worked for it, and how amazing I’d be in the new role. I did not, in fact, get the promotion. Apparently I had commitments at home that would prevent me from doing the job. He was referring to my kids. I should note that I had put in as many hours or more during my eight years with that organization as any other employee. When I left, they replaced me with two men. One, who is now in the role that I applied for, has children…..sorry, I forgot we were talking about straight sexual harassment, not gender prejudice in the workplace – that’s another post.

***

As recently as this year, my 46th on this planet, I’ve had inappropriate comments made to me. One of my favorites, “I know which window is for your bedroom”. Another, “I listen to you on the radio and loooove hearing your voice.” – please imagine a very creepy facial expression to that last one. Oh, and these are from the same person. I point out to him that these comments are rather uncalled for, and he’s going to get in trouble for saying them. He responds, “Oh you know what I mean.”

Yes, I’m afraid I do. That’s the point.

I don’t hold back now. I haven’t for a while – as this post attests. I own these incidents, not because – as the offenders would think – because it makes me look desirable and is flattering, but because this is how I learned how to draw my line in the sand. Now, after these many conversations, I’m going to be even more vocal about improper conduct. I am the mother of two sons. I have taught them that a woman will give it back to you if you try to mess with her. I have taught them that it is not a compliment to a woman or to a man to treat a woman like an object. Woman are not objects to be owned or mauled. We are not stupid. We’ve been putting up with bullshit for decades. If prostitution is the second oldest profession for women, then sexual predator is the oldest crime for men.

Saying nothing hasn’t helped. Silence is the key the offender uses to open the door to this crime, and it’s what he uses to lock it behind him when he’s done. She won’t say anything. She never has. If she does, she will be portrayed as emotional, hormonal, crazy, a slut, disgruntled, manipulating. There’s less of a chance she will say anything because history has proven that society won’t believe her, or worse, re-victimize her over and over again.

No more. If you think you are going to “grab ’em by the pussy” be prepared to get kicked in the balls.

 

 

 

Looking For The Answers

The tone in her voice said it all.

“So, what do you think?!”

Aside from the fact that I had no answers for her, the question bounced around my head. She has questions. Heck we all have questions. I find myself questioning myself more and more lately. Which, I find rather ironic, given the fact that I’m “middle aged” (if I live to 90) and you’d think I’d have my shit figured out.

Nope.

While I’ve gained confidence compared to my early adult years, I certainly would have thought that I would have more answers, more stability and more clarity about the future. I have, thankfully, have developed more confidence in myself, my abilities and my relationships. This, sadly, does not extend to other areas of my life.

Is this the point where the mid-life crisis settles in? When you get frustrated enough with the plan you set out for yourself when you were mere “child” in your 20s that you say “F it” and sell off everything to move to a Caribbean island?

<PAUSE> For the record, my particular skill set is apparently highly coveted and in one week there were two job postings in Jamaica alone that were TAILOR MADE for my skills and abilities.The Big Guy had to talk me off that ledge, let me tell you! <PLAY>

So when “she” came to me with her question, I thought, “She must think I have my act together!” Followed by “Boy, do I have her fooled!”

What did I actually SAY to her? That her decisions are hers alone to make. That this is the beauty of life; that we are the only ones who get to have that kind of power to make those decisions. This also prevents us from hating the individual who gave us the advice.

This doesn’t make our decisions any easier, and leaves us with the nagging questions…

Cold Hands, Warm Heart

I’ve always been cold, and when I’m cold, it’s painful. My brother in law used to tease me when I wore work socks layered over regular socks to keep my feet warm. The true arrival of spring (or fall) was when the work socks came off (or went on).

It’s no different now. Infact, it’s gotten worse. My hands will lose all feeling and become waxy when cold; classic Reynauds symptoms. As a female Canadian who lives in Canada, it’s rather challenging to keep yourself warm, while being anywhere in the neighbourhood of fashionable.

Which is why I was green with envy last weekend. Working at a Santa Claus parade, I saw scores of of trendy young mommies sporting the latest fashions in winter wear; black leggings, killer winter boots, and one of two options – an incredibly expensive knee-length winter coat (usually in black) and matching accessories, or an incredibly expensive sweater/vest combo (usually very colourful) and matching accessories. In both cases, the outerwear would NOT be zipped up, but casually left open, to adequately admire the carefully curated laying. My jealously was rooted in the fact that in either of those outfits, I would be in excruciating pain and likely praying for quick death.

Which reminds me of a time where I did actually pray for an expedited end. The Big Guy and I were at a winter resort in February, a kind of “Happy Valentine’s Day, We can’t afford to go South” sort of thing. One of the activities was snowmobiling. We jumped on the machine and followed the guide who would tour us around the more scenic areas of the Huntsville area. On the return trip, we had to cross the lake. It was late afternoon, the sun was waning and my body had officially given up on trying to keep up with the external frigid assault on my internal furnace. The Big Guy steered the snow sled across the frozen lake surface, wide open to keep up with the rest of the group, and to help minimize the bone shattering windchill. My face had long gone numb. My extremities up to my knees and elbows didn’t exist. It actually crossed my mind, “This is how I end. I freeze to death on a snowmobile in the middle of a lake.” But it didn’t happen. It just. got. colder. Nothing says “romance” like flannel jammies after an hour-long shower to thaw 3rd degree frostbite.

As much as I’d like to love Winter, our relation is complicated. I acknowledge it exists, but I refuse to be an active outdoor participant. I’m one step away from hibernating!

I’m the girl standing in Winners trying to find THE warmest, THE heaviest sweaters and being stymied with sleeveless shifts and rayon/polyester blends with plunging necklines. My favourite Christmas gift last year? My fleece onesie with a hood.

Let’s put it this way, if you ever hear me say “Whew, it’s just too hot in here!” you know I’ve been kidnapped.

But as they say, “Cold hands, warm heart!”