Surviving the Loop the Loop – The Prodigal Wallet.

When Tom and I renewed our vows on our 10th anniversary in 2007, he talked about the incredible ride we were and still are on and that the only way to truly enjoy a ride is to not know what is coming and sit tight and ride it out when it goes chaotic and random. Well, we only know chaotic and random and this year certainly we endured many loop the loops on the ride that is our life. We’ve had a lot of experiences that created new feelings; new ways of doing things; looking at things, that I suppose, took me by surprise. There was not a lot of time to write this summer but on Labour Day weekend, with one day to go before school started, I sat in my little home office, in front of my old friend Laptop, my fingers retrieving stories I had tapped out about our wonky family life. This is the story I wrote about Adam’s lost wallet in May 2018.

Today went down hill when we realized Adam’s wallet was missing. I usually have stuff they can grab from the fridge or freezer that they could warm and take for lunch but it’s been a hectic work week and I remembered Adam had 5 bucks in his wallet and I decided he could buy his lunch at school, since there was nothing he really liked in the fridge that he could take with him. Court was working with him lately to try and make sure he checked for his wallet and his phone to teach him how to be responsible for his things and she thought it was secure in his coat pocket when she dropped him off after the movies.

My autistic teen does not really get the seriousness of losing his wallet and at times, has a really sketchy short term memory, so getting the clues needed to piece together where it might be, was for this mother, quite stressful. We retraced steps and even called the police to see if anything was maybe turned in. The only place left to check was the theatre but when school is on, there is no staff on site until about 3:30 pm. The mental weariness of knowing I had to cancel his bank card and then looking up the procedure of cancelling his ID card and health card numbers just started to swirl inside me like a tornado and then I, the non-crier started to sob.

“He’s not ready,” I cried to my husband. “He’s never going to be ready and if we are not here to help him who will really care? Who will turn every stone looking for his wallet? Who will try and get the clues out of him and who will look up what to do and make the calls?”

My patient, patient husband, kissed the top of my newly grey haired head and told me simply,”Someone will,” He told me that as capable as Adam is, he will always need help with the fine tuning and that losing the wallet was a good lesson for us because when it happens again (and it will) at least we know what to do and this experience will help us figure out ways to lessen the number of times something like this would occur.

So, while Tom held down the fort at work today, I worked from home and also worked on cancelling Adam’s bank card. I decided I could at least prevent someone from accessing his account but would wait on cancelling the other cards until we checked the movie theatre. Let me just tell you that losing your wallet is one thing when you don’t have special needs, it is a complete gong show when you do. Last year, in the fall when Adam was still 17, I set up his new bank account so he could collect his ODSP* the following year upon his 18th birthday. It had to be a joint account because he was still a minor. I set up accounts for each son and all was well. Now that Adam is 18, I was not able to cancel his card even though his account is a joint account with me. He needed to call in himself. After explaining that his autism would make that scenario difficult, I finally got the bank to at least freeze the account until we could cancel the card. They struggled because the millennial on the phone did not have a field on his computer screen that could help him make allowances for exceptions like Adam. No word of a lie, that was what I was told. I suggested he maybe ask a manager to help him figure out a way but he was a millennial too (not to knock them all) and said if there was no field on the computer screen, there was no way. Adam had to make the call. I started laughing this insane cackle. Adam. Adam had to make the call. Adam, who HATES talking on the phone, especially to people he doesn’t know. Well, the whole family had to be in on that because it takes 3 people to help Adam get through scenarios that other people could navigate with ease.

When the boys came home from school, Adam made the call. When asked his full name he answered John Adam James and he also added “I’m looking for my wallet” to which the person on the phone said ” Oh, I just need your name at this time,” to which Adam said, “John Adam James and I am still looking for my wallet,”.  The rep realized that this was the point in the script that called for that thing called human empathy and he said that he understood because losing a wallet happens to everyone. It was a sweet attempt because it was clear to him now that I was not bull shitting when I said talking to Adam was not going to be easy.

Adam proceeded to give his date of birth and his address however when it came to remembering the branch where the account was set up and what the answer to the security question should be, Tom had to whisper so he could answer correctly as I was not allowed to “coerce” him. Then by process of elimination they needed the card number and the boys accounts are joint with me so we had to read out the other two card numbers to isolate Adam’s. I read mine and Logan read his and had a blast taking his turn with the guy because by this time Adam was antsy and scripting quotes from movies and it had become significantly louder in our house. Adam is talking, Tom is trying to settle him down so Tom is talking, I am just laughing and Logan is well,”Loganing”.

“You ready for my information, Sir?” he began.  “Listen up because it’s getting loud. That’s what it’s like living with autism. See, this is what we were trying to explain to you. He can’t answer you alone. That’s just the nature of the beast. You would have had an easier time talking to Mom,” he said, as polite and jovial as always, schooling all the while.

Fast forward, we got the card cancelled, ordered a new one and a new PIN all before we found the wallet at the manager’s office at the movie theatre when they finally opened. For all the absurdity, I was disturbed to know that those who have no voice, those who struggle with conversation, those who need and have advocates, still in many areas of our daily lives, still have no voice. Losing a wallet is an inconvenience for us but a disaster for them. If my son had been non-verbal, how would I have been able to cancel his card? I learned too that for his ID card and health card and any government issued card, he would have to go in person to fill out the form and sign his name. Easy enough for Adam with a bit of help for the form because he does read and write and can sign his name but what about those who can’t?  If upon getting these important documents one can see that a person has a disability, why can’t the powers that be, find a way for those who can’t speak or write to skip the usual formalities and get straight to the matter of protecting them from identity theft and fraud? They need help getting these documents in the first place so they’d obviously need help when they are in situation regarding a lost or stolen wallet.

Today, formality and strict regulation was ridiculously humorous for a few seconds and then it became downright irritating and painful for my son. It took almost half an hour to cancel his bank card over the phone because a customer service rep was only able to stick to the one way of doing his mundane job. I could hear how flustered he was getting trying to speak to my son as if her was just another customer. But Adam isn’t just another customer. Adam is representative of the now 1 in 45 persons diagnosed with autism and he is one of many persons who struggles with verbal communication. Sure he can speak but he cannot conceptualize things the same way we do. Things are different for him because his brain is wired differently and he lives in a world that has evolved tremendously in many ways to incorporate people like him, but it is also a world that is also as inflexible as it was 40 plus years ago.

The day, however, was not completely stressful. We found the wallet with the 5 bucks and all his cards inside. It was reassuring to know kind, honest people still exist. I hugged the movie theatre manager tightly and she hugged me back saying she had never met anyone so grateful to find a wallet. Adam had to go to Tim’s for a frozen raspberry lemonade with Logan to settle himself after his stint on the phone and did not come with us to claim his wallet. To be honest I was prepared for a struggle to get it back if it was indeed found, because he wasn’t with us but the manager came out, asked me what colour it was, who it belonged to and what was in it and presto! She got the description, she realized we must have been his parents and we didn’t have to sign anything. She understood our situation and she made a human decision. She didn’t worry about formalities or rules. She was just happy to return the wallet. She was happy to help. Most times, that’s all people like Adam and parents like us need.

On the ride back home Tom glanced at me and said the most wonderful thing I’d heard in a while. He said, “You know you gotta love being a parent when something great happens to your kid and you feel fantastic! It didn’t happen to you, it happened to them but you just feel great! Today we lost a wallet and it took us down a worrisome road where we questioned if Adam was truly ready for independence and for better or worse, he spoke to a stranger on the phone and answered many of the questions without our help . And while we were stressing over his wallet, we received great news about Logan. Watching Adam’s big smile when we returned his wallet was like watching him look at me for the first time all over again. Just a feeling of pure joy, you know? We got great news about Logan and we found Adam’s wallet intact. Nothing beats being a parent when you have a day like today!”  Ever the optimist, I dare say, he’s so perfectly, completely correct.

 

 

unremarkable … REMARKABLE!

There was a time in my life when my mind was open to anything being possible. I believed in praying and being fulfilled. I believed that doing the right thing as much as possible made me a good person in the eyes of God and if I did as I was told, adhered to what I was taught in the catechism classes, went to confession and tried never to repeat my sins I would have a good life. I was a child. I became a teenager. I was young and I had a good life. I wanted it all. I got older and my eyes were seeing real life and I went from wanting it all to wanting just enough. I wanted to be like they say in medical reports “unremarkable”. I did not want any drama. I wanted the most regular of lives. I wanted things to stay as calm and uneventful as they were. I just wanted to fly under the radar.

undertheradar

 

I got what I wanted for a while. I flew under the radar but I always had a strange feeling that the other shoe was going to drop and when it did, it shattered my “unremarkable” world. I no longer believed in miracles – only hard work and luck. I didn’t believe that it was worthwhile to ask so that I should receive. I barley knew where to seek in order to find my answers and I had given up knocking because so many doors were closed to me. For 16 years since the shoe plummeted to earth, I have been waiting to hear God. Over 16 years, in spite of my tumultuous relationship with Him, He has answered me occasionally, in spite of whom I’d become but I never heard Him. I never got the answers to the questions I had asked time and again. Why was I going through what I had been going through? What was I supposed to do? What did this journey mean? What was I waiting on? What was going to happen? I heard my voice directing my instincts and I thought that may have been Him speaking to me, but I never believed that it was. I had lost anything in me that pointed me toward blind faith. I tended towards logic and the scientific. I based my conclusions on facts. The hardest thing for a person raised with religion who faces daily adversity is to balance faith with fact. Faith, for a person like me at times became fantasy but when I watched the faithful find success, I knew they were doing something I used to know how to do, once upon a time…only in my grief, in my anger, in my frustration, I forgot how use faith and my faith melted into fear and it crippled me.

One night, after 16 years, I had one of those moments that is freakishly unique to me. I believe we all have bizarre moments that only we alone feel and can describe. One moment I get from time to time is a feeling that lasts about 3 seconds where I get a calm sensation that all is well. All is as it should be and it makes me smile. It is a brief, wonderful, peaceful feeling. My unique moment that night was new. I ditched my rosary and my usual prayers to try and talk to God. I wanted to try and hear him – again.

still

 

I sat alone in my room and quietly uttered words like I was explaining what I was searching for to a friend. Then I sat with my legs crossed, turned my palms upward and closed my eyes and waited. I didn’t wait very long before I shut off my own voice and heard a voice that was very familiar to me, then another and another before the original familiar voice spoke again.

Without getting into details I will say that by allowing myself to be truly still for what I believe is the first time in 16 years, I got my answers and I accepted them because I understood them and it felt amazing. It was freeing. The tears were brief but they were happy ones. They were tears of relief and of gratitude. I suppose it  – this feeling – these answers were worth the wait. I have been left with a sense of true acceptance of the tasks of my journey. I have been left with a stronger appreciation of my blessings.  I find myself lighter, secure in the knowledge that my life, albeit challenging in so many ways, is supposed to be this way and for the first time in 16 years, I’m truly okay with it. Everything I have, everything I have achieved has been earned. Everything I don’t understand, I am certain I soon will. And the things I am waiting on, will come to me when the time is right. That night, I accepted patience. That night, I learned that I have to be kinder to myself and cut myself some slack often. I must continue to work hard and try hard but to also be okay with just taking a break when I want to and not dwell on outcomes or incessantly search for answers. What I felt that night made me realize that I am being taken care of. I realize that I am not unnoticed. I understand that the path I walk is my path and no one will ever walk it better than I do. That night, I finally found the joy of living the life I live, with all it’s twists and turns because I am the only one who can live it this well. I certainly was never meant to fly under the radar. I was not meant to be unremarkable.

I have always believed there is something greater than me. I don’t know the bible very well. I have struggled with my relationship with God. But in all my ups and downs with my faith, I never let it go. I am a spiritual person. I use my faith like a life line tethering me to a boat as I jump in and swim in choppy waters, riding the waves as best as I can. I have sunk many times but it has always been there within reach and I have  grasped it tightly many times and pulled myself back to where I needed to be. Gone are the days when I scheduled going to mass every single weekend into my life. On some days in this life of mine, I have been called to be the person who removes all extra activity from our day and be the one who keeps the weekend uneventful, with just the four of us being at home together, doing whatever it is we feel like doing. Some weekends I am called to be my husband’s wife and my children’s mother, doing things together as a family before a busy week begins. Some weekends we go to mass and every time we do, it is special. I think when we do go, we see things through different eyes and listen to and interpret words in a new way and we appreciate being there sharing that hour together.

I had a beautiful connection that night and I feel changed. I don’t feel worn down thinking about the things I have to do or the way I have to do them. I am satisfied that in the instances where I know I have given my best with no positive results, I have done nothing wrong and I have to accept that while I cannot control the actions of others, I have to believe that my efforts will bear fruit in time. I feel okay about things being a little more difficult for me and my family. I feel okay with having to take 10 steps to an end result when other people may only have to take 2. I feel okay with the struggles I have waded through and I don’t expect that much will change or become stupidly easy from this point on, but who else better to deal with shit and turn it into magic and joy than me. I have solid partners in my three men. They give me immeasurable strength so I can get us all where we need to be. My life is certainly not charmed but it is substantial because I am “remarkable” just the way I was meant to be. It may have taken 16 years but I can finally say I can hear Him and I know now everything is just as it should be, things are going to be just fine and for this realization that took so long to materialize, I am remarkably grateful.

Remarkable-Sermon-Series-Idea

 

WARNING! NOT REALLY FOR DUDES! The Left Side of My Body Is Angry with Me: Ergo I Am Happy to Make It Shut Up.

Friday started with me waking up suddenly at 1:48 am. Just jolted awake for no apparent reason. So, I did what you do when you wake up way too early, I went to the washroom. I returned to bed and lay there, my mind roaming to this and that (the slightly insane way mother’s, wives and workers do), organizing the day ahead of me, uttering a few prayers. I started feeling uncomfortable and I figured it was the kidney as usual.  The kidney that is back to it’s original size and is functioning better than it ever had before, but this time was having issues draining now and then because it’s ureter is being squeezed by my uterus that has about 2 buckets of golf balls embedded in it. Nothing an Advil could not keep at bay if I needed it to. But then, there was a different ache, this time on the right side of my abdomen from my belly button radiating across the right and down. A sigh and an eye roll. Really? Now? With the pain no better but no worse, I decided to head to the shower at about 6:00 a.m. as Tom and I were leaving for Ottawa to meet with a client. I was disappointed that the hot water didn’t provide the usual comfort to reduce the intensity of the pain, so I popped a Tylenol and an Advil as my urologist recommended for pain management, and we started towards Ottawa. By the time I was 10 minutes along Highway 37, I decided to turn around. Now, I bear pain really well, after all, I had two, 10 pound, bouncing baby boys vaginally and I’m an average sized woman. I did think I could muscle my way through it, get the appointment done and in a worse case scenario, I would be in the nation’s capital and the hospitals there are better than the one where I live but as my husband pointed out,  driving in a car putting up with 6 hours of discomfort with no known source was not the ideal way to spend the day.

The pain was more intense by 8:15 am and it was only on my right side. I called and cancelled with the client and started googling appendicitis. My symptoms were very close to both appendicitis and gall stones so I had my husband drop me off at the Emergency department of our local hospital. As usual, it was not busy when I got there and I was in a room, wearing the flattering blue and white gown with the God-knows-what pattern with the little flimsy white strings at the back. Nothing makes you realize how vulnerable we all are, more than that flimsy, misshapen, shitty little hospital gown. Nothing makes you feel more helpless and on display than when they make you lie on the gurney as they push you to the ultrasound department that you are most certainly able to walk to and nothing makes you think how horrid aging can be as you look at the many elderly people laying on gurneys in hallways moaning while they wait for their tests or in many cases, a room where they can rest comfortably.  Yes, with all these little ER visits I have had recently, I have had a solid look at the hospitals, the well-meaning staff who are too few in number to handle the volume of patients coming through the emergency department. Dear Ontario Government, the lack of dignity the elderly and everyone for that matter experience laying on gurneys in the hallways of the ER is unacceptable and inexcusable. Please make it right.

My blood and urine samples were sent to the lab right away and I got to see a great doctor and had my ultrasound within minutes of being placed in an examination room. The waiting happens when you find out that there is only one technician reading the ultrasound findings for all 3 hospitals in the area. Dear Ontario government, please release the funds needed for the hospitals to have more staff on hand to take care of patients. It was almost 3 pm before my doctor was able to come in and tell me that my pain was due to a rather large ovarian cyst that had ruptured. She explained everything thoroughly and I was so grateful to the time she took to make sure I understood what had happened and how it was going to be treated. The symptoms, at first made her think that I was either suffering from appendicitis or gall-stones as I had thought, but my internal ultrasound was what revealed the ruptured cyst.

                                                             

 

So, here’s what I learned. According to my cousin Susie, (who dives into the realms I never can because our lifestyles are completely different), the left side of my body, my female side, is upset with me. My Chakra is not balanced.

 

                                                              

 

Well how the hell can it be? I live with three active and fun-loving men and I hate all things about my body associated with female reproduction because it has been a pain in my … well…it’s been a right pain and obstruction and interruption since I first got my period. I have always put up with my female reproductive system because I wanted children. I have my boys now and I have no problem letting my female side know that I hate it as much as it hates me. It makes me achy and uncomfortable and in the past it has made me physically sick once a month. Without fail, it made me fearful of the 30 day anniversary of all things horribly associated with menstruation.

                                                                

Since I was 12 or 13, I have known the anxiety of those last few days before my period came. I knew I’d have cramps that would have me curled in to the fetal position, I know I’d need to always walk with a bottle of Midol or whatever I could find to keep those debilitating cramps at bay. Everyone knew when I had my period. I couldn’t keep it discreet if I tried. At least I went to an all girl high school where there were many sufferers just like me.  If I was not curled into a ball of pain, I was puking because of pain. I constantly went through 5 days of bleeding; the first three spent sick and cramping. My period was the arch enemy and saboteur of my dancing and my sports. It made swimming a real concern because no woman is 100% confident in the protection of a tampon.

                       

Fifty-one has not been kind to me so far, but I’m dealing with this menopause stuff as patiently as I can. A uterus full of fibroids can squeeze your bladder, ureters and your bowels and make life uncomfortable.

                                                               

I learned that when an ovarian cyst pops, it hurts like hell because the fluid it releases with all the     hormones and blood can be very irritating to the abdominal wall and the pain is much like the pain and symptoms associated with appendicitis and gall stones. Don’t assume the pain will go away and because you won’t know if it is a cyst, appendicitis or a gall bladder problem, DO go to your doctor or to the emergency department and find out what it is. Ibuprofen helps with the pain of inflammation and DO take it easy as the pain lasts a while until your body eliminates the junk from the cyst.  Don’t be too concerned with your belly that suddenly is pregnant like and hard and tender to the tough. It too shall pass.

                                

 

                               

 

Similar to my decision to have an ablation, I am over the moon about my hysterectomy in June. I’ll still have my ovaries so I can still get a cyst that could burst but at least I’ll go through menopause naturally and in good time. I love being a woman but I have always hated the bloody, bloaty and uncomfortable components of being a woman.

I never “girled” well when it came to my cycle or female organs that caused me so much grief and pain and lost time at work and lost hours of fun, often in my life. I hated it so much, that as soon as my gynecologist put me on the pill when I was 19, I as thrilled as it gave me a pain free and regular cycle and an uninterrupted active life.

                                                                  

When I was ready to have children, I made the decision to come off my beloved pill that made my life so much better. Oddly enough, after being on the pill  for 12 years, I got pregnant quickly. This was good because coming off the pill to get pregnant meant fighting off the fear of the pain and suffering that the return of a regular menstrual cycle would bring.

After my second son, I wanted to wean him from breast feeding before I went back on the pill. I remembered how horrid my periods were and how unnerving it was to sit anywhere when I had my period post babies. All the crap people said to me about how much lighter your flow is after kids, was just that – utter crap. My cycle was worse after I had my boys. I remember being unable to rely on a tampon and having very little faith in pads as I nervously sat at the hairdresser’s, or worse, at work where there were men everywhere.

I am not a person who just puts up with anything. I don’t believe in “this is how it is”, or suffering through anything. I have a challenging life as it is and if I can make it manageable or easier, I am willing to try whatever there is to try. I was tired of my family planning everything around “Mom’s cycle” so I had an ablation.

         

Fortunately, it worked for me and off to Disney World we went…twice… and to the Bahamas, and to New Orleans and to Punta Cana, North Bay, Corner Brook…we went everywhere and that miserable period I had? …Well, there has been no sign of it since 2008 and I don’t miss it one bit. Now that my boys are pretty much men, I don’t need a uterus or Fallopian tubes and since I have no choice but to go through menopause, I’d rather go through it without unnecessary female parts. I am looking forward to so much and I hope to see and do all or as much as I have planned, so the least I can do, is do what I can to make the so-called feminine side of my being, as cousin Susie calls it, quiet and content as it tags along.

Even If “Just Once in a Blue Moon” It’s Good and Important to Reconnect.

 

The lyrics of the theme song from the TV show “Cheers” comes to mind when I think of the night of July 20th 2013 when I stood in a room with my SJC sisters.

                                             

We were a smiling sea of blue in a room where everybody knew everyone’s name and not because of the gigantic name tags we were wearing but because we Trini gyals take really looonggg time to age. I had no problem recognizing anybody and I was so happy to see everyone so lively and well. Almost like when we were in school, we were dressed the same, we were all the same age, we looked very much the same as we did years ago and after chatting with everyone, it was clear that though we had all lived a whole lot of life and had found our niche in the world, the essence of who we are is still the same.

 

   Even if just “Once in a Blue Moon” everyone’s soul needs  to experience reconnection. This year is our 35th high school reunion.  Unfortunately, try as I might, I cannot attend this year and I am sad to miss it. My God, we are all 51/52 years old! I think back to when we were in Form1 through 5 and for some Lower and Upper 6 and I just don’t know where the time has gone. I can barely wrap my head around the things we thought were so important back then but I am glad to have reconnected with these beautiful, down to earth and amazing women and learn about what matters in their lives today. Having lived abroad, longer than I lived at home, the Trinidad in my head is the Trinidad of my childhood through age 20. Most of those memories are warm and tasty as a nice piece of sweetbread fresh out  of my mother’s oven and they put a smile on my face much like the one I would have when I slathered butter over said sweetbread in anticipation of eating it up. Other memories are a little bitter (what is life without the bitter to make the sweet, sweeter?) but not so bitter that they would ever keep me from reuniting with the now grown women I went to school with.

           

Living in another country is not easy. It was not my idea to move, but with no house to come home to after graduation, I chose to make Canada, my home. For me, it’s not the weather or the culture that makes it difficult – that stuff is easy to adapt to and enjoy. For me, it was a struggle adapting to the nature of people who grew up so differently from me. There is a distinct bubble within which people live in this country that casts a sort of shroud of hesitation and skepticism over them. People here sometimes wary of letting people get close to them. They don’t trust easily and have a hard time throwing  caution to the wind.  They have schedules they can never stray from and the walls they build around themselves for self-preservation are obvious. In a big country, people are from everywhere and it can at time be difficult to make sincere connections, friendships and relationships. Throw into the mix something that makes you different. For me it wasn’t so much race or colour, accent or culture that separated me from  other people in my adopted country, it was my child who made our family of four quite …odd.

                                              

          

 

Long story short, I wanted to come to the 25th reunion and couldn’t at the time because Daddy was ill. So, when the 30th reunion came about, I was hell bent on being there. It was called “Once in a Blue Moon” and I really felt that if I missed the 30th, I would miss out on so much more that it had to offer. I had a sense that if I did not go, it would be harder for me to get a chance to reconnect with anyone for a very long time and that scared me a little. I felt like that would snip away even more of what was left of the roots of my youth, which was a happy and carefree time of my life. I needed that reunion so I made sure I wasn’t going to miss it. After the uphill battles of my life, I needed something, somewhere and some people who were familiar….I needed home. I needed ole talk with women who shared  a similar girlhood. I needed to say “hear nuh,” “in trut” “Oh geed” and  I needed to steupes and say “ent?” and “how yuh goin chile?” without having to translate my dialect.

    Lord, it was like breathing  in a nice sea breeze just talking and having people understand everything I was saying. That year I needed to be among people who grew up the way I did. Sure, I have Trini friends and cousins in Canada and at home whom I visit, but I think the reunion in 2013 was the homecoming I was looking for to remind myself of who I was then and that that same girl with the long plait and Oscar eyebrows was still dwelling inside me.  At “Once In a Blue Moon” she surfaced because she was among childhood friends.

To be clear, it was not easy hooking up with people on Facebook. I wondered with every friend request if they would  A) remember me and  B) like me and  C) want to connect after all these years. I am happy to say, most of them did with a genuine warmth and to be honest, it is the only reason I am still on Facebook.  Since the reunion in 2013, I have met up with many girls in many different places enjoying some good laughs and walks down memory lane. At the last reunion, whether it was at a pre-lime or post-lime or just getting a drop from somebody, I heard so many stories from these women I had known since I was 11, some since 7 and some even from age 5. Stories of situations they experienced, stories of their children (a few with a child like mine) stories that made me understand that we all lived a whole lot of life and the petty shite of our teen years never surfaced.

As I listened to them speak, I realized that though I often felt alone in Canada, I was not the only one who went through the twists and turns of life. These women have the same stubborn strength I have and like me, they knew when they needed to tap into it to set everybody straight. I came to reconnect and for a week, I was plugged in again to a sweetness I’d let slip away in the blur of North American life.

I will also tell you francomen, that the actual night of the reunion, I was a little apprehensive. I had already limed with some people but there was a whole lot more to bounce up that night and I wasn’t too sure how it would go down. Would people remember me? Did I make anybody vex back in the day? Were they still vex? I know I was still a tomboy when everybody else started looking nice and checking out boys. I know I wasn’t very cool because my parents were strict and I was barely able to leave the house without grief if it wasn’t for dancing or some sport. I remember getting closer to the doors of the venue that evening hoping to God everyone would be warm and friendly and I have to say by the time 20 minutes had gone by, I was talking to people as if I never left the country. Did I get chummy with everybody? Of course not. Not everyone is going to flock to you, not everybody will have nice things to say and yeah, you get vibes flying off some people. But if there is one thing I have learned from having my wonky family is that there is no point in judging people; no point about coming to conclusions about people whom you may find judgemental.  Everybody has something they have to deal with. Everybody. It is hard to let go of pain. Hard to forget something that may have hurt or even humiliated you when you were young. But the beauty of youth, is that it is temporary. The beauty of youth is that we all do mature and become wiser with age and the beauty of youth is that it has it’s place in the past. I have to live a life where I look forward. If I glance back too long, I will stumble and find myself at a standstill or drowning in a deep dark hole. I went to a reunion fittingly called “Once in a Blue Moon” because I have no idea when I will see these women again; these women who gave me that little dose of familiarity and grounding I truly needed that year. I went, I re-connected and I came back to my home in Canada revitalized and reassured that I have 75 or so women who run their lives and their family much like I run mine and there isn’t a damn thing wrong with that. I reach out to them sometimes with questions about various things and I get a genuine answer whether it is about children, work, travel, cooking and just about anything you could think of and I hope I have been a great source of support for them as well. We celebrate each other in times of joy, and comfort each other in times of sorrow … And when one of us needs prayers we don’t have to look too far. There is nothing like the honour of receiving the support and strength of a few girls from Convent among a bunch of Canadians punctuating the pews at your father’s funeral in a country where no one thought he would rest his bones.

  I am glad Carla found me on line (as only she would with her passion and determination). As a grown ass 51 year old woman, the silly girlhood bygones are bygones. I think if we spend too much time thinking about nonsense from years gone by we are wasting precious time. I enjoyed the reunion and enjoyed my time with everyone there and I love seeing what they are up to on social media and meeting up with them when I am in their neck of the woods. I don’t care what people think about me. Honestly, I’m not any more special or interesting or important  than anyone else. I have  my crosses to bear like everyone so when I get a chance to enjoy what life has to offer, I do. In my job I help people protect and grow their earnings and I walk them through graduation, first job, marriage, first investments, first home, first car, first kid, first day of retirement and before you know it, I’m delivering the first death claim to a family.  In my job, I am reminded every day how short and precious life is and that we should spend as much time as we can enjoying the journey while we are still upright and breathing because it will change and we will be stunned by that change and then it will happen again and again. So, before we can easily count how many of us are alive and well enough to gather together, if you can make it this year, get your gold dan-dan or your gold accessories and have a drink for me.

As many of you know, if you come to Ottawa, Toronto or anywhere along the 401 corridor or anywhere in the GTA, give me a shout out on line and I will show up and lime if you could take me on. No hard feelings if you don’t want to but I have been known to show up and cheer on people’s field hockey children,      

I have bowled in winter with people’s young children     and I try to lime with the girls living near me as often as I can and there is always time for a spa day, a meal or a drink.

                     

If you are up my way, don’t be a stranger because I am not shy about bouncing you up when I am in your neighbourhood. Have a lovely time with each other at our 35th anniversary reunion. I will miss out this year but I will certainly enjoy all the photos on line and I know I will see you all again as we make our way to the 40th.

Celebrating the Return of Free

Our second family dog died the Tuesday of March Break. It was sad, it sucked and we all came to the conclusion she was the last dog we would share as a family.

                          

The “having a pet” door for Tom and Daniella is now permanently sealed shut.  We are dog people but we don’t have the lifestyle anymore that will be fair to or accommodate a dog. Life with the Lady Haley has come to an end and it seems that the chapter that was waiting to begin has indeed begun. It seems horrible to think of it, but in a way for 7 months we were caring for an ailing doggie. We saw her through vertigo which was literally the beginning of her downhill slide and everything we did needed to be planned around her care. This after living a life throughout Adam’s younger years planning around his autism. I think we all felt like we were waiting for her to leave us before moving on to the things we wanted to start doing as a family. Her passing was difficult but it was a release for her from her pain and our release to move on to the next phase of our lives.

Tom and I are 3 to 4 years away from giving or rather renting our current home to our older son, Adam. There is still a lot to be done with regards to that goal but things are in the works to give him the most independent life we can give him. It is a very big undertaking but we know this project will only be a success if we put the work in now to get the support he needs in place. We love Adam and he loves us but he has wanted his independence from us for a very long time and it is just a stone’s throw away before he has what he wants and what we get to have – time together that does not have to include or be specially planned around Adam.

Logan’s graduation and the start of him going off to be adult Logan will happen around the same time as Adam’s leap to living without us . Adam will stay in high school until he is 21 to brush up on his life-skills and we will have 2 graduates that year. Once everything is all settled and everyone knows where they are going to live, the travel chapter of our lives will begin and so will the march toward retirement. God willing, a hopefully long, healthy and very much deserved retirement before we meet our Maker.

The next thing that needed to go was my hair. I am surrendering to the grey. I’m done fighting with it. It is too strong and I am tried of highlighting and touching up roots.

I want to spend my precious time doing things that I enjoy and that matter. I have had all sorts of styles, lengths and colours of hair in my life and I have never had a problem going from very long to short and while I am not interested in it being super short. I have no problem cutting it somewhere in between.  It was sexy long for about 4 years. Now it’s time for sexy shorter. Not really interested in being the older woman with the long grey hair – nah! With shorter tresses I could have a little fun with the occasional lavender or light silvery blue highlights when the mood catches me. I’m not interested in bleaching out my greys and highlighting them light brown or blonde like the nine thousand people I see with what I like to refer to as brass heads. The hair goes in a few hours, never to be excessively long again.

Another chapter that needs to get going is the one concerned with my aching boobs.      I am perimenopausal and shit starting getting weird about 2 years ago.  It has not been horrible (maybe because I have been taking Estrosense and Menosense for about 4 years in preparation for this life stage) but it hasn’t always been comfortable. I had a weird heart beat for a period of time a couple years ago that has since settled, then I would get uncomfortably warm as I slept some nights which for anyone who knows me is strange because I tend to be colder than anyone and then for a while I had what I used to call pregnancy brain back in the day when I would lose my train of thought and forget stuff. I’ve had two hot flashes in the past year while in a freezing rink watching my son play hockey and now, my boobs ache much like they did when I was breastfeeding my babies. So, it’s time for a dietary modification and I am raring to go with all the subtle changes I researched that I could implement to help me nutritionally get through this bizarre phase of my life. Hmm…wonder if these boobs will get bigger? Hope not too much bigger because I like my small boobies –  always have…or at least I really started liking them in my twenties. I would not know what the heck to do with big boobs.I certainly don’t wear traditional bras anymore.       If I can’t wear a sports bra  or conveniently and comfortably stick on a bra    …I’m not interested. Sweet Lord I really hope I don’t get more boobs in menopause. I imagine they’d just be in my way so I think the plan will be that I’ll stay active so that nothing accumulates in my sports bra.

I also have to deal with some stuff that has popped up after 50 ( sciatica, fibroids) and while I still do pretty much everything I have always done, I don’t like being uncomfortable so whatever I need to do to get rid of these issues, I’m going to do. I love getting older. There is a really cool perspective you get that makes the issues that you fretted about in your 20’s and 30’s insignificant. Mentally and spiritually there is now a peace within me and a connection with the Divine that keeps me balanced and I approach everything I do now from a place of love…even the difficult things. Physically, aging is a joker and an occasional nuisance. Every now and again Tom and I will have an A moment (age moment) where one too many laps or too many reps cause us to ache a little more and a little longer. We don’t just get lactic acid build up, we ache and when one ache goes away another one happily takes it’s place. It’s a combination of sports wear and tear over the years and well we just ain’t 20 anymore even though oddly enough I think we are healthier than when we were younger. I dunno…it’s a hard one to explain. Still, we persist so maybe we’ll add a little glucosamine to the supplements…we ain’t stopping cause we are just getting started on a new and exciting phase. My only fear that I push as best as I can to the very back of my mind is not being healthy enough to do the things Tom and I hope to do and see together. But, God willing we will do it all before we leave the planet.

I think because it is so cold outside today, I’m going to do a little cosmetic and skin care spring cleaning. I might just throw out my nail polish and eyeliners and lip colour and eye shadow.  I’m tired of seeing them and using them so they have to go. I don’t have much but I think a new set of colours with the new hair might be nice. I think I’ll replenish my body scrubs while I’m at it as spring is around the corner or so they say. Think I’ll lay my old, tired, dirty, gray Converse’s to rest and change it up with a fresh colour…maybe a soft green low cut this time. Heck, maybe when it is warmer next week, I might even grab a couple dresses or skirts for the warmer weather.

This spring feels a little different from springs past. I feel freer, lighter and much altered for the better and I am looking forward to so much in the years ahead. Maybe it’s because we are all changing in our family and heading towards new things and I am as excited for Tom and myself as I am for the boys as a new phase of the journey of life begins. My boys are entering adulthood and they are going to become these awesome men and their father and I, God-willing, are going to see these chapters of their lives unfold and while we watch we will get to really focus on our new time together.  I feel like I am actually going to be able to spend more time in my home office writing on my computer again because I have more uninterrupted time lately and with Logan on the verge of driving, I think I will have even more time because I’ll have no car lol. I suppose I’m gonna have to share a car with Tom like we did way back in the day. I’m excited to get time back. Time to create, eliminate excess stuff (even though I’ve already tossed  many things over the years) time to read more than a couple books a year.  I can work longer if I want to, stagger my days when I need to…Oh this is going to be fantastic! I’ve already gotten rid of my iPad and the couple stupid games I used to play. I’m gonna shelve Netflix for next winter and I’ve already deleted Facebook from my phone.  I’ll keep it on my computer so I can be in touch with friends and family who are far away. I don’t need social media on my phone because for me it’s distracting and a bit of a time waster and I have much to do because this is Chapter 3  – Time to celebrate the return of free.

                                                                                           

To Today’s Youth: Stay Loud, Stay Strong!

Yesterday, I went on a 12 hour day trip with my 15 year old. Every so often I plunge myself into this world of his that is so fascinating to me and I come away with a greater sense of what it is like to be young today. I have to say, it’s a little complicated, it’s got it’s difficulties but is it also it’s pretty cool. It is quite different from my time as a teenager but some of the struggles are still the same.  The worst part of being a teenager is being misunderstood by adults who are just teenagers who finally got old enough to have their way and boy do they ever hang on to it for dear life!  My teenagers are going to be adults one day too who will have their way and my only hope is that they remember to listen and approach the younger generation with eyes and mind wide open and be okay with letting go of some of the ways they do things in order to evolve. I hope they approach the young better than we have in generations past because just maybe they would learn something from them, the way I do now.

During the drive with my son, I listened to some very poetic and emotional rap with enlightened ears and learned why my son identified with it. I was taught the difference between talking to a specific girl and dating a girl. I found out that in his high school, it is understood that different groups exist and are accepted. It doesn’t mean you have to hang out with everyone but it certainly means that if you are discovered to be a hater you are considered a loser and pretty much a cave person. I learned that he is ever so gradually making decisions about things in his life that are making little statements about who he is and who is is striving to be and I couldn’t be more proud.  One thing was clear to me in light of my conversations with my son yesterday, good kids are raised by good people but there are still too many negative people and situations that we have to get around, so much archaic nonsense we need to get rid of, that stand in the way of our youth making significant change.

Last weekend I watched American youth march for what they believed in. They marched for change. They were not asking their government for anything unreasonable. They want their government to implement stricter gun control, implement stricter laws surrounding weapons. They were asking their government to help them live. They were asking their government to help them survive at school, a place where they should be safe so that they can learn. The world watched a turn out on March 24th that was massive. The youth had a voice and stayed strong amidst many horrible comments from politicians funded by the NRA as well as the ignorant masses who were solely concerned about their right to own a gun. The positive support these young people received outweighed the crass negativity. The youth stayed loud and strong and they prevailed.

Over the course of history, it was the young who initiated significant change. The young possess and fire and a drive to live life the way they want to – the way life needs to be lived. They want safety, they want justice, they want humanity, they want peace and so did we when we were young. Young David Hogg, Parkland, Florida”s Stoneman Douglas High School  shooting survivor, said in an interview with Anderson Cooper before the event on March 24th, “It’s like when you try to tell an older person how to do something with their phone and you keep trying to explain to them what to do and eventually you just turn to them and say ‘just give it to me’ and you fix it. That’s what we are doing now. We are saying to the government just give it to us. You’re not doing anything to fix this so we are going to fix it”. For many of us, that burning flame inside us that drove us to make a difference was extinguished. Maybe we hit hard times, maybe we were tired of trying and being beaten down but when we looked behind us there was always someone young  who picked up that torch and began walking towards that goal of achieving all the things we all ever wanted as a people on earth. That is what is happening in America now. The young are tired of waiting on adults to fix the problems in their society so they are stepping up to the plate and do what needs to be done to stop 96 Americans from losing their lives to guns daily, because it is possible. Japan, Australia, Canada, Finland and many countries have proven that strict gun control law is the best way to prevent death by firearms. We have all seen the videos on social media and the stats. It is possible, yet America chooses not to amend gun laws because politicians need the funding, the funding comes from the NRA and politicians want to be in power to rule over the people who may not survive a gunshot wound on any given day in America.  Add to that, the ignorant masses who just want to have a gun for the power it gives them as they clutch it tightly in their hands.  No one looking from the outside really understands this twisted concept neither do the young people who are rallying against lax gun ownership laws. No one with half a brain understands why grown men and women are trying to character smear teenagers who just want to see their government make it harder for their peers to walk into a gun shop and buy an automatic rifle so they can return to school and slaughter students and teachers.

I love young people. Young people who possess the qualities of leadership make me proud to know them. They don’t just pop out of thin air either. They come from adults who teach and guide them as they navigate their way around right and wrong and around equality and injustice and good and evil. Good youth come from good people who raise them – parents, teachers, clergy and yes, occasionally good politicians.

I am so tired of the criticism of today’s youth because they happen to have grown up in the biggest and most impacting technological era of our time. I am tired of hearing older people criticize them for not socializing and for having their head down, eyes glued to the screens of their devices. My God, remember when youth were criticized for watching too much TV? Remember when Rock and Roll and Heavy Metal was looked upon as Devil Worship Music? To be young is to be criticized. That will never change because when people grow older and are unable to keep up with the way things evolve around them, they get jealous and grumpy and they say exactly what older people said about them when they were young. If you can’t find a place to be on the planet as it changes around you, don’t be cynical, just be quiet and kind because if you are, maybe that young person will help you turn on your phone.

 

Turn Off Your Damned Device and Get Some Sleep!

My husband and I were getting ready for work the other day and we were tuned in to a morning news/talk show. As usual there were various segments, a cooking segment, a travel segment, an interview with a Canadian author, an interview with a financial person, a political pundit was on and then there was a woman with a sleep pack who was insisting that this is a must have in today’s world because we are kept awake by the blue light from our electronic devices. We paused the TV and scooted back to the fluffier segments and we noticed a pattern. People love to be told what to do. We love to be led on by gimmicks and we have no problem literally buying into this mumbo jumbo and lining the pockets of these gurus looking to capitalize on their 15 minutes of fame.

In one morning, viewers were shown the fastest, most nutritious and most colourful and friendly March Break foods that “busy moms” can prepare for their children. We were shown various coloured mason jars (available at the dollar store or is you wanted something fancier you could look for them at Michaels’s or Bed Bath and Beyond (oh,yes) where we could put our latte money and splurge at the end of the week as a reward to ourselves for not blowing our money on frivolous things. (Yeah I know, eh?) We were shown the most mentally stimulating toys for kids (all electronic, mind you with that evil sleep stealing blue light) and my all time favourite that day, the essential sleep pack.

Before I get into my analysis of the ridiculous, let me give kudos to anyone able to rip us off by tricking us into thinking and believing their products are so vital to our well-being. If the trendy, frivolous gullible can fatten your bank account, then so be it. People, please, why do we think that we need to buy a sleep pack that has 8 parts to it? There were specially tinted shades for the blue light, a lavender oil that you can put into the mist generator so that the steam will give off a soothing scent sure to lull you to sleep.There was a mask/blindfold thing to put over your eyes and headphones that plugged into the sleep sounds audio machine along with a two tubed rubber thing to stick up your nostrils to allow easy air flow to prevent snoring, and oh yes, it came with a cooling gel pillow. So for just $380.00 plus shipping, handling and taxes, you could buy your way to sleep. How about this for free? Turn off your device 45 minutes before you are ready for bed, shut your curtains and go to sleep. Remember reading a book with paper pages and going to sleep? I know some people have real sleep issues but for those of you who really don’t (and you know who you are) just be disciplined enough to not have caffeine before bed time, shut down your device and your day and get some rest.

 

 

And Moms, how is it that every new generation of mothers is so much busier than the one before? How is it with the invention of washing machines and dryers and stoves and microwaves and air fryers, food processors, blenders, juicers, Google Home, Amazon Alexa, slow cookers and one cookers, mothers have become busier than mothers who had to make food from scratch, wash by hand, wring clothes by hand and hang them to dry on a clothes line? How is it that with the vacuums and fancy Swiffer’s and robot vacuums we are busier than mothers throughout the generations that did not have devices like these to help them about the home? For Moms who work, how is it different from when mothers from past generations worked?  What are new Moms doing that eat up so much more time than generations past? I mean, how long is play group?

 

 

 

Why is it that we need a pack, a book or a guide to figure out how to make special, fun and colourful food for our kids? And why do we have to put so much effort into the presentation of their food to make it colourful and pretty so that they will eat it? Why not teach your kids to cook and prepare their own snacks safely and cleanly over March Break? It won’t take very long to teach them and they will develop a great skill and a sense of independence.

My point is simple. With such an advanced state of existence, with so many devices that help us do so much, why do we need to be told how to do the simplest things? Why is everything an issue, a hurdle or a problem? Make a variety of food for your kids and don’t freak out if they don’t like something. We all have things we like and dislike. In my house, all I ever asked was that my family taste something before deciding they didn’t like it. My boys eat pretty much everything.They have things they don’t like and that’s fine but I cook one meal for the family to share because I am not making something different for each of us. If you take the drama and the power away from food, kids will eat and if you set the example of eating good nutritious food, that’s what they’ll choose.  By the way, you new Moms out there, we are all busy. People are busy and dare I say there are people out there in the world who don’t have young kids who are busier than you. Parenthood doesn’t make you busier than anyone else. I raised a very energy consuming, time and emotionally consuming kid with autism and there were and still are many people busier than me. Get a grip, get organized and whatever you can’t do one day, do in another. We make our lives harder than it needs to be in a time when so many devices make it so easy. And for God’s sake if you are tired, shut off your device and get some damned sleep.