Thursday, December 30, 2010

7-7-7 my wedding day AND the number of hits!

I find it very exciting to see today that my blog is at 777 hits! That is the day I got married 7-7-7! Not blogging today, I know everyone is busy, have lots to do... Clean up the Christmas decorations, get ready to get the kids back to school, get ready to go back to work and have a wonderful New Year's Eve! So thanks for reading it makes me feel like I might actually write something amazing some day. I do hope you have enjoyed the blog or portions of it to date! I like to write fact but I am now working on poetry and plan to enter some competitions. I don't expect a great deal from that, but this is the first time I have ever had poetry jump out of my head onto the screen. It is true, poignant, raw and I have been told lovely! We shall see! I said I wasn't blogging today but in my thank you I have blogged, ironic? I think!

My kids are home for another week. I have had a little (HUGE) shock and found out I lost my income about 6 weeks earlier than planned! So when we shop today, nothing for mom! Oh well, that is the story of a mom's life right? The kids have some Christmas money and are hoping that the roads cooperate and we have  nice day in Fredericton! (I have heard from a shoe-a-holic and world class shopper that shall remain nameless! P.Casanave!) That Fredericton has her Favourite shoe store in the world so I must get there someday! Today, we hit boxing week!

Have a great day all! Feel free to leave comments to inspire me and I can only hope that from time to time I make you think deeper or have an amusing anecdote that you enjoy! If you don't like it, you can tell me that too! (I will try not to cry TOO loudly!) Have a wonderful day and I wish you and yours an amazing 2011!

HAPPY NEW YEAR'S EVE .... tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP, This survey and website are now closed

Good afternoon! If you have finished reading my blogs I would very much appreciate it if you could have a look at my new website! I have attached the link and would ask that you complete the evaluation of the website: thoughts, ideas, information, ease of navigation, etc. by Saturday, January 1, 2011. I would like as much input as possible from as far away as possible so feel free to send to your friends and acquaintances!

Have a great day! Now go grab a coffee and take a peek!

Monday, December 27, 2010

How did your trip end Sarah?

The year 2010 is coming to a close and 2011 is on the horizon. I realize that I must finish the saga I started to tell and left off with us escaping Saskatchewan.  I sit here in my kitchen in the overstuffed chair, watching my fire, listening to the winds whip by my house, enjoying the snow falling and relax through my first New Brunswick blizzard. I am sipping on a strawberry margarita with Fireball Whiskey in place of the tequila  as I reflect on the year that has gone by I realize that I never finished the story of how we finally arrived in New Brunswick. So please, get your coffee and Bailey's or grab a beer and pull up a chair to sit comfortably and learn about the trip that almost ended before we got through the fourth province. It is a bit long so perhaps have a quick pee first!

I shall do my best to tell a truthful tale of what transpired as we pioneered across this great country, Canada. Knowing that we got off lucky in Saskatchewan we approached the Manitoba border and decided to spend the night in Saskatchewan and hit the road early the next morning. Based on my Google map search it should only take about 6 hours to travel through Manitoba. This meant that we could drive as far as Brandon,  stop at a travel trailer sales and service centre, get the new axle on the trailer greased and torqued and carry on our merry way! Easy!

We arrived in Brandon just before noon and had to wait about an hour and a half for service. All was done, on time, on budget and we proceeded on our trip. I was a bit concerned about driving the truck and trailer through Winnipeg but had learned that there was a "ring road" that virtually bypassed the city. I know that Winnipeg is not even close to the size of Vancouver where I have driven many times, except it was more precarious with the trailer behind me and changing lanes could be troublesome and scary. I was happy to go by Winnipeg and stop on the outskirts of the eastern side of the city. It was only 4:30 but I suggested we stop at the Humpty Dumpty Restaurant to have an early dinner and then motor on until we hit Kenora, Ontario and stop for the night.

As we pulled into the parking lot I noticed the trailer had a lot of black dirt on the hitch end. I said mildly "The trailer sure looks dirty". My loving husband looked at me and said "It's a trailer, who cares if it is dirty? You girls! Geesh!" I was suitably quieted and took no more notice of the dirt. We went into the restaurant where Rachel was happy to find they had her favourite, Eggs Bendedict and Jessica was disappointed that having traveled half way across the country she could still not find a simple bowl of tomato soup. I just relaxed. After driving all day I liked to take about an hour at dinner, sit, relax, have some coffee and prepare for the next leg of our journey.

We ate, fueled up the truck, got the kids settled and plan to drive the next 3 hours or so before stopping for the day. I couldn't wait to get to Ontario! It felt like a milestone in our journey. We would see family there, Len's daughter, son-in-law and brand new grandson! We piled into the truck, got to the traffic lights, pulled into traffic and away we go! NOT! (Remember, this is OUR story right?) Throughout the journey I had been watching the gauges and levels carefully. After running low on oil and running out of anti-freeze near the beginning of our expedition we were very cautious. 

We had no sooner started down the freeway when I looked and saw the oil gauge drop drastically until it said empty. This happened in literally seconds! Len yelled "PULL OVER! Pull over!" I screamed back "I can't there are cars behind me. I have to get to the road up ahead!" The kids groaned "NOT AGAIN!" Len kept urging me to get to the side road before I blew the whole motor. Panic set in! There was no way we could possibly afford another $2,000 in repairs. What happened? What would we do???

I managed to exit safely and turn the 38' rig around. I had a pretty good idea we would be needing a tow truck and figured while the truck was still moving I could at least help the driver out by positioning the truck for hook up and departure. By now we were getting used to tow trucks, drivers and knew what to say. I was happy to know I had just bought a new phone card and topped up my Virgin Mobile pay as you go phone so I had lots of minutes available to call for help. NO! (Remember, me?)

I attempted to use my cell phone to call for help. I had learned by now to first get out Maggie (remember her? My GPS unit?) search for businesses and numbers close, then use the phone to call for help. My phone was dead. Finished! Kaput! Unresponsive! Exhausted! Obsolete! Goodbye! Well, there was $25 down the toilet! No! Wait! It is ok, because I bought Rachel and I the same plan, same phone, same company so I could just transfer the minutes. No problem! As I was going through this mental process Len, my 68 and 3/4 year old husband with the bad back and weak hip, was lying on a piece of cardboard under the truck on a gravel road with oil dripping on him attempting to figure out the problem.

I called the GOOD PEOPLE at Virgin Mobile. You know, with the slogan "You Rule." OK here's a heads up, You DON'T rule! Nope! Not at Virgin as I was about to have a 20 minute argument, wheedling, whining, lying, manipulating conversation! My phone didn't work but had minutes. Rachel's phone did work but was almost out of minutes. My call to Virgin went something like this:

Me: Hello! I am so glad to get through to you! You have no idea what kind of a day I have had! OMG! My truck just broke down in the middle of a big dangerous city! It is night time and I have young children with me. I don't know what to do! Can you help me? I am sure you can! Cuz, I rule, right?

Them: Hello Mum! May I help you? I would very much like to help you. Please tell me what you need.

Me: Thank you so much! Yes, what I need you to do is to take the minutes I just put on my pay as you go phone and transfer them to my daughters pay as you go phone. I have all of the account information and it should be easy. You see we are stranded and just need some help. I need to call a tow truck before it gets dark and the gangs come out. I am very afraid to be stranded here with my family! So, Yes you can help me, right?

Them: Oh Mum! I am sorry Mum! But we cannot do such a thing. We cannot transfer the money and the minutes. No Mum, I am sorry Mum!

Me: No, I think you can. You see I have seen Richard Branson on TV and he is a very nice man with a very large empire. I am sure you know he is your boss right? So you see, it is nothing to him. He is not out any money, if you could just transfer the money I already paid that I can't use because my phone is broken and put it on my daughters phone account so I can get help. Thank you so much, I know you can help me right?

Them: Oh No Mum! I can't possibly do that. However, have I helped you with everything today? Is there anything else I can do?

Me: Excuse me? Helped Me? You must be kidding you have not helped me at all yet. Now, I would like to know your name?

Them: Renan. R E N A N. Renan.

Me: Well,  Renan. R E N A N. Renan. This is not ok. I am stranded. My poor family has been through a terrible time. Do you know how big Canada is? We have caravaned across the country. We have broken down every few days. Do you have any idea how steep the mountains of British Columbia are? Then we broke down again and again. My poor children are starting to think we will never get to the other side of the country. Well, we are just distraught I tell you, distraught! Renan R E N A N Renan, I NEED you to help me. Please. 

Them: Well Mum, I am not sure what to do. 

Me: Renan. R E N A N Renan. Where do you live? Are you even in Canada?

Them: Oh No Mum. I am in the Philippines. 

Me: So you are completely clueless to what I am going through? I want to speak to Richard Branson please.

Them: I can get you my supervisor.

Me: Thank you! (I shall save you the remaining details but we did finally get SOME service!)

Now, keep in mind, during this entire exchange, the sun is setting, Len is sweaty and oily and Rachel is laughing hysterically next to me while I try to reason with RENAN! AAAAHHH! Finally they gave me 5 free minutes to try to get help.

Upon calling the tow truck, I didn't completely know where we were but I gave the GPS coordinates. I also asked the driver to have room for the four of us in his truck so we could get a ride to a hotel. The driver finally found us an hour and a half later but he brought his wife. However we were very fortunate because you know what? Friendly Manitoba IS FRIENDLY! People kept stopping to help us. One man and his wife had 20 acres next to where we broke down and lived in their motorhome. They offered to let us stay there for free for the night, but it was too far from town and there was no power or water. They did let us leave the trailer though which helped drastically with the towing bill. Another man from up the road came and offered to drive us to the city. We followed the tow truck and were dropped at a hotel.

We ended up not leaving Winnipeg and staying for the night downtown at a hotel. We were very happy that the truck was dropped off at Midas Muffler because 1) they prioritized our truck and got us out of there by mid afternoon and 2) they had the best magazines yet in a waiting room! In fact, Rachel even jacked a Lou Lou magazine which I would normally say no to, but I kind of figured my $600 in repairs paid for it!

To be continued... 
One more time!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day ... what does it mean?

I have always been under the illusion that boxing day was in reference to the clean up required after Christmas. The boxes to be emptied, disposed of, general organization and straightening up required to absorb the gifts of Christmas into your home and to empty the stores so they can put out new items. In the last few years Boxing Day in Canada has become a day of shopping. Deals to be had, product to be disposed of by retailers that was not sold before Christmas. My late husband used to call Boxing Day "The I just didn't get enough for Christmas" shopping day. Now it seems that many people just give gift cards and let their loved ones go pick out the item themselves. I was never big on this idea, however, now having a teenager, I definitely see the merit in this plan!

It appears from my research via the world wide web that Boxing Day has nothing to do with boxes left over from gifts or great sales by major retailers or a bank holiday. The origin of the day dates back to the 10th century when the Duke of Bohemia (please remain focused, do not start humming the Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen!) was surveying his land on the day after Christmas  when he saw a poor man struggling to gather wood for his family during a fierce winter storm. The Duke helped him and brought boxes of food and gifts to the man to help him during his time of need. The Duke later became the King of Wenceslas as in the song (you may hum the tune "Good King Wenceslas" now) and the tradition of giving alms to the poor during the day after Christmas began. Leftover food, clothing and money was boxed up and delivered to the poor. 

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel

Lyrics and Audio - Good King Wenceslas 

Having attended church just about every Sunday for the first 18 years of my life, having volunteered in hospitals, charitable societies, schools and more, I never knew the true reason for Boxing Day. As I sit here typing and listening to one child beg for food (yes I starve her, the cupboards, freezer and fridge are full but sadly there is nothing to eat) and another sleep, sleep, sleep... I think of those who are alone, cold, depressed, poor and basically just waiting for this season to be over.

Maybe while you are out grabbing those deals today you can buy some extra food and put in the food bank box or buy a cup of coffee for someone who looks lonely, some expression of kindness in addition to the great deals you might get today. I was reminded by an elderly man last week as I complained about poor service at a local grocery store, how demanding the job can be, how we might not realize the pain the cashier is in, how they may have had to leave their family to come to work when they would like to be with their children.... So please practice patience today.

What am I doing this Boxing Day? I am enjoying the excitement my 9 year old has for her gifts. I watch Jess open her art kit and start painting the Disney Princesses, she has a photo to follow and is very intent on getting it right. I am rather impressed so far with her ability to remain focused. On the other hand it is noon and for the 7th time I have told my teen to get up. I know there won't be much for her to do when she does get up so I have let her sleep in a bit and as she slept I Googled "Teenagers and Sleep". I learned the following which may dispel the the "Teens sleep because they are lazy myth". (They do sleep because they are lazy but there are also physiological reasons to keep in mind!)
  1. The average teen requires 9.5 hours of sleep and only gets 7.4 hours per night. Note: 9 and 10 years olds only require 8 hours a night!
  2. The difference is linked to the critical growth hormones and sexual maturation hormones released during slumber. Note: Teen not getting enough sleep = too horny or just not knowing what to do with it?
  3. Sleep deprivation in teens can cause moodiness, depression and car accidents due to weariness. Note: I think I will send my teen to bed at 6pm to decrease the moodiness which is making me depressed!
So, this Boxing Day I let my teen sleep in. My tween pull out the crafts and make a mess and I sit here and type. I must go now to haul in some more wood, pull out the candles and make sure I fill the tub with water in case of a power outage. Perhaps I can grab my husband and go for a walk before we are stranded by the elements. Good news is: I checked the winter storm watch warning which has been canceled! Bad news is: It has been upgraded to a full on blizzard with about a foot or more of snow!

Happy Boxing Day and remember those with less as you wind through the malls!

Friday, December 24, 2010

And So This Is Christmas....

To quote the lyrics of the immortal John Lennon...

So this is Christmas.
And what have you done ?
Another year over
and a new one just begun.
And so this is Christmas.
I hope you have fun,
the near and the dear ones,
the old and the young.
A very merry Christmas
and a happy new year.
Let's hope it's a good one
without any fear.
And so this is Christmas...
REALLY what have you done? I hope that we have all done something this year to make the life of another better. Whether it was giving throughout the year or just during the season, I hope that everyone has done something they can be proud of to improve the world of another   if only for a brief time.

Whether you have randomly acted with kindness in the supermarket line up to pay for someone's items if they are short of money... Whether you have held a door longer to let a shopper with their arms full get by or assisted an elderly or disabled person with their chores... Whether you have been honest when shopping and let the sales clerk know they have made an error at the till so that it will not come from their meager pay at the end of the day... Whether you have smiled and said Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays to someone that everyone else might ignore... Whether you donated time and energy to a worthy cause... Whether you gave to a homeless person with a smile and without judgment... Whether you taught in a class and gave extra time and care to a child who may not have any other kindness in their day... Whether you have completed a true philanthropic act where you expected NO recognition, you did not tell anyone and you just made a donation or payment without expecting praise so someone   or a group could participate in an activity... Whether you were one of the wonderful people who touched MY life this year... There are so many ways ALL year long to help those in the world around us. 

Enjoy the holidays, your time off, treasured moments with family, the expressions of joy and happiness on your child or loved ones face and cherish these interludes. Remember, when you are being harassed by a bored or over excited, nagging child that they can't help themselves. They are still in the process of learning the shut off valve in their brain to not express every thought in their head! I say this as my daughter nags me " MOM MOM MOM " and " I AM HUNGRY " and "CAN we Wrap NOW???" ...

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to EVERYONE! I am so grateful this year for all of the love and support in my life. The family and friends who have given me a year of wonder, excitement, anticipation and terror at making one of the biggest changes in my life. I now sit here in Fosterville, with my little family whom I love with all of my heart,  you are all over the country and some parts of the world and wish you the best year to come and remember everything we go through is a learning experience. 

And so this is Christmas
for weak and for strong,
for rich and the poor ones.
The road is so long.
And so happy Christmas
for black and for white,
for yellow and red ones.
Let's stop all the fight.
A very merry Christmas
and a happy new year.
Let's hope it's a good one
without any fear.

So this is Christmas.
And what have we done ?
Another year over
and a new one just begun.
And so happy Christmas.
We hope you have fun,
the near and the dear ones,
the old and the young.
A very merry Christmas
and a happy new year.
Let's hope it's a good one
without any fear.
War is over if you want it. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Mom Whole Stole Christmas aka The Grinch!

I just wonder when how much we spent, how many gifts are under the tree and who has the latest gadget, became so important? I never tried to teach my kids that. I thought I avoided this whole dilemma. I guess not.  Parents of young kids, I highly recommend that you start to think now about what you want the month of December aka Christmas to mean at your house. Whether you believe in God or Christ, or whether you celebrate as it is now the event of the year, tell me why do we put our selves in such distress? It only gets harder as they grow older.

 I can honestly say I want to give my kids everything... BUT... whether it is a year where I have the money or a lean year when I don't, I don't think WHAT is given should determine how loved my child is. Apparently I am mean, withholding, selfish, I don't care, poor, etc... I don't think so. I hate that those thoughts happen, I am sorry that it comes across that way, but that is NOT it....

 I think that it should be ok to give what is needed, some of the wanted items, but that we should not all be in such a competition. It worries me that people go into debt for Christmas when it seems to me that a month later kids NEED something else...and parents are still trying to recover from 'the season'.  Want versus need. Nope this is not a popular thought. Nope I don't expect good feedback. I do just want you to think about the following things:

 1) If you give your child everything they want, what will they still have to work towards?
2) If you give as much as you can and go into debt, will that hurt your family later in the year?
3) If you give everything, the latest, most expensive, labels, etc... What happens if in the future if you can't? Does that mean you no longer love your child? Does it mean that you don't care? Or did you teach them the wrong value?
4) Does your child having every wish and want fulfilled have an impact on others? Is your child able to return to school and brag excitedly about Christmas and not hurt someone who got less? Who got nothing? Who lost someone? Who is alone?

 I am rambling. I am frustrated. I will never let my kids go without. I will always do my best to provide for them. Give them love - without a doubt. Give them a warm home - absolutely. Fill their bellies with all the sights, sounds and smells that create lasting memories - YOU BET! Give them their want list - no. Some items, hopefully, all - never.

 Love is not measured in what you give but how you give it.

 Have you ever gone hungry so your child could eat?

Have you ever gone without clothes, haircut, etc. so you could provide for your child?

Have you ever given up something you wanted to do so your child could do something important to them?

These are things that measure true love. You don't have to be poor to give up something to provide for your child.

We do however, I believe, need to give up the concept of 'stuff' to show that we are meeting their 'needs'.

 If you want your child to remember something, don't think that a present will provide it. They will remember how you held them, the way you tucked them in at night, the good memories that you created for them. They will remember baking cookies, giving to others and feeling special. They will forget disappointment at not getting an item they 'had to have'. They will remember they could count on you to teach them right from wrong.

I guess today I am feeling let down in this way. I am excited for Christmas. I want the smells, warmth, decor and love to permeate my home. I want to give too my children. I don't want to feel that I have let them down by not providing gifts, gifts, gifts.... Even though my husband thinks I still over do it, I do it because I want to. Even though I have threatened again this morning not to give all the gifts, the kids know I am bluffing.

I guess it is a hard time of year for everyone. As fun as it is. There is so much to fit in. School events. Last minute shopping. Families get together (not for us this year!) and anticipation! I know my girls are not trying to drive me crazy, even though they are!

 I wish everyone a warm, happy, loving season filled with memories that last a life time.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Silent Night

Today is one week until the day after Christmas. Also known as, Boxing Day. Hmmm that doesn't sound too exciting does it? I guess  does sound like the anticipation is low key this year and it will be a bit of a lonely time. I accept it, I knew it would happen but as I watch other people gather together to celebrate their family and friends it does feel a bit desolate. 

The girls were great, agreed to bedrooms over Christmas but as the bedrooms won’t be done, I do feel that they need more. They have sacrificed, as much as they have been challenging children and there have been moments I could let them move away, I don’t want them anywhere else except with us in our home.

So I resolved to have Christmas with more than food and d├ęcor. I have bought them gifts, not necessarily what they are looking for but they shall not go without. Wonderful, thoughtful, caring friends and family have sent parcels which will be placed under the tree. I don’t really feel bad that they won’t have all of their wishes and desires met, no one ever does. 

I do feel sad that right now they are feeling the isolation of not having roots or history here in New Brunswick. We meet people every day who are planning their events, how to see all of their loved ones over the holidays and we do feel forlorn. This is not unexpected though! 

It was a beautiful and lonesome time to see Len’s family, children, grandchildren all gathered at Doreen’s and visiting. We spoke with them on Skype, saw the babies, so cute! Ethan jumping in mommy’s arms, Charlie saying he loves and misses us and blowing us kisses! (I know he was just repeating it but it feels so wonderful to hear, so thanks mommy!) It did feel like we were there for a few minutes.

I have sent off the last of the Christmas cards and photo’s… they may not make it in time for Christmas but they have five working days so, could happen! If not then just watch the mail and get a little surprise between Christmas and New Year’s! 

I have been baking the gingerbread house and decorating with Jessica’s help. It has felt strange to miss our annual tradition of going to Aunty Sharon’s house and spending the day sipping wine and baking cookies. Miss that a lot! I know the tradition will continue for Aunty Sharon with her beautiful little grandchildren and we will start new traditions. Yet what we know and what we experience emotionally are two different things. Next year at least we will have furniture and bedrooms… I hope!

Overall I am very happy here and the moments of melancholy pass. I feel optimistic as I lay on my bed in the den and glance through the arched doorway into the living room. I can see through the dining room and into my delightful country kitchen. Or I may sit in the overstuffed chair in the kitchen, gazing at the woodstove burning, my pretty new appliances in the kitchen and through the dining area to the Christmas tree. I am so grateful. The move was enormous, nevertheless absolutely worth it!

As I dream of the day that I get my NEW flatscreen TV and my NEW sofa set, I think of my thoughts during the morning of one of my many garage sales. I know stuff is stuff and can be replaced; however the thoughts and memories that went with the riches I sold will always be cherished. Please enjoy my thoughts from one cool May morning as I waited for the early birds to arrive! 

This morning is cool, the wind is blowing through my carport. I sit and wait for the dew from the night  rain to dissipate. Looking around I see my "treasures" things that meant so much at one time and now are part of my history. Every item has a story; each piece of used clothing holds a recollection of a moment in my girls lives... As I watch people walk away with their new prizes, fabulous finds and create their own stories, I know that my future is my present and new experiences will construct my history.

Reminiscing I reflect on the remains of my Fiesta Ware collection that I spent 10 years assembling with my first husband. Each piece holds a story. As any collector will tell you it is the find that is so exciting. The hunt that is the challenge. I look at a yellow plate with a "flaw" from the kiln and remember the day we found it on Commercial Street in Vancouver. The adrenaline rush we felt to see it hidden in the back on a shelf almost as though the seller didn't realize what they had. Later we walked and laughed and talked about our "fortune" as we walked up the street to have coffee in an Italian coffee shop - this is VERY pre-Starbucks and Tim Horton's era. The ambiance of the shop fit our nostalgic mood perfectly. 

There were many days like this. Hours spent on Commercial Street, in Gastown or along 41st Avenue, scouring through antique stores. Afternoons spent driving to Cloverdale or White Rock to see what we could find. Those are valued flash backs of good times. One thing we did have in common, my husband and I, was the thrill of the discovery and the subsequent research that took us back to a simpler time. (Research was very different than now, the time of the internet!)

I look at other items that were passing fancies. Perhaps a candleholder or knick knack purchased at a friends house party. A toy that my baby held and recall the day they received it. We kept some items but for the most part dissolved the pack rat hoarding that I had established. One of my sorrow's was having to try to sell the beautiful dining room table and chairs - Queen Anne reproduction but kept in gorgeous condition. I was so grateful for the sole inheritance from my mother in law. The table was something that meant family to me. It was part of my childrens history. Many hours with nieces, nephews, and in laws, many of whom are no longer here. I wish I had been able to sell it, but couldn't. I was happy to return it to my brother in law and hope that he might use it in the future with his new family. A table and chairs... holds so much history in the grains of that wood.

 It is nice to head toward a new life. A life where all memories will be with me and my husband. We chose the truck, the house, the trailer, the canopy, what to keep… We chose it all together. We are equally responsible for the future, positive or negative. We have started to establish our golden years together. 

Thank you my handsome for following, leading, working with me,
collectively deciding where we will go. 

I am so grateful, now, in December 2010, as the Christmas clock counts down,
to have a home, warmth, security and
my children Jessica, Rachel and my mate, Len by my side. 

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Walking, In a Winter, Wonderland...

December in New Brunswick, as much as I love it I still can't believe I am here. We have been incredibly fortunate with weather this year. The summer was amazing, warm, sunny, the humidity bearable and not too buggy! Fortunately the bugs seemed to prefer Len and leave us girls alone. Len's thoughts are that he is more pure and has less preservatives in his system, I think we just smell nicer and don't attract mosquitoes as much! Our new home has been fabulously cool in the day and pretty warm and comfortable at night. Even now as fall has progressed and we slowly watched the landscape change, the trees shed their leaves and the wildlife prepare for winter, the weather has been almost 'west coasterly' and we have felt pretty much at home.

The first snow was light and I will admit I was not completely ready for it, so I was  grateful when it didn't stick around. Since then I have filled one freezer, obtained a second freezer, filled my cupboards, woodshed is full, plenty of candles on hand, alcohol in the cupboard and have drinking water on hand in case  of power outages. The first big snow fall hit fast, hard and called for a snow day! The kids loved it. We spent the day baking gingerbread houses, decorating, hanging with friends and sledding at down the hill. Picture perfect!

Not a week later we had rain! Not light rain, not heavy rain, not even west coast rain. We had torrential monsoons that washed out roads, knocked down trees, flooded homes and you guessed it, closed school! We assumed that school would be in the following day, however being as rural as we are, the buses were called off until the road ways were determined safe. The kids were thrilled, another day at home! Then it snowed a half foot to cancel any chance of them being driven to school... And here I had told the girls "They don't have snow days in New Brunswick." They are ecstatic to learn I am VERY wrong!

Overall school has been a successful change for my kids. Of course being 16 and coming from the smallest high school in town that has only 800 students to move to the only school in the community that has barely 200 students in Kindergarten to Grade 12, it has been an extreme change for Rachel. Jessica has found this to be a wonderful change. She does find Grade 4 hard but we explain that would be the case anywhere. I am very impressed with her educational growth. I find it amusing, amazing and a tad annoying when she corrects my grammar and punctuation over my shoulder though.

I know that it is hard to adjust to the changes. Life, home, school and bus. I have been there. I do believe that I have raised my girls to be fair, stand up for themselves, ask for help and discuss their problems. Maybe I get over involved when an issue comes up but I try to remain unbiased and factual.  I think this helps them adjust.

The summer before I started Grade 8 we moved out of town, a good half hour down country roads, although my mind still thinks it was at least 45 minutes. We knew a few people from our church in the  neighbourhood but did not mix with their kids much and were isolated. My parents had purchased a great old farm house, barn, out buildings and a 5 acre hobby farm with a creek running right through it. I loved it! It was also the beginning of my feeling incredible loneliness, depression, anxiety and despair. Amazing how this all mixed together. There were so many things I loved about being there but so much that I hated, so I completely understand the dilemma for my children.

My parents jumped right into farming! We raised chickens, gathered eggs and slaughtered the chickens. We had pigs rooting around, a cow for fresh milk, rabbits and kittens. My mom and dad put in a huge garden and I realize now it was pesticide free or very close to it. The food was lush, beautiful, plenty and I hated it. I would watch and help my mom preserve food. I watched her find 50 ways to cook a zucchini (to this day we still discuss the Chocolate Skinny Cake aka Chocolate Zucchini cake). The milk was fresh to the point of steaming and had little bits of hay and straw swimming on the top. ICK! Hated it!

I hadn't been pampered to the same extent as my kids although I had always been a very finicky eater. As hard as it is to believe I was built very much like Jessica, slight, thin, bony and pale. I tease my mom and tell her I became fat because I had my teeth fixed and was able to chew properly. The real reason I started to gain weight was much deeper than that. The loneliness and depression were incredible and I worry about this with my oldest daughter. I watch her closely and we talk a lot, although I really do NOT always like what I hear!

What IS different for my children here? Although they have a long bus ride they have a great bus driver. She does not allow bullying to occur on the bus, she stops it as soon as she sees or hears anything remotely like abuse. She has the children sit age appropriately on the bus from Kindergarten at the front to Grade 12 at the back and there is no running around on the bus. The kids all feel comfortable talking to her and she is open to discussion and finding resolutions. So much different than my experiences.

If anyone ever took the Beaver Creek bus from 1979 to 1981 they know what I mean! If you were not born there, had at least two generations of history you did NOT belong! They were not open to new comers at all. From the elementary school that my little brother attended to riding as far along as to the high school  that my older brother and I attended the message was clear, GO AWAY we don't want you!

Obviously this brought up huge concerns for me with my girls on the bus and I have done as much as I could to prepare them, keep up to date with what is going on and stay in touch with the community to ensure their comfort and safety. As far as the bus goes, it seems to be working. The school is a bit more closed to my oldest but she is strong and working her way through the kids, the "you are new, we have been here forever" attitudes. She is dealing with it all much better than her mother did and for that I am extremely proud. My girls are very emotionally sensitive but they are courageous and face confrontation. (I plan to take a little credit for that!)

It is 10am, -8 c and snowing. The fire is lit, the Christmas tree is trimmed, presents are beginning to arrive from afar to be be placed under the tree and it is a Friday. One week to Christmas Eve. A different Christmas surely than in the past but I hope that the love we have and the spirit of the season will over ride the feelings of what we do not have this year. We do have a spirit of change and a beautiful warm home for which I am very grateful. I do have a wonderful little family at my side and if I manage to keep them warm and drowsy with turkey, side dishes, lots of baking and goodies, maybe they will forget missing you all, at least for a moment!

From Fosterville, NB, I wish you all a
Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Star Light, Star Bright, I wish I may, I wish I might...

Small glint of light
Streaks across the universe;
Thoughts dispell in awe.
- Pleione
The lights are turned down, everyone is in bed, asleep... As we are all on the same floor with intersecting rooms, I listen to heavy breathing, light snoring, sleep talking, night mares and the occasional fart. As I make my last waking trip to the bathroom I check on all my loved ones, cover them for warmth and look at the faces soft and relaxed in sleep.

I close my book and roll over to look at the night sky and observe the stars and moon... During summer nights I watched bats fly swiftly catching the bloody mosquitoes. On a clear night I can almost see the constellations. On a cloudy night I see the shadows of the trees and little sky. No matter how I am feeling I allow myself to feel small, inconsequential, almost invisible. At the same time I realize that the night is the same everywhere, no matter what time zone, the same moon and stars look down on the East and the West. I will miss the opportunity to watch the night from the window behind me and beside me when I finally have a bedroom.

Life seemed so simple when I was small and I wished on a star every night... At 8 years old I wished for a million dollars every night (it never came true)... At 28 years old I wished for my baby's health (she was a beautiful infant as she is a beautiful teen)... At 44 years old I wish for peace and happiness in my girls future (I await anxiously for this)... 

I hope they will never know how much sacrifice it takes to be a parent or how many nights I have cried for them, their worries, their sorrow, their dreams... I wish that they never experience the griefand loss that I have felt, I wish for them a life of success, security and unconditional love. I look at the stars and thank the universe for our health and home and  I hope that one day my girls  will truly appreciate what they have had as children and know that no matter what, all I have ever wanted is what is best for them.

Every mother wants to give every thing to her child... We want to withhold their pain, take them everywhere they want to go, give them every physical thing they wish for... Yet we know if we give them all they ask for they will not learn or grow. It takes all my strength to say no when it is not safe or to hold consistently to that path even when it is not popular. 

One day I pray they will be parents who love and care for their children with all of their heart but will not have to experience the anguish... but,  I don't think that is possible ... I think every parent suffers heart break as they parent their child. Some days I can't wait for the moment to come when this awful stage ends and then I am sad that it is over so quickly. I think of how that baby crying endlessly at night kept me up and I just wished she would stop. Now I wish she would let me hold her while she cries and pat her back, hushing softly that everything will be OK. I remember wishing she would learn to walk, then telling her to slow down... 

I loved those moments where my daughter thought I was smart, beautiful and admired me. I hope that one day we will meet somewhere in the middle again, but in the meantime I will remember the words from a poem that one of my girls read to me and reminds me of when I feel down...The irony is the words she reads to me are exactly how I feel about her...

My Mother...

My wonderful mother
Never grows old,
Her smile is like sunshine
Her heart is of gold;
Her eyes are like stars,
They shine so you see
I love my mother,
She's precious to me!

Next time I shall continue on my journey... For now I needed to take a moment to reflect on my life as the moon reflects on the water at night.... G'night all!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Fourth Dimension

We were cautiously optimistic as we left Swift Current and continued on. What would happen next? We all hoped that we could just go on and have a good trip. We would find someplace to stop later in the evening and then our ‘re-worked’ itinerary proposed we drive all the way through Manitoba in one day. None of us got too comfy because we didn’t really believe we were going to get far before trouble hit us again. However, we managed to drive for a few hours before we had to find a Tim Horton’s for dinner. We had all developed a liking for the chili and whole wheat bun, the only part that differed was our drink orders. Green tea for Len, XL coffee for me and usually chocolate milk for the girls. We were very happy with the Timmy gift cards we had received as gifts!

At one point we drove for quite sometime without seeing any gas stations, truck stops or anywhere to stop and fuel up and pee. Finally we found a place near the edge of Saskatchewan called “Stan’s Truck Stop”. It was your basic truck stop, gas station, convenience store and restaurant. Now, you would think out in the middle of the prairie where they rely on the traveler for business and there is NOTHING for at least 10 miles in any direction, you would get good service… right?

Hmmm… let me tell you a story about a man name Mohammed. Mohammed works at the ESSO station attached to Stan’s truck stop. Now I am sure Mohammed is a great guy… however… we did not see eye to eye on a few things. OK I am going to back up a bit. We pulled into the station (which was always a bit of a challenge, since as you recall I am driving a loaded pickup up with canopy and a 8’ x 16’ cargo trailer with 16,000+ lbs) . Anyway… I find the diesel pump and pull up, Len fuels us up and I take the girls inside to ‘use the facilities’.

I paid for my $68.00 of diesel, drinks and some chocolate bars… $80 later… I ask where the washroom is. The attendant (Mohamed) tells me “the washroom is out of service”. I tell him it has been a long drive and there are three girls who need to use a bathroom. He tells me he can’t help me but I could go to ‘Stan’s Restaurant’ next door to use their washroom. So, I tell Len we will be back in a few minutes, I hand him the bars, drinks and pull the truck forward. The girls and I then proceed to ‘Stan’s’ . The FIRST thing I notice at ‘Stan’s’ is the sign on the door “Washroom’s for paying customer’s only”. The girls tell me, “Mom, we can’t go in.” I say “follow my lead.”

I open the door, followed by two hesitant children. I walk right past the ‘hostess’ to the bathroom door and confidently place my hand on the door and pull. LOCKED! I then walk to the hostess and ask for the key. She says “No, the washroom is for customers only. So if you want to use the washroom you have to buy something.” I tell her (with my embarrassed children watching) “No, I just l spent $80 at the gas station and we need to use the washroom. We have travelled a long way and the gas station washroom is out of service, so he sent us over here and said we could use your washroom. So could I please have the key?!” 

She says ‘My mother said that only paying customers can use the washroom, so if you buy a drink then I can give you the key.” (I should mention the woman is at least 30 years old.) At this point Jessica is bouncing from one foot to the other saying “MOM! I really need to pee!” I tell the woman I am not prepared to spend anymore money and to please let us use the key before she pees on the floor (which I was tempted to tell her to do!) At this point there were on lookers and the chef was watching me. I am fuming and starting to swear under my breath “BITCH!”... Now I realize this was NOT my best parenting moment or leading by example, but I was standing up for our principles! So please forgive my language.

I asked her what she suggested we do. I asked if she had children of her own and how would she feel if they needed to pee and couldn’t? She did not waver or care in any way about our predicament. I was livid at this point and my girls were almost laughing because it was so ridiculous and stupid and I was not going to back down. I then spoke very loudly about how rude she was, uncaring and asked for her name. I told her that I would be contacting the local Chamber of Commerce to complain and asked for her name.

As she smirked at me and rolled her eyes she wrote “Thuy” on the card. My parting comment was “You take the word “FRIENDLY” out of the slogan Friendly Manitoba!” I then told the girls to follow me and slammed the door on our way out. We stormed past Len who wondered why we were taking so long and went back to the gas station. I asked the attendant why he sent us there when they wouldn’t let us use the bathroom. He said, “I am sorry, I thought they would.” I was firm but angry and although I didn’t blame him personally, I told him we needed a resolution NOW!

He said “Ma’am, I can’t help you.” I said, “No, Mohamed, you ARE going to help me. We are three girls and we need to PEE NOW!” He told me he did not know what to do. I asked him, where do YOU pee? He said that he just started his shift. I said, “Hmmm, well you are on for 8 hours you must pee somewhere!” He said there is an employee washroom and I told him, fine I will use that. He said, no he was not allowed to let me use it. I said, “Phone your boss now.” So, he did and we finally got to use the washroom! After 20 minutes of fighting we PEED! It was EXQUISITELY painful!

Of course, the joke was on me because my parting line to the wanker at Stan’s was “You take the friendly out of Manitoba” as I drove away I realized she was laughing since we were STILL in Saskatchewan! The fourth dimension, the province of Manitoba is on the horizon... oh what do you hold in store for us?

Summary: Pee when you have the opportunity as you never know when you may have to pee on a floor!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The long and winding road....

We were happy to see the end of Golden and as we drove up the Golden hill and away from town Rachel said “Look at those statues!” and we all turned to see 6 Big Horn Sheep butts looking at us. We laughed at the first real Big Horn we had seen in years and all we saw were butts and Rachel felt a little silly to think they were statues. (However they WERE very still!)

Everywhere along the highway from Alberta through New Brunswick we saw signs to watch for Moose on the road. Stories are told of moose hitting vehicles and the bodies coming right through the front windshields. However as we journeyed on I knew I did NOT want to see a Moose, at least not close up anyway!

We drove cautiously from Golden to Stirling, about ½ hour on the other side of Lethbridge, a steady 100km per hour. Cars, trucks and scooters whizzed by but we kept plodding along. Every time I tried to increase speed and thought no one was looking Rachel would remind me “Mom, you are over 80, Mom you are over 90, Mom, stop you are over 100km!!!” I would try to justify my speed, but would ultimately slow down.

As we got closer to Lethbridge I started to get excited… just let us get there! I know there are people, a bonfire, food and beer waiting for us! I NEED beer! The drive was monotonous, the weather got squirrely and my passengers took turns snoozing, but me? NOPE! I have to stay awake! We pulled out of Golden around 3pm and into Uncle Larry’s driveway by 11:30pm… LONG SLOW DAY!

The next few days were restful and fun. We got to see family, visit, nurse a slight hangover and most importantly Len got to spend much needed time with his only brother. As we came to each visit and potential goodbye Len would well up with emotion, joy at the friendship or relation, sadness knowing that he may never see these people again. I however was still so ecstatic at our adventure and the future that I could not get that sad. Not to be heartless but I was happy about the move! We all were really, including Len.

We know that when we see friends again that time will have passed, our connections together have blurred, the reasons that brought us together have changed and our position has been replaced. Can we really ever go back to where we were with a friend? It is kind of like in high school, you are best friends with someone and then the summer or a school parts you, you stay in touch but it is harder and harder and you slowly grow apart. You can never regain what you had and you have and everyone has found new friends or passions to substitute the past. I guess we will face those same changes. If and when we return to visit, our associations will be brief and contact will feel more as if with an acquaintance than with someone who meant so much. As much as we will try to see everyone the connection will be brief, I guess this is part of the circle of life?

We spent Friday night to Tuesday morning in Stirling. This allowed me to take the girls to see my brother and his family. What a great visit! I thoroughly enjoyed our time together. We laughed, commiserated and shared how we had been. Thank you Owen, Susan, Althea and adorable little Gaerhardt for making us so at home! We were just sorry to miss Jesse! While at Larry and Lylia’s, Len was able to see his nieces, brother in law and their families as well as to reconnect with Larry.

Larry spent the whole weekend working on my truck, Buddy! He gave him a complete once over, oil change, tire check, trailer check, new hitch and equalizer bars and anything else he could do to try to make his big ‘little’ brother safe for the journey ahead! By Tuesday morning it was time to leave. It had taken us one week of our trip to get from Nanaimo to Stirling and now we were heading on to Saskatchewan. We were eager to move forward! Hugs, tears and goodbyes were said… and off we went!

Knowing that the roads from the Alberta/Saskatchewan border had just reopened due to massive flooding and road washouts, I was not too sure what to expect. I had never driven further than Lethbridge before so we were starting to head out into unknown territory. I had travelled to Saskatchewan as a kid, and I think I was about 9 years old the last trip. At that time we stayed with Grandma and Grandpa Giesbrecht at the Eagle campground not far from the Saskatchewan border.

As we travelled through the day we all felt relaxed and safe. The trip was getting less interesting as we went forward since we now had 2.5 Prairie Provinces to go through. The naps in the truck were getting more frequent and everyone (except me!) was asleep as we crossed the reopened highways, crossed the Saskatchewan Border and passed the campground I had been to as a kid.

I was enjoying the quiet with everyone sleeping and I watched the landscape go by. I always knew that I loved my country, but my god, it is beautiful! Every province had its own beauty and amazing qualities. I could see the original pioneers who travelled across in covered wagons pulled by oxen. I saw the children in my mind as they walked along the wagon train with their heads covered in bonnets and caps. I imagined the mothers giving birth along the road; the father’s facing off terrors of animals and enemies and keeping their family safe. As I watch the hay and long grasses wave in the wind I could see what it took to be what it is today. I was so grateful to have a vehicle, good roads and enough money and food to make my trip. 3 weeks to travel seemed lengthy but it was nothing compared to the long months summer and winter that pioneers trekked across the land. I was feeling great peace and slight melancholy as I imagined the prairie filled with tepee’s and buffalo and the loss that one culture faced to as other cultures took over the land.

By about 2pm I was getting a bit tired. The goal was to get to Moosejaw that night and in the morning explore the Moosejaw tunnels before we hit the road. We had been told about the tunnels that the Chinese had built while working the railroads and in the city. Apparently they did not like the snow and found alternative ways (tunnels) to get around the city to work the laundry, hotels, etc. I was excited to explore this as it was all new information to me. I found it fascinating, particularly since I was reading a book on Vietnam and the tunnels at the time and I found it very relevant.

We pulled into a rest stop that had a nice big turnaround for the truck and trailer. I kicked everyone out of the truck, put my seat into recline, bunched a coat into a pillow under my head and zonked out for about 45 minutes. When I woke up I used the lovely blue port a pottie to refresh myself and got everyone together to get started driving again. We waved goodbye to a 5th wheel and truck and to a motorcyclist and started to drive away…. We would be in Moosejaw in a few hours!

Uh oh! As I pulled onto the highway I heard a sound that seemed to come from the trailer. I pulled to the side and Len got out… something was wrong with the front axle on the trailer. (OK we are NOT mechanics but the smoke and burning wheel hub was enough to indicate we had a problem!) I hesitantly pulled a huge U turn and drove the wrong way down the highway to get back to the rest stop. As I drove I had de je vous of the old Steve Martin, John Candy movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”… I guess I had the flashback since a semi truck was in the same lane headed straight towards us! “YOUR’E GOING THE WRONG WAY!”

You may have surmised since I am writing this that I successfully executed the turn and re-entered the rest area. I then discovered that you can also use a GPS aka “Maggie” to locate commonly used travel points of interest. Our point of interest was a mechanic or tow truck driver! We had just passed a small community that did not have much near by and didn’t think it would make sense to call there for help. So I contacted a mobile mechanic in Swift Current, Sask. We only had to wait an hour or so for him to arrive with his truck and trailer and he informed us that we had a broken axel on the trailer and he could do a temporary repair but we would have to take it into the shop upon arrival in Swift Current.

The day had turned dark and we were seeing lightning in the distance, no problem, this happens on the prairies. However when the mechanic arrived and asked us to watch for any ‘cloud tunnelling’ or being circled by lightning while he fixed the truck, I did get a bit apprehensive. The rain began to pour down in sheets and when lightning struck followed by thunder in about .02 of a second we all jumped in our vehicles to wait it out. Sure, all we needed was to be hit by lightning!

After the rain slowed and lightning pulled back, the mechanic managed to repair the damage enough to give us a temporary axel to drive to Swift Current. He followed along behind us to ensure we were safe and took us into a small motel in town. We were to meet him in the morning so he could attempt to repair the trailer. We were excited because although it was 9pm at night (we still had to have dinner) we were right next to the pool and could watch Jess from our room with the door open. Oh yes, this is OUR trip right? Internet … down… pool… closed! This was the third pool closed (in high season) for repairs!

We spent the whole next day at the mechanics, I napped in the truck between visiting with his wife in the dirty old shop, sitting on the broken down furniture, surrounded by a big shop dog and a multitude of new kittens, surrounded by chair smokers and the “F” bomb. Nice! The good news arrived when the mechanic told us it would take 2 weeks to get the part in for the cargo trailer as it had to be ordered from the states. TWO WEEKS? YEAH RIGHT! I guess he saw my grief stricken face and while Len and I went for a walk to determine what to do the mechanic began to come up with a way to weld us a new part that he built.

I was so glad when we came back that we had a crafty guy working on the truck. What had our walk discovered? We could NOT put the trailer on the train to send ahead (we walked all over and could not find an office to talk to someone at the train station) and so Len’s other option was “hold a yard sale in the parking lot, sell all we own and the trailer and continue on.” NO!!!! I had already sold or given away almost everything I owned and treasured. Al l I had really kept were a few personal belongings, photos, memories, some of the kids’ extra special items from their rooms… I was devastated… this was not going to be the journey we hoped for!

We walked back dejectedly to the shop and were prepared to tell the mechanic to forget it, this was the plan when he told us he had it all worked out, he could fix it and get us on the road by mid to late afternoon! WOW! What a great guy! He had his wife order us lunch and drive me to pick the kids up from the motel. I was SO excited! He put aside all other work and prioritized us… THANK YOU!!!

A couple of hours later and we were on our way again, $1500 poorer but we still had our belongings, had met some lovely people and as they say…. “We’re on the road again!....” More of the trials and tribulations of the Sherman journey to come…..