There is no excerpt because this is a protected post.
By Sheree Fitch, Poet and Author of Nova Scotia, Canada after the tragedy in Portapique, Nova Scotia Apr 2020
Sometimes there is no sense to things my child
Sometimes there is no answer to the questions why
Sometimes things beyond all understanding
Sometimes, people die.
When it hurts like this, my child
When you are scared, suffering, confused
Even if we are not together
Together, let us cry
Yes, there is still so much love
Because we love, we cry.
Sometimes the sadness takes away your breath
Sometimes the pain seems endless, deep
Sometimes you cannot find the sun
Sometimes you wish you were asleep.
When it hurts like this, my child
When you are scared and confused
Even if we are not together,
Together, let us cry
Yes, there is still so much love
Because we love, we cry.
Wish that I had answers, child
Wish all this wasn’t so
There are impossible things, child
I cannot bear for you to know .
When it hurts like this, my child
When you are scared and confused
Even if we are not together,
Together, let us cry
Yes, there is still so much love
Because we love, we cry.
Copyright: Sheree Fitch, April 2020
Sheree Fitch recited her poem, above, on the CBC Special televised vigil on Friday April 24, 2020. I found myself weeping at these words which were so completely apt and heartfelt. Thank you Sheree. Rest in Peace to the fallen.
Si Se Puede ~ Yes We Can!
Staying sane during the COVID-19 lockdown? So, what I have been doing is in the title. Just keepin on keepin on, but, also thinking of how I can help with our bottom line. In so doing, I have found peace in the little tiny things around my house and yard. I have learned to be alone. Dance in my undies. Breathe deeply and easily and BE HAPPY for each deep easy breath.
Last week, for the first time in my 54 years of life, I successfully baked sourdough (bread made from natural, live yeast – active dry yeast from the grocery store being hard to come by due to hoarders) bread. My good friend shared her culture with me (she left it in my garage for me), I ‘fed’ it and using her shared recipe, actually made a delicious loaf on my second attempt. The first wasn’t bad. The second was amazing. Little ole me.
I am also sprouting seeds – many, many seeds. And vegetable ends and stuff. So very cool how much we can grow right on the windowsill, from the veggie ends…
Yesterday, the sun shone so hubby and I were out in the yard (we have a large in-town lot with a park behind us (this is my video about growing a meadow instead of a lawn: https://youtu.be/KjqEJHNQSRs). He pruned the big trees to allow more sun in. (I pointed to the branches to be pruned and avoided the sweat pouring off of his brow). We then made another vegetable bed by stacking materials lasagna style: drenched paper/box board, newspaper, compost from our old pile, leaves from under the hedge, more compost, more leaves and lots of water. This will sit for a few weeks now until it is warm enough plant the seedlings. Sitting will help it all to decompose slightly more and will bring the worms. (Worms are good says Mark Valencia of Self Sufficient Me: https://selfsufficientme.com/)
It was a gloriously warm (plus 9 folks – celsius – so, balmy! lol) and the sun was so pretty so, I hung all of our bedding out on the clothesline and it baked in that week but pretty light.
Lots of simple but lovely activities that help me to feel productive, proactive, helpful and, ultimately, happy.
What are you up to these days?
‘Been down one time
Been down two times
I’m never going back again’
This is a guest submission by one of my oldest friends, with a pseudonym of Layla. Layla and I met at St Mary’s School in Barrie, Canada when we were tiny and became close because we had so much fun together AND we walked the same way to school every morning. (I’ve heard it said that young friendships have a lot to do with geography). All these decades later, we are still friends. She still cracks me up as much as she did back then. Back when we used to put Mark’s stereo on in the rec room with Fleetwood Mac blaring and do cartwheels and walk-overs in the dark.
Once Layla, with her reddish hair very similar to my brother Jobe, was accepted into our family, she was a regular at our family meals and was around our house most days. I also spent a lot of time playing at her house, often the two of us alone, because her Grandmother would be at work at the hospital where she pulled twelve-hour shifts. I remember watching a ten-year old Layla cooking up a pound of bacon or ground beef to eat for supper without any other foods on the plate. I remember that was really different because Mom would always have us build a balanced meal on our plate: protein, vegetables, starch.
Layla had this really odd baby-sitter, Shirley, who kept her kidney stones in a small jar on her dresser. We would sneak into her room to point and peer at them. ‘Ewwww, gross!’ we would whisper to each other with freckled, scrunched up faces. We were barely tall enough for our eyes to clear the top of the highboy dresser. One time Shirley caught us and tried to smack Layla. We were too fast for her though as we used our guile to get away from Shirley who walked with a cane. (But seriously, why keep them on your dresser?)
There was a group of us at times: Kelly, Paul Aikins (R.I.P.), Layla and I were often together cooking up mischief. One time, we decided to light ‘strike anywhere’ matches in a closet in Layla’s rental flat in an old Victorian on Bayfield Street. When her grandmother found out, she called my parents and I was punished. I got the belt to my behind from my Dad due to the seriousness of the infraction. It never happened again. Another time we were in trouble with Sister Mary Catherine. Layla received ‘the Strap’ for it. I am certain that woman was a witch. She was horribly mean.
When my older sister Amy became a hairstylist after attending the Barrie School of Hairdressing, I can clearly remember the time she gave Layla a ‘pageboy’ haircut. It was the same haircut made famous by Dorothy Hamill the 1976 Olympic skating champion. The haircut took place in our basement bathroom of our Peel Street house. The large bathroom with the bright blue melamine counter-top opposite the sink. Layla perched there on a stool, me watching from the edge of the tub while Amy snipped. Twenty year-old Amy was beautiful with long blond hair and baby-blue eyes. Her slender fingers were entwined in Layla’s extra thick strawberry blond locks as she cooed softly to Layla to help her relax. Layla had a very sensitive scalp. Layla became the talk of the grade 5 class with that hair cut, it suited her so well. It was so very ‘IN’.
When Layla moved away, I missed her badly. We would write letters back and forth and she did come to the camp once. Then there was my trip to the Badlands where we re-connected. Layla has been to my home in Nova Scotia twice and I will see her in Calgary soon. Can’t wait!!!!
Here is her story of strength in finding a New Life. (She says it was God, but, I would argue that it was ALL HER!)
I was born into a Catholic family in North Bay, Ontario, baptized as a baby and attended the Catholic Church and school from birth to sixth grade. My earliest memories are of living with my Grandma and Grandpa. It didn’t occur to me to question it- that was all I knew. But for a loving Grandmother, I would have grown up with strangers.
My next significant memory is of moving to Barrie, Ontario with Grandma Bea – as her marriage of 25 years was ending. She worked hard to support us. At that time everyone in my class lived with their Mom and Dad. The 30 of us moved up through the grades together. We all attended St. Mary’s Church and school.
My Grandma kept an orderly and safe home for us. She kept me in tap, jazz, and baton classes after school. I also did gymnastics at school. Downtime at home was spent playing outside with the other neighbourhood children.
My Mom showed up when I was 7 years old and wanted to reclaim me. I had no idea who my Mom was, and neither Grandma or I were prepared to be apart from one another.
Through a series of events, and several more years past, it was decided that I would go and live with my Mother in British Columbia. This was just before I entered 7th grade.
My safe predictable world came crashing down. My Mother lived very differently, so I soon found myself appalled and alienated. Coming home after school to groups of people drinking and drugging was completely foreign and quite scary to me. The mood swings the adults displayed were also new to me.
I deeply regretted moving to BC I was small and lean at the time, and also got to learn what it was to be the new kid, get bullied, and have to fist fight to get past the gang to get home. I hated my life.
Sometime during that year, Mother’s boyfriend threw us out during the night in a rage. We landed at a shelter and eventually moved to another home with another school- and another gang of bullies to deal with.
I did okay at first in 8th grade. I loved biology and participating in the gymnastics club. At some point though, with more chaos and confusion at home, I couldn’t cope anymore. I switched to another school that was a specialized alternate learning environment. I did okay there for awhile and then we moved again to another city. Same scenario happened all over again…. I was completely done.
I dropped out of school and spiraled downward for many years. My teenage years were an unstable mess. By 15 I was done with life. Attempted suicide… failed. Somehow I carried on- working, going to night school, and partying.
By 19 I had to sober up and find a way to live with a new purpose. I was solidly entrenched in unhealthy living patterns. By this time many friends had died due to the lifestyle- intentionally or otherwise. Through all of this, I was starting to wake up a bit and notice some things that scared me. God was drawing me…
Thankfully I had a good friend who had cleaned up a couple of years ahead of me. She took me under her wing and walked me through the daily beginning steps of sobriety. For awhile, an AA women’s group was a lifeline for me.
At some point in my new sobriety, I began to question the meaning of life. A very clear turning point happened when I was in my downtown, Nelson BC apartment. Looking up and down the street, I began to think about the people coming and going. What was the point of it all? How did it start? Where would it end?
Thus began a new quest to satisfy these queries. Nelson was a New Age hot bed with plenty of options to consider. Initially I returned to visit the local Catholic Church- only to be faced with a sexual advancement from a married man who attended there. I left and continued my quest. I looked into a multitude of things that people seemed satisfied with and engaged in. Gestalt therapy, Wicca, Mormonism, and others. They all seemed interesting, but I was always left with a sense that there had to be more. Something that was IT!
I had a friend at college who was sparkly eyed and always kind and friendly with me. She attended the local Evangelical Free Church. So I asked her if they did any fun stuff. I attended a campfire night by the river with the College and Career group. I found them to be funny, interesting and had good music that I hadn’t heard before. The group also had a bible study at my friend’s house. I went to check this out. At the first one, they spoke of the fruits of the Spirit. I knew I wanted those things. Love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control. WOW! I was very interested.
I finished my office administration training. I did my practicum and volunteered in local offices as I was unable to find work. The town was economically shutting down. I had a student loan and the collectors were calling. So I moved to Calgary in 1990 to get some work and pay off my student loan so that I could go home again to Nelson, BC.
My Grandma had already moved to Calgary, so I stayed with her while I worked and saved. We loved being reunited and savoured our time together.
I am now celebrating 30 years of living in Alberta. We make our plans, but God orders our steps. This was not my plan.
I got work right away. Not long after moving to Calgary, I was invited to Grace Baptist College and Career. Through this group I was introduced to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and was told that I needed to be born again. I really didn’t know what to make of this.
As I considered the information, I felt like no matter where I went, I was being shown very clearly that there was good and evil. I needed to make a choice. The fence sitting was not going to be permitted much longer. At a crossroads, I called out to God. However, I was still unconvinced if He was real or not. Was I going to dive in- or walk away? I earnestly asked God, if He was there, to show me clearly. I opened my bible at a random place and my eyes landed on Proverbs 23:18. “There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” I prayed then and trusted the blood of Christ to wash away all my sin and to make me new in Christ. Thus began my journey as a Christian…
Not long after this, a lovely senior lady from church came over to my Grandmother’s place to teach me the scriptural basics and disciple me.
As the years went on, trials and growth opportunities were abundant. I journeyed through legalism, deep marital pain, divorce, isolating from believers, failure….but God.
I began to learn, at a heart level, verses like Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You. Because he trusts in You.” Also, Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” And Philippians 4:19 “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
Despite all the pain, the unfaithfulness, the confusion- God has continued to win my heart. With so many distractions in this world, singing praises has always guarded my heart and has become an essential way for me to set my mind on Him. Being in fellowship with like-minded Believers, who lovingly point each other back to truth, has also been a huge blessing and lifeline for me.
By the grace of God I can now say- I belong to Jesus- heart, soul, mind and strength. Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ [in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ (the Messiah) lives in me; and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in (by adherence to and reliance on and complete trust in) the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
I do not try to disappoint
Or mean to disobey
There is no reason you’d suspect
I’d go another way
For we are born to what we are
With choices we must make
I see no point in taking sides
I see no sides to take
~John McCutcheon’s Bird Dog
‘Could I possibly meet Jack,’ I said. ‘We could come on Sunday, ‘ I said.
…Jack has been with us ever since that day. He was impossible not to love.
You see, our senior girl, Lady-Jane passed away about ten months ago and her passing was heart-breaking as she became quite ill with an awful infected lump on her haunch – after never being sick a day in her life….
Well, we now have a new pup and heading, head first into another decade and a half of fur-face lovin’. This guy’s name is ‘Jack’. He is hilarious and goofy and very loving and, yes, even chill, at times.
Jack was listed on Kijiji, the same way we adopted Lady-Jane, actually. Unbeknownst to my friends, I had been perusing the Kijiji re-homing ads for several months. This time I wanted a goof-ball dog. No more of this big pointy ears and pointy wolfish snout. Lady was a fabulous girl, (as were Delta and Grizzly before her) but, almost daily she scared the bejeezus out of people and other dogs. She was just so ‘ON’ it protection wise.
Jack, on the other hand, has had Acadia U. students at my door to just pet him for a minute. Folks have said things like, ‘Thanks, I needed that!’ after running their hands through his puppy fur and, burying their face in his fur and smelling his puppy smell. Other friends have received the exuberance of a four foot high jump, so excited was Jack to meet them!
Jack is a black standard golden-doodle who was being trained to be a PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) service dog. Unfortunately for the PTSD folks, he failed his trials. ‘Too bouncy’ was the verdict. So after being with the breeder in Montreal for four months, he then went to the trainer for two months in Halifax. Now he is with us in Wolfville.
We have loved him since the moment we met him. He comes to my office with me and is settling in very nicely. Here’s a picture of him on the couch (no other dogs have been allowed on the couch), splayed out in the reverse flying frog posture – letting it all hang out – throwing caution to the wind. Just so chill. I felt very pleased to see this. He is AT HOME and he knows it. He is with us for his fur-ever.
It is wonderful to have a fur-head again. He has brought much joy. One young student, while petting Jack at my office door said, ‘Dog’s are here to love us, you know’. Wow. Isn’t that the truth.
He has gone for the snip. He thought he was going to the ‘tutor’. Turns out, he was going for the ‘neuter’! He was very very tired afterward and then it was ‘the cone of shame’ for a few days. All went well and now he is back to being his goofy self, lying beside my chair awaiting his next soft hand, or treat or walk.
By the way, Jack has his own Instagram account. He’s pretty funny: @jackthewolfvilledoodle check him out!
(All photos are mine).
Nothing haunts us like the things we don’t say
When my eldest sister Eva was three years old, my Dad told her to sit behind the Conductor when he put her on a 9-hour train north to Smooth Rock Falls, alone. It routed through Union Station in downtown Toronto.
‘Sit behind the Conductor,’ he said. ‘You will be fine,’ he said. Little Eva screamed, ‘No Daddy, No Daddy!’ reaching with her little chubby arms for the person who was supposed to protect her.
She was three and she had just been torn from the tight grasp of her baby sister Amy, just 10 months her junior, who was holding onto her for dear life. Both baby girls, one blond, one brunette, were crying with red cheeks. All I can think now… is that it must’ve been a completely different world back then. With so many very large families of seven children plus, perhaps this was how parents coped?
She was being sent to stay with Gramma and Grampa because baby brother had come along and with baby Amy too, one just needed to go. Gramma and Grampa didn’t drive. They never even owned a car. So, on the train went Little Eva.
In wintry Smooth Rock Falls, Eva remembers days of nothing happening. No toys. No interaction with other children or adults and an unfamiliar scent (which she can now identify as mothballs) in their home coupled with the smell from The Mill. It all made her feel terribly homesick. She was left completely to her own devices. The house was chilly, smelly and dark. Gramma was quiet and busy. Grampa was at work most of the time. The Grandfather clock ticked incessantly.
The lunch whistle would blow at the Mill and a quiet Grampa would walk home to sit at the Arbourite and chrome table where his lunch awaited him. A steaming bowl of home-made soup and a large sandwich on fresh-baked bread. It was eaten without a word of thanks while Gramma watched, hands wringing in her cotton apron beneath her large, matronly bosom. The next whistle would bring him home for supper with a nearly perfect replay of lunch time. Quiet. Expected. Ungrateful. Gramma had her job: keeping house. Grampa had his – The Mill Wright – keeping Mill.
When Eva related this troubling story to me recently, my mind wheeled back a dozen years. My son Leo and I had gone to a neighbourhood wedding for Leo’s babysitter’s Mom and step-father who were getting married. As we approached the large house on a beautiful sunny and warm afternoon, I was feeling a wee bit worried that there would be no one there to talk to and that I would stick out like a sore thumb. Leo ran over to the candy bar in glee. I lifted the full skirt of my simple grey silk dress as I descended to the deck of the pool in my pumps. Being extra careful so as to NOT make a splash of an entrance! All of the guests stood in small groups, mingling. An older man approached and welcomed me, shaking my hand gently.
‘Welcome to the wedding of Mack and Mary,’ he said, extending a large hand and a big smile. ‘I am Mack’s father, Paul Bouvier. How do you know them?’ he asked.
I responded and then asked where he had come from for the wedding. ‘Arnprior, Ontario,’ was his reply.
‘Oh,’ I said with a smile enjoying that I had something in common with this friendly stranger. ‘My Grandfather was from Arnprior.’ Grampa used to tell me of his boyhood in Arnprior. He had a crab-apple tree outside his upstairs bedroom window and he would eat them from the tree when they were ripe (bleck!!). He would go downtown to the grocers and he and his pals would press their noses to the glass looking at the bananas. The grocer would shoo them away saying, ‘Sonny-boy, sonny-boy, get away from the glass and let the sun shine on the bananes!’ Grampa was raised in the depression era when certain luxury foods were scarce.
Anyway, Mr. Bouvier asked me who my grandfather was. I told him.
His smile widened and his eyes danced as he exclaimed, ‘I worked for your Grandfather at the Mill. He was a Mill Wright. And your Dad! Your Dad was a great hockey player!’
We just looked at each other smiling and nodding. Small world. Why did the stars align allowing this conversation to take place decades later, provinces away, in my new neighbourhood￼…?
When Eva was seventeen, she began to have extreme anxiety attacks and had no ability to concentrate on her school work. She had been the top student at her Junior High School, on many teams, in many clubs, leader of the folk choir at Saint Mary’s Church￼, known and loved by all.
My eldest sister Eva, with her amazing soprano voice, her leadership and enthusiasm for music, would lead the whole congregation through folk songs like: Here We Are, and Kumbaya and Jesus is a Soul Man. She would be right up front of the pews. Her long, straight hair flicking from side to side as she would stride around motioning to the congregation to sing louder and stronger, tapping her tambourine on her leg. The guitars strumming wildly. Pride would be welling up through my little body as I sat in awe of my teenage sister. Those folk masses were powerfully spiritual and I will never forget them. Sadly, almost half a century later, my beloved sister Eva, for some unknown neurological reason, completely lost her hearing and consequently a god given talent – her ability to sing soprano. It was a bitter pill to swallow for all of us who love her but, My God, especially for her. Thankfully, a few years later, Eva was fitted with a Cochlear Implant but, she will tell you, it is not the same as hearing with your own ears and her ability to sing has been diminished almost completely. Eva has told me that her voice no longer sounds like her own. Tragic!
But, getting back to when she was seventeen… when she walked in through the front door of her new, very large high school, her vision would tunnel and it was impossible to function. She told Mom about her troubles, which were obvious because she was crying a lot. Mom took her to the hospital where she was treated cruelly and isolated from all family members. Eva escaped from the hospital and when she told Mom of the cruel methods at the hospital, Mom was furious and went there to complain and to tell them off.
Next, Eva was sent to Florida to be with Memere and Pepere, the idea being that the sunshine would be good for her. But, similar to Smooth Rock, the lack of interaction with friends and the anxiety had her feeling very badly. She went home to Barrie and was then taken to the Psych Hospital in Penetanguishene. By hook or by crook, she managed to get well enough to leave that place and then a couple years later to marry and then raise three incredible young men who had her full time and were cherished and loved dearly. Today they have children of their own who are cherished and loved and trust me, would never dream of putting a toddler on a train, alone.
Dear Reader, what do you think of this story…can you believe it is true?
(The photo was taken by Eva in Wolfville, NS in 2017)
We’re here for a good time
Not a long time
So have a good time
The sun can’t shine every day…
This is a concept I just heard on CBC radio. The Reverse Bucket List is a list of times in your life that you would love to return to or that you are happy about or proud of or that taught a great lesson that you carry forward through your life. So, looking back on your life for the best, most profound or impactful moments instead of always projecting that those moments need to happen in your future. It is a method of making yourself happy for the accomplishments of your life thus far. I realized, while writing my list below, that that is mostly what I am doing by writing this blog. I’m writing my reverse bucket list!
Here’s my list (with links to the stories that correspond). No particular order except the first two are the top for a reason.
- Eloped to marry my best-friend and we are celebrating 28 years this year (2020);
- Had a son and stayed home to raise him for his first five years;
- Trekked for a month in Nepal in the Himalayas;
- Traveled by VW Van all over Canada, including the North West Territories and Yukon and into Alaska, visiting one national park in each province, territory and in Alaska;
- Hiked the 3-day Chilkoot Trail from Bennett, B.C. to Skagway, Alaska;
- Traveled and worked on a farm in Australia;
- Visited the Taj Mahal; and witnessed pilgrims bathing in the Ganges in India at dawn;
- Backpacked with our 4-year old throughout Mexico’s West Coast and most of Central America;
- Moved to a small Nova Scotian town without jobs and made our lives from scratch with our four-year old because we wanted him to be able to walk to school safely;
- Founded and incorporated a small education-services business that is now 15 years old and employs three others besides myself;
- Posted a listing on AirBnb and have hosted folks from all over the world;
- Started a school garden with a friend and made a blog about it and taught children how to sow, germinate, water, grow, harvest and save seeds from it;
- Had an eating disorder in my teens that gives me great compassion for that type of suffering today and a hope and am open to help others get over it;
- Lived and worked in Germany for three years and visiting most countries near there;
- Lived in Virginia, USA for two years then packed a large U-Haul and drove home to Canada and we were glad to be home (sorry American friends, no offence);
- Took a gondola ride in Venice and then got somewhat lost in its ancient twisty turny laneways;
- Drove from Germany into Czechoslovakia just after the 1989 removal of the Berlin wall and witnessed a country coming alive;
- Had three big dogs (not all at once) and a cat who were cherished as part of our family, And currently have a doodle who is just too darn cute and funny!
- Snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef in Australia;
- Completed the PADI dive licence which was very difficult for me due to my claustrophobic tendencies. (I no longer dive but I love to snorkel);
- Rappelled down a cliff on basic training in 1986 in Chilliwack, B.C. (9 PLATOON DOGS OF WAR!). Rappelling was terrifying to me due to a fear of height;
- Rappelled out of a helicopter on a special training day;
- Joined a group seven-day biking trip through France and gained a very sore bottom;
- Marched in the International Nijemgen Marches in Holland in 1989. 160 km over four days;
- Skied in the Swiss and the Austrian Alps;
- Own a house out-right with my husband;
- While living in the Arctic hand-built several high-fired, clay pots and still have some of them over 25 years later;
- Taught my son to sign American sign-language before he could speak;
- Was sporty and a scholar at school, for the most part;
- Completed Advanced Yoga Teacher Training at an ashram in the Bahamas;
- Taught yoga for several months then gave it up because it just didn’t suit me and it took a lot of courage to admit that;
- Joined a book club and read daily;
- Took several horse-archery ground training lessons and loved it;
- Mastered a hand-stand with no wall;
- Made yogurt from raw farm-fresh milk for years;
- Joined the Army and stayed in for 6 years, leaving honourably as a Captain;
- Completed Recruit Term at Military College in Sooke, B.C. and it was tough;
- Completed Off-Road driver training in the Army;
- Shot a fire-arm with fairly good accuracy, and cleaned it, stripped it and reassembled it blindfolded;
- Completed the Officer Challenge twice (only woman): 75 km trek over 24 hours with 18 mini-competitions, in combat gear, in France￼;
- Was awarded the Sword of achievement for Junior Officer of the Year while in the army;
- Besides my first language of English, I can communicate somewhat in French, German, Spanish and American Sign-language;
- Studied dance for several years as a girl and still love to dance;
- Was a gymnast in elementary school and won a silver medal in a competition for the county;
- Have traveled by jet, helicopter, ferry, ship, sail boat, canoe, kayak, car, truck and train, including a train across most of Canada for days and into the heart of Australia on the Gahn;
- Hitch-hiked successfully in Canada and Australia;
- Witnessed flying foxes by the thousands in Australia;
- Have driven back and forth across Canada (several times) including solo enroute to Logistics training in the Army in 1988;
- Have been to all Provinces of Canada and two of the territories;
- Have lived and worked north of the 66th parallel, two hours North of the Arctic Circle;
- Was ‘Screeched In’ in Newfoundland where my husband is from;
- Hiked Gros Morne Mountain in Newfoundland and met curious Elk while on top of its tablelands;
- Sewed some clothing and curtains with a sewing machine, self-taught then decided I wouldn’t be doing that again;
- Learned how to cut a basic haircut from my sister;
- Met a harem of Bison in a National Park in Alberta;
- Miscarried my second son, late, which was heart-breaking but which helps me to cherish given life;
- Learned how to read music and play piano and the flute;
- Met, hugged and kissed Deepak Chopra before he was very famous; and
- Love nature and simple times and love to laugh and be silly;
- Have read a friend’s manuscript and helped with some edits;￼
- Am currently living in the 2020 COVID-19 world pandemic and I am social distancing to help flatten the curve and reduce stress on our healthcare system￼￼￼.
Leave a comment with your top 5 or 10 Reverse Bucket List items…Come On….Go ahead. I know you want to!!!
(picture of view from top of Gros Morne Mountain is from google images…thank you)
Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Words Can Also Hurt Me…
Sticks and Stones Break only Skin while Words are Ghosts that Haunt Me. Pain from Words has Left Its Scar on Mind and Heart that’s Tender. Cuts and Bruises now have healed, it’s words that I Remember.
Recently, two of my brothers became aware of my writings. I had never actually invited them to read my stories because I didn’t think they would be interested in the least. Their reaction to the news that I was blogging about my life, including when I was a child and also including very honest descriptions of our father’s behaviour during and after the divorce, was emphatically bitter. To clarify, they were upset toward me, not toward Dad. Toward me. Wait, I was the one who was abused.
No one was there to protect me. No one. My little brother Luke was there, but he is almost three and a half years younger than me.
I am doing my best to therapeutically write about this part of my past.
Lately, I was on the phone with my best friend from childhood, Kelly. Ever honest, she reminded me that she was there too. She said, ‘Marn, I remember arriving at your house to find your dad walking around in his boxer shorts with the no-button fly wide open. And, the thing is,’ she said, ‘He didn’t then go and put on his robe. He just stayed walking around in his open-fly boxers. It was disgusting.’
She continued with, ‘When Mark was manic (bipolar) he dry-humped me on the bed while I screamed for him to stop.’ Kelly would have been 16 and my brother Mark would have been 21 at the time. Unfortunately, I think I was pounding on his back to stop. I had no idea how to react to this behaviour. It was outrageous.
Last night, over our supper, I was again drawn back into the memories of the past. I told my husband of twenty-five years, Dean, about times when I would witness my dad being truly mean and abusive to my siblings. Telling them these hurtful messages:
‘You’ll never amount to anything.’
‘Be a man.’
‘Get some backbone.’
‘It’s a good thing you’re beautiful.’
I clearly recall a time when I was in the army and had a month off over Christmas. I went to visit Dad, my step-mother, Wen, and Luke who were living in a small border city then. At that time, Dad and Wen were the owner / operators of a 9-room motel. (The same motel that was the excuse for him not helping me with my University fees when I was at Waterloo and then consequently decided to join the army.)
At the time, 17-year old Luke was working as a server, trying to figure out what he would be doing for school and for the future. He could have used some gentle, fatherly guidance. He did not get that there. What he received was verbal and emotional abuse and aloofness. When I saw him on that visit, he seemed to be in a bit of a slump. He talked little. At meals he slouched over his plate with a rounded back, barely lifting his face from his food. It was heartbreaking. Where was my witty, intelligent little brother who could make me laugh at any moment? Dad was so mean to him and Dad wouldn’t stop. He just wouldn’t stop. Every word was a put down. An insult.
I remember Dad taking us to a tacky, cheap diner for a very inexpensive meal. I was into my new army career and doing well. I was on top of the world. I had passed all the difficult training, won a great posting to Germany and had my own platoon. I was best friends with Dean and looking forward to romance with him. I knew he would be mine soon. ‘Just a matter of time,’ I would tell myself. At this diner, I was dressed in nice clothes: my new suede skirt, leather pumps and freshly pressed blouse, earrings and soft makeup…all dolled up, because it was important to be all dolled up around Dad. He had a sharp, critical eye and an acid tongue.
So, we’re sitting in a booth having a nice little chat about my service in the army. In the back of my mind I suspected that there would be a dig coming soon. And so it did. Dad says, ‘Martha, that mole under your nose, why don’t you get it removed?’
WTF Dad. That mole under my nose??? So, this is what you’re going to talk about at this time? The mole under my nose??? My face turned dark red. I was furious with him. I should have known though. I should have known. There was always a dig. And I ask myself, what must have been done to him, for him to behave that way?
I remember this one Christmas when Dad gave my brother Jobe a second-hand dictionary. He actually wrapped up a used dictionary, but, before he did, he inscribed it:
Read this daily and you just might make something of yourself.
How was that supposed to make a ten-year-old feel?
I have striven my whole adult life as a wife, parent, sister and friend, to watch the words that come out of my mouth…that they should not hurt, scrape or strike but that my words should make others feel fine, helped, free or loved, happy or better. I have made mistakes in my youth, before I understood that insulting was not the best way to behave, as well, and in the heat of the moment, that I know. But, at least I am aware of the effect my words can have. We all have that power.
Amazing power to do harm or good with our words.
(Pictures come from google images. Thank you.)
Lightning crashes a new mother cries
Her placenta falls to the floor
The angel opens her eyes
The confusion sets in
Before the doctor can even close the door
Warning…this part is graphic…
The hours of the day ticked by and the pains grew worse and worse. I called my doctor who was to go away on holidays but she luckily was able to arrange for an ultrasound for me immediately. It looked normal. I was told that this might just be Braxton Hicks — or practice contractions that prepare the womb to deliver in the future. I had had experienced them with Leo’s pregnancy. I knew that this was NOT that.
I soaked in the tub and tried to find comfort laying on my side. It was a hard night, with little sleep, the pain coming in waves. At one point, my sister Amy called from three provinces to the west and her sweet voice took my mind off my troubles.
The next day, I found blood on my underwear.
“DEAN!’ I screamed.
“WE NEED TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL !!”
The pains became worse and worse. We had Leo taken care of by Everet and Tina, friends whom we had known for years. Everet, Dean and I had been in the army together. We knew each other very well.
I did not want our little Leo to see me in this kind of pain.
Then the nurses said that the Radiologist would give me an ultrasound, himself. Unusual. I lay down on the bed and he put the goop on my belly. When the picture came up, it looked different. Dane was alive and there was a heart beat but there was no water in my uterus. There was no amniotic fluid. How could Dane be alive? I had been in so much pain, my brain was messed up.
It would not conclude that which it should be concluding.
Nor did the Radiologist then tell me that which he should have told me. Thinking back to the exhausted state I was in with very little sleep over the past two days, I remember that I glanced at his face and he just looked at me, then away. He didn’t explain anything. (Later, he apologized for that).
I was wheeled back to another room off the emergency room. On my way past the waiting room, I saw Wally, Everet and Dean with heads together, whispering. Wally’s arrival made four of us that had been in the army together a decade earlier. Through the haze of pain and exhaustion, I was touched that they were here for this. Here for us.
I would get through this and we would all be fine and well. Dane would be okay. All these people were here to support us.
Dane would be fine. Right?
The pain continued. The nurses were good to me. One nurse kept getting warm towels and swabbing down my back, as my johnny coat was open and allowed it. It felt like heaven. At some point, in a tortured voice I told them I felt like I had to poop. They helped me to squat up on the bed and they put a metal pan under my bottom. I pushed. I pushed again. One more time…
there were tubes or something hanging out of my vagina.
“What’s that?” I asked, perplexed. My red, sweaty face a question.
A nurse rushed over and gently tugged on the tubes as she attempted to soothe me with, ‘It’s going to be okay dear. It’s going to be okay.”
Something of size came out.
It was not tubes.
It was Dane.
It was not tubes.
It was my perfectly formed tiny dead baby, Dane.
I held him in my hand. He fit the length of it perfectly.
Little eyes never to open.
Tiny hands never to hold.
I stroked his little bluish body and wished him well in heaven while tears blurred my vision streaming down my face.
I cried, “My heart is breaking. Ohhhh No No No. My heart is breaking.”
I laid back on the bed and hands on my heart, wept bitterly, for the loss of my little Angel Dane. And having lost him, I knew for sure that I couldn’t try to do this again. Upon telling Dean this, we both readily decided that Leo would be our only and we would count ourselves lucky and blessed to have him.
What I felt later was this overwhelming sense of failure. I had failed to give his little body a fertile place to grow. I had failed to be a good woman. A good mom. I was a failure at making a baby (which was stupid since my body had already made Leo).
But, thankfully, time heals and now, over a decade later, I have a different view of this. I feel that my body was doing what it needed to do. There must have been a good reason that my body did not allow Dane to thrive, or that Dane’s body didn’t allow him to thrive. Especially in these last years, I have learned and concluded that my body is an amazing organism that should be trusted, revered and respected.
It is doing it’s best to keep me alive, comfortable and well.
I think of Dane often and wonder what our lives would have looked like with him in it, growing up as Leo’s little brother, as our youngest son.
I wonder about the lesson in this loss.
Why did it happen? What is it meant to teach us? The value of life? Gratitude for our blessings? I’m not sure, really. But, I am sure of this:
I love that little soul
that was in that little body
that I held in my womb
and then in my hand.
I wish for him to be forever at peace.
Please consider leaving a message and telling of your loss.
(Thanks Google images and creative commons licence for the pics).
Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it. ~Dalai Lama
After exiting the Arctic , where we lived for three years, give or take, I applied for a job from an ad in the Globe & Mail Newspaper. A recruiting firm was looking to hire a House Manager for a wealthy family; let’s call them The Roses in Toronto’s Rosedale. Eagerly, I applied for the position thinking that I had the attributes mentioned in the ad.
I made the cut.
At the end of the first interview with Braun the hiring manager, I asked him why they picked me out of the three hundred applicants. He said they liked both my creative leaf-art at the bottom of my resume as well as my military experience. Both sides of the brain.
Braun had spent the better part of a dozen years working for the Beaten Family and he knew the kind of person that would do well in this job. Detail-oriented, strong work ethic, well-spoken, able to foresee disasters and their solutions, appreciative of wealth but not themselves wealthy and, let’s not forget, approval-seeking. Yep. I had all of those qualities.
After the second interview with the agency, I was told I would next be going to the offices of Mr Rose to be interviewed by him. I made sure to have a sturdy note pad, and a good pen. I donned my navy blazer, blouse and skirt. For the first time I was missing my military uniform which made wardrobe decisions so easy. In my mind, I was a Captain heading to a meeting with a General. Just putting it into perspective.
It went well. I could tell Mr Rose was happy with my confident eye-contact, my note-taking and my questions. My seriousness but also my quick smile. I even managed to negotiate my salary up to the next notch, which I could tell both amused and impressed him.
He told me that the next step would be to visit with his family. Meet them, tour the houses and property. Get an idea of the scope of the job.
I had been told they were a Jewish family. Knowing nothing about the Jewish faith, I sought the opinion of a Jewish acquaintance. He said my visit would be during one of the Jewish holidays – Rosh Hashanah. I was nervous about being the House Manager for a family with a completely unfamiliar faith to the one I had known growing up. I was bound to make mistakes, even subtle ones, just because I had no idea.
At the time, I was reading a book by Deepak Chopra. In this book, he advised to always show up with a small gift when going to someone’s house. Wise advise, I thought. I picked up a small box of chocolates and made sure they were kosher. I donned my conservative atire and grabbed my sturdy note pad and reliable pen.
I drove into their estate in my 3-cylinder shit box I called ‘Puny’. The same one I had bought before leaving Comox in 1988.
The house was modern and grand. I knocked on the door and smiled gently as I was met by Mrs Rose. I passed her the little box of chocolates and made nicey-nice while she showed me the huge kitchen and writing nook where she wrote her cookbooks. Then Mr Rose took me to the other house which backed onto theirs.
His 4000 square foot Man Cave.
The door opened to a dining room with a chandelier bigger than me and a table which sat twenty-two. Enough said. The place was perfect. A lot of brown and beige tones with the odd hint of deep burgundy. Very mannish. He told me, and this was important, ‘I want this place to always be absolutely sublime‘.
K, I didn’t even know what sublime meant back then.
The first thing I did upon getting back to Scarberia (North Beaches really but, whatever) was look it up.
Sublime: Perfect, without blemish.
I was sweating.
I knew I could do this job, but, did I WANT to? It sounded like a lot of bullshit to me. My mind imagined my days on that property. Worried about every little thing. I was completely stressed just thinking about it. When Dean and I had traveled to Australia, we had seen the movie: The Remains of The Day. Was I meant to be a glorified Butler / House Keeper; a combination of both Anthony Hopkins’ and Emma Tompsins’ characters? Was I to walk around with a feather duster and white gloves?
Then, the call came. Braun the Hiring Manager was dressing me down for bringing a box of chocolates to the interview at their home. He told me it was inappropriate. Mr Rose had mentioned it and said it was like I was trying to ‘butter’ them up to hire me. Geez. This guy was a freak. I wasn’t even hired and he was already disappointed in me.
I remained silent when Braun stopped speaking. I was in a phone booth in the village of Maggie River on Eight Mile Lake, near The Camp in Cottage Country of Ontario. It was a gorgeous early summer day. I looked at the shiny water near the locks. I looked at the nodding heads of the wild flowers growing in every possible crack or fissure.
Sublime: Perfect. Without Blemish.
I took a deep breath and told Braun that I was no longer interested in the position. I said, ‘If Mr Rose is that worried about a proffered tiny box of chocolates, I don’t think I can work for him. I don’t want to work for people like that. Sorry.’
Braun was speechless. He had invested a lot of time in me. He would have to start over.
‘You mean, you don’t want to work for The Rose Family? At that salary? Maybe I can get you more money, M.’
‘Sorry, Braun. I can’t do it. It’s not for me.’
I walked away from that phone booth feeling a massive weight lift off my shoulders. I felt like I had dodged a bullet. Next, I went for a swim in the shiny waters of Eight Mile Lake.
Sublime: Perfect. Without Blemish.
(All pictures come from Google Images. Thank you!)
Definitely a first-world problem…
For most of my life, I have been completely messed up with regard to body-image and worth regarding its size. It is a sad story when considering just the amount of time, thought, energy and tears that I have expended with regard to this. I will reference an earlier post that I have written on this topic: BoPo Revisited.
Since January 2017, I have been working and trying and hoping to get this monkey off my back and to just really be okay with my still strong, newly soft body, more lustrous hair, clear skin and more peaceful attitude. I strive to go about my day without judgement and with forgiveness toward my past and to just be chill with regard to food and exercise rules of the past.
I’m getting there folks.
Some days I barely think about my past. Where as before, I would be worried about every food choice; doing way too much exercise and giving myself way too many imaginary pats on the back for that plus food restriction.
Just now, as I was walking to my office and I had this funny (scary) memory of a freak-out that came from nowhere. The preparation of a meal used to be a major production (ie: in my mind). My thoughts around ‘did I deserve’ this meal would run rampant. Had I done enough exercise to allow for a big meal or should I just eat a salad while my family ate the well-rounded meal, that I made. This was a daily, useless ordeal with many pitfalls. I’m exhausted just remembering it.
So, this one day, I’m cooking up steaks — a real treat. There were two large ones and a small-ish one. I fried them in our cast-iron pan with garlic and herbs. They smelled heavenly. Meanwhile, Dean mashed the potatoes and Leo set the table to include steak-knives, salad and red wine.
I placed each juicy steak on a plate to rest, thinking, of course, I would have the small one…
when I turned around I was both confused and horrified to see that Dean had taken the small one. Then, a completely inappropriate reaction erupted from myself.
‘Dean, the small one is for ME!!! Why on earth would YOU take the SMALL one??!’ I shrieked at him.
He looked at me. Looked at his plate. Looked at me.
‘I thought I would leave a large one for you, M, since you’re the one cooking them.’
My face was red. My mind was confused. Didn’t he GET that I didn’t DESERVE to eat a large one?
Leo weighs in.
‘Mom. Chill. We usually have too much anyway. Dad will not starve.’
But, you see, I wasn’t worried about Dean starving. I was worried about ME eating more than I should. More than I deserved. Fuck. Messed up.
Thankfully, this little freak-out episode was close to the time of my epiphany away from disordered eating and over-exercising. Praise Jesus.
As I stand alone at the window
In search for what I cannot see
I wonder to what might show
Some of you or all about me.
This poem is a guest submission to my blog. It was written by an old high school friend who, almost nine years ago, had a freak, totally sober accident with a patio door that, when it broke, nearly severed his arm. He almost bled to death in front of his family. How completely scary that at any moment, anything could happen to any of us. Al explained to me that he had to learn to write with his other hand. He said the body is an amazing machine. Don’t I know it, Al. Our bodies do so much for us and walk us on this Earth. Al said he didn’t start writing poetry because of the accident, but, that his poetry became much deeper and intuitive because of it. Here’s his poem.
A Poem By: Allan Edward (Po Po) Kinsella
S E A R C H I N G – H I D I N G B E H I N D O F M Y S E L F
As I stand all alone at the window
In search for what I cannot see
I wonder to what might show
Some of you or all about me.
I often will hide what I’m thinking
Or disguise it with something else
When in reality it is simple
I’m hiding behind of myself.
The sun and the moon I do turn too
For answers I simply can’t find
The thoughts and tears of a lifetime
Once left in a time way behind.
I realize the answers not out there
Not found in the moments gone by
To find them I need to stop searching
And look in the mirror inside.
So, lately, I was looking through some old yearbooks and came across this adorable picture of Al. An old friend from high school in a place three provinces away. I always liked Al. Everyone likes Al. Such an easy going, nice person. Because I reached out to him, due to this picture, he is now going to bring out his poetry to be read by others.
You GO Al!
Leave a comment about your near death experience (or one from someone close to you). Did it change you? Did you learn something? Tell me…I love it!
Please allow me to introduce myself.
I’m a man of wealth and taste.
I’ve been around for a long, long year,
Stole many a man’s soul and faith.
And I was ’round when Jesus Christ,
Had his moment of doubt and pain.
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate…
~Rolling Stones – Sympathy for The Devil
I remember the days of girlhood when I could run forever, jump high, skip rope, swim the lake and turn cartwheels. I was this little girl with black curly hair, green eyes, a few freckles and a quick smile. I was full of energy, giggles and good ideas. I knew the rules and I almost always followed them. I went to church on Sundays and sang all the hymns, firmly clasping hands with my neighbours at the peace of Christ. I was the good girl.
So, when my new parish priest made an announcement inviting girls to be altar servers, I was so happy. I really wanted to be an altar server. I wanted to ring the bell, on the altar, during mass with the whole congregation watching, like I had watched the boys do so many times.
Training ensued with Father 0’Malley. There were ten of us and we needed to be taught what was what. How to wear the robe. How to prepare the altar. When to ring the bell. He was very strict and he taught us to be exact. Serious. Precise.
Then the day came for my debut as an altar server. It went well. I had been to hundreds of masses. I kinda had a sense of how it all worked, by then. I was on the schedule and looked forward to being the sole server during a week of early morning masses. I would ride my bike the mile to church, leaving home after breakfast at 7 am, making sure my school bag had my basketball uniform and shoes for practice after school. At 7 am the world wouldn’t even be awake yet. It was a fresh perspective. Funnily enough, it made me feel a little homesick. I shook it off an almost foreboding feeling and soldiered on.
Arriving at the church, I took a moment to notice the beautifully groomed grounds leading to the large polished oak door to the sacristy. The church was ultra modern, brick and wood with a non-steeple. Curved walk ways and parking lot surrounded by green, groomed lawns, shaded by tall mature hardwoods. I parked my bike – no helmets back then. I had tucked my pant leg into my socks to safeguard it from the chain. I righted this and as I did so, felt butterflies a flutter in my belly.
Opening the door I sniffed the familiar church scent of burning candles mixed with a slight residue of incense. On my left was a wall of smooth oak paneling. Or so it seemed. I found the hidden handle and pulled. Reluctantly, and with a sucking sound, the massive closet door opened and into it I put my school bag and jacket. As I closed the door, Father O’Malley appeared and somewhat startled me. He wore a big creepy smile as he approached, saying, ‘Good morning, Martha!’ He wrapped his large arm around my small shoulders, his man hand landing on my budding chest. In slow motion and with an out-of-body awareness, I witnessed and felt his large hand squeeze my young breast. Then both hands took my shoulders and he propelled me to the next cupboard which held my gown and hastened me to prepare for mass, perhaps not wanting me to dwell on what had just happened.
Later that day, as soon as I could get Mom alone, which wasn’t easy with so many siblings, I told her about it, not wanting to go back the next morning. She said, ‘Oh Mart, you must be mistaken. Father O’Malley is a priest. A priest would never do that.’ Then she encouraged me to be a good girl and go back the next day.
Every morning was a repeat performance by Father O’Malley: the smiley greeting, the man-hand grope, the hastening to mass. Years later, I began to wonder if he had orchestrated girl altar servers – the first in the history of the parish – so that he would have his pick of girls to fondle.
As soon as I could get away with it, I quit altar serving and eventually, I quit Catholicism. Any organization with forced celibacy is going to be a problem for someone.
All pics in this post found on google images. Thank you!
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
People favour underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
I have always loved these simple statements.
What do you think of them? Perhaps, leave a comment below…
(Photo taken at top of Cape Blomidon, Nova Scotia by Martha Valiquette)