Tag Archives: happy

A Special Place

24 Apr

HMMS

I grew up in the country.  All 3 of my brothers and I had the good fortune of attending a small rural school.  Now that I am in my ‘upper-mid 30’s’ I have the perspective to know what an absolute gem of a place that school was.  Our bus driver, Eugene, would burn by our house every morning in order to turn around at my grandparents garage a mile over the road.  I knew I had about 5 minutes to get my butt down to the end of the driveway.   The school is only a mile from where we grew up so the commute was short.  At the end of the school day, even that short ride felt long when you were hungry and tired because we played hard.  We had a real ‘Wildhood’ at HM MacDonald.

To give you some background info.  The school goes from grade Primary to Grade 6.   For the most part the same teachers taught myself and my siblings.  2 teachers retired after I had them (my class is legend to be the worst one in history… so we likely drove them to retire), but otherwise the teachers all stayed the same.  The classes were small.  I think one time we broke the 20 mark when a girl from British Columbia came into our class for a short time. Sierra.  I remember that ‘Come From Away’  girl clearly:  she had really long hair and it seemed so fascinating to be from Salmon’s Arm.  Her family mysteriously came and went.  There was a rumor that they left their dog in their freezer.  In grade 5 a piece was added to our school which enabled us to have more room and so they extended the school line. I remember we had a ribbon cutting celebration and different political officials came to our school for it. I graced them all with a tap dancing routine to Bobby Day’s 1956 smash hit – Rockin’ Robin.  I ‘time-stepped’ my way into our local newspaper.  I just laughed thinking of that.  When the new section opened we had a few jogging pant wearing kids from over the road join us.  Other than those few changes,  I basically had the same kids in my class all the way through.

Oh the memories.  When you have the same classmates, the same families, cousins in the school, the same teachers, the same janitor/bus driver and the same playground supervisor everything felt so secure and safe.   Of course there were the usual issues – bullying, cat fights, back talking and of course sour milk.  Literal sour milk.  We had a milk program at school and it has scarred me more than any bully did.  The milk was often on the warm side and I never liked it.  One time I complained that the milk was sour and my teacher said it wasn’t.  IT WAS.  Until this day I cannot drink milk on its own from an unknown source.  I have PSMDD – Post Sour Milk Drinking Disorder.

I know for certain that HM MacDonald helped me grow my confidence.  With confidence you can communicate better, be empathetic, be compassionate, take risks, think big and have a more positive outlook on life.  No one fell through the cracks.  We all knew each other and so it became a safe place to do public speaking, singing in the Christmas concert (or getting the golden speaking roles if we did a play) or strike out at baseball.   I could tell stories for hours about my memories from that school.  The time (when in grade 5 and 6) Allan and Brent stole the school bus and ripped around the soccer field with it.  Or when we were out past the buzzer and saw our teacher tramping across the soccer field to get us – Randy fell out of the tree he climbed and broke his pelvis.  When Amanda put a tack on the teachers desk and he sat on it.  When Bradley had gas so bad in class that our teacher sent a note home to his parents about his diet.  Or Miss Hickey (our completely bizarre music teacher) who made us study Beethoven and Bach in grade 3.   When we turned against our sweet bus driver/janitor Eugene and got a petition to have him removed from the school for smoking in the furnace room.  On a more scholastic note: Mad Math Minutes, Reach for The Top and science fairs.  Having to take the bus to Lakevale School to have enough kids to make two teams from and track and field day in town.  Hotdog days when it was your Mom’s turn to serve.  Cake walks where it didn’t matter who made the cake or what was in it – you ate it and loved it.  Participaction with Hal and Joanne.  Mass in the school gym on Wednesday mornings.  That canopy where you all run into the middle and it goes up into the air.  Fiercely competitive dodge ball.   The ‘Humping Cabin’ the boys made up in the woods behind the school.  To be clear – no humping ever happened.  The boys would make humping like motions while walking into it.  Heads Up 7-Up.  Hatching chicks every spring in our classroom.  Crazy high swings and those frigging monkey bars that everyone fell off at some point.  I could go on and on.  I am sure my brothers could add in countless memories they too have.  We all made life long friends from our days at HM MacDonald.

As like many other families who came through HM MacDonald; my siblings and I have all done well for ourselves.  When someone complimented my Dad (who is a terribly modest creature) on his children he said ‘that was largely because of their Mom not me’.  While our parents and genetics play a big part in who we become so does the community you grow up in.  I know for certain that our elementary school days greatly impacted our characters and potential.

I read this week that the school board is looking to shut down HM MacDonald. This announcement came out of the blue as it is a thriving school with full classrooms and a small operating budget.  Tears came to my eyes when I read it.  The idea of kids from our community taking long bus rides to be placed in big classes breaks my heart.   It is a special place.  There are so few special places like this left.  We need to nurture them not close them down.

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A steel fist in a velvet glove

9 Oct

mom-quote

The fall is always a nostalgic time of year for me – schools get into swing, the leaves turn color and Thanksgiving weekend rolls around.  Contrary to popular opinion I am not a lover of Thanksgiving dinner. So much work and so many dishes for a meal that (for me) is underwhelming.   Mom and Dads’ kitchen is not particularly large and Mom (how do I put this) is rather, ummm, bossy when she is in there.  Mom is not a chef with papers, but boy she can handle herself in the kitchen just as well as Jamie Oliver, Rachel Ray or Mario Batali. This weekend it is just me home so we decided to keep it simple and not prepare a meal fit for a small country.  Over the years Mom has produced more food, for more people than Michelin produces tires.  On the topic of Mom and since it is Thanksgiving I will tell you about her.

My mother is an extremely capable, selfless and productive human being.  Last night we were invited over to friends of our family for dinner.  During our after dinner conversation Kathy (our hostess) said ‘Emilie, can you tell me if you’ve ever seen your mother just do nothing for a day?’ Honestly, unless she was down and out with some kind of an ailment I couldn’t remember ever seeing her just be lazy.  Mom was a nurse doing shift work until I was in grade 9 and after that moved to management where she worked Monday to Friday. It would be nothing for her to make us a gourmet breakfast, send us off to school with lunches all made from scratch (I often traded her homemade cookies for a can of caramel pudding or a Flaky- you always want what you don’t have), wash the walls, clean out a flowerbed and head off to a 12 hour shift at the hospital.  About 10 years ago Mom had to have her thyroid taken out.  The doctors said she had a very hyper thyroid (in overdrive), so finally we had an answer as to why this woman never seemed to run out of energy. After her surgery it took quite sometime to get her TSH levels regulated and so she felt tired and might fall asleep in the chair.  Very unusual.  My father (who could be described as being as laid back as a Saint Bernard) said he loved that Mom was exhibiting laziness as it made him feel human.  Fast forward to now, it seems that her natural determination has made up for her biological changes.  What this woman achieves in a week should be analyzed by productivity experts as I think she could teach them a few things.  One year Dad said he was going to get her a miners lamp for a gift so that she could continue working after dark.

I love how perspective allows you to see things more clearly.  At my age my mother had 4 children.  In fact, I am shocked that I was even conceived as mom had awful pregnancies with terrible morning sickness and many other complications.  Thankfully they went for a 4th and got me.  A few years ago on mothers day I took my Mom and Grandma out for lunch.  Mom said ‘thank you’ when we were done and I said ‘thanks for giving birth to me’.  To which she said ‘it was quite the strenuous affair, you were posterior’.  My 90 year old grandmother piped up and said ‘that is nothing you came out feet first Janice.’

On top of that a full-time job, a husband, a house, a massive property with gardens galore, and animals, she somehow managed to cook, pickle and jam it all, visit family, maintain friendships, keep a clean house, plan/host most any event happening in our lives, cart us around to our sports/after school bits, and keep my 3 gong show brothers in line. We always had friends over which meant she was cooking for more than 6 on a regular basis. She starts thinking about Christmas at least 11 months in advance – making quilts for each us or dolls for the grand kids.  Honestly, when I compare my days to hers it makes me feel a wee bit self absorbed… as I get my nails done and sip a latte.   I talk to Mom daily on the phone.  Sometimes it is 5 minutes and sometimes it is an hour. General gab about the day, what is happening at home, what we cooked for dinner and what is on deck for the next day.  Nowadays we are more friends than Mother/Daughter.

When I was a kid I didn’t look at my mother as leader – I looked at her as my mom.  As an adult I now see she has all of the attributes of a great leader – loyalty, patience, generousity, responsibility, determination, trustworthiness, supportive and selflessness.  When you have a great leader you are bound to be more successful in life.   On the outside she comes across as a total softie, but in reality she is a steel fist in a velvet glove.  Donald Trump should get an injection of her modesty.  In the words of Mother Teresa ‘if you want to change the world go home and love your family.’  Thanks for doing that Mom.

 

 

What a difference a year makes…

6 Oct

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Last weekend I had the great fortune of going to Montreal with girlfriends to see Adele in concert.  I told my younger male cousin I was going to see her and he replied ‘Wow, that is really cool.  But what do you do just stand there and cry the whole time?’  I can see how he would think that seeing as 90% of her songs are about past relationships and breakups.

Last year at this time I went through a breakup (I didn’t write any songs about it) and although I feel 100% thankful to be outta that relationship, it certainly wasn’t a fun experience.  One year ago this weekend it was coming to a breaking point – I wasn’t feeling so ‘thankful’ last Thanksgiving.  It culminated on a trip to Ireland a week later when I had to hold myself back from pushing him off the Cliffs of Maher.  I won’t get into specifics, but I put on my big girl panties and forged forward.  Life can be tough, but so am I. What a difference a year makes.

I was 35 then and I am now 36.  I’ve never been one to be preoccupied with what I ‘should’ be doing at particular ages, but sometimes it does come to mind when your friends/siblings are celebrating anniversaries and having kids.  I’ve gone to more wedding showers, weddings, baby showers, baptisms and housewarmings than I can count.   But then I snap back to my reality and stop comparing myself to others.  So, I am not married and I don’t have kids.  I’ve always hated the term ‘baggage’ when referring to ones children, past relationships, etc.  It is quite funny at this age as it seems having ‘baggage’ is the norm and if you don’t there might be something wrong with you too.  Do you have children. No?  Have you been married? No.  Why not?  Jesus, ummm, because I haven’t met someone I want to get married to and have kids with?

When I think of it I don’t often hear people who are married claim that they are ‘so happy’.  Is it really the be-all-end-all?   With maturity I’ve realized that being ‘happy’ isn’t obtained through someone else and if anything being single allows you to really know yourself, stand on your own, develop interests, exercise, go out of your comfort zone, maintain tight friendships, volunteer and travel – which are all things that contribute to making you feel ‘happy’ and things I do on a daily basis.  Of course companionship, having a partner and getting some arse adds to that.

Dog-park John, I know you are reading this and I know you are hoping for some funny stuff.   Of course with being single comes dating and it always seems great stories follow me wherever I go.   The main difference with dating now is that online seems to be the main way people meet and with that comes the reality that people are dating multiple people at the same time.    God in the past it took a $100 investment to maybe find someone to go on a date with – new dress, wine, taxi, cover charge, drinks — only to have some greaser who was too drunk hit on you.   Now, in the comfort of your home in your pjs you can swipe through the local talent.  I am very selective, so I really haven’t had any of the horror stories I’ve heard from other women, but my very first date was far from ideal.  Since all of the men who come into my life acquire terms of reference; let’s call him ‘Chef Clooney’ because he was a chef and looked like a dramatic George Clooney in his pics.  Well he didn’t look like that in person.  We went for sushi and his phone rang in the middle of dinner.  He said he had to take it (but stayed at the table).  For the next 13 minutes he slaughtered his ex on the phone with whomever he was talking to.  Do you know how long 13 minutes feels when you are sitting at a table with someone who you are not attracted to listening to them talk about their ex having Chrons and how he made her special food and how since he pays her phone bills he knows who she talks to.  WTF???  I’ve never eaten a maki roll so fast or felt more suddenly tired.  There has been many dates since then from setups to online and every way in between.  Other than ‘Australian Peter’ no one has really turned my head until recently.  Let’s call this guy ‘The Actor’ (because he is one for his job and perhaps figuratively too). It took a bit for our schedules to collide, but when they did a real collision happened. Although I am an open creature I generally keep my cards pretty close, but this guy he laid it on real thick – you are hot, you are smart, you are funny, you are interesting, your eyes, your voice, your smell.  Flattered and feeling like a super model – he got under my skin with his sense of humor, cleverness, commonalities, comfort and cuteness.  Over the next bit we saw each other/talked a lot.  He came to a big event I organized for my work (which was kind of a big deal as the tickets were pricey and it was the same night as a big event for his industry).  He said I was very impressive.  And then.  Pouf!  He kind of vanished.   Leaves a girl wondering… oh it MUST be because he is newly separated, oh it MUST be because he is busy at work (and you know how men can’t handle more than one thing at a time), oh it MUST be because we’ve both been travelling.  Yesterday while at work my phone rang in the middle of the afternoon and there he was.  Just like a groundhog he came out of his hole.  In reality he is dating multiple people and juggling ladies just like a circus performer – and he is newly separated, busy with work and we’ve both been travelling.  A few years ago a 44 year old newly single guy would be relegated to being set up or dragging his married buddies to the bar to seek out some babes.  Now all you have to do is throw a couple pictures up and boom you have access to many other single people.  This is the reality of new age dating.  Temptation Island and ‘the next best thing’ is at your fingertips.  All the time.  It is like being on a real life episode of The Bachelor.  And for a newly seperated 44 year old guy I am sure that is quite a pump to the ego.

So here I am one year latet – I don’t live in my very nice house anymore and my eggs are one year older.  The only two (sort of) negative things I can think of.  I do have a sweet place of my own and in the last year I’ve  travelled lots, done great work, volunteered, learned new skills, spent terrific times with friends/family and met many fabulous men.  And who knows, maybe someday this Lochness Monster of a man I am looking for will saunter into my life.  If and when that happens it will be amazing, but in the meantime I am quite happy writing the story of my life as a single girl.

 

Good Things Are Happening!

19 Nov

Once upon a time I had a boss named Wayne (no idea if he reads this or not) and he always said “Good things are happening”!  He was extraordinarily positive, had boundless energy and forced us to do push up competitions in our office.  He was a pretty rare guy.  I read the paper daily and most days I feel much worse when I finish it than when I started.  Recently I wrote a letter to the editor daring them to report on “the good things happening” in our province.  On that particular day the best part of the read was the obituaries; at least they told stories of love and the positive things people did with their lives.  Why do we need to hear about losers like Rob Ford, Kim Kardashian and Mike Duffey over and over again?

In an effort to focus on the positive I want to share with you a story which recently has impacted me.  I volunteer as a Doula. What is a Doula you say?  Directly translated it means I am a servant to a labored woman!  Basically I act as a support person to pregnant women who are in need of extra support.  The program I volunteer through aims to support: low income families, single mothers and new comers to Canada.  After returning from Africa in October I felt very impacted by my stay in Tanzania.   Shortly after returning I received our monthly list of mothers needing support.  On the list was a woman from Rwanda looking for support during the birth of her first baby.  I immediately contacted our coordinator and said I would be most interested in helping her.  We got all the paperwork done and shortly after I met “Sweet Marie” who has full of baby (due in only a few weeks) and her kind husband Tele.  Over the course of the next few weeks I learned so much about them; their journey coming to Canada, their culture, the distinct differences between life in Canada and Rwanda, and of course their excitement for the birth of their baby. They have no family living here.  It made me reflect on what it would be like for myself (or most anyone I know) to have their first baby – there would be showers, visitors, food offered and lots of general support.  All they really have is each other.  When visiting them I realized they were in need of many items for their baby.  I decided to post on Facebook  a request for anyone having baby items to spare to pass them over to me so that I could give them to this growing family.  What happened next amazed me.  I received (and still am receiving) so many items that I filled my car from top to bottom – Millie (my dog) had to sit on top of 3 boxes of diapers when I delivered the first load to them tonight.  When I showed up at their door Marie’s mouth literally dropped as if she saw a ghost and she started to cry.  I felt like Oprah when she would give viewers some crazy gift.  This wasn’t anything crazy it was basic baby stuff, but to her it was as if I showed up with a million dollar cheque.  

Last Monday the baby arrived after 4 (yes 4) days of labor.  I was able to support them throughout this as it was very much out of Tele’s comfort zone (men do not attend births in their country and he felt very nervous to be alone during the process).  Little baby Lina made her way into the world and my goodness is she ever beautiful. After losing 4 nights sleep and spending a week in the hospital due to a few minor complications I was concerned about her going home to be alone all day while her husband goes to work. A friend informed me of an amazing program at the IWK called EPS (Extra Parental Support) so I called and had them set up a visit from a volunteer once a week for 3 hours.  Basically this volunteer will do anything Marie wants – care for the baby if she wants to take a nap, do laundry, visit, etc.  Yesterday they came for the first time and she told me it was wonderful. 

The purpose of this post is to hopefully inspire you to “make good things happen”. Honestly, it is way easier to make good thing happen than to make shitty things happen.  We are so connected now that the click of a computer key gives you access to thousands of eyes.  My father says that Facebook is “the most blatant display of insecurity he has ever seen” – for the most part I agree with him, but when used right it can “make good things happen”.  

Through this process I have been: educated on another culture, made 3 new friends, further appreciate the amazing health care we have in Canada and made some “good things happen” with the help of many others.