Tuesday, December 3, 2013

When I get older.

On December 5th, 2013 I will wake up and spend my last few hours in my thirties. 10 am will chime, the minute hand will count 21 minutes, and I will start my forties with a smile on my face. Eight minutes later my "baby brother" Isaac will follow. (Twins!)

In the past little while people have asked me how I feel about turning 40. I say, BRING IT ON!

I will not be 29 with 11 years of experience.  I will not be "over the hill".


I have never shied away from my age.  In fact, I find it amazing that people ever do. Male, Female...it doesn't matter, people hide their age any chance they get.  

Remember when we were kids and we would proudly hold up our fingers to show anyone who asked how old we were? Why did we stop? (Aside from the obvious anatomy issue).

We need to wear our age with pride. We need to take time to reflect on the previous years that have woven to form the fabric of who we have become; but most importantly,  to look ahead at the opportunities waiting to show us who we are meant to be!

What an absolute honour it is to get to live another day; another year; another decade.
So many people of all ages, don't get that chance. I owe it to them to embrace each new year with joy!

I am so fortunate to be starting one more trip around the sun! To laugh with my family during the good times and cry with them through the tough ones. To raise a glass of wine with friends who have been at my side for just a few years, or for many (over 30 years even!!). To run marathons. To watch my husband and kids succeed at karate. How blessed am I?

The lines that are softly appearing on my face are evidence that I have smiled a lot, laughed often, worried some, and cried a time or two.  I could look in the mirror and see that I am getting "old". Or I can be reminded that I have had a life of challenge and victory, heartbreak and love, sadness and joy. Without a doubt, I choose the memories.

So, I will not tiptoe quietly, hoping that I enter a new decade with little acknowlegement.  I will not wish away the years that I am fortunate enough to have lived, even the ones that were extremely hard (believe me, there were brutal ones). Furthermore, I will not age gracefully, even though that's most definitely okay.

I will age enthusiastically. 

I have plans, goals, aspirations.  The year on my birth certificate simply indicates how many years I have lived, not how old I am.

Watch out 40...I'm on my way.


"How old would you be if you didn't know how old you was?" Satchel Paige (1906-1982)

My hospital bracelet.  Pictured beside a Sharpie marker to give you an idea of how tiny it is. I weighed 5lbs, 4 ounces, My twin brother weighed in at 4lbs 11 ounces.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


On Thursday, June 27th, I can finally sing.....SCHOOL'S OUT FOR SUMMER!

Did you hear that? For the love of all things, THE SCHOOL YEAR IS OVER!

It hasn't been all bad.  In fact, the first 6 months were pretty dang good.  And then February came.

As best as we can tell, that's when it began, although he didn't tell us until March.
Bullying is what we initially called it, even though bullying isn't the right word. 

There isn't really a word that appropriately fits the situation. Not when the situation is that an 8 year old girl is repeatedly threatening to kill your 7 year old son, multiple times a day. Every day.


"I'm going to kill you"
"You're the next one to die"

When she was told to stop, she switched to gestures.  She would find him, stare him down and draw her finger across her throat. He has said from the beginning, she looks mean. Not like she was teasing.  Mean.

She was told that she couldn't gesture, so she began telling other people, while he was in hearing range.

"The next one to die is him"
"I have a plan"

She is singularly focused on him.  She does not threaten harm upon anyone else.

While this is great for others, it is bone-chillingly scary for our family.

I am not a psychologist, nor a psychiatrist.  Though my degree focused on Psychology, I can not offer any diagnoses.  But clearly, heartbreakingly, there is something very wrong going on in this little girl's head.

We have been unfailingly patient, but fully afraid.

There has been nowhere for him to hide.  She found him at recess and on his way to the bathroom.  She takes the same bus as he does.  Gets off at the same stop.  She has been relentless. 

One day, on the bus, she found his brother and said. "One day, I'll kill your brother.  I can have a knife". Of course, she made sure her target was within earshot.  Big brother said "You lay one finger on my brother and I will tell Madame (the vice-principal)"

Our seven year old came off the bus, and quite simply, yet firmly, said "I am not taking the bus anymore."

We said okay. 

Because how could we tell him otherwise?  Should we have called and demanded that she be removed from the bus? Sure. 

But she had been removed before.  She had been suspended before. Nothing had worked.  So, this gives him some small measure of control over this terrible, horrifying situation.  So we drive him.

Let me say that our school has been wonderful about all of this.  They have made his safety their main priority, while recognizing that this is an 8 year old girl.  Who clearly needs help, but also needs an education.

They, and we, have repeatedly told him that he is safe.  But he doesn't feel safe.  He feels scared, and worried, and confused. His words, not mine.

After a sleepless night of research, I find this, the Bullying Mediation Program and ask the Vice Principal and Principal the next day. They agree, and a decision is made to call them in.

We weren't sure what there was to mediate, but we want him to feel safe.  Bullying is never the victim's fault, but there tends to have been an interaction at some point between the involved parties.  In our case, there was no interaction.  One day, she just started to threaten him.

The police officer concurred.  The situation was beyond the scope of Bullying Mediation, but clearly needed serious intervention.  I am told that the police officer spoke with her family; spoke to her.  Advised that she needed medical help.  I am told that all were in agreement.  The meeting ended and this 8 year old girl, walked down the hall, found my son and said "I am going to take you to jail and then I am going to kill you".  My precious boy did as he should--he told his teacher.  They returned to the office and reported the incident.  The appropriate parties were called, and she was sent home.

No one ever wants to believe that a child that young is capable of that kind of violence.  But not one of us could say with any sense of confidence that she wasn't.

There was talk about searches of her bag and her person when she returned, just to be sure that she did not bring in anything that was "not school related". I haven't asked, because everytime I think about it, it makes me feel panicky. 

The decision is made to initiate the Violent Threat Risk Assessment program.

She is EIGHT.  He is SEVEN.  OhmygodOhmygodOhmygod.

We tell him that if he wants to change schools he can.  He says "No, because my friends are there, and they say they'll keep me safe". His 6 and 7 year old friends say they will keep him safe. I can't even.....

She is not to come to school until the first two stages of the assessment are completed and a plan for his safety is in place.

The stress begins to show.  He gathers a team of stuffed animals around him in bed at night, especially when his Dad is on graveyard shift.  He reads them a story, tells them they are safe; that HE is safe.  Then he closes his eyes and tries to sleep.  When he finally does, he has nightmares. It isn't every night, but it shouldn't be ANY night.  He is seven.

Conditions must be met and they are.  She returns to school two weeks later.  The first two days are fine, but on the third day, the teacher assigned to stay with her at recess is distracted away from her to deal with an urgent issue and she finds her way to him and says "I am going to kill you"

This can't go on, everyone agrees.  The school; her parents; us. 
She is no longer allowed outside at recess.

Something changes.  I am no longer telling him that he is safe.  I am telling him that absolutely every one, is doing everything they can to keep him safe.  It is the truth. It still feels weak.

At school whatever he needs to do to feel safe is allowed.  He can ask to have a friend walk with him when he goes to the washroom.  If he wants a break, he can just go sit in the office.

Everyone stresses to him that he has done everything, everything right.  He used to tell her to "Stop." He doesn't respond to her anymore. He just walks away.

My poor little boy keeps on trucking along, but the stress is wearing on him.  We are getting him help for that.  We encourage him to talk about it when he needs to.  But this means that sometimes he talks about it at "inappropriate" times.  To strangers, or to other children. 
The situation is contained now. But, it is not solved.   For the last 4 weeks, the school has successfully managed to ensure that she can not gain enough access to him to speak to him.  But he says she still looks at him "with that look.  The one where her eyebrows are down, and her face is down, but her eyes look up.  They are mean eyes".

So we know. We know that if she could get to him, she would threaten him.

I am told that they will absolutely make sure that they are not in the same class next year (they weren't this year, but you never know, with split classes). The vice principal has assured me that they will NOT share a classroom. But how long can this go on?

I am hopeful that after a summer away from him and from school, she will no longer use him as a target.  I am not optimistic.

I do not want her expelled.  She is an eight year old girl.  She has to be helped. Now.

He is a seven year old boy. Afraid of her, but so in love with his friends and teachers that he does not want to leave his school.

I am the Mom of the boy she seems to want dead.  And my heart is fully broken for them both.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The people who loved me first.

I am like my Mom 

when I am in a group of people I don't know

when I tackle a problem

when someone needs me

when I fight for what I believe in

when I stay up all night reading

I am like my Dad

when someone needs cheering up

when I get mad

when I need to diffuse a situation

when my sense of humour shows

I am me.

I am most like me when I remember that the traits of the people who loved me first, who will love me always, are woven into the fabric of who I am.

Nature vs Nurture.  A pointless debate. 

They both matter.  From the day I was born, eight minutes before my twin brother, I was a flurry of activity. I had a mass of thick hair, just as stubborn as I was. When I entered a room, I commanded it, but on my own terms.  I've never liked big surprises.  I loved being around others, but when I needed to find peace, it was, and still is, found at home. I always needed there to be music. I always needed to be moving. I spoke fast, and I spoke often. I was, and still am, quite shy in new situations, until I am comfortable - then I'm the life of the party. I used to be afraid to try new things; now I relish it. My twin brother --a strong personality in his own way--was often caught up in the whirlwind that was me. He is still one of my strongest supporters.

The constant love at home was a safe haven for me, especially in the early years of school, when I was bullied horribly.  It didn't matter what school I attended, or what city I lived in. Bullies can smell a vulnerable person a mile away.  I was called Medusa, because of my wild and thick curly hair. Kids would pretend to be turned to stone when I looked at them.  I was punched, my clothing torn.  Called names. Had things thrown at me. I was thrown in the NIM bin.  A teacher who finally rescued me said "Why would you crawl in there?", choosing not to believe that someone had put me in there when they heard the collection truck coming.

You know when it ended?  In Grade 8, when I stood up for my friend, who endured bullying as well.  Enough was enough, and I shoved one of the bullies in a locker.  She ended up stuck in the locker, her head and arm wedged in its narrow confines.  They had to cut her out.  I'm not saying it was the right way to act. But she punched my friend, and I had to make this girl, who was easily 6-8 inches taller and 40 pounds heavier than us, STOP. No one punches my friends.

At home, I was accepted for who I was, and taught to embrace my uniqueness.  I was taught to fight for what I want and to always give my best, but never to hurt someone else in the process. That it was okay to make mistakes.  That I was ok. That everything in life is a choice.

As a young girl, I was diagnosed with severe learning deficiencies.  At the time, it was a less sophisticated system.  "Borderline Retarded", they said. She'll never go to University, and she will be lucky to finish high school, they said. My parents said nothing to me. They never told me, so I didn't know. I knew I worked hard, but just assumed that was what I had to to.  A couple of years later, when we moved from Quebec to Ontario, they refused to allow my school records to be transferred. They would not allow the stigma to follow us.

I didn't know I was "dumb". I didn't know that I wasn't supposed to graduate.  So I did. I graduated from High School. I graduated from University.  By the time I was in high school, I knew I was different, and I had help, but it was ME that defied the odds.

They never told me, so I didn't know.

They chose to let me go on believing that all I had to do was work hard.  And man, did I work hard.  What took the average person 1 hour to complete, took me 2-3 hours. I had to relearn math skills over and over and over, because it never stuck in my head.

The result of their love and support, is that without even knowing it, I learned two very important lessons.

1) Anything worth doing, is worth working hard for. 

If you really want something, you figure out what you have to do to get it.  Then you do it.  More than once, as you go along, you will probably have to change what you are doing, but you keep your eye on the end goal. Changing your goal isn't quitting, its part of life.

2) You can accept the diagnosis, but you don't have to accept the prognosis

My learning disability is a fact. The scope of the learning disability is also, fact.  A rigorous testing, finally done when I was in University, shows the facts in black and white. The difference between my lowest IQ score (pattern recognition) and my highest (memory), is 136 points. Those are the facts.

Years before, my parents had chosen not to believe that I couldn't attain what anyone else could, so who was I to think any different.

This served me well when at seventeen, I was in a terrible car accident.  Even unconscious, I fought.  I fought to get better.  Then, when I was out of hospital, I fought to play flute again.  Then, I fought to walk without assistance. One doctor said, "At the rate the muscles in your leg are deteriorating, you'll be in a wheelchair by your mid thirties." So at 38 I ran a marathon.

If I had been unsuccessful; if the doctors were right, and I couldn't have played flute again, or I was typing this from a wheelchair right now, I would be okay with this.  But I wasn't going to just accept a fate that someone else decided for me.  It was, and always will be my choice to fight.

Some have said "Wow, that's some luck you have!"

They are right, I am so lucky. I have the greatest parents, I am alive, I can walk. To anyone who thinks that what I have accomplished is incredible, I must remember to tell them:

I am who I am because of the people who loved me first.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Lazy mornings and science fun!

Today I spent the whole day with my children and we didn't have to do anything. A school PD day meant the kids had no school, so I took the day off. (Thanks to all my bosses!) Nothing scheduled, nowhere we had to rush to.

This is a rarity.  The not having to do anything part.  We frequently have fun.  Its a full on festival of shits and giggles here.  But we also run a pretty tight ship.

Between my running addiction hobby, the kids' karate lessons, Jordan's karate, my 3 jobs, my Community Action Network committments and Jordan working shift work, if we didn't run a tight ship, things would fall apart. Our schedule is the duct tape that keeps our family going!

First on the agenda was a lazy morning.  No alarms, we all woke up naturally. For me, of course, this was only 10 minutes later than I normally wake up. I turned on Canada AM and watched TV.  FROM BED!   Not too long after, the pitter patter of Corbett's feet could be heard and suddenly I had a little guy to snuggle with.

About an hour later, we decided to go downstairs for breakfast, while Zachary was still sound asleep.  About ten minutes later, Zack joined us. Lazy mornings are the best. THE BEST!

Finally, we packed up and headed out to our local Science centre, Science North, to make good use of our family membership.  Seriously, one of the best purchases EVER!

We spent a good four hours there, doing everything from petting tarantulas, visiting the butterflies, trying on moose antlers, working on our sprint starts, estimating how tall we will be when we grow up (apparently I'm done), and polishing rocks.  There was so much more we did, and so much we didn't get a chance to do!  That's the best part of the family membership.  We can go back anytime we want, so we don't have to feel as though we have missed anything.  SO. MUCH. FUN.

It really was such a great day, and something I rarely get to do--spending time, just me and the kids doing FUN stuff. Did I mention how much fun we had?

I have to make a point of doing this more often.  Anyone want to pay me to stay home?  Anyone? 

 Corbett showing off his name spelled in close ups of the patterns from butterfly wings (I think).  I am not sure why he looks so possessed/excited.
 Zachary showing off his name!
 Corbett the Moose Loves to Rock.
Apparently this Moose also begs.
 Zachary sports some impressive antlers. 
These things are HEAVY!
 Corbett's polished stone. This was a very cool workshop. Also, very messy!
The perfect boy activity.  Powertools, fast moving sanding wheels and mess.
 Zachary polished his all on his own, without help.
Kids 7 and under needed adult supervision, so I helped Corbett, but Z-man did great on his own.
 When we were done, we went over to the microscope and checked out the creations!
This is Corbett's.
Zachary's masterpiece.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Monster Gangnam Style!

Halloween has come and gone.  I have only eaten ONE of my children's candies.  I know. I'm a saint!

Truthfully, they don't actually have a lot of candy.  Not even enough to fill a Ziploc Freezer bag full. They are totally okay with this. 

I am always proud of them.  They do a lot of things to make me proud, but here is the latest.

They gave up trick or treating, so that they could attend a fundraiser for a baby that they haven't even met.

Seriously.  I honestly don't know if I would have done that at their age.

The karate dojo they attend, Benoit's Martial Arts, hosted a Haunted Dojo Fundraiser, with the proceeds going our Shihan's nephew, Kaden, who was born with a very rare condition.  In fact, it is so rare, that our province's health plan doesn't cover the necessary physiotherapy he requires.  You can learn more about that by visiting Kaden's webpage

When the kids mentioned they would like to go, I told them it meant that they wouldn't be trick or treating.  The dojo is about a 30 minute drive for us, so I really wasn't willing to drive for an hour (there and back), so that they could trick or treat.  It also meant that there would be no one at our house to hand out treats.  We get over 200 kids each year.

They decided that going to the fundraiser was more inportant, so that's what we did.

We had SO. MUCH. FUN.

Many people at the dojo put in a lot of work to make a Haunted House.  They determined levels of scariness (levels 1 - 5), and let the kids pick which levels they would do.

Zachary made it all the way to Level 5, Corbett stopped at Level 3.  And let me tell you...it was fantastic.  (I did Level 5.  I was able to restrain myself from punching or kicking any of the scary volunteers)

The next day, we found that the boys each won Best Costume award.  Zachary for coolest costume, and Corbett for cutest costume.

It was a great event, and most importantly, it supported a great cause.  If you wish to offer financial support to help Kaden get the therapy he needs, please feel free to donate.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Reason I'm Still Running....

I initially posted this in April of 2011, days before I ran my first half marathon.  I thought it appropriate to repost today, 4 day before I run my first full marathon.

Never let anyone tell you that you can't do something. 


On May 24th, 1991, I was the driver of this vehicle.

I am thankful for every day- EVERY day-because I know how fortunate I am to be alive.

I suppose that a better writer could phrase that more eloquently, but there you have it. I am LUCKY. For some reason, my passenger and I survived that horrific crash. What's even better is that we both chose to live after we survived.

We did not escape uninjured. After leaving the road and hitting a small rockface, the 1982 Ford Escort flipped end for end multiple times. The force of multiple impacts tore the backseat from the floor - it crashed through the back window and was found outside the car. Eventually the seatbelt could no longer restrain me and I was thrown into the back. I suffered serious injuries. I ripped the clutch out with my foot; I bent the steering wheel with my face, breaking my jaw. My esophagus swelled shut, and one lung collapsed. Eventually, with my body so weak, I developed pneumonia. My digestive system went into shock and would not work for days. I was injured and sick, and I fought like crazy to survive.

However, despite incredible care, 20 years later, there are still after effects. I suppose one never fully heals from injuries of that magnitude. I've had several surgeries on my jaw and still suffer from a nasty case of TMJ. It was years before I could chew anything harder than overcooked pasta. It is still difficult to eat many foods. Due to the injuries to my ankle, which were initially overlooked in favour of saving my life, I spent about 10 years on crutches and canes and was finally given a brace to deal with a condition called drop foot. It was presumed I would likely not walk again without some minor form of assistance. It was presumed that because of the injuries to my jaw I might never play flute again, something I was very talented at and loved immensely.


I still play flute. I still walk with a limp and have reduced sensation in that leg, but I walk on my own. Not only do I walk - I run!

It was not enough for me to just defy the odds and walk unaided--13 years later, I wanted to see if I could run. First a 5km race, then another, and another. I am neither fast, nor am I slow. I am still always secretly amazed that my body has let me continue to run one more race. I have continued to train and on May 1, 2011 I will run my first Half-Marathon.

21.1 km. 13 miles. In one day.

Many people think I am crazy. For others the distance is not that far. It's important to remember that I have run with people that run multiple marathons a year. For some people, 21.1km is merely a fun run, not a challenge (they're the crazy ones, by the way)

But for me? For me, this is overwhelming!

Once, a handful of people who know medecine, but don't know me, decided that the odds were stacked against me. I decided they were wrong. For as long as I can remember I have chosen to believe that my willpower is stronger than "the odds". This doesn't mean that I am not plagued by self-doubt. I wonder if I can do this, I wonder if I should do this. But really, the only way to know for sure is to actually go out and DO IT!

So, in the end I will not be intimidated by this half-marathon, because for me, I have already conquered the real battle. The brace, and the crutches and the cane stay in the closet, readily available - just in case. But I know I won't need them. 20 years ago I could have accepted the fate offered to me by the doctors. I could have gone home and never played flute again, instead of going on to study music and psychology . I could have just accepted the brace and the cane. But always, always, I could see the end goal. The challenges were just part of the journey.

Finishing my first half-marathon? THAT'S the reward. THAT'S what I believe is owed to me.

Its been almost 20 years, and I have decided to collect.

(The friend who was travelling with me? I dont think she's run any half marathons -she says she prefers to sprint!)

Friday, September 7, 2012

A little help, from a little boy.

The kids and I spent the Labour Day weekend with friends while Jordan was working. When we returned home, there wasn't much in the way of food, so we decided to take the kids to a restaurant for dinner so we could all enjoy each other's company.

We are lucky, aren't we, that we can do that?

After an enjoyable meal, we stopped at a nearby convenience store to get some milk for the next morning's breakfast cereal.

Zachary is 9 (and a half, he says) now, and keeps testing out his independance, so he asked if he could go into the store on his own and get the milk.  We were parked directly in front of the store, so we gave him the money and sent him in.

Seated in front of the store was a young man, homeless. Holding a tattered cardboard sign that said "Broke, Homeless & Hungry. Please spare some change. Thank you and God Bless". Oh, my heart.  I hate seeing that. I wondered what his story is.

Some people walked by without a look, some placed some money in the worn and ragged hat that he was using as a collection bowl. He always said a quiet thank you to all those who gave him money.

I watched for a bit, and was planning to give him some money when Zachary came back with the change.

From the back of the van I could hear Corbett trying to read out the sign, but he was struggling a bit, due to the folds in the cardboard. I let him continue, because I wasn't really sure I was ready to delve into that conversation with my 6 year old yet.

Zachary walked out of the store and as he slid open the side door of the van, he saw the man.  He stopped for a bit, then jumped in the van.

"Why doesn't that man have a home?"

There are lots of reasons that someone might not have a home, its complicated buddy.

"He's hungry. He needs food.  Where is he going to get the food from, if he doesn't have a home?"

He's asking people to give him money so that he can buy food

"But he doesn't need money, he needs food."

Well, food costs money.

"I know."

So, Jordan looked at me and I said "Yes, he needs food"

Attached to the convenience store we were at is a Tim Horton's.  Jordan and Zachary got out of the van, walked into the Tim Horton's, and walked out with a large, fresh sandwich. It was that easy.

Zachary went to the man, and handed him the sandwich. At first, the look on his face was shock. 

Then, the biggest smile I have ever seen. "Thank you, young man, Thank you!"

The sign was put aside, his worn hat tucked away beside him.  By the time Zachary and Jordan were back in the van, half the sandwich was gone.
As we backed away, he waved to us, ever so slightly. Jordan and I fought back tears most of hte way home

People can debate how to "deal" with the homeless all they want. How to help them, should we help them. There are enough programs or there aren't enough programs.

But that doesn't matter.

My 9 year old boy, saw a man was hungry, so he brought him food.
He saw an immediate need and he met it. He didn't want someone who was hungry to have to wait until he had enough money to buy food. He wanted him to have it now. So he made it happen.

We can't fix the homeless problem with one person, on one day. But we can sure make a difference in the day of someone. The world needs more of that.  People helping people just because they need it.  No analzying why, or what the ramifications are.  Just helping.

Our kids have seen us help friends who had fallen on hard times.  They have watched us receive help from friends and family when we were expereincing hard times.

That Zachary was able to translate that to helping a person he doesn't even know, makes me so incredibly proud.