Tuesday, December 2, 2014

"I want to be just like you Mom"

I still can't believe it when I hear those words come out of the mouth of my 20 year old daughter. You want to me like me? 48 years old, living away from family, unemployed, looking back on the train wreck of my life? Why? "No Mom, I want to be like you - you got us through, you took care of us, you did everything you could to  make a new life for us. I want to be like you." Wow, thanks baby!

I guess it is easy to dwell on the negative or focus on what we did wrong as parents, but when you have a child who has been to hell and back and whose parents didn't always keep her safe and she can say that? It kind of humbles me and at the same time allows me to learn to forgive myself. 

None of us know what life will send our way. We think, when we meet that person we fall in love with, that life will be rosy and we will have our dreams come true. Unfortunately sometimes we don't see the nightmare we are stuck in or the crazy reality that we have created. When I look back now, I wonder how I let it all happen? How was it OK for my little girl, at 3 and 4 and 5 years old to hide or hope there was no shouting or fighting today? How was it OK that she had to stay quiet and invisible  to help maintain the illusion we were living in? How did it become acceptable that "This is just for our house, we don't tell other people." No wonder my child was shy, introverted, uncertain. When I look back, I think how could she want to be like me?

Fighting - literally to escape to safety with my girls and not making it. Having to pick up the pieces after the world fell out from under us - trying to explain "Why Daddy was like this." Wondering if they would ever trust relationships or men again? Hoping that in some way, some day they would discover that sometimes, losing someone you love is better than keeping them in your life. Allowing them to hold onto the good memories - yes, there were many - while recognizing that it couldn't be sugar coated and the facts had to be made known  - a little at at time - as they could handle it. Starting over - truly as a single parent - no back up, no weekend breaks, just me - alone.

She tells me that when she thinks of the things I did to try to make it better, that is where she sees strength. When she remembers how we had nothing, no money, little food, scraping by - how we still carried on like we would get through. One year she wanted a sleep over, there was no money for pizza or chips or pop but we got a cheap turkey and made the full dinner with the trimmings - it didn't cost much, tasted better and the kids enjoyed it. (Until the food fight that is, not such an impressed Mom then. I suppose she was testing me and how safe it was to make mistakes.)

She remembers the family getting together for holidays; the times spent with Aunty Sharon and Uncle Paul; hours with Grandma and Grandpa; the epic birthday parties; having Friday night family time - pizza and a movie. These are the foundation that she can build her life on. 

For me it is those mornings of getting up at 4:30AM to get ready for work, dropping the kids off at the neighbours at 5AM then off to catch the van pool to drive 2.5-3 hours to work, depending on traffic. The never seeing daylight between the van pool commute and 8 hours in the office in the center of the building with no light. Getting home between 6:30 and 7PM at night, picking up the kids, feeding them because the caregiver didn't. - scrounging out money to pay rent,  the van pool, caregiver and basic living. Then getting robbed for almost $2,000 by the caregiver and freaking out due to finding out that she had barely taken care of my girls. 

Falling asleep at midnight - trying to calm down my manic 4 year old who had night terrors, anger management and pain issues. Attempting to calm my 11 year old who cried and ranted about how unfair life was. This is what you admire? I think you are crazy little girl, your mama barely made it.

Finally having to leave a good paying government job to survive and then barely coping, unable to sleep at night, get up in the daytime, remember to cook - just get through those menial functions. Why do you want to be like me? "Because you loved us, you made us safe, you gave us a life." These words make me cry, make me sad, but allow me some relief at the same time. Life sucked, life sent us a lot of hard knocks but now, watching my girls grow, seeing their strength and watching them come out of their shells, they made it.

I am so grateful that I have begun my life over. My life between 20 and 40 years old, feels like it belonged to someone else. I wouldn't give up those years - I would never have given birth to the beautiful, amazing girls that I have - admittedly if I could change the years and still have my girls, I would. One daughter who has become my best friend as she walked into woman hood and the other who will always be my baby girl - who at 13 still hugs and kisses me and says "I love you SO much Mom." Those moments - I would never give up.

The fact that I have a strong , healthy marital relationship - fills my heart. Not only does it make me strong but makes me appreciative that my children can see what love looks like. It is not possessive - in a controlling way - it is possessive in the manner that it is for two people to care and support each other. We complement each other and we compliment each other. We build each other up and express our love daily. These are the memories I want my girls to have. 

You want to be like me? Oh baby girl, you are and so much more! You are strong, a fighter and you have overcome so much. You have lost a parent, had to regain a parent that was only barely there; you had to leave everything you knew to move somewhere new; you had to fight to try to be accepted and you had to leave to create your own world. You , my girl, are stronger! You already know more at 20 than I ever did.

And so, as I start to put my life down, on paper, typing away in my "manuscript" - the support of my family and the courage we all had - that builds me up. "I want to be just like you Mom." No more beautiful words were ever spoken.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Ten years later....

I tried to write this yesterday and couldn't make myself do it. For some reason, I can today. 10 years ago, November 8, 2004 I started my day thinking that I was moving forward and was going to get through the most difficult period of my life. Little did I know that difficult hadn't even started yet. I am not going into a great deal of detail, that is for a longer story that I must put down on paper this winter. However, I will say that as I dropped my girls off at school that Monday morning, I had no idea that my private life was going to explode - in every way possible.
6 months before - Mother's Day 2004

Those who were there and witnessed my trauma and pain - know that I almost didn't get through it. Those who came after, much later, couldn't believe I could hold my head high again. My family were my strength and the only reason I came through it. If not for my girls needing me so desperately, or for my parents stopping everything in their lives to be by my side or my brothers giving their strength and encouragement - I would have been lost. My father was the only man for me for a time and I hung on to him tightly. My mother was with us day and night and although she suffered for it - she stayed - God bless her!

On November 8, 2004 my children's lives changed forever. They lost their father in a motor vehicle accident; my baby - 12 days before her third birthday underwent trauma that will affect her for life; my oldest was about to turn 10 years old and watched her family torn apart. 

For now, I will say this, my children's father took my youngest daughter without permission, he put her into a vehicle forcefully without a car seat and he hit a minivan head on which was carrying a mother and her 4 year old son, the mother was critically injured but survived, the young boy did not;  that vehicle then slid and collided into a second vehicle injuring one of the two passengers. I can't ever take away the grief or trauma from their lives - I can never give them back their innocence, the healthy bodies they had or the beautiful child that they lost. I have had to find a way to heal to move on. I only hope that they have been able to do so as well.

6 months later - Father's Day 2005
I spent the next several years helping my baby heal from her physical wounds and trying to assist her with her emotions. Years of medical support, physical therapy and clinical psychiatry - to get to a point where we could cope. My oldest suffered nearly as much, albeit not physically but psychologically. She had to find a way to survive her fear, anxiety, depression and pain. She, as well as I, had to live with survivors guilt. There are still times when the PTSD symptoms come up, the inability to focus or complete projects, but for the most part, we are doing pretty damn good.

I had always lived my life privately and held in my thoughts and secrets. I didn't share - even my closest friends were shocked to see what life had been like - the constant fear we dealt with. Unfortunately you can't go through a public ordeal without everyone knowing your business. You are no longer entitled to privacy and can't go out in public without feeling as though people are looking at you, judging you, watching you - deciding if you are the reason the world blew up that day. You can't protect your children, you can't stop them from the bullying or meanness of others, you can't turn on the news or pick up a paper without wondering what it will say but still having to know. 

Life changes immensely. The inability to get up every morning, the need to sleep all day but unable to rest at night, the lack of motivation or able to prepare food for your family, piles of laundry surrounding you, the overwhelming senselessness of life. Watching every move your child makes, trying to pre-determine what the outcome will be, how will they manage, am I failing them? Periods of inexplicable crying, inappropriate laughing and constant physical pain.

Anyone who has suffered a trauma will know that PTSD can stop you from living. If it had not been for friends who checked up on me, brought me food, made me put one foot after the other to continue on - if it had not been for family who called me constantly to make sure I was doing what I needed to do - if it was not for the man I fell in love with who trusted that I would get strong and stop being an unreliable flake - if not for all that - I would not be here now. My girls are my everything, they were my reason for living. My husband is my rock, he helps me when I feel I want to give up. I however, am the person who kept going. I had strength I would never have believed I possessed. 

I had to change things. As much as I tried to heal things kept creeping up on me. As often as I thought things were behind us, something would show up in a news story or in the paper. If I didn't see it, people were sure to tell me. My daughter was tormented by children in school who taunted her and threatened her. After going through what she had gone through, this was not simple childhood antics. It is through learning to speak up, show our truth and getting past the fear that we could heal.

Part of my strength came from leaving my old life, forging a new one, starting fresh and naively thinking that I could leave the past behind me. Thank god for Google, how would people spy on other people? Well, Google let my skeletons leak out of the closet and Google shared the highlights - but I learned not to care. If people like me, great, if they don't that is ok too. If they judged me and made me or my girls suffer for that judgement, well too bad for them. They lost out on knowing some pretty special, loving people. To those of you who stood by me, who remained my friends, who were able to deal with my nightmare, you are amazing. To those of you who left me, who couldn't cope with it, that is ok, I would rather you were honest than try to be near me when you couldn't.
Marrying my soul mate 7/7/7

I feel as though not talking about my past, not being open, makes me a fraud. At the same time I am not interested in being part of idle gossip or innuendo. I know who I am . I am Sarah and I am a survivor. The past 10 years felt endless at times, it also feels as though it flew by. I have blocked out more than I remember and this winter I have to try to tap into those memories to become whole again.

In my being an independent adult, or someone in a confused relationship - I let myself drift away from my roots, my family. I have realized that through everything, it is family that stood by me, supported me and showed me love. I am so happy to have started to regain the closeness with my extended family - aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. I hope I never lose that again, whether we live near or far.

me and my babies 2014
I am so grateful to have a strong loving man by my side. I am so fortunate that my kids have pulled through to the other side. Yes, there are moments of bewilderment and confusion but they are infrequent now. The moments of frustration and anger are almost gone. We all have our own memories, recollection of what happened and our own truth. This is MY truth.

Yes, when I look at my babies and see physical and emotional scars - I am sad  - but I think, I believe, that I am teaching them that we can't live in the past - we are our future and we can be victims or survivors. I vote for SURVIVOR!

And the best part of it all?
I have learned it is OK to be happy -
 and I am HAPPY!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

...another Angel went to heaven... RIP Dad - We love you!

To anyone who has read my blog over the last couple of years, thank you. This blog has been a place to share my thoughts, feelings and to express how I felt watching my parents age and my father's health decline.

Oct. 13, 2014
2001 - Me and Dad
Sadly, on October 13, 2014, my father took his last breath after a valiant fight. He held on longer than I would ever have expected, as his body shut down and his health rapidly deteriorated - his mind was strong. He knew we were there. He took his last breath, lying next to the love of his life. He waited I think, for the room to be quiet, for his last moments alone and for her to rest. Mom had been there day and night and finally succumbed to some rest, in the recliner, holding his hand. As she drifted off to sleep, he let go. His eyes closed for the last time, his final breath releasing. It is sad, heart breaking and brings tears to my eyes, but he knew he was loved. In his final hours, I believe he became content. He accepted what was and his life and I think, in my heart, that he knew he was forgiven and he forgave himself for any transgressions he may have committed. He was a good man. (Obituary)

Oct 18/2014 Celebration of Klaas' Life
A few of the Giesbrecht side...
My parents spent 45 years in BC, on Vancouver Island and I know that had he passed there, the church would have been standing room only. Having said that, I am so grateful for the fact that him living his final days in Lethbridge, AB he was able to have so much family at his funeral. So many cousins and relatives came and expressed their love for him. He was the oldest of 8 children and he can now join his parents and siblings who have already gone on before him. Thank you to everyone who came to share in the celebration of his life. As well, thank you to everyone who has reached out to help support my mother during this time. Near and far. It meant so much to her to here from so many people. She has been strong, but I think reality is now hitting her. I hope that she is able to come to closure in a timely fashion and move forward with the strength I know she has.

My brothers and I
Both my older brother Owen and I spoke at Dad's service and my younger brother shared some written thoughts. I shared some memories and my brother shared the eulogy. Unfortunately, neither of my sisters or their children, were able to attend. One of my dad's friends for the past 30 years also sent in a beautiful story that we shared. The overwhelming legacy that came through loud and clear, was my father's integrity as an honest man. I challenge anyone to say otherwise. He lived his best, he was fair to a fault and his worst nightmare would be for anyone to say otherwise. 

                   Dad, I love you, miss you and thank you - for everything............. Love always, Toot

Tribute to Dad – Saturday, October 18, 2010 – Sarah Sherman

Good afternoon, I would like to thank you all for coming today to remember and honour my father, Klaas Giesbrecht. Dad would be overwhelmed with pleasure and embarrassment at the fact that we are all here to talk about him and make him the center of attention for one day. As much as Dad didn't like to have everything focused on him, he still enjoyed being with people he loved and sharing stories and that is what I hope to do for him today.

 There has been some discussion on whether he was proud or humble – probably a bit of both, but I can tell you that he was proud of his family and he was humble in a manner that he didn't like a lot of discussion surrounding his accomplishments – they were sort of to be expected. So Dad, this is for you and I know you know I talk a lot and tend to ramble on, so I am asking you to humour me for one last time. For the rest of you, please get comfortable I timed my talk and I promise not to speak for more than 2 hours.

I have to admit this has been a strange week, a roller coaster in some ways and that I haven't been as emotional as I thought I might – I am sure I will make up for that today – but I know my Dad knows that I loved him dearly and that he was always strong in my eyes. My Dad used to call me stoic when I held in my feelings and didn't share them – I told him no, I am just kind of stubborn like you.

My dad was strong and those of you who knew him when he was young or in middle age, you know what I mean. Those of you who knew him near the end need to know he was still strong, the fact that he held on the way he did, truly amazed me. I often wondered and even asked him, why not just give up ... you are hurting, just let go and he was still there – truly amazing. Ask the nurses about how strong he was, he amazed them with his physical strength right to the end.

I want to pay tribute to him today, celebrate his life and his impact on the people around him. No, he wasn't perfect, in fact far from it, but who is perfect... I asked a few people for stories to share on their behalf and I will try to relay them to you. I have had so many people send me thoughts in the past few days and tell me how much they admired him, appreciated him and are thankful for him. I think that is a beautiful legacy.

First I will share a few of my own thoughts, and they are memories that I shared with Dad last spring when I came to visit – things that I will always cherish and that I wanted him to know I remembered. He listened and laughed and cried and tried to speak to me as well as he could.

Some of my fondest memories are our family trips to Alberta. We traveled about every two years from Vancouver Island to Lethbridge – We often left on a Friday after Dad got home from work. Mom would have the car or camper packed and ready to go and we kids were ready to get in and start the drive to the ferry. We could leave around 5pm and start driving, often stopping at Whiskey Creek store – home of 32 flavours of ice cream and then back in the vehicle to make the trip to the BC ferry and onward. We all made sure we went to the bathroom on the ferry boat because the truck was not stopping again until we were about to run out of gas. Dad drove all night. He wasn't one for stopping – just plough on through and I think I was probably about 10 years old before I realized that Cranbrook or Castlegar actually had anything to see. I know he was driving so it was quiet and we could sleep and he could make the trip without interruption and I swear that he and my island uncles all had competitions on who could make it in the fewest hours. I will admit there were a few scary moments as Dad got sleepy on the straight Alberta roads after driving all night and the car weaved over the line. But we made it and it is due to the diligence of my parents that we were able to get to know our family near and far. It warms my heart that so many of you are here today.

When I was 8 years old I desperately wanted a motor bike. My brothers didn't think a girl needed a bike but I pestered and nagged my dad for months. All I wanted was a red Honda 50 mini bike and dad would keep saying he would get me a Kawasaki – this made me crazy and I would yell at him “NO!” they sound like chain saws and I am NOT driving that! My dad always seemed to have a motorbike and at that point Owen had a 70 and mom had a 90 and I just wanted a bike too. I think I wore dad down because one day when I was 8 years old he came home from work and gruffly said “Sally! (That’s what he used to call me.) go get my lunch box out of the truck!” I said in my typically whiny voice, “no, I don't want to!” and he yelled.  “GO NOW!” Well, I could back talk once but twice was pushing it so I got my butt out there and climbed over the back of the pick up truck into the box and I screamed! I turned my head and saw Dad laughing. There in the back of his truck was a brand new shiny red Honda mini bike with a big number 50 on the side and next to it sat my very own bike helmet. I was so happy – I squealed and said Dad! You were just teasing me! He laughed, pulled it out and got me driving. I will never forget that. Our family went on to take many bike rides together on those country logging roads; Dad on his big bike, mom on her bike, Owen on his, me on mine and little Chad – sitting in the basket at the front of moms bike (Yes Chad used to be the littlest in the family and he fit in it.)

My family - circa 1970's
About a year or so later I must have been feeling a bit left out. Owen got to go hunting with dad and he took both the boys fishing and I guess I thought maybe my dad was only interested in boys because one day Dad came home from town and took me aside. I think he asked me to come see him outside and he walked me to the back of the yard. We were over near the boat in the back yard and Dad pulled out a box, I opened the box and on the velvet interior lay a gold locket – Dad had engraved it with a message to me and he told me that being a middle child and the only girl at the time I might think he didn't care as much about me. He told me then – not to tell my brothers – so they should stop listening now, but he wanted to know that I was extra special to him because I was his princess and I always would be. I will never forget how important he made me feel. Thank you Dad, I felt like an ugly duckling a lot but you always made me feel like I was beautiful and I am sorry that I didn't always believe you – because now , being a parent, I know you meant it – even if I couldn't see it.

We grew up in an era where kids played outside all day, stayed out until dark, went to the river alone and drove around in the back up pick up trucks. Yet we survived. That is why I didn't think the following situation was a bad thing....
I think I gave my parents one of the worst scares of their lives. When I was about 10 my friend Helen and I asked if we could walk to the store. The nearest store was Riverbend, maybe 3 or 4 miles away but we planned to walk to Sproat Lake and I am not sure how far that was but it was further. I don't think my mom took us seriously and she let us go. Helen and I walked down the back logging roads and we were gone for hours, when we eventually got to the Tall Timbers store at the lake, it was 6 or 8 hours later, we were exhausted and still had to go home. We had no clue that there was a full search out for us, this was before Amber Alerts and the RCMP were searching for us, and it was on the radio, everyone trying to find us. We were clueless. We came out of the store and saw a police car, it pulled up to us and the officer said – “Are you Helen and Sarah?” We said, yes... they officer said, “Everyone is looking for you.” Our first thoughts were - we are in SO much trouble! When we got home I was afraid to see my parents – not sure what would happen, but they just cried and hugged me, they thought I was gone forever. About two years ago, Dad relayed this experience back to me and told me how hard he prayed for me to be safe. I felt awful to scare them so badly. I don't think I got into trouble though!

There are so many things I could say about my dad and this week I have remembered things and shared them with my girls and that has made me feel very close to him. It is hard to believe but Dad is the one who took me shopping for my grad dress and although I didn't realize at the time how tight money was in our family – he didn't pinch pennies at all. I think he was the only dad I know who drove their daughter to the store and sat there and he watched me try on each dress and critiqued it. I don't know how well he was at judging but he thought they were all beautiful on me and he drove me to every bridal store on Vancouver Island.

Me and My Girls
When it came to family – he was all about that – he may have held back with the words “I love you” when it came to us kids – probably due to how he was raised, but he never held back on saying I love you to his grandkids. From the time Althea the first grandchild was born through to Koel the last and all the rest in between – he adored holding those babies on his knee, laughing when they farted or grinning when he snuck them away in their little car seats for their first ice cream cones. My girls remember snuggling with grandpa on his big chair; going to sit on his lap in the computer room and him sneaking them treats from the candy room. They loved their grandpa hugs and smiles and any opportunity to go out with him to the big trucks or machines. 

Dad was the oldest of 8 children and I asked my uncles for some memories of my dad and there seems to be a common theme – Dad and his toys and dad wrecking his toys.

Dads remaining siblings
Uncle Abe said he always admired dad and looked up to him. Dad was 6 years older and Uncle Abe just wanted to hang out and spend time with him but a typical older brother he did his own thing and didn't always get too as much as he would have liked. Uncle Abe told me about a car dad bought in 1960 – the car was pretty knew – a 1956 Crown Victoria and it was a really nice car – except that dad drove across the border with friends one Sunday afternoon and by the time he started home he wasn't driving so well and totalled the car. Another time he had a 1955 Dodge and he was driving too fast across the bridge, went sideways and ripped off the bumpers on the guard rails. Yes, he liked his toys but might have still been a little too wild to appreciate them fully.

Uncle Peter was much younger than Dad – by about 15 years so he doesn't have too many early memories of Dad, but funny enough, his first memory involves Dad, a car and an accident. When Uncle Peter was 4 years old – Dad came home to visit with his car, Uncle Bill and Uncle Dave who were a bit older than Uncle Peter decided to play a joke on dad and filled his exhaust pipe with either rocks or potatoes, there seems to be some dispute about that. Uncle Peter, being a curious 4 year old boy, bent down and leaned under the back of the car with his face in the tail pipe to look it over. Dad had no clue that Peter was there and he started the car to drive away – Poor Peter pulled twice around the wheel well and then was knocked back flat, hit in the head with rocks or potatoes and had to get rushed to the hospital. He was in for 3 days for observation and had a big cut on his head. Dad apparently always felt bad about that and Uncle Peter who has now shaved his head, realizes he still has that scar as a memory.

Dad loved his toys and although a bright man he was impetuous and even careless at times. He definitely went through a few vehicles and injuries. Most often he could laugh about it later.

I have so many memories of my Dad and most of them are good so for that I have much to be thankful for. Now that I am a parent and I have done my best to love my kids while also spending a good amount of time screwing them up, I realize what a challenge parenting is. I realize that although Dad and I didn't always agree – yes I tried to stir things up with him from time to time or to rustle his feathers a bit – I also learned so much from him. I know he made mistakes – I would like to meet a parent who hasn't – but he did his best and he even managed to say sorry from time to time. My dad taught me to love to read and learn and we had so many great discussions.

A piece of his life...
One of the memories I shared with him last spring was his method to get us to read our scriptures. I loved to read, but I was into novels, not so much the Bible or Book of Mormon. Dad wanted us to get through them and to read them daily so he enticed us with a reward. If we read The New Testament or Book of Mormon, etc. He would take us out ANYWHERE to our choice of dinner. I could have anything I wanted and we had appetizers, entree, dessert, the whole deal. I told him last spring, I might not read the scriptures anymore but I still like to eat food, so I guess I have him to thank for that. And even though he lay there, sick, and with a limited vocabulary, he laughed and shook his finger at me.

My brother Chad, shared some memories with me and I would like to read those to you: 

I still have a few early memories of life. My earliest all take place on Bell Rd in Port Alberni. My earliest is probably sitting in the driveway behind the house, when I had the notion of eating dirt. I recall it was pretty awful. So I tried a second handful. Pretty sure I quit after that. I also recall waving goodbye to my brother and sister as they went to school. Somewhere around that age, I recall receiving a gift from my father. Dad was working just outside the backdoor. He used to weld there, as I don't think he had a good 220 plug out at the shop at that time. I was in the house, when he called me to come have a look at something. I headed out to see what’s up. I was a pretty small guy at the time, and when I stepped out, dad pointed to a frog. It looked enormous! It must have been a bullfrog, and as I recall, it seemed as big as my head. I realize now that it was not very big, but at that moment it was huge! And I was absolutely terrified! I ran into the house, not wanting to look back as I couldn’t afford to let this giant frog catch me. I ran through the kitchen, into the living room and onto the couch where I met my mother. I was scared and I was crying. And mom seemed the safest place to be. Not far behind me was dad. He was laughing away, as was my mother. Then he knelt down and apologized to me. Explaining that he never meant to scare me. "Chad, that's my pet frog. I only wanted to show him to you. He’s not going to hurt you. He’s very nice." As he slowly calmed me down, he told me that if I would like, I could have his frog for my very own. And that’s really all it took. From then on I was the proud owner of this awesome frog. I could often hear a frog under the floor of my bedroom as I went to sleep. Now I realize it was probably just good frog habitat, and a great hangout for frogs. But I used to often relay this story to the other kids, and even some adults. It was pretty cool having such a pet, and I was pretty proud that my father had trusted me enough to call it my own. No longer was I afraid of reptiles.
I have many memories. Dad bought motorcycles for everyone in the family other than myself. Luckily for me, my sister Sarah didn't have a real strong interest in riding her Z-50. So it was passed my way. I recall the day dad taught me how to ride it, it was pretty standard, dad would push me and tell me to go, and Id fall over. Then as I progressed I rode right into the back of the car. Finally getting the hang of it, he told me to never take it out of first gear. I probably rode that thing for a year before I worked up the courage to do two things, disobey my father, and two, feel the intense speed that second gear held in store for me. That bike had three gears, and I eventually found all three of them. I rode and rode and rode. I logged a lot of miles on that one acre property. And often as dad rolled into the driveway from building road all day, I was standing there with my little motorcycle next to his pickup waiting for fuel. Sometimes he would grumble, and sometimes not. But he would walk over and grab his siphoning hose out of the back of the truck and pull gas out of his truck and straight into my little bike and Id be on my way again until dinner time. That bike was a stroke of genius on my mom and dads part. It was the babysitter of the time. Dad always liked motorcycles and boats and cars and trucks and equipment. So I guess I come by it honestly. Because of him, I have an old car, a motorcycle, a few bits of equipment, a way too many boats. I learned so much just watching my dad. He had a bit of a reputation as a kind of a rough operator, but I enjoyed and respected his style. A bit rough and a bit crazy. I honestly believe I learned good and bad from him. But whichever, I learned a lot. And I'm grateful for the opportunities that came my way. How many kids are running a chainsaw by 9 years old? How many kids are running a skidder by age 11? How many kids are running a 980 log loader by14? I got to run so many pieces of equipment over the years, and all because of my dad. I could go on and on. So many close calls. So many learning experiences. So many times we were behind the eight ball in so many fashions. But he always bulldozed his way through and got her done. Thank you Mom and Dad. I love you. Chad
Those memories are indicative of the man dad was, gruff but loving and never wanting to intentionally hurt us but always pushing us to try different and new things. I even had a 22 gun but again, being a bit of a girl, didn't use it much. Now living in rural New Brunswick, I kind of wish I had pursued that more.

Me and Dad - March 2014
I didn't think I would be coming to see my dad again and I agonized about it but had the opportunity in March and I am so blessed to have spent almost 3 weeks with him, hours each day, helping him eat, reading poetry to him, talking to him and just sitting in peace. That experience has helped me now – I believe I grieved then and although his passing is a mixed emotion, I am so glad I could see him when more coherent. This past weekend I was able to spend most of the last two days by his and moms side and that is more than I could have asked for. Dad didn't like us to spend money we didn't have or travel to see him if we couldn't afford it, but Chad tells me that when he told dad I was coming, dad gave his hand one hard squeeze – I am so happy I was able to come and say goodbye.

Once I realized that I would be coming to visit him last spring, I decided to put my poetry together into a book form so that he could see it. I rushed to get it done and self-published a book to share and show him. He always appreciated technology and the things we could do with it. I was proud to show him the completed copy and to share the poem I had written for him – in fact I dedicated the book to him and read him that as well, but Dad, ever practical – cut to the chase, he looked at me and said “How much?” I said, “To buy it? Only $15 – but I am giving you a copy.” He said, “No how much did it cost you?” Of course since I published it, I paid for it and you couldn't put that past him, he analyzed it down to the dollars and cents. I know he liked it though and he told me I did a good job which is a memory I will hold onto forever.

I would like to share the poem that I wrote for him now. “An Ode to Dad” page 25

I have to wrap things up but I couldn't pay tribute to dad without mentioning the love of his life – mom. They were married for over 51 years and although life didn't turn out like they had planned – they had good years. Life wasn't always easy and there were times when I am sure they were both fed up with each other, but when I look back at all the pictures and I remember the life they had, I see love; I see their joy in the other.

Dad wasn't always easy on mom but he loved her and he loved to surprise her and spoil her. It was erratic and sometimes without any reason but he liked to bring her roses, or jewellery and every year without fail on her birthday he gave her Chanel No. 5 perfume. I can’t smell that scent without thinking of my parents.

Mom on behalf of Dad, we have bought you some roses, from him, one last time.  Mom, the last few years have been hard and painful at times but Dad loved you, of that I have no doubt. I truly believe that he is sorry for ever causing you pain and I know he loved you through to the end. On Monday night, when he passed away, he passed away finally at peace, lying beside his wife. You helped him and you accepted him. As you spent those last days, tenderly holding his hand, massaging his temples and kissing his lips, you gave him the unconditional love he needed to move on. Thank you for that Mom – we all love you.

40th Anniversary 2003
50th Anniversary - 2013
I know not being able to celebrate your last two anniversaries was hard for you and I wrote a poem about that. Poem page 29 – A love for a lifetime  If you look at the pictures on the memory table you will see photos from the 40th anniversary party and I am so happy now that we celebrated at that time. 

My final words, to my dad, thank you, for protecting me, for teaching me, for being my hero when I needed you and for not saying I told you so – at least not very often. You knew when I was making mistakes but you loved me anyway. Thank you for being a wonderful grandfather, my children and the rest of your grandchildren love you and miss you but we are grateful you are no longer suffering and I know you are up in heaven watching over us.

Mom, I am going to leave these thoughts with you to read again later, I know there is so much going on right now it is hard to remember everything. So you can take your time and reflect on our stories again later.

Memory Trees...
On the back of the program we relayed a portion of the poem The Dash – I think my Dads dash was full – he lived 75 years as well as he could.

After the service we will have a luncheon in the gym and I invite you to take a moment to write a thought or memory to mom or about dad on the cards on the tables and put them on the memory tree centrepieces. Again, thank you all for coming to remember our husband, father, grandfather, brother, friend, Klaas...

Finally, my daughter Jessica also read a poem that she selected...

When I'm gone 

by Mary Alice Ramish

Release me, let me go.
I have so Many things to see and do.
You mustn't tie your self to me with tears,
Be happy that we had so many years.

I gave you my love and you can only guess,
How much you gave me in happiness.
I thank you for the love you each have shown,
Buth now it's time I traveled on alone.

So grieve awhile for me, if grieve you must
then let your grief be comforted by trust.
It's only for awhile that we must part
So bless the memories within your heart.

I won’t be far away, for life goes on,
So, if you need me, call and I will come.
Though you can't see or touch me, I'll be near,
and if you listen with your heart,
you'll hear all my love around you soft and clear.

And then, when you must come this way alone,
I'll greet you with a smile and say, welcome home.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A journal of gratitude...

It is fall! Time for some Thanksgiving!
We are now well into October 2014 and Thanksgiving is almost here. I haven't written a blog since July - partly because I was busy and then I had computer issues and I just felt like, what do I have to say? Well, I have decided I need to express my gratitude, for so many things!

It is easy to go through life thinking: What's next? How come this happened to me? What did I do to deserve this? How come it is easy for everyone but me? Well, that is not the best attitude to move forward and although life has certainly dealt me some tragic and trying situations, I think I have finally learned to forgive, forget, move on and be grateful.

Many years ago Oprah  said - write down 5 things a day that you are grateful for. I tried it, I tried to think about what was good in my day, but I have to be honest, my gratitude journal didn't feel very authentic or real. Having said that, changing my life, my expectations and realizing that I don't need to be like other people or achieve what they have - has made me actually feel appreciative. So, today, I am going to express some of that gratitude. (Please feel free to stop reading or tune out if I am now boring you...)
7/7/7 Wedding Day
  1. I am grateful for the opportunity to relive my life - for the chance to start fresh, reaffirm what is important, move past the fear and create my own happiness. It was almost 6 years ago now that Len and I discussed the possibility of moving to the Maritime's - property was cheaper and I could "retire". Yes, it was scary but exciting. No, it hasn't been easy - but we have done it and surpassed many of the challenges. In order to do that we had to determine what was/wasn't important, what could we change, what do we need vs. what do we want and can we get through this together? It took work and a lot of adjusting and learning but, it seems to be working. There have been many times where we thought we wouldn't make it and a few when we were ready to give up on our new life and sometimes even, on each other.. I am grateful for "my handsome" and his support and unconditional love for me. 
  2. I am grateful for my siblings - we are not always as close as we could be and we live across the country - well most of them are in Alberta/BC except for me, but they help build me up - even though they probably don't realize it. My oldest brother and his wife dropped everything almost 10 years ago to be by my side and help me and my children when we needed it most. 
    My brothers and I - Spring 2014
    My family - 1987 - Better times
    I would have said we were both living our own lives but the need for family in times of crisis was apparent to me when they stood by me in every way they could. I can never say thank you enough for that. So when my brother got very ill last spring, I realized how much I loved him, yes I knew I did, but it wasn't something we expressed a lot. As I watched him and his wife of 25 years work through a hard time, I knew that I wanted that closeness to increase. I am so thankful that he has pulled through and I hope that we will remain closer and in touch. My youngest brother and I have always had a different relationship, I suppose in some ways we bonded more, he was my little brother and I adored him him when he was young. The past year I feel that I have been able to offer him love and support and he has given the same to me. I can never tell him how much that closeness means to me. I know his hugs and love helped me as we watched our Dad laying sick and our Mom struggling through it. I look forward to seeing them both very soon. I also have two sisters that I send hope, love and the wish for a bright future too. No matter what lays in the past, we are family and had much love once. It is easy to drift apart as we build our little worlds and get through each day, so to all my siblings - thank you for the good memories! 

  3. I am grateful for my children. The two people who have given me strength and courage when I only wanted to escape the reality of the world. I am proud of the women they are becoming as they move forward in their lives. It was hard to watch my oldest move away, but it was ok because it was the right thing for her. I don't believe making children feel as though they owe you something, or telling them you can't live without them or you would miss them too much is good for them or helpful. I think that teaching them to learn their independence, make their mistakes and carve their future - is the way to allow them to feel free.
    Me and my babies - 2012
    Of course I miss my daughter but she is living her life, learning what is important to her and what is superficial. I also love the opportunity of having my youngest to myself and to get to have those moments and laughter and time together. I think we all feel empowered with our new relationships. I am also grateful for the love and acceptance from my husband's children - they have been so kind to me and being a "grandma" although step has been such fun when I see them all! 
  4. I am grateful for my friends - old and new. This past summer one of my dearest friends and her husband came to see me. The timing was perfect - life had slowed down and we were able to just enjoy each other and see that we had both past our sadness and moved on to our joy. We were allowed the moments to laugh, share and to each know we had taken the right paths. I also have another friend, who has been by my side since I was 3 years old. My very first memory is of her - when I walked with my mom to the mail box and we met her and her mom - 45 years ago - we bonded and although we have each lived our own lives we have always stayed in touch. She has reached out to me in a way that I can never truly show my thankfulness - I love you! I want to thank my extended family for their friendship - cousins, aunts, uncles - people who have accompanied down my path to thankfulness in the past few years - I am so glad to have you all in my life! I shall see many of you, very soon!
  5. Finally, I am grateful for my parents. Two people who have had little - had much - had joy - had sorrow and now live through their final days together.
    Me & Mom 2014
    My parents have made many choices that I know they wish they could change - but no matter what has happened, they have always loved each other. It is heartbreaking, watching my father as he lay there, dying and knowing that my mom struggles with the pain, with the guilt for not doing some things differently and in her faith - knowing that she will be with him again. I pray she is right, that they will be two whole people again, a man that adored his wife - while not always able to show it and a wife who's eyes light up when seeing him. My dad has not always been an easy man to live with or be around but he always loved us and my mom. He was so excited to do things for her such as surprise elegant jewellery, 60 roses on her 60th birthday, little things to enchant her. 
    Me and my Dad - Spring 2014
    No, their almost 52 years together has not been perfect, but who's has? The main thing is the love that they shared and still do share. It is painful to watch Dad deteriorate and to push Mom away, but I believe that is also his attempt to help her, he doesn't want to be in the state he is or has been and he wants her to continue to live and he doesn't want to be her burden. I am grateful for the opportunity that I had last spring when I spent weeks by his side and very thankful that I am headed there again. Dad, you may be gone by the time I get there I don't know, but I love you and always will and yes, we WILL take care of Mom! 
So, gratitude, I feel it through my core, no life never gave me what I though it should but I learned that we only get what make of it. I am making it right now and I am grateful for the people I love and who surround me in my world - biological family and the family that I have earned through friendship and trust.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

July already? Post Hurricane Arthur....

Apparently I am remiss on keeping up this blog - I see it has been 6 weeks + since my last post! Yes, we are alive and well and very happy to be powered up again! So much has happened locally since I last wrote - the tragedy in Moncton with the RCMP and a deranged gunman; several local families devastated by a horrific car accident; an extreme summer heat wave, etc.... But today, I will refer to the recent hurricane.

As you may know, if you live in the Western Hemisphere or North America, we were hit one week ago by Hurricane Arthur. Now, normally, this is not a problem. We may have extra winds and hard rain - perhaps even a short power outage. It does not hit inland this far and so therefore it is no big deal, but not this time.

Today is July 12 and one week ago on July 5th, Arthur hit the Maritimes - hard! Nova Scotia and PEI are on the coast so they expect to be hit harder than we do. However we are inland New Brunswick and it wiped out our infrastructure  and shut down our power grid, telephones and cell towers for days. In fact, 1 full week later, there are still many New Brunswick homes without power. Last I heard last night was that at the height of the storm 250,000 homes were offline and by about 5PMyesterday there were still 20,000 homes offline. Most would be up by Sunday and a few more not until about the 15th. WOW!

We had no phone service for 5 days and no power for 6 days. We closed up shop and hoped that we could open again soon. This is my story of how we dealt with things.

NOT my house - just one of the many NB
trees that came down in the storm
Day One: Saturday morning 8:10AM I am baking for the shop - cinnamon buns rising and unicorn bars in the oven - power goes dead. Around 10AM some people dropped in and we managed a lukewarm pot of coffee from the coffee machine. 11AM phone my Mom - let her know power is out in case my daughter in Alberta can't reach me. Noon - phones dead. Close shop. Late afternoon drive to Maine for a dinner reservation made weeks before. Cross the border and watch the road as the trees sway, rain pours and
sections are almost washed out. Wonder if we will make it home again.

Day Two: Sunday - hire friends to take my freezer across the border to plug in at another friends so that I do not lose all of the ice cream I picked up on Friday and my years worth of pork/beef. Rain has stopped. Trees across roads, lines down, no word of power coming on again for days, possibly two weeks. My Len decides we need a generator - so we start the hunt - knowing all of NB is doing the same thing. Success! We will have limited power again. That evening a neighbour came by to see if he could lend us his generator. So sweet! This late '70's man with extreme health issues had spent the day going door to door with his generator - for free  - to help people preserve their food.
Me in full mosquito netting and long sleeves! OUCH!

Day Three: Camping outside our house, heating water on the BBQ to do dishes, cooking, etc.. We realize  - our food is safe, we have a generator and we may as well enjoy this forced vacation. Time for drinks! AND movies - thankfully we have lots of movies to watch on the DVD/TV via the generator. We are ok. We have no kids - so this is our resting time. My only stress is not knowing if/when/how my child will get home this week from Alberta since the airport was down, power out, etc.... We loaned the generator to a couple of people to help them out.

Day Four: Very grateful for our friends across the border who are allowing us to use their phone/computer to contact the outside world. Enjoying the people who drop in as they see us in the yard to give us updates on what they have heard... It is still looking like the weekend before we get back online. Still no phone service.

 I have never been so happy to watch convoy's
of power trucks. Thank you NB Power, Maine Power
and Quebec Power for all working to help out!
Day Five: My daily chat with the mail man as he tells me how the power trucks are getting closer and how people are doing. He truly is passing on the word as he goes along. I am sure his journey was longer last week as people asked him for information. Time to go to Fredericton and hope that my baby's plane is on schedule and she will arrive home. Still no confirmation but trying to communicate as much as possible. After arriving in Fredericton, we have dinner and realize that although Fred proper is online, many side areas are not. (Our waiter tells us how he can't wait to shower again - perhaps this is info he did not need to share?) Arrive home at midnight, after Jessica arrives home safely. YAY! Plus, added bonus - the phone is sort of working! Progress? I think so! I also managed to call my daughter in Vancouver - she is used to speaking with me daily so when I called she said, "Who is this? Sarah Sherman? I don't think I know you?" Funny girl!

Day Six: Still on a forced vacation. Very fortunate that we have a generator to keep things cold/frozen in the fridge and freezer and allows us light to read or power to watch movies. Feeling grateful. I know that we could have had it much worse and that I would not feel so tranquil had my husband not purchased a generator which definitely made life easier. This is the day the Fire Department came by and delivered flats of bottled water to homes - they were donated by Sobey's and the Provincial Gov't. Now it is 6PM and POWER is on! Yay! All of a sudden the house noises sprang back to life. The energy changed - we all went to do different things, activities, internet, etc....Life begins to return to "normal".

Just another day to the chickens....
What did I learn? We are blessed to have what we have. We are fortunate to have amazing neighbours and a community that reached out and helped each other. Later as I came online I saw how all of my surrounding communities had plans in place to assist. Showers opened, water stations, meals, loaned generators, etc.... I am always amazed at the heart people show when they have to pull together.

What did I think about for those 6 days? As the days progressed and I watched neighbour help neighbour, I considered this fact - what if we did not know if the power would ever come back on? What if this were an apocalyptic event? Would we be so helpful or become hoarders? I know that many things went through my mind and I had to consider how things might be different if we did not know if we would ever be online again or if the food sources were running out. Minutes from our home, across the border, we had access to restaurants, stores and gas stations - but what if we didn't? It definitely gave me pause. 

In any event, the quiet (when the generator was off) was absolute quiet. The rest - was my summer camping vacation (although with the size of the mosquitoes I was happy to head indoors at times!) My neighbours and community are amazing! AND  I have to admit it, as peaceful as it was at times - I LIKE HAVING POWER! 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Spring Opening! Or OMG will we be ready in time?

The Welcome Window
For the last couple of years we have run a little farm gate type coffee shop out here at the lake. It is always a bit of a panic and last minute affair. This year was especially tough since  winter lasted 6 months and the snow just disappeared; and until last week we were still lighting a fire to stay warm - which was a problem since  the wood porch is my summer shop. Friday morning at 6AM Len was up painting the floor after the final "little reno's" of the week so that we would be able to set up and open on Saturday morning at 9AM.

Historically I have had EI or worked part time which all helped me with my start up costs. Since I haven't worked since October,  I no longer have any other income and the farm market has been very slow, it was a bit stressful pulling things together. Not only was I counting pennies to get started, I didn't have an ice cream freezer! I finally decided Friday night to take the meat out of my freezer and store it at a neighbours so I would have some place to keep the ice cream for my customers.

Up until about two weeks ago we still thought we were going to expand, but my handsome husband is just not physically up to it and his health and comfort is much more important than expansion. So, here I was, Friday night, ice cream in my freezer, coffee machine ready to go, a newly painted shop and nothing, whatsoever in the room! Stress? Yup a little! On top of that, both Len and my backs were in pain and we were a bit of a mess. (I did find staying slightly inebriated very helpful though!) On the upside, although it was damp and dreary, the black flies and June bugs haven't arrived yet!

Giant Fresh SINbuns
Saturday morning, 4AM I was up, mixing 4 batches of cinnamon buns and a couple of batches of bread so that I would have SOMETHING besides ice cream to serve. Poor Len was up at 6AM again to help put it all together, what a trooper! Of course, the hot long weekend did not come to fruition so besides my coffee machine and cinnamon buns, it was pretty quiet. I did finally sell 1 ice cream cone to little Riley Fish at 9:30AM on Sunday morning... 

Although I did not make my fortune this weekend, it gave Len and I lots of time to putter, set up and decide he is no longer allowed to build, he is only allowed to be brilliant and create (and shovel chicken shit, yes that is still his job!) I have also decided to try my hand at a little fun painting and in addition to my writing I have added artist/author to my resume! I did sell 4 books this weekend, so that felt good!

Golden Unicorn Publishing/Art Gallery
Taking a break to pose
Hopefully this weekend is a bit busier and that sun pops out so I can serve the ice cream. We plan to start serving Saturday pizza's this year, but as mentioned until I earn some coin, there are no pizza supplies, so it is not looking good for pizza this week. How about by the beginning of June? Yes, that sounds like a definite plan! It was really great to start seeing people come back though. I have some very loyal die hard customers, local and lake people and I want to thank them for their ongoing support. You guys make it all fun and worthwhile!

It is now fiddlehead season and although I don't go out and pick them, I bought some from the market and plan to pickle them tomorrow. Always a culinary delight! I love them sauteed with garlic or in a creamy fiddlehead soup. Many of New Brunswick natives like to boil the fiddleheads and then rinse in vinegar, sounds good too! I even hope to get a garden in if the rain every stops! 

On top of dusting off the winter webs, we gave up our farm market booth and I have now taken over the market cafe - so on Friday's you can come see me, get my baking and maybe have some brunch or lunch! Yes, for a woman who used to avoid cooking except for big family meals, I have gone completely local, sustainable, mostly organic and definitely home made! Hope to see you soon - either in Woodstock on Friday or out here in the shop! Weekends only until July 1st then open all summer! Check out our website or Facebook page to keep up to date!