Saturday, February 28, 2015

I dreamed of Homa

I took a class in university on the psychology of dreams. The teacher was Dr. Atkinson and I loves him and loved the class. Shel hated him and hated the class. One of the assignments in class was to keep dream journals. ( I wish I knew where mine was!- I'd be interested to know what I was dreaming of 29 years ago!) I have very vivid dreams but usually as I am dreaming I am also aware I'm dreaming in spite of the realism. In the past I would not dream of people that I knew. I certainly dreamed of people, just not anyone I recognized from my day to day life. 
Last week I wrote about someone I was grateful for but whom I have lost contact with - her name is Homa. Last night I dreamed of Homa and in my dream we had reconnected and were having a reunion. It was SUCH a great dream. I was so happy and the reunion was so sweet. I wasn't aware I was dreaming (which is unusual) but made the dream seem more realistic. When I woke this morning I was still so happy to have been reunited with her and while the sweetness of the dream has stayed with me today it is now tinged with sadness. - it was only my imagination and I still miss my dear friend. 

52 Weeks of Gratitude: Week 7 : 5 characteristics I am grateful for in my kids

     1.       Determined (and Industrious).

My oldest boy has determination. He wants to do things for himself and he pushes himself until he can achieve what it is he wants. When he could get up on his knees all he wanted to do was crawl. When he could crawl all he wanted to do was run. When he could ride a bike with training wheels all he wanted to do was ride without them. Once he has a goal in mind he will work until he achieves that goal and so far we have not found anything that will distract him from reaching it!

      2.       Generous (and kind).

My second boy is a generous soul. He loves to share what he has – as I discovered again this week when he told me he was out of milk tickets because he shared with all his friends who didn’t have any!  In a project this week at school the kids were partnered with someone from an older grade to learn all about them. Ceejer has won some medals this season participating in various hockey tournaments and found the person he was partnered with had no medals. He came home and asked if he could take one of his medals and share it with his partner who never had any. He comes up with these ideas all by himself.

3.       Patient (and reliable).
My third little man is very patient. He puts up with the kids both older and younger than he is. Of all the kids he is the most patient. His little sisters adore him – and while they also adore the older two he lets them play with him, climb on him, and engage with them in games THEY want to play. He also indulges the older boys when they are looking for a partner in crime. For a guy as young as him this is a real skill!

4.       Independent (and outgoing).
The oldest girl in our brood is insanely independent. I thought we had independent kids before her – I was wrong! She will do EVERYTHING herself. Dress herself,  get into her car seat herself (and out of it!), basically if it can be done, she will do it. If it can’t be done, she will also do it. She is also the most outgoing of all the kids, but her younger sister might give her a run for her money as she gets older.

5.       Cheerful (and curious). 
Our little bean is the most cheerful kid I have ever known. She is also curious- which I used to think was true of every kid, but believe me, we have some that aren’t! She has always been such a happy kid that she is a joy for everyone to be around. I know I look forward to being around her.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Special needs parents are hard to get along with

I found this article which really resonated with me and so I am posting it with a link to the original blog. Enjoy!

Special Needs Parents are Hard to Get Along With

Perhaps some of us special needs parents have snapped, yelled, spit, or barked at friends or family, leaving them utterly confused about our behavior. Who can blame them for thinking, “Well that’s the last time I talk to her!” “What’s wrong with him?” “Is hisdisability sarcasm? He is so rude!” “Every time I talk to her I’m walking on eggshells!”
hard to get along with
Someone googled, “Why are special needs parents hard to get along with.” And well, I don’t blame them for feeling that way…sometimes.
So let me start by saying that yes, sometimes, we are hard to get along with. If you caught us on a bad day, I could see why you turn around and walk away the next time you see us. But that is not the whole story. Yes, sometimes we can be abrasive and rude and sarcastic and hard to get along with…but there is a reason.
You see, so much of the world sees our kids as unlovable, as people without value, as a burden. Even the professionals that are supposed to be on our team can unfortunately communicate that our children’s lives have less meaning, and those messages might even come from the people who are close to us, like family or friends.We feel so alone, but if we don’t fight for our kids then who will?
And we fight, we fight so hard for our children to be included, to be considered, to be given a chance. We are on the defensive, constantly. It’s a battle, a battle that sometimes keeps us up at night, and unfortunately, we have to keep our guard up so often that we forget that there are times when we can put the guard down.
Sometimes we might be hard to get along with. But not always.
I think you would agree that it’s not easy being a parent. Being a special needs parent feels a little bit more challenging.
Would you extend me some grace and know that I have hard days? Will you be willing to forgive the rudeness and the fight? Some days I feel so vulnerable that ugliness comes out, when really, what I need is a friend, someone that I can talk to, someone that will listen, just listen.
And I need to remember that too. I need to extend that same grace to you, because you do not live a life directly impacted by disability, and I cannot expect you to be at the same place of understanding I am at when this is not your life.
I knew so little about parenting children with disabilities when I started this journey. Actually, I knew so little about being a parent before I became a mother! I am still doing the best I can for all my kids, learning, messing up, some days getting things right. Being a special needs parent is not something that anyone can be prepared for. You just have to live it.
So I am sorry if I have ever offended you, it was not my intention. And I need to remember that as well, that you never intended to be offensive either. If I am hard to get along with, please offer me some grace. I will do the same for you. I know I need to extend the same consideration I want to receive back.
I need your friendship, I need your support. And I like to believe that you need mine too, because this giving and taking is part of friendship.
Let’s do some more grace giving, some more forgiving, some more laughing, some more, “No big deal!”
A postscript: Some people are simply mean and inconsiderate human beings who have no qualms at making derogative comments. Well then, you had that coming, nobody messes with our kids.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

52 weeks of gratitude update

I know this is supposed to be focussing me on gratitude but I  am not liking this this list. While I like the IDEA of gratitude and I try to be a grateful person, I am apparently easily annoyed.
I thought it would be fun to write about things I am grateful for, but I am not grateful for an annoying list. The first week we were supposed to write why we started the challenge. I think it is good to have a preface for why people want to do the challenge but the list is for things we are grateful for so how do I write how I am grateful for “why start this list?”

Then the way the items are categorized puts week two with spouse, week three with family, week four with a family member which makes three consecutive weeks writing about basically the same thing. If you are reading along with me you will know that i mixed it up a bit so that I WASN’T writing about the same topic three weeks in a row.
Here are some of the other things on the list I have a problem with writing what I am grateful for - Week 9 : “How did you do and feel” – and what does that mean exactly? Express gratitude for “how did you do and feel”?  Week 10 – five things you like about you . So that goes – I am grateful for these five things I like about myself? I find that strange. Week 12: Your favorite personality trait. Then I am supposed to write how I am grateful for the things I like about spring, summer and winter. I am grateful for something I look forward to in week 33 and then in week 51 I am grateful for a list of 100 things I am grateful for? 52 things I am grateful for became all of a sudden 151 things I am grateful for?

What I am grateful for is the opportunity to reflect weekly on gratitude. What I am not grateful for is the list I chose to follow – so I am un-choosing it!  I will partially follow this list and I the rest I will fill in myself.  Chances are if you were watching the list and waiting with baited breath for me to write about how I am grateful for how I did and felt – you might want to take a deep breath now – cause I’m not doing it!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Transitions - FAS

One of the things I posted about in an earlier blog on FASD was “transitioning” – moving from one thing to another. Transitions happen all day, every day without us even being aware of it. We transition from sleep to wake, from bed to breakfast, from breakfast to the bathroom, then to work, then from task to task at work... you get my point.  Some people on the FAS spectrum have difficulty transitioning from one task to the next.

For example, I am a follower of time. So I would prepare the kids to go to bed by saying – it is bedtime in ten minutes, it is bedtime in five minutes, it is bedtime in one minute, it is time to start heading up the stairs to bed now.  While this “preparation” - letting everyone know that the transition was coming up – helped for some of our kids, we still had one that would start to cry, no matter what, every night. Did I mention EVERY NIGHT? Sometimes transitions cause tears, sometimes tantrums, sometimes complete nuclear meltdowns. It was frustrating for me because I like SMOOTH transitions and I was using a tool that I felt should work for everyone. My spouse – in all her infinite wisdom – one day pointed out to me that my transition process, though it seemed like it was natural to me, was unnatural to the child who was melting down because we had started a video (another part of the night time ritual) and the video had not come to a complete end. While I viewed the announcement of time intervals as being helpful, it still seemed unnatural to our one child because the show had not ended. I have had to adapt my preparation for transition to bed.

Another of our children has difficulty with transitioning from being on the school bus to being at home. It is a long ride, he is hungry and thirsty and tired, and the rules of the bus and the rules of home are different. On a daily basis he would fall apart before even making it to the house. One thing that we have made readily available is a snack for the kids IMMEDIATELY. They need to have their sugar levels raised ( kids on the FAS spectrum burn more sugar than other kids – which is a post for another day) but having that increase in blood sugar levels is CRITICAL to us at that time of day to assist with that transition.

Unfortunately, not every kid has difficulty with every transition and not every strategy works for every transition, and then to further complicate matters, not every strategy is successful every time – even if it has been successful in the past!

What I need to remind myself of is that it is not my fault that the kids are having meltdowns. It is not my fault that the kids are having trouble with transitions. It is not my fault, and it does not make me a bad parent. It isn’t about me! It is only my responsibility to not get upset and to continue to look for ways to assist in easing the transition.  I had to remind myself of this last night. Our kids had been at respite for a few days. Although the break is needed to recharge our batteries, the transition for the kids from being at a respite provider to coming back home is fraught with tears, and tantrums.  We sometimes skip the respite so we can avoid the transition!
I went to pick up the kids and I was VERY happy to see them. I missed them a lot. Some of them were thrilled to see me. One of them was not. He was mad, he stomped his feet, he yelled, he said unkind things. I reminded myself he was struggling with the transition and I spoke to him quietly. I told him I loved him no matter what and that I was sad he was not happy to see me (he said he wasn’t) and that I was always happy to see him and to have him come home. He even let me hold his hand as we drove home.

He was still mad, he still stomped his feet and said unkind things, BUT I was able to handle the transition better because I didn’t get upset that he was not happy to see me. I had to keep an internal dialogue goin, I won’t lie. I want the kids to be happy to see me, but I need to understand that it is not something they are in control of, and if I get upset about it the situation does not improve!  Sometimes I do better at this than others. Last night was a particularly good night for me because I was remembering these things and trying to put them into practise, but believe me we have had some UGLY homecomings where I felt like the kids were better off to stay in respite if they hated coming home so much.
This morning his transition from sleep to wake was a great one and he was happy to see me this morning. So all is good for now – until the next transition!

Month Snapshot: February 2015

Current mood: Vaguely optimistic
Current movie: Just watched "So I Married an Axe Murderer" AGAIN. Love it!
Current TV Show: Backstrom
Current book: Ruin and Rising
Current song: All About That Base. - I love dancing and singing with my kids to this song!
Current album: yeah right. I dont have time to listen to a whole album!
Current food: lately everyone in our house has been craving lasagna
Current drink: I am actually drinking water as I type this which is rare for me - to drink water.
Current color: Blue
Current Beauty Product: None. I don't use any.
Current celebrity crush: none
Current Project: masters degree project. What a shocker. (NOT)
Current need: more time in the day to get everything done on my lists
Current guilty pleasure(s): Dr. Pepper
Current annoyance: messed up wifi connection at my house and corresponding cell phone bill
Current excitement: Weather improving
Current triumph: My kids are all doing fantastically.
Current anticipation: Arrival of Spring
Photo I took this month:
Photo of me from this month:

Monday, February 23, 2015

52 weeks of gratitude Week 6 : Express gratitude to three people

I took a sociology class in University taught by a woman from Iran by the name of Homa. At the time I was a psychology major, taking an elective class simply to get credits. I added sociology as a major and immersed myself in the sociology program. I loved every single minute of it in a way I had not felt a love and passion for psychology. The impact of that class, and more specifically that professor, changed the trajectory of my college career. She was a fascinating professor and a fascinating person and I grew to love her.  The relationship I had with her is one of those you have in life that is “just for a moment”.  Since she and I both left the University we have lost touch with one another, but the impact she had on me will last for my lifetime and I am grateful for it.  Thank you Homa, for the gift of that class, your friendship, and for the many things which have since come out of those gifts.
Just as an aside  - The meaning of Homa is: Phoenix, A bird from fables (symbolizes good omen), which I find interesting because she gave me a book (she gave me MANY books), but one specifically entitled “The Conference of the Birds” - In the poem, the birds of the world gather to decide who is to be their king, as they have none. The hoopoe, the wisest of them all, suggests that they should find the legendary Simorgh, a mythical Persian bird roughly equivalent to the western phoenix!


I am reaching back to my college days for these names, but these people have impacted me immensely and my gratitude for them knows no bounds! Kathleen was the provost of the university when I was a student. I was involved in Student government and on the budget committee which she was also a part of.  That was how we met. Later , I was a teaching assistant to her in a program for first year college students. I LOVE Kathleen. In my opinion she is the epitome of a perfect university administrator. She absolutely cares for the students and she is diplomatic, extremely intelligent, conscientious, funny, dignified, respectful, committed – I could go on and on listing her amazing characteristics. In short – one day I would like to be all that she is (and im not joking or being facetious). She has retired, but we have kept in touch and I am extremely grateful for the example she is to me and for her friendship. I consider myself lucky to have her as a part of my life.

James M

I am grateful to James M who made it possible for me to attend university by being willing to state that he would support me financially should I ever need it.
In order to go to university in the USa one must have the funds, or access to the fund, to get a student visa. I knew I could support myself though working and applying for grants etc.  But that is not taken into consideration when getting the student visa. James M. Made it possible for me to attend school – and it was a risk for him to sign the papers because I COULD have held him responsible for my tuition  - if I had been shady.  I wasn’t shady. He took the risk. I have an undergraduate degree! Thanks James.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Demise of my precious

Well, my kobo is NOT asleep - but is forever gone from this world. I am not finished this book. I am very sad. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Thursday 13: 13 difficult things about parenting my kids with FASD

1.       Routine is VERY important for kids on the fetal alcohol spectrum. The more predicable the environment the better they function. Routine kills me. I don’t like anything about routine and sticking to a routine makes me feel as though my soul is being smothered. I want flexibility and change. This is not a characteristic that is good for parents with kids with FAS to have .I don’t want to go to bed at the same time. Get up at the same time, eat at the same time. You get my drift.

2.       It is important to leave enough time for a child with FAS to move from one activity to another. It may help to set a timer for 3 minutes and let your child know that when it rings it’s time to stop playing and get ready for school. It is said that children with FASD are 10 minute children living in a 10 second world. It LITERALLY takes some of my kids more than one minute to process what it is I have asked them. When I am expecting some kind of response they have not yet clearly understood what I am asking for. I already expect motion to be happening and they are still processing. When I am ready to do something I want to do it right away. Slowing down long enough for the things I have said to be processed is HARD – especially because all of the kids process at different speeds. In our house we have seven different people operating on seven different speeds and I want mine to be the one everyone is tuned into – and it isn’t!

3.       It’s not just moving from one activity to another. It’s moving PERIOD. Sweet Mother Mercy, I have two EXTREMELY slow children. I will never be on time to anything again in my life and being late will be the death of me.

4.       Managing money can be very confusing for people with FASD. Money and the value of money are hard to understand. $20.00 for a chocolate bar and $20.00 for a pair of new shoes may both seem like good prices. Money is an abstract concept. This means that while you can touch money and hold it in your hand, what money can buy or what money can do are “ideas”. Ideas are difficult to grasp. My oldest son took money that he had and tried to give it to a child in his class for Valentine’s day. He thought $20.00 was a nice gift to give someone – it WAS a very nice gift - but not appropriate! Thankfully the kid realized this was not something my guy should be doing and gave the money back to him. Had it been someone else I am not certain he would have had the money returned.  

5.       Change is very difficult to deal with. Along with big changes, kids can struggle with every day changes such as stopping play to eat, or changing from being at school to being at home. One of our sons has a hard time settling into school when the school year begins and he is in a new classroom with a new teacher. We work with the school to know as early as possible where he will be in the coming year so that we have a LONG time to prepare him for the new physical location of his class and locker and teacher.  He has developed relationships with trusted adults and when he was in grade two he would actually leave the classroom to seek help from another adult rather than ask his teacher a question. We found out in March or April that he had only JUST approached his teacher with a question – after being in her class for 8 months! (There are obviously issues with the fact my boy just walked out of the class when he needed help AND that he didn't trust his teacher, AND that we didn't find out till the end of the year!) 

6.       Holidays are all about change. Change is difficult to deal with. When December rolls around everything changes in a child’s life. The routine at school is different because classes are preparing to be finished for a winter break. Our school holds a Christmas concert, so there is time out of the day where they are rehearsing for the concert and not doing “normal” School day things. The routine the kids have come to expect at school is no longer there. Then at home we get a Christmas tree and decorate the house and cook different food and wrap presents and put them under the tree that no one is supposed to touch and then a strange man comes into the house and puts MORE presents under the tree for them! Can you see the many layers of problems this causes? We have tried decorating for Christmas early and leaving decorations up for more than a month. We have tried putting everything up the day before Christmas and taking it down immediately. We have tried many different things, but the reality is that having five kids with five different needs makes it impossible to do everything right, so we try to minimize the damage. This is one of the most difficult things I face and will continue to face year after year. It feels wrong somehow to approach the holidays with the perspective of “minimize the damage” instead of “party on!”  Christmas day is simply one of the most stressful days of the year in our family. That is simply the reality for our kids. My brother thinks I hate the holidays because I don’t want to visit anyone or have anyone visit us. I absolutely do not hate the holiday’s, they simply have to be interpreted differently for us now than they used to be.
7.       All children tell stories. Children see the world differently than adults do. But, children with FASD have a hard time knowing the difference between reality and fantasy. I have one son who lives in a fantasy world and one son who cannot comprehend anything that is not 100 percent concrete. In fact, we have to remind him that it is ok for his siblings to use their imaginations. He used to get frustrated and tell us “Mom, CJ is using his imagination again!” He would tell his brother to stop it. Because he does not like anything that is not real, he absolutely did NOT want the tooth fairy coming into his house and putting money under his pillow when he lost a tooth. The thought of a little flying fairy that he could not see absolutely drove him crazy, but it did save us some money!
8.       This same “literal” boy causes me grief in other areas also. He is out playing on the hill before the bus comes and I see the bus approaching and call out for him to “go to the bus”. He goes – but does not take his backpack. I have reminded him this morning already about three times to take his backpack and I STILL have to take it in to the school for him. When I ask him why he went to the bus without it he says, “Mom, you said go to the Bus. You didn’t say take your backpack and go to the bus”. While “normal” parents would say he needs to learn from leaving his backpack at home that if he forgets it he goes without it. The thing is he really DIDNT forget it. He did exactly what I told him – and if I keep his backpack at home he won’t actually learn anything because his brain is wired differently and he doesn’t “learn” from that – he is actually confused by it. He would not understand why I didn’t bring him his backpack when I was the one who told him to go without it!

9.       Trying to gather information from our kids is futile. For some the fantasy is larger and more real than “reality” and so when we ask what they did at school we hear about trips flying off the roof on motorcycles to the sky or flying home on the backs of migrating geese. While this doesn’t always bother me it can be frustrating when there is information we need (like – tomorrow I need to take my swimsuit to school for swimming)! Something happened a few years ago that still bothers me. What EXACTLY did that kid say to you to scare you from being in your bedroom at night? We know he said SOMETHING. We know where you were, who you were with and that something was said that has impacted you until this day.... WHAT WAS IT? Without knowing what has happened we will never be able to properly address it.

10.   Some children with FASD are very sensitive to touch, movement, light or sound. Because of the way their brains work, children with FASD may be so focused on what they hear, see or feel on their skin that they can’t focus on other things. When children have oversensitive senses, they may need to shut down. Or they might act out and act badly as they try to stop the thing that is bothering them. I can’t have the television on when the kids are getting ready for school in the morning. Some kids can’t do two things at once (watch television and get dressed.) some of our kids are very bothered by clothing and the longer they are dressed the more agitated they become. We were doubtful that they could make it through a school day without disrobing, so far so good. 

11.   The same sensitivity is the reason We have not been able to decorate our home in the way We would like to. We don’t have pictures on the walls, or cool decorations in the kids rooms. We started out with some cool stuff in Maxies room but he could not sleep at night and he was so fixated on the things hanging on his walls when he was able to he kept climbing up and taking everything down. We would put it up, he would take it down. We would put it up, he would take it down and break it. I had a vision of how my kid’s rooms would be decorated and it was going to be awesome. The reality is that the bedroom is bleak. A sleeping room only. I felt like I was not a good mom because I didn’t have cool things in my kid’s room, and a bad housekeeper because we have nothing personal in the house decorating the walls. I did laugh once (yup, once) watching a detective show on television where these two detectives went into a house of someone who was murdered and tried to profile the victim by the LACK of personal items in the house. No books on bookshelves, no photos on nightstands. They said something like the person was trying to mask their identity or had some kind of personality disorder. I just thought perhaps they had an FASD kid.

12.    Sensitivity again – this time as it relates to stimulation. We don’t play the radio in the van when we drive. The sound of the tires on the road and the wierd echo of voices in the car is too much for some of the kids, in addition the speed at which the visual stimulation is passing them by, a car trip is a nightmare for some of our little’s. Playing music would literally be adding fire to that storm.

13.   The biggest difficulty I have faced in raising children with fetal alcohol comes not from them, but from adults in the community. People who don’t understand that we are raising children who have PERMANENT, UNCHANGEABLE, BRAIN DAMAGE. They look at the kids and think they look normal - so they should act normal. They have an expectation that my eight year old should act eight – when in reality he is socially about 3. They think we are permissive because we “cater” to our kids. I know I have a lot to learn, and to remember, and to adapt, but it would be a whole lot easier with the support of more people in the community than with their judgement.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fat Tuesday

Happy Fat Tuesday everyone! I love this day. I love that there exists in this world a day to celebrate being self indulgent. I indulged in my favourite Easter treat already on sale . I have an issue with the new wrapping and the increased cost of these delicious nuggets, but today I'm just going to indulge. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Thursday Thirteen: Violent Lyrics in Songs I Like

I don't know how I came across it, I think facebook, but I found a link that said "20 shocking lyrics that you didn't notice in famous songs". Of course I was intrigued and so I checked it out.
It was a complete disappointment.

The songs in my opinion were not FAMOUS songs.

For example, one of the "famous songs" was the Ice Cube song "Roll All Day"  which is recognizable to the general population because it was used in an automobile commercial back in 2004. The tune of the song is recognizable, but I would not say it was a famous song at all. The part of the song with "shocking lyrics" is not a part of the commercial - so how would anyone notice, or not notice, what was not a part of the commercial? Another song they refer to is the Beatles song "Happiness is a Warm Gun" - Can someone, anyone, tell me when this song was famous? If and when it WAS famous, is anyone surprised that there are shocking lyrics in a song entitled "Happiness is a Warm gun?" Anyone? Yeah. I thought not.

Overall I think the piece was poorly written and I wasn't surprised or shocked - with one exception.
So here is where I was shocked (and I am embarrassed to say I had NO idea) that the song Blurred Lines was about non-consensual anal sex. Miley Cyrus's retinal-damaging  twerking to the song makes a lot more sense now though. DUH.

I have now decided to write my own version of songs with violent lyrics. See what I did there - I didn't call it FAMOUS songs with shocking lyrics - it gives me some leeway and credibility when I use obscure songs.  Here are some songs, in particular songs which I like, and which in MY opinion,  have shockingly violent lyrics (and I'm not even going to TRY and cover Rap songs or this post would never end.)

In no particular order.

1. Maxwell's Silver Hammer. The Beatles
This song has a catchy tune and I am slightly disturbed by the fact that I like it as much as I do. Who sits down and writes a catchy tune about a serial killer? Oh that's right, the Beatles.

"Bang! Bang! Maxwell's silver hammer
Came down upon her head
Bang! Bang! Maxwell's silver hammer
Made sure that she was dead"

2. Bohemian Rhapsody. Queen
Is there anyone who does not love singing along to this song? I think in just two examples I have proven a point that you can pretty much sing a song about anything if you put it to music catchy enough to become popular. 

"Mama, just killed a man
Put a gun against his head
Pulled my trigger, now he's dead
Mama, life had just begun
But now I've gone and thrown it all away
Mama, ooo
Didn't mean to make you cry
If I'm not back again this time tomorrow
Carry on, carry on, as if nothing really matters"

3. Pumped up Kicks. Foster the People
I didn't think this was going to be as easy as it has been. There's apparently a lot more songs out there with violent lyrics than I initially thought!

Yeah, he found a six shooter gun in his dad's closet hidden with a box of fun things.
I don't even know what but he's coming for you, yeah, he's coming for you.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you better run, better run, outrun my gun.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you better run, better run faster than my bullet

4. A Day in the Life. The Beatles
I am about to sound as though I am making excuses for disturbing songs, but honestly, this song makes the MOST sense to me. I generally don't understand why songs are written about killing people (with the exception of the next song I am listing) but this song, A Day in the Life, was inspired by reading the newspaper. So John Lennon sits down, picks up the newspaper and reads one article about a man who committed suicide and another article about potholes (four thousand holes in Blackburn Lancashire) and writes a song about it. He also talks about being horny and late for work, which is all a part of a day in his life I suppose.

I read the news today, oh boy
About a lucky man who made the grade
And though the news was rather sad
Well, I just had to laugh
I saw the photograph
He blew his mind out in a car
He didn't notice that the lights had changed
A crowd of people stood and stared
They'd seen his face before
Nobody was really sure if he was from the House of Lords
5. Goodbye Earl. The Dixie Chicks.
It was about time someone wrote a song about this. Way to go ladies.
Interestingly - there was some backlash to the song. I don't understand how a song about non-consensual anal sex can get the radio play it gets and feature as a live performance on an awards show, BUT a song about domestic violence has radio stations refusing to play it. Oh wait - yes I do. One song is about a man doing what he wants and violating women and the other is about women taking things into their own hands when abused. Clear as mud.
"Well, she finally got the nerve to file for divorce
She let the law take it from there
But Earl walked right through that restraining order
And put her in intensive care
Right away Mary-Ann flew in from Atlanta
On a red eye midnight flight
She held Wanda's hand as they worked out a plan
And it didn't take 'em long to decide
That Earl had to die
Goodbye, Earl, those black eyed peas
They tasted alright to me Earl, you're feelin' weak
Why don't you lay down and sleep, Earl
Ain't it dark, wrapped up in that tarp, Earl"

6. Stan. Eminem featuring Dido

Stan" is an intense story of an overly obsessed and unhinged fan who eventually drunkenly kills himself along with his pregnant wife.

Hey Slim, I drank a fifth of vodka, you dare me to drive?
You know the song by Phil Collins, "In the Air of the Night"
about that guy who coulda saved that other guy from drowning
but didn't, then Phil saw it all, then at a show he found him?
That's kinda how this is, you coulda rescued me from drowning
Now it's too late - I'm on a 1000 downers now, I'm drowsy
and all I wanted was a lousy letter or a call
I hope you know I ripped all of your pictures off the wall
I love you Slim, we coulda been together, think about it
You ruined it now, I hope you can't sleep and you dream about it
And when you dream I hope you can't sleep and you SCREAM about it
I hope your conscience EATS AT YOU and you can't BREATHE without me
See Slim; [*screaming*] Shut up bitch! I'm trying to talk!
Hey Slim, that's my girlfriend screaming in the trunk
but I didn't slit her throat, I just tied her up, see I ain't like you
cause if she suffocates she'll suffer more, and then she'll die too
Well, gotta go, I'm almost at the bridge now
Oh shit, I forgot, how'm I supposed to send this shit out?

7. Kiss with a Fist . Florence and the Machine.

“You smashed a plate over my head, then I set fire to our bed.”

Sounds interesting. I personally like my bed too much to set fire to it.

8. Janie's Got a Gun. Aerosmith
This song actually was the first Grammy winning song for Aerosmith in 1991. It is a song about a daughter who killed her father for sexually abusing her as a child. Way to go Janie!

Janie's got a gun
Janie's got a gun
Her dog day's just begun
Now everybody is on the run
What did her daddy do?
It's Janie's last I.O.U.
She had to take him down easy and put a bullet in his brain
She said 'cause nobody believes me. The man was such a sleeze.

9. Love The Way You Lie – Eminem featuring Rihanna

I suppose in a twisted way that the best people to sing songs about violence are the same people who live with violence.  Which comes first?....
Is it a shock that Eminem has a lot of songs featuring violence?
Now you're in each other's face spewing venom in your words when you spit them
You push, pull each other's hair, scratch, claw, bit 'em
Throw 'em down, pin 'em
So lost in the moments when you're in them
It's the rage that took over,
It controls you both
So they say you're best to go your separate ways
Guess that they don't know you 'cause today that was yesterday
Yesterday is over, it's a different day
Sound like broken records playing over but you promised her
Next time you show restraint
You don't get another chance
Life is no Nintendo game
But you lied again
Now you get to watch her leave out the window
Guess that's why they call it window pane

10. Gravedigger. Dave Matthews

This song isnt so much violent , but it is not rainbows and sunshine. I wont post all the lyrics here but pretty much its just a bunch of eulogies to music. How do I like this? I think I might be disturbed,

11. Nursery Rhyme. Rock a Bye Baby

I sing this to my little ones, but I take a lot of liberties and change the lyrics. My kids are going to grow up and if they ever hear the REAL lyrics to songs they are going to think whomever is singing them is confused - because it won't be the way they learned them!

My kids know that putting a rocking baby into a tree is a bad idea and someone will report them to child services if they get caught doing it!

12. I'm Not Ready to Make Nice. Dixie chicks. 

I varied from the exact topic here because this song isn't exactly violent , but speaks of a very real threat that was made against the Dixie Chicks. When they were at a concert in LONDON (not even in the USA) lead Singer Natalie Maines made the comment, "...we don't want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas."
The back lash to this comment was INSANE (in my opinion), especailly from a country who values so highly the freedom of speech. The Dixie chicks recieved death threats - an extreme example of how crazy people are in real life.

I made my bed and I sleep like a baby
With no regrets and I don’t mind sayin’
It’s a sad sad story when a mother will teach her
Daughter that she ought to hate a perfect stranger
And how in the world can the words that I said
Send somebody so over the edge
That they’d write me a letter
Sayin’ that I better shut up and sing
Or my life will be over
13. Scarecrow. Melissa Etheridge

I am including this song because it is based on the murder of Matthew Shepard in Wyoming in 1998. This REAL event had an incredible impact on me. I was barely out of the closet when this happened. Again, although the lyrics of the song itself are not violent, it is a song about a violent act that really happened.

Showers of your crimson blood
Seep into a nation calling up a flood
Of narrow minds who legislate
Thinly veiled intolerance
Bigotry and hate

But they tortured and burned you
They beat you and they tied you
They left you cold and breathing
For love they crucified you

I can't forget hard as I try
This silhouette against the sky

Scarecrow crying
Waiting to die wondering why
Scarecrow trying
Angels will hold carry your soul away

This was our brother
This was our son
This shepherd young and mild
This unassuming one
We all gasp this can't happen here
We're all much too civilized
Where can these monsters hide

But they are knocking on our front door
They're rocking in our cradles
They're preaching in our churches
And eating at our tables

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

52 Weeks of Gratitude: week 6. A friend

This is my friend Sarah (laying down on the job) and my other friend Kim, when we decided to rip off our deck and build a new one this fall.

My kids think Sarah's given name is her first and last name together and they never refer to her as anything other than the combination of these names together in one breath. Like "SarahFarrahFowler". I find it amusing, and also mostly refer to her in this way also. 
Sarah and I have known one another for a few years.  We met through foster parenting but live about 10 km apart . Translation : we are pretty close neighbours. In the last year we have spent more time together and become closer as friends. She comes over here and builds a deck. I go there and pluck and gut dead chickens. You know - we do "friend" stuff. We are like "Sex in the City" only its "Sex in the Country", only theres no sex. Whatever. You get it.
I'm grateful for SarahFarrahFowler. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Breathe Love

“We have all hurt someone tremendously, whether by intent or accident. We have all loved someone tremendously, whether by intent or accident. It is an intrinsic human trait, and a deep responsibility, I think, to be an organ and a blade. But, learning to forgive ourselves and others because we have not chosen wisely is what makes us most human. We make horrible mistakes. It’s how we learn. We breathe love. It’s how we learn. And it is inevitable."
—Nayyirah Waheed
I read this quote yesterday (on facebook of all places) and it really has me thinking. I know that I have been both and organ and a blade. I would hate to be judged in my entirety by my worst moments and by the pain I have caused others. I know I have struggled with the understanding of some of the pain I have created for others and it is a constant  journey to accept myself with a clear vision of the roles I have played both positively and negatively in the lives of others. Having said that, I am really struggling in my relationship with my dad. I know I am judging him for what I consider to be one of his worst moments (but perhaps this is also only my interpretation). I am not finding it easy to forgive and I am not breathing love.

There are so many things happening in our lives right now that I feel as though the energy I am spending on being hurt/angry/betrayed by my dad is energy that I need for other things. I need to breathe more love.
Under “normal” circumstances I would not write on my blog about something that is so intensely personal. I feel as though I have moved away from the things that I used to use to “process” my thoughts and I am trying to find my way back to some of them – writing was something I used a lot in the past. And have not done for a very long time. I am hoping that putting this down in written form will help me begin to work it out.

This life is such a balancing act isn’t it?

Monday, February 9, 2015

52 weeks of Gratitude. Week 5. Something someone gave me

When I was 12 years old my family moved from Zimbabwe to Canada. As a parting gift my nana gave each of the grandkids a St. Christopher’s medallion and necklace. I wore it constantly until we moved to Sydney, Nova Scotia. In an incident one morning waiting for the school bus, the necklace broke and the charm was lost. I was devastated.
I was neither raised Catholic, nor believing in the intersession of saints, however this medallion has come to have very personal meaning to me.  My medallion depicts the saint carrying the Christ child on his shoulders across turbulent waters, with the words “Saint Christopher Protect Us.” People often wear medals as pendants in devotion to Saint Christopher and to invoke his blessing. St. Christopher is viewed as a saint of protection, particularly for protection during travel and long voyages.
That was more than 30 years ago. I have thought of that gift from her and missed it and wanted to have it replaced but never did it.
Last year for Christmas, Shel and the kids gave me a new necklace and St. Christopher’s medallion. It is not exactly the same as the one nan gave me, but it is a gift that I am very grateful for and one that has special meaning for me. Now I have the constant reminder of my nan, as well as the added value of the gift from my family.
When I was 12 years old the journeys I was undertaking were from continent to continent. Now, the journeys I am on are more personal, less geographical,  but I am grateful for this token of protection in ALL of my travels, and extremely grateful for the thoughtfulness of Shel who “reunited” me with this special part of my past – and my future.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

52 weeks of gratitude: Week 4. Where we live.

Express gratitude for the place in which I dwell. This one should be interesting at the least. I haven't been overly grateful for this town.

(If you are anal retentively (is that how to say it?) checking the list of things I am supposed to write about you will notice that I have skipped some. I did this because I have now written two back to back  on family and the topic for me needed a bit of a breather. I’ll come back to it. Or not. )
Back to the post at hand. When I was in university I had the opportunity to plan a speaker’s series. One of the people who we hosted was a woman named Wanda Urbanska. She had written a book about her experience with her husband in which they moved to rural Virginia to take over a family orchard. The book was all about moving to a small town and I thought it was remarkable. I wanted to do it. More accurately, I THOUGHT I wanted to do it. What I really wanted was to be a Harvard educated, daughter of a wealthy family, editor of magazines and newspapers who had the option of moving to the family orchard, dedicate all my time to writing books and get paid to go on speaking engagements. That is not the same as living in a small town.

I have lived in predominantly Urban settings for most of my life. I love cities. Most recently we lived in Ogden and we only moved from there because of immigration laws which prevented same sex couples with partners from foreign countries to apply for any legal status in the United States. I would not be sad if we had stayed there. But, we came to Canada and in a very “round about” way we ended up living in this small Northern town in Alberta. My experience with it overall has not been a great one. As a result of this post  I am re-assessing, and lucky you, you get to follow along with it! 

Here is what I like about where we live and by extension, what I am grateful for. 
1) We live on an acreage. Living in the country without very close neighbours is something I adjusted to very quickly (in spite of being resistant) and I doubt I could revert back to living in a suburb or city.  I don't like crowds or lots of traffic and having neighbours knowing what I'm cooking on my barbecue or if I'm home from work  etc. Etc. 
2) My drive to work is without traffic, traffic lights, and usually without delays of any kind, other than the occasional moose or combine in the road. I love the calm time back and forth to work. 
 3) My kids have had an excellent experience in school. Max has had the best experience of them all so far - and it hasn’t been without some difficulties - but the school and the two principals we have had are great. Max had a grade one teacher that was brilliant and his teacher this year is doing excellent things with him. The aides have done things with the kids like sending home Mother's Day cards for both Shel and I. We have felt acknowledged and accepted as an "alternative" family by the school with few exceptions. 
 4) There is a library here and getting a book, even if they have to order it in, is fairly easy.
5) I have met some wonderful people. My position in the restorative justice program in particular has been significantly positive in terms of the connections I have made. I am surrounded in this program  by remarkable supportive and uplifting women. 

Here is what I don’t like about where we live. 
1) It is a small, conservative area. Shel and I have been out to eat where we were not waited on and the serving staff completely ignored us because we are lesbian. 
2) Being small and conservative there are no gay and lesbian resources, certainly no other out lesbian or gay couples, and no opportunities to participate in any gay/lesbian activities or groups or social activities. 
3) I am way, way , WAY too far from my family and my friends.
 4) There is no movie theater. We used to go to movies weekly and love the theater experience. There is no movie theater anywhere close enough to be worth visiting. I don’t want to drive for almost two hours to get home after going to a movie. 
5) There is no book store in this community. Most of our expendable income prior to moving here was spent on books. I love browsing in bookstores. Living so far away from a bookstore means that when we DO travel somewhere there is one, we have many other things on our list to accomplish and we don’t have the time to spend browsing.
 6) There are very few restaurants and no ethnic food restaurants in this town. 
7) There are limited cultural activities for us to participate in either individually or as a family.
 8) In order to do anything, we have to drive.
 9) Trying to get any services – like plumbers, electricians, contractors, and so forth is difficult. Much of the employment in this area is driven by oil and the journeymen are kept very busy with work that is more time consuming and more lucrative than coming out to my house to get toys out of my drain would be for them. 
10) There is no competition when it comes to businesses and so things are expensive. People can afford to charge what they want for items they bring into the community. 
11) I was going to write that it is difficult to make friends here, but to be honest I don’t think that is entirely the responsibility of the community. I do know that others who have moved here have had difficulty making friends, but I have to admit that I am a hard nut when it comes to that anyway so I bear SOME responsibility. It has taken me longer than anywhere else I have ever lived to make decent friends . People here have been more openly mean to us than we have  experienced before and we've been horribly betrayed by people we DID trust which has made me dislike the place even more. But I have met some amazing people who have impacted my life deeply and whom I genuinely love. 
Overall my list of reasons for disliking this community are greater than my list of what I am grateful for. I knew this to be true when I started out on this little venture but didn’t realize the difference was quite so stark. In the end, and what I have maintained for some time, is that as long as this is a good community for us to raise our children in we will remain here. For now that is the case, and so I guess I am grateful that I live in a place where it is great to raise kids.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

52 weeks of Gratitude week 3: Family

I started to think about this last night. I generally formulate a few thoughts in my brain before I spew forth onto the wide web. It got me wondering who it is that I consider to be “my family”. Certainly the first thing that came to mind was my own family – my partner, our five kids and our pets. Then I thought about my family of origin, my parents and my siblings. This morphed easily into the extensions of these families now –my brothers-in- law and sisters –in-law, my nieces and nephews. I have a half sister that I have never met who is technically family, though I know nothing about her at all other than her name and age. Then there are the foster kids who have come to us and left us, but who I will always consider my children.

Which of these are my family? What about the people who I am not related to through blood but who offer me emotional support and “know me” better than some of the people I am related to? What about the cousins and the second-cousins, or the aunts and uncles and grandparents I have an affinity with?

I guess all of them are family, though all different levels of family, and I am grateful for all of them. I can see here though that my “gratitude” has many levels – as many levels as there are different individuals. I suppose I could do 52 weeks of gratitude for family alone. I certainly have that many people that I could classify in this way.

Since I have a lot of weeks left and lots of opportunities to show how I am grateful for many of these people I am going to focus - for the purpose of this post - on my immediate family. I’ll start with my spouse. I posted a bit about her yesterday but I will add here that I am grateful for her because without her there would be no family at all.  I would not have ventured into the world of parenting without her by my side. I happen to think we are a pretty cool family, though I know others disagree with me. There are lots of people “out there” who don’t consider us a family at all since we are a same-sex couple, but nothing could be further from the truth.

I am grateful for my oldest boy. My miracle Max. I have blogged about him before, but not so much recently. He is now eight years old and this post is a good reminder to me to show him more gratitude. I am grateful for his persistence and his work ethic. I have not, and doubt I will ever, meet a harder working kid. People have commented that he is likely “going through a phase” but I know better. Last year he helped me volunteer in the community shovelling the driveways for seniors who could not do it themselves. He will work longer and harder than any other kid. I heard last week he was helping the teacher put away the skis and boots from cross country skiing day, and I know from his grade one teacher that he would offer to help when other kids didn’t even think about it. He has a sweetness to him that few people see. He is a great older brother (who often forgets he is just a brother and not a parent). I am grateful for the opportunity I have to parent this amazing guy – he gives me lots of practise!

I am grateful for my baby Ceejer. What a character this kid is. His imagination never ceases to amaze me – he lives in his fantasy world more hours of the day than not, and it is not in any way connected to the “time” in which the rest of us dwell.  He is charming and fun – his whole world revolves around fun - which makes him fun to be with. He is our spiritual connector. He has an affinity for the creator and the world around him that he maintains close contact with. Driving home at night he will be the one to point out the beautiful moon and starts, or the sunset we should be grateful for. He reminds us to give prayers of gratitude each day in our home and for this I am truly grateful.

Our third. Mike. Unassuming, quiet, sensitive Mike. He has had a hard journey in his short life and it has touched him deeply. He has great manners and is SO sweet with his little sisters, but he is right in the  middle of all the action, don’t think for a minute he isn’t! I have to be careful with this little soul that I am not “too” loud, or “too” boisterous, and that I don’t overwhelm him in all my bluster. He told me the other day he thinks I am the prettiest and also the bossiest, but I had to sit down and listen to get the message. I generally move too fast. I am grateful for this guy who needs me to slow down.

My bird. As a side note to the gratitude idea – all my life I wanted to parent – but I never wanted to parent girls! There was something about parenting girls that intimidated me and I had NO desire whatsoever to have girls of my own. I love my sisters and my nieces, but there was no way I was going to be a mother to a female! So much for that plan. This little girl stole my heart. She is feisty and fierce and I dread her teenage years already and she is only three! I am grateful that she came to my life and taught me that I have more love than I thought I was capable of. I do. I have. I’m grateful.

Our bean. ZED. THE END. Shel always thought there was another soul meant for our family. I moved too fast to get that message from the universe – but I trusted her ( and hoped she was getting some miscommunication!) Zed came to us and truly our family is complete. I cannot imagine our family without her. She is like glue – our little spider web that connects us all. She loves EVERYONE in our not-so-little family and they all love her. I have love for ANOTHER GIRL! I am grateful for the completeness she brings to us.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Gratitude week two : my spouse

Week two of gratitude year is "My Spouse".
What can I say other than I am grateful for her!
We have been together now since 1997 - I need my 8 year old to do the math for me. This year it will be EIGHTEEN years that we have been together. How is that possible - we are not old enough for that !

Here is a photo of her in some rockin bell bottoms. That was before we met. I don't think I could have handled her style.  Honestly though - I don't know if we had met at an earlier time that we would have hit it off, we certainly hung with different groups. 

Here she is as a cute little babe in arms. She has the same cheeks as our baby now!

The last photo of this post is a photo of us together from earlier this year. She has aged well don't you think?

I don't think I am making it up when I say we have been through it all. We were college students working more than full time and going to school full time when we met . We have survived stolen vehicles, moving countries, major surgeries, minor surgeries , tattooes , immigration, foster kids coming, going , and staying forever. We have rescued tiny kittens from tree tops in storms, buried more pets than anyone should have to do in a lifetime and sat in hot springs in the middle of winter. We've cried, we've laughed, and united we have read more books than anyone would believe possible. 

She is still the person I think of every day when anything happens that I want to share. In the words of Alanis Morissette  "she's seen all my light and she loves my dark."

Eighteen years ago as we sat on the lawn of the Social Sciences Building of Weber State Unversity where we met, we had a discussion over the things we were looking for in our very new relationship and I made certain she knew I was not looking for any committment. HA! Famous last words.

I am very grateful for her in my life, and I need to share that with her and not just with the internet.