Why Didn’t I Say Something?

I was in a great mood, a friend wanted to get together to have coffee so I left work a little early on a Friday afternoon. I went to pick up my oldest from school before heading off to meet and while I was waiting in the parking lot I received a very exciting email which put me in an even better mood.

That changed very shortly after, and even though I’ve been thinking a lot about that email, I also keep coming back to what happened between getting the email and leaving the parking lot.

As I’ve mentioned before, this year is my daughters first year at high school so this is really my first time spending even a little bit of time near a high school since I graduated, and that is getting to be a longer and longer time ago.

It really shouldn’t have shocked me, especially after the things in even our local news, but it still did.

Here was this young man walking with what appeared to be his girl friend and another guy. As they got close to his car the other guy continued on. I didn’t hear any of the conversation before this, but as they separated the guy with his girl friend yelled to the other guy something about how he was going to rape his mother. All three of them laughed.

How in their right minds can anyone think this is an appropriate thing to say or joke about.

I wanted to say something to him, to all of them, but I didn’t. Someone needs to give them a reality check that this is simply not a joking matter, why didn’t I do it?

I’ve regretted it ever since the situation passed.

My first reaction was to get out and yell about respecting women and what an awful thing to joke about, especially a friends mother, but any woman. Immediately I thought of my daughter and how it might affect her if I did this. It could cause her to be labeled the girl with the crazy dad and make her start of school harder than it is already going to be for her.

She didn’t hear the comments at all thankfully, but my internal dilemma was still focused around her. I try to show her through actions how women need to be treated so that when she picks a boyfriend she will choose someone who will show her that respect, but by letting that pass I didn’t help anything. Even if she wasn’t there to see or hear, what if she had been, would I have reacted different?

When I was a teenager “Yo Momma” jokes were a big thing. Looking back those were horrible things to joke about, but I don’t recall any of them being a vulgar or as offensive as talking about raping someones mother.

My hope is that my children grow up to be stronger than what I displayed yesterday. I want them to feel secure enough to stand up for what’s right and let someone know, in an appropriate manner, when they say something that is simply not right. How can I expect them to do that if I don’t demonstrate it myself.

For now I am going to mention it to the Principal of the school so that he can at least be aware and pay attention for this in the future. I’m also going to make a firm resolve with myself to not let anything like that just slip by again.

Popcorn For The Show

Earlier in the day my wife was trying to take down a borrowed folding play pen which was used to nap a visiting child. Apparently it didn’t go so well so it was still up when I arrived home from work.

I was coming up stairs just as my wife was starting on her second attempt to get this thing apart, I hear my nine year old daughter say.

“Hold on, I’m going to get some popcorn. This is going to be a good show.”

Four Year Old Burn

Yesterday I left work a bit early to meet up with the rest of my family for an ice cream after school.

My oldest, in a new school for grade nine this year, was proud to tell me she joined her first extra curricular club. She wanted me to guess what she had joined though.

While I was thinking my four year old son with the most sarcastic look on his face, tone in his voice and seeming very proud to burn his big sister.

“Was it grade one?”

Last First Day of School

Big mile stones in our home today. Like it was for many, this week is back to school week for us. My two middle girls were especially excited about going back to and see all their friends. For them this year will be much of the same, they’re entering grade five and three. They’re staying at the same school and being in the early french immersion program their class ends up staying almost entirely the same kids.

To me this is a wonderful thing, we may have to drive our kids to and from school each day but if things continue on as planned they will never have to change schools. This means they should hopefully be able to build long and lasting friendships that they can carry with them throughout life. When I was young we moved around a lot. For the first number of years I was in a different school each year and once transferred to another school during the year. I didn’t get to make those friendships. I’m envious of my wife who has a great friend that she’s had since they were two years old.

For my oldest daughter this is a big year, grade nine. That means in this school area she is moving on to the high school. Last year she was the oldest in the school and now she will be one of the youngest. She put on a brave face and had a great attitude. When she is nervous though she tends to talk a lot and fast, this was our drive to school this morning. It was like she was reassuring herself that things were going to be OK. I did my best to help reaffirm that for her as well. She does have some friends coming with her but there will be lots of new people merging together from other schools as well.

She’s blossoming into a smart, beautiful young woman whose self confidence is finally starting to grow. She actually took a kind of support role for her friend this morning who was admittedly apprehensive of moving to the big high school. It seemed like this helped her more secure herself knowing she could be there for her friend. It made me feel proud watching this on the drive.

The biggest adjustment has to be for my youngest, my boy. He is starting school for the first time today. After going through this with his three older siblings you’d think I’d have a better handle on it. Maybe it was worse because this is our last child. There will be no more first days of school for our children.  He is ready but of course has major butterflies.  I know there is nothing to worry about he has three of his best friends in his class with him. They were all kids who, at least at some point, my wife has cared for in our home. So they’ve basically grown up together.

Especially around his friends he has always been confident, likely over confident. When we pulled into the school yard today my little man turned into a turtle. This wasn’t a ninja turtle like the ones on his backpack, but a shy little turtle who, if he could, would have pulled himself inside his shell. Instead he stayed right by my side and held on tight. His sisters were all there with us and encouraging him on as we walked across the yard to find his class.

There in the line up were all his friends waiting with their parents, some of them looking nervous as well, but not like him. This seemed to be overwhelming for him and for the first time I was scared it might be a hard transition for him. He did let go long enough to pose for a couple pictures with his friends, but then right back to me. His cousins offered to take him over to go see his teacher who he has met a number of times before, but he wouldn’t budge unless I went too. Even then it was a reluctant venture.

Finally the bell rang so we went back to grab his backpack and follow the line inside. He was so out of place he could barely get his bag on his back. I followed him into his class and we found the hook outside the door with his name on it. We took out his new inside shoes and he put them on no problem and hung up his bag. As soon as we walked into the classroom things completely changed. He didn’t care if I was there or not. He ran over to a table with his friends and started playing with lego and colouring pictures. It felt like a big weight lifted off my shoulders as I knew he was going be fine like I originally thought. He was so comfortable he barely looked to to say good bye when I told him I was leaving.

So thankful that I was able to take all the kids to the school this morning, and now I can’t wait to pick them up at the end of the day to find out what an amazing time they’ve had.

Dear Brianna Lynne

Dear Brianna Lynne,

Eleven years ago today, a day that will be forever etched into my memory. Some of the details and the timing of things have started to slip, but the feelings I felt that day will stay with me forever.

I’ll be honest, you were a bit of a surprise to your Mother and I. We hadn’t planned on having kids right away. Although we loved each other, in those early stages of our relationship I’m not sure either of us really knew where things would end up. Both of us had just left less than ideal situations so the possibility of things not lasting were very real. So when she told me that we were going to have a baby there were mixed feelings. I wanted to be sure that my next child was brought into a strong healthy relationship that would build the foundation for a loving and stable home.

While your Mom was pregnant with you my fears and insecurities started to subside. I was feeling much better about the possibilities of being able to provide you with the environment I knew you deserved. When your Mother said yes, that she would marry me, I knew things were going to be OK.

On August 29th I got the call at work telling me that it was time to go to the hospital, I was filled with the nervous excitement that can be expected. We spent the night in the hospital with your Mom hooked up to monitors. They wanted to watch your heartbeat as there seemed to be some irregularities, but no one seemed like it was anything too far out of the ordinary.

You entered this world at about 11:00 am on the 30th and it really wasn’t until then that we realized things might not be as routine as we expected. Another team of nurses and doctors rushed in and hooked you up to life support systems. It became obvious that you were not well. They figured you must have become infected with some sort of virus.

The team of doctors were more than amazing. Even though they were delivering horrible news to new parents, the care they gave to you, your Mother, and even me was outstanding. Very early on they told us that due to the lack of oxygen they weren’t sure if you would suffer brain damage as a result. They had to resuscitate you numerous times, but you fought.

At a relatively quiet point your Mother convinced me to run home, shower and grab a few extra things. Before I made it I had to pull over. I was alone now and had no one near who I felt like I needed to fake strength for. I’m unsure how long I stayed there on the side of the road. The emotions flowed and tears with them. I prayed even though I wasn’t convinced there was anyone listening. Finally, I regained enough composure to continue on my way but didn’t even make it home before I received the call telling me to get back to the hospital.

The doctors filled us in on the situation. Things were not good. Regardless of how hard you fought, even in miraculous scenarios, life for you was going to be a painful struggle. Somewhere around 8:00 pm your short and trying life came to an end. Our little girl with hints of blonde hair and blue eyes had left us.

It’s been eleven years since you came, and that was still the hardest day I can recall. Your short time made a huge impact on your Mothers and my life and subsequently your sisters and brother as well. Even though I wasn’t sure in the beginning that I was ready to add children to our lives, you showed me that I was ready, and in fact I wanted to grow our family. Going through the pain and emotions we felt during that day and the days to follow brought your Mother and I even closer together. We are stronger because of you.

We were ensured months later, after they investigated what happened, that the tumor which grew and took over your liver was likely not something we had to worry about with future children. They don’t know what caused this to happen and of course no one can answer why it had to happen to you.

Time does dull the pain but I still think of you and a part of me hurts. This anniversary each year brings your memory back to the forefront. This one in particular I’m trying to focus on the good, which is how you helped start the foundation of our family. No one knows how life would have turned out if that day didn’t occur the way it did, but I do know that your life was part of the path which has led me to where I am today, and for that I thank you.

Love Dad.Foot Prints

Career Balance, Money vs Happiness

From a young age I’ve been finding ways to make money for myself. I grew up in a family of four children with my single Mother. She is an amazing Mother and raised us all well. Some of the choices she made to ensure that she could be there to care for us and shape us into the people we are now had the side effect of us living off little income. At one point when I was old enough to realize we were on social assistance but still to young to comprehend I remember being ashamed of it and told her so. Her response to this was perfect and I’ll never forget it. “The government essentially pays me to make sure that you and your sisters grow up to be good, tax paying citizens in the future.”

We never went without, but we didn’t have money for extra things. Extra things I had to figure out how to get for myself. Though she always supported me and helped me with any of my crazy ideas. At a very young age I remember getting the idea that my mothers “Sticky Buns” were the best dessert in the world and I wanted to sell them. So she taught me how to make them, fronted me the first supplies to do so, and I went door to door in my neighbourhood selling them. After people tried them they wanted to order them again. I made enough money that I could pay back my mother for the initial supplies and buy enough for the next batch. It didn’t go on for many rounds before it became too much work for us to sustain though. This was my first taste of making my own money though and I liked it.

As I grew I found lots of other ways to make money even before I was old enough to really enter the work force. I had an evening paper route that I delivered every day after school. Of course I did the usual things as well for some of my neighbours, mowing lawns in the summer time and shoveling driveways in the winter.

From their I moved on to a “personal assistant” position. In reality I had an elderly neighbour who had a hard time doing most things for herself so she paid me to help her. I would do basically anything she needed, from cleaning her house, to doing her banking and grocery shopping. Once a week we would take a taxi together and stop at the bank first. I would go in and cash her cheques. Then transfer the funds to the different accounts and pay her bills. Once we were done I would take the grocery money out and we would move on to the grocery store. She would sit in a dining area and I would go around and get everything on her list and go and pay for it. Looking at some now at some of my children this seems like an awful lot of responsibility for a child, but the experience I gained from this was invaluable.

Since then it seems that I’ve been in a constant back and forth in my jobs trying to find the right balance between money and happiness. Some jobs have paid very well but ended up making me unhappy or incredibly stressed out. While other jobs have not paid enough, or not steady enough, but made me happy.

Currently I’m in a position that is close to being perfect. The work environment is almost ideal. I have a great set of co-workers, they are very understanding when it comes to family things to allow me to take time and make it up later as long as I am getting my work done. Of course within reason. I am supporting the staff and patrons who are there mostly during typical business hours, so that is when I need to be there as well. But for the odd things that come up I have the needed flexibility. Nothing of course is perfect but for the most part I’m very content.

The biggest concern is that I seem to be making just enough money to pay all the bills and let the kids have the extracurricular activities they want to be in, but not really getting ahead when it comes to paying off debt and getting a savings going. Right before I took this position I was unemployed for a short while, but long enough to eat through our savings and build up our credit card debt.

We’re not behind on any payments and just got back from a nice family vacation so we’re not in dire straights. But when anything unexpected comes up, like a few things this week, it really shows how we need to be making better headway on debt and savings.

What I really need to do is find that magical balance where I have a great position doing the things I love, in a very flexible environment, while at the same time getting paid enough to get ahead. Over the years this seems to be very elusive and I realize that to a lot of people I likely have unrealistic expectations. However I know there are opportunities out there and I will work on finding the best fit. My eyes are set on a position with an amazing company and I’m working on showing them I would make an excellent team member, but I realistically know it’s a long shot.

Luckily I’m in a great position. I’m far from desperate to find a job, because I’m happy where I am and we are getting by. This leaves me so I can take the time to work at getting my dream job. Somewhere that I can finally feel both happy and in good financial health.

Undeserving

UndeservingShe was very proud when she gave me my award, and with good reason. She is so artistic and creative. When she puts her mind to it, and puts the effort in, she can do great and amazing things. Things I wouldn’t have the patience or the talent to do.

Of course I love the gift itself and the gesture behind it, but at the same time I can’t help think that she doesn’t really believe the words which are written on it. “First place for being the best Dad in the whole world.” How could she? I certainly don’t. Out of all my children she should be the last one who should be giving me an present like this.

It’s not because I don’t love her or don’t try, completely the opposite. She is my oldest, yet my baby girl. Our personalities don’t always mesh, we don’t share many of the same interests. In part it probably stems back to the first few years of her life. Her mother and I only stayed together for a couple years after she was born. Our relationship wasn’t ideal. Partly as avoidance I attended school during the day and worked a lot, so even then I didn’t spend enough time with my baby. When her mother and I separated it didn’t get any better. I’d like to blame it on my youth, but there is no excuse for not taking the time to build a strong, lasting relationship with my child when she was young.

She no longer splits her time between her mothers’ and our home, and it’s been this way for years. My wife, and mother of my other three children, was instrumental in making the transition to having her be with us full time. Had it been her given the award for best mother, or step mother, there would be no doubt as to whether it was deserved or not.

Sometimes I feel that the majority of our interactions are me criticizing her or chastising her for something. School has always been a contentious topic for us. School for her is hard, she has ADHD along with a learning disability. In the last few years especially she has made very good progress in school, but it’s been a battle. It’s hard for me to relate, school always came easy to me, she struggles just to get by. Her reading level is well below her grade which makes everything more difficult. This became especially evident one night when working at math homework a subject she despises. After some time of her “working” at the questions I checked on her and there was barely any done. Spending a bit of time explaining the questions and what was asked of her and providing examples turned the night around. In no time at all she flew through the remaining questions. Not everything was correct, but I’ve never asked for that, just full effort.

Given the difficulty she has, as well as our past, I know I need to work extra hard and spend extra time building our relationship. Already a teenager I see and fear the time for me to do this slipping away. With so many of our interactions negative why would she want to spend more time with me? In my mind I know that her wandering mind, which can cause so much of our frustration, isn’t her fault. Why do I tend to treat her as if it is? This must be the first change.

Changing the way I see things is going to make the difference. She is young for her age and at times I fault her for that, “why can’t you just act your age?” I should be happy that her interests are in horses and not boys and parties. In just a few short years she will be the same age her mother and I, as well as both sets of her Grandparents, were when we became parents. If she can hold onto her youth for as long as she can it make a much easier life path for her to travel.

Letting go of my selfishness is the next step. So what if I don’t like horses? She loves them. That is my obvious in with her. It can be something we can share with each other. So I’m going to embrace horses and barns despite being so much more comfortable behind a computer screen. I’m going to make sure there is time we can spend at the barn together. It makes me wish I was in the position to buy her own horse, but for now we have access to go groom and care for some. There is no excuse to not make this happen.

While I know I’ll never be the best father in the world, I’m certainly going to work at getting closer to it for the rest of my life. Hopefully someday I’ll look back at this present on my wall and maybe I’ll believe that she really does see me as deserving first place.

Raspberry Time Travel

There are not many things in this world that can immediately send me to another time and place. For some it is a song or a smell, but for me, just sometimes, when I place a freshly picked raspberry in my mouth my mind is flooded with memories from the past.

All of a sudden I’m a little boy again, parked in one of the rows of my Grandparents garden. The tall raspberry bushes hiding me from anyone who isn’t in my row. Allowing me to pick raspberry after raspberry until I could eat no more. There are few places which hold a sentimental place in my heart, usually that is reserved for people, but my Grandparents home will always be a special place to me.

We lived only a few hours away, but only visited a few times a year. Going to visit them was our family vacations and was something we all looked forward to. Their yard seemed like the biggest property I’d ever seen and was always kept neat and tidy. While we were there we were free to run and play anywhere on this grand estate. Maybe it was because I was young and small or maybe it was because we lived in a mobile home on a postage stamp sized lot. Whatever the case their yard was massive and I loved having the run of it.

Aerial view of my Grandparents home 1960.

Aerial view of my Grandparents home 1960.

The property ran from the main road all the way back to a beautiful river. On one side there was a farmers field on the other side a row of trees separated their yard from the neighbours. Along the fence between their yard and the farmers field there was a gooseberry bush. It still to this day is the only one I can recall ever seeing. It grew wild but the berries were a delightful sour. This reminds me that I should try to find a bush to plant in my own yard.

In the far left corner, close to the river, was an old shed which years ago was used for housing animals. It was since converted over to a kids play house. The toys still in there were from my Mothers generation and earlier so they seemed old to us but still fun to play with. The windows had curtains in them and besides the main door there was a small sliding door that was used to let the animals in and out, but if you could fit it made for a sneaky exit as well.

In the far right corner the neighbours had a small fish pond which they kept fully stocked. If you got close the fish would all start jumping looking for food. On occasion we would be able to help throw pellets to them and watch the scramble as the water erupted with what seemed like thousands of fish all trying to get the food.

Another place which was great to sit and relax was the two seat wooden glider swing. It didn’t matter if I was by myself or if we loaded both sides full of people, I could sit there and swing back and forth and let the time float by. As I got older I would sit out there reading and swinging.

If I decided to take a break from the swing there was a tree in between it and the house which was excellent for climbing. I recall sitting up there, out of sight, and spying on people coming in and out of the house without them ever knowing I was there.

My Grandmothers pride and joy, and my favourite place on their property, was her garden. To me it seemed like she could have fed the whole neighbourhood based on its size and everything growing in it. Apparently by the time I was around it had already shrunk in size compared to what it used to be.

She seemed to grow everything and there was nothing better than a meal from things that came out of her garden. Nothing except maybe just standing in the garden and eating peas right out of the pod, or beans freshly picked. My favourite though was certainly the raspberries.

My Grandfather past away while I was still quite young but my Grandmother stayed in the home almost until she past away in 2007.

Walking the property one last time before it was sold, it no longer seemed to be as big as it once did, but the memories were still there and always will be. Now I look forward to the times when that simple act of putting a berry in my mouth can transport me back to that yard.

A New Person, New Attitude, and New Goals

Seven and a half months of hard work and change have finally paid off. This morning when I weighed myself I’ve finally hit my goal.

My weight is now 178 lbs which means two things, I’ve lost a total of 80 lbs and my BMI is now in the healthy range.

See where I was and where I am now.

We all know the physical benefits of losing weight, so I’m not going to talk about them here, I’m going to talk about the way this has changed me mentally.

Over the years I’ve accomplished a number of thing which weren’t easy to do. Things I had to set my mind to and work hard at to achieve. A couple of big difficult ones were quitting smoking and going back to school with a large family to take Computer Science. Neither of those tasks were as difficult as this. Yes the degree took four years of work to get, but it’s over now, no one can take my degree away from me. At any point I could put this weight back on if I’m not careful.

There is something about setting a goal like this for your self and then having to battle to get it. Besides the self confidence I’ve gained just by looking better and being in better health, the act of reaching the goal brings a lot of that as well. It’s reaffirmed for me the fact that if I put my mind to something, and work for it, I can get there.

Of course none of the accomplishments I’ve mentioned can I take full credit for. My wife and family have been with me through all of them. They’ve put up with me when I’ve been cranky and tired, and helped motivate me to keep going. That will be the same in any goal I set. Knowing I have their support, no matter what, makes chasing my dreams that much easier.

With my new self esteem I’ve realized something else, I’m not done yet. Not just health wise, that is going to be a life long goal I work at now. My weight is where I want it but I can still be a lot more fit in general. Now I can look at the other aspects of my life and set goals for them to make them even better.

The most important part of my life is my family so what I really want to do is improve my family life. I believe I’ve identified four key areas I need to focus on to do this.

Health: Was/is part of that. I wanted to make sure that I would live a long healthy life in which I can play and help my family.

Time: Making the time to be there for them, to support them like they have me. Time to play with them, talk with them, just to be there with them.

Finances: I want to be able to ensure we always have everything we need and not need to worry and fret about money. That just takes energy away from enjoying my family.

Happiness: This is something else I’ve learned during this. I am responsible for my own happiness. I wasn’t happy with the way I was, now I am. I need to continue to make sure I’m happy so that the time I do spend with my family is positive. To do this I will be making sure I spend my time doing things I truly enjoy, staying challenged, and helping others. These are all examples of things keep me happy which in return I can pass it on to my family.

These are the areas I’ll be working on for the foreseeable future. They are all intermingled. As I’m working at some, the others will fall into place. I’m determined and I have a renewed self confidence that I can attain my goals.

Just because I’ve reached one of my big goals doesn’t mean it’s time to sit back, now is the time for me to keep pushing and make more progress in these other areas of life. Lets Go!