A Little Too Much Reality For My Liking

So, that extended break in entries… I was a little distracted with life.

Originally, it was the day-to-day stuff that got busy, like Halloween, but then crap started happening and I wake up today feeling like I’ve been hit by a truck and spinning out control like the hub cap it left behind.

My Dad has been ill, and things took a turn on Sunday. It’s not my news to share, but suffice it to say, I woke up to an urgent call at 8 a.m. and went to bed the following day at 2:30 a.m. There was a lifetime that happened in between. He is ok. Not great. Ok. He should be better if things continue the way they have for the past couple of hours. The problem is that things happened that shouldn’t have. He was in a great deal of pain when he didn’t have to be.

When the cashier at Wal-Mart makes a mistake on your bill, she can fix it. When the waiter messes up your order at the bar, you get a free drink. When the paint store mis tints your living room colour, you either learn to like lavender, or you get a refund. There is a reason why doctors are paid in a different tax bracket. The work they do and decisions they make not only impact the person they are in direct contact with, but also the legion of family and friends around that person.

Not reading a report is a mistake I would anticipate from someone working in a less accountable type of job. Not someone who is going to have to save a life. Patients need all the information to make informed decisions and fully understand what is happening to them.

We have launched an investigation to find out what happened in Dad’s case. We can’t change what has happened to him, but we can get some questions answered and prevent this from ever happening again, to him, or anyone else.

Hitting a Milestone aka “The Grass is Always Greener”

Every parent looks forward to the firsts in their child’s life. First smile, steps, contracts with NHL franchises. Here in Boweryville, we enjoyed another milestone, just this past Friday night.

That’s the evening after Second Born Son faced his first exposure to drugs.

I’ll give you a moment to clean up the coffee that just shot through your nose. My apologizes for the nasal scalding.

And like so many things in my world – this impactful information was present in the most innocuous way possible.

“Hey Mom, did SBS tell you what happened on the bus today?” asks First Born Son. Let me add here that the boys have been in the house for OVER AN HOUR AT THIS POINT. I’d like to take this opportunity to emphasize how much I loathe “The Bus”. The stories I have from that period in my life make me a poster child for naivety shattered.

After hauling SBS from his father’s laptop, we had a detailed discussion about what happened and I used my journalist prowess to decipher every nuance of the incident. It would seem the little entrepreneur saw SBS board the bus with his box of elementary school fundraising chocolate bars and thought he could negotiate a trade of cocoa product for Grass.

At this point FBS is boarding the bus, and along with his friend, they punch the pusher and managed to hijack the conversation, as well as the proposition. I ask SBS what he’s doing while his brother is pounding the fellow bus rider.

“I just did this.” he sits at the dinner table, eyes as big as saucers, focusing on an imaginary bus seat in front of him, mute and unblinking.

In fairness, FBS has mentioned that this kid had marijuana on him in the past – he’s actually SEEN it on him. I would find out well after the fact and since it did not directly involve one of my offspring – I didn’t feel motivated to go vigilante on this kid. It’s part of the new era I like to call “I’m Only Raising My Kids.

This time, a call to the bus driver Friday evening, followed by an email to the two school principals Monday morning, was required. The high school principal contacted me in the afternoon to advise the student had been called into the office. Suffice it to say, his day got infinitely more shitty than his morning bus ride, when the driver instructed him to sit at the front – an embarrassment he pinned on FBS.

While we’ve had “the drug talk” with our kids for the past few years, it’s still unsettling that it’s come so close to us, with SBS at such a young age. I’m not naive enough to think my kids couldn’t do drugs. I know SBS could easily have swapped chocolate bars for an easy high – and we discussed whether or not he wants to go down that road. His horrified response reassured me.

For now.

I thanked FBS for being there for his brother, and together we discussed things SBS could have said, in the event that this happens again and his brother isn’t around to help out.

I’m not dumb enough to think that this won’t happen again.

You can only go day by day and hope and pray your kids know enough not to blink.

About A Boy

I have just experienced a rather profound moment. It happened shortly before I took this photo.

I had been listening to the Weather Network, where, in true media fashion, they sensationalized the rash of tornadoes that ripped across my region two years ago. Footage of uprooted trees, destroyed buildings and rescue workers made me anxious when I looked outside. At that moment I immediately identified with two people who lost their son in that storm.

Ironically, I knew The Boy’s parents when I was about his age. His mother rode the bus with me in elementary school and was like an older sister to me, in spite of the fact that she was already the eldest sister of several other siblings. His father rode the bus with me in high school and was someone I could relate to, with his dry sense of humor. I never met The Boy but years after I lost track of his parents, we found ourselves across the room from each other at Prenatal Class. His parents were, like The Big Guy and myself, expecting their first-born child. We spent a summer of excitement and anticipation. We joked about the scarier aspects of childbirth as a coping mechanism. We cheered each other on with our little milestones and marvelled at how our lives continued to be intertwined.

Then lives got busy with babies: ours with First Born Son, theirs with The Boy; and eventually, second babies. It wasn’t until I was on facebook years later that I was able to see what a gorgeous child The Boy was. Dark thick hair like his mother, eyes like his father, and by his mother’s description, a true blend of the both of them. He was more than clever; he was kind, insightful and generous. He had a wisdom beyond his years and after his passing, triggers and memories haunted and comforted his family – the beauty of a butterfly, the surprising reaction of the family pet, the generosity of his classmates.

The first year goes by, and with it, the first Christmas, birthday, school year and other milestones a family celebrates all without The Boy. His family healed, but is still wounded which is why I was so upset with the television coverage today. In the aftermath of the tornado, The Boy’s family refused to talk to the media. They didn’t want their personal nightmare played out like some cheap entertainment for mass consumption. I respect them for that – and wish more people would do the same. They never gave permission for his name to be released, which is why I’m respecting their privacy now.

I have looked at First Born Son and felt a twinge when I think how tall he is getting and how he will enter high school in a couple of weeks – all things The Boy would be doing too. I cannot imagine the pain of losing my child, but I can appreciate the loss. No one wants to live it, and those who live it, will never escape it – and from what I understand, they don’t necessarily want to.

But back to the sky. When I saw it, I felt overwhelmed. I know how the family dreads storms, especially those with high winds. There was definitely something brewing.

Do you see that slice in the clouds? It’s almost as if your arms were long enough, they could pull back the layers and reach into heaven. Or perhaps, if you were in heaven, you could see what was happening down below.

And it occurred to me; The Boy’s family was marking this year’s anniversary this very day with a barbecue. They wanted to celebrate, rather than mourn. And so I looked at the clouds one more time with rose-colored glasses.

There is a silver lining in those clouds – do you see it? The Boy is there, looking down at his family; celebrating with them. He can’t keep the storm away but he was a Glass Half Full kinda kid, therefore the beauty inside that angry cloud could be nothing but happiness. The Boy was full of joy, his mother said, and suddenly the trepidation I felt early was replaced with peace.

While I couldn’t be there for the barbecue today, I was very present in spirit. And I believe The Boy was too.

Volunteer Hours

Merriam-Webster Definition of VOLUNTEER

: a person who voluntarily undertakes or expresses a willingness to undertake a service: as a: one who enters into military service voluntarily b (1): one who renders a service or takes part in a transaction while having no legal concern or interest (2): one who receives a conveyance or transfer of property without giving valuable consideration 
Funny, this definition does NOT include “whipping boy”, “blame target” or “root of all evil”.
Let me start by saying, I love softball. I love playing it, watching it and for the past several years, coaching it. I’ve had some trials and tribulations, with the past three years being the most difficult. It was to the point that I had decided this year I would not coach, but be a “Mom” in the stands to Second Born Son. But he asked me to coach his team, and since I had only ever helped with First Born Son’s team, I felt it was only fair to help out at least once with SBS’ team.
In recent years there has been a pattern with the issues facing the coaching staff – the kids stop or never did take it seriously (and by this, I don’t mean that they don’t have fun, they just fail to engage in the sport), then the parents get all annoyed that the team isn’t doing well, then gets in the coaches’ grill about how they handle the kids.
Personally, I have taken the view that organized sport is a prepping ground for real life. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes you can do your best and some (umpires) can prevent you from winning. Working hard and practicing pays off. You won’t get a gold star just for showing up, you actually have to excel to be acknowledged. Mediocre is just that. These life lessons are why we’ve signed the kids up for organized sport.
But I’m among the minority, apparently. Parents want their children lauded for simply standing on a base. If I ask them to hold their glove in a ready position (partly to “look” like a ball player and mostly to prevent them from eating a ball) I’m being harsh. This revelation was given to me cold and hard by an irate parent, just this evening. This same parent hosted his own ball practice with certain members of the team, but failed to invite, ironically, the three kids whose parents are on the coaching staff.
Such negative and divisive actions have impacted the team pretty much from the beginning of the year. The kids feed of their parent’s energy and combined with their own less than ambitious outlook, end up being a team that could win many more games, but don’t.
It’s unfortunate. I feel bad for the kids who will someday go out into the real world and find out that Mom and Dad can’t hold their hand while they are at their first full time job. I’m sorry for the parents who will look back at this time in their child’s development and realize that there was a service being paid in how coaches motivate and indeed criticized their children – and how their children were able to use that motivation. We play numerous teams in a year and most of the coaches are strict. I’ve heard much more severe comments made from other benches – the teams played better, the parents were supportive of the coaches and that results in wins – which is what all teams strive for.
What it comes down to is this – I’ve volunteered in minor sports for nine years. I’ve never taken a year off. The time has come. I never suggested I knew everything about softball, and indeed have enjoyed the fact that I’ve been able to learn as I’ve move along as well. But to have a parent be critical and suggest I, and my colleagues, are doing a bad job – when they themselves never learned how to play the sport, well, it’s simply insulting.
Sadly, minor sports are experience a drought of volunteers as severe as the lack of rain we had in July. Teams will not be formed without adult volunteers, but who would want to step up, knowing parents and in some cases, players, are ready to tear them down? Individuals with much more experience than I have been dragged through the mud, all because a parent felt their child may have been slighted. I would never have volunteered to coach children if I didn’t like kids. I would never offer my time if I didn’t feel I had something to contribute. To be told otherwise is hurtful.
I don’t know what the answer is for the issue at large, but I know I won’t be signing up for any more volunteer hours any time soon.

Puppy Love

The first dog I ever had was a puppy named Heidi. I must admit, I was only a puppy myself at the time.

She was a German Shepherd puppy and she was beautiful.

Don't judge the bangs, or the turtleneck for that matter. At least I'm co-ordinated!

German Shepherds are vicious dogs; you should watch your children around them! (I think someone needs to save the dog!)

Because we lived on a farm, it seemed natural to have a second dog, since Heidi was starting to run with a neighbor’s dog and we worried about her getting too farm from home.
So we got Rene. Rescued him, would be a better way of putting it. He was owned by a large German man who not only intimidated his wife and son, but the dog too. Rene finally had enough of being treated badly and dared to stand up for himself. This did not go over well with the owner. He wanted him gone. I am ever so glad, because Rene was lovely.

Gingham was TOTALLY what all the cool kids were wearing - and Rene didn't mind my bowl bangs....

Ironically, Rene was Little Sister’s dog.  Not that he was given to “her”, since she was only an infant, but Rene, sensing that Heidi was responsible for me, took LS as his very own. This big “aggressive” male became bound to her in a way that could only be described as “darling”.
When nap time came for my wee sister, Mom would put her on the front porch in her buggy. The breeze was cooling in the warm summer afternoons and it was out of the strong sun. Rene would watch my mother putter around with her regular tasks and park himself beside the buggy. When LS awoke and cried out, Rene would howl to let Mom know that the baby was up. Like the very first baby monitor.
Rene would follow LS while Heidi followed me. We had our own personal body guards. The only time we ever had an issue was when Rene suffered from arthritis in his back hips. He slept fitfully one afternoon and I strolled past him with a bat resting over my shoulder.  The bat was far bigger than the shoulder and within a second the bat fell on the dog’s back end, waking him suddenly and causing him intense pain. Remember, his history told him that when he was being hurt, he needed to defend himself, and he did.
A small row of stitches were needed to heal the damage done, but I never blamed Rene for the bite. He blamed himself though. Upon my return from the hospital, Rene’s head hung as low as his tail. I was bathed in slobber as he licked me from ear to ear once I returned from the hospital. He felt bad for days after.
Rene more than made up for it a couple of years later, when a boy older than me tried to push me around. He raised his voice and gave me a shove that sent me to the ground. Within seconds Rene had the boy pinned to the ground beside me. He never bit the older boy, but he scared him enough to leave me alone.
By this time, my beautiful Heidi was gone. Rene pined for her as much as I did, so my parents found Britta. She was a female deemed unsuitable for breeding, as she had an overbite. While she wasn’t pretty like Heidi was, she was loyal and had a sweet personality.
After these two dogs, our family had a string of others, usually adopted as full grown dogs and all loved for their own special traits. So when the time came to start a family of my own, I knew it had to include a dog. The Big Guy and I fell in love with a Dutch Chow pup and after we named him Cole, we started house training. Eleven years later he developed Cancer and we lost our first “Fur Baby”.
That brought us to Samson. A purebred mutt, Sam was perfect for our young family. The boys loved him, and he was the best parts of Lab, Rottweiler and German Shepherd. The day we put him down was easily one of the worst in my life. We struggled with the decision to put him out of his pain, and in the end, I know it was the right thing to do. That didn’t make it any easier. Samson is the first dog we buried at our new home, and I look out on him every day.

My Beautiful Boy

I could talk about how his bark could stop you cold, if you didn’t know him well enough. Or how grown men thought twice about just walking up to him. But then I’d have to talk about how he was actually as sweet as his caramel eyes, and how much he loved running at The Farm – which we also lost this year. And I can’t do any of this without choking up…so enough about that.

The Big Guy got tired of my moping by the second day. He knows it’s not my way, but as I said, the last couple of days with Samson were really tough.

“Why don’t you look at some puppies?” he asked.

“I don’t think I’m ready for that yet,” I replied. He tried again the next day – pointing out I might feel better looking at puppies.

A quick scan of kijiji found hundreds of puppies – all of which were cute. He was right – it was something “happy” but I still wasn’t sure that I could imagine our house with another dog. The Big Guy contact the people we got Samson from, and they wouldn’t have another litter until the new year. A quick consensus of the household determined we didn’t want one of Samson’s brothers – it would be too hard to look at him and not see Sam.

Then it happened – a crazy combination of circumstances that gave me all the signs I needed. Before I knew it – there was laughter in the house – and smiles.

And chew toys….for a new pup. A German Shepherd named Roman.

The ears almost give the ability to fly!


From the Mouths of Babes

The conversations around the fire pit are the BEST! An interesting exchange transpired around the topic of our neighbors who have their house listed for sale. We noticed a family with two young girls looking around earlier in the week.

Second Born Son in a tone as serious as a Judge: You know, research says it’s better for a man to marry a woman younger than he is.

Me: Really…

The Big Guy: ~wisely silent~

SBS: Ya, because however many years there are between them, that’s how much longer he will out live her.

Me: Really!?

The Big Guy: ~eyes getting wider~

SBS: Ya, so I figure, one of those girls looking at the house next door, they look like they around 7 or 8, and they were cute! Did you see them? I think they were blonde too!

Me: What about “Cute-Little-Red-Haired-Girl-From-School”?

SBS: Oh, no – that would never work, we are the same age.

By the way, he’s TEN! (Going on 21 apparently.)

The Aftermath of a Funeral

I know the calendar has May as a full month – but I can say with all certainty that the last time I looked at the calendar and processed the date, it was May 6.

And here we are now in the last full week of the month.

In a nutshell – life in Boweryville exploded about two weeks ago. The Big Guy’s mother passed away. While it was not unexpected, it was sudden. We knew her end was in sight, but certainly not within days. He and I found ourselves in the position of aiding his father through the demanding and emotional pitfalls that planning a funeral can be.

Throughout this experience, I found myself faced with huge ironies that I would like to share – in no particular order.

1. People forget who the funeral is for. Firstly, the deceased and secondly, the surviving spouse or offspring. Any decision that we were faced with making was filtered this way – Would she have wanted this? Does my Father-in-Law want this? Does TBG or his brother want this? Anyone outside of that pecking order was simply not considered. There was a person or two who would make comments about decisions that were made – and I would refer to the Pecking Order. I don’t think you have to apologize for that.

2. Funerals bring out the worst in people. While it’s lovely and romantic to think of loved ones clutching Kleenex to their chest and gently weeping, so great is their pain, the cold hard truth is, there will always be one asshole individual who will try to make ANY situation about themselves. This is not the time for drama. This is not the time to lay a claim. This is not the time to purge yourself of your past regrets. Get. Over. Yourself.

3. There have been many times in my life as a Mother that I have been proud of my children, but never more so that during the day of visitation and the next day at the funeral. My boys stood and shook hands with hundreds of people they didn’t know. They watched people react emotionally and they handled themselves brilliantly. My heart swelled when I was paid a very sincere compliment from someone who appreciated how well the boys conducted themselves. They made eye contact, they smiled when appropriate, they answered questions – usually the same ones – sincerely and politely, for hours. While it made my heart full to see them do that, it nearly made me burst with pride when someone else actually noticed it too.

4. Have I mentioned yet that people are assholes inconsiderate? One person who came to pay his respects actually said to my boys “Well, you’d better get used to being in this line-up because with the age of the people around you, you’re going to be doing this a lot more often!” While First Born Son and Second Born Son were busy picking their chins off the floor, I wondered to myself what his ride home was going to be like – as his wife looked ready to put him in a box herself!

5. For all the times people have thought us crazy for buying shirts, ties and suits for our kids, it totally pays off at a time like this. Second Born Son is not naturally drawn to the button shirt and tie like his brother is. But when I advised he would be wearing a tie for two days – as well as his suit for the funeral, he merely nodded – he knew it was not only proper, but required. I loved him even more for it.

6. A part II to that thought….we realized that we needed to buy SBS shoes – and ended up getting him a pair of MENS SIZE 7 DRESS SHOES. I’m in distress over this! My baby is wearing MENS SHOES! The only thing that saved my breaking heart was his humor. When presented with several Oxford styles as well as a pair of more on-trend slip ons, he replied “I don’t care what dress shoes look like, as long as they are comfortable. I only care what my running shoes look like.” Good to have your priorities Little Man!

7. You truly find out who your friends are in times like this. People you would never anticipate hearing from will show up at your door with a pie, cheese tray or other gesture of kindness. This gives you faith in humanity, not to mention about 10 extra pounds. I think I have to avoid lasagna and funeral sandwiches for a couple of weeks.

8. Regret is a useless emotion. The first time I heard it was in college, but this saying has become my motto. I want to live my life without regret, and I feel,  so far, I’ve done well. Throughout this experience I’ve had a front row seat to actions and consequences regarding regret. Death always wins – none of us gets out of here alive, so you might as well make your choices and actions so you go in a direction without regret.

9. Not every death is a bad thing. When you see someone will not improve, and you know there is suffering involved – all you want for them is peace. If death brings peace, so be it. The living are there to console each other.

10. I need to give some serious thought to my final wishes. I cannot imagine giving my husband, children and parents the chore of planning and imagining my needs and wants. The pain one goes through to create a sendoff their loved one would like is heart wrenching. No one should have to go through that.

The Farm

We’ve had a pretty significant development here in Boweryville. The Farm is Sold.

“The Farm” is actually the homestead where The Big Guy’s ancestors purchase property from The Crown and made a parcel of what would eventually become 300 acres. Right now, Uncle B lives there and as he is a bachelor – it’s a big six-bedroom house that seems empty. It is a stone farmhouse, as was common in that area of the province, but what wasn’t common was the workmanship.

This hutch is in what would have been the dining room. It’s now the “Parlour” except, no one uses parlours any more. I don’t even have the shot to the floor and you can see floor mouldings. They are at least a foot high.

This was a home built by a family after a great deal of struggle and toil. The matriarch of the time watched her dream home being built and, if she was like any other woman I know, longed for the day she could move in and enjoy her modern conveniences. She died the first night she slept in the house.

There are countless stories to be told of lives lived within these wall. Each of The Big Guy’s aunts and uncle, including his father, were born in this house – likely in the room next to the kitchen. This is the same room people were laid out in for views following their deaths.

The view off the front porch is nothing short of breathtaking.

This is the place where I met The Big Guy. A large part of our dating life was lived out here. This is the first road trip we brought each one of the boys when they came home from the hospital and some of our fondest memories were lived out on the field above. It is, without a doubt, one of the best toboggan hills you will ever go down.

The reasons behind the sale are not mine to share, but I can tell you that being here always felt good. Just about every memory I have of being here is funny or warm. A psychic once confused this for my family farm, saying, “But you want to live there – it’s a part of YOU.”

Perhaps it’s because it is two farms away from the farm I grew up on. That house also had a fabulous view. The feeling about this place, however, is hard to describe. I feel the history in the woodwork. I have an overwhelming urge to touch the stones. It’s like The Farm has a life of its own and it actually speaks to some of us.

While we knew The Farm was “for sale” in the most casual definition of the phrase, it couldn’t prepare us for the news that it was sold. First Born Son has always had a special place in his heart for The Farm. He was born a generation too late, but he has the patience and passion for farming. The Big Guy, who actually went to Agricultural College because of his love of The Farm, was also hit hard. Second Born Son was never interested in being a farmer, but loved the idea of the fantasy world he could create in the hay mow; the interaction with the cattle and the mystique the “oldness” the barn represented.

We seriously considered taking over The Farm and spoke to Uncle B about it before we had FBS. It would have involved one or both of use giving up a kidney. It was not meant to be.

While the reasons behind the sale are not for me to share, I feel like time is slipping away. We have been visiting The Farm at least once a week for the past month. We only have one  month left. FBS gets quiet when he thinks about The Farm and how he’s never going to work the land there again. He’s been blessed to enjoy two summers where he’s actually lived at The Farm with Uncle B for a couple of weeks. We’ve tried to tell him it’s a blessing he had that time at all, but for him, it’s a taste of what he can never have.

It’s a bittersweet time for the entire family. The end of an era is nigh and as the deadline draws near, it will be come increasingly emotional for all of us.

Until then, I’m taking an offensive amount of photos. Uncle B laughs at me for my interest in cobwebs and nails.

But there’s a beauty in these images. It’s the heart of the farm I want to capture for us for when we can’t be there to feel it.