10+ Years

Today would have marked my mother’s 75th birthday had she lived. It seems strange to me that it’s already been just over 10 years since she passed away. Recently I read a quote which really resonated with me. It simply read “Grief changes shape but never ends.” (Keanu Reeves) When someone dies you wonder how you’ll live without them. Then, as time passes, you learn that you can go on but you cling to the memories. I doubt a day goes by that I don’t think of my mom. It may be a fleeting thought or it may be more deeper and longer…a memory of something we did together. Although I miss her very much, I don’t really feel the stinging pain of loss anymore. It’s kind of morphed into something gentler, softened still more by the warmth of the memories.

This photo is one of my favourites. It was taken about 2 years before she passed away. She had come to visit and to see her first grandchild. She was unable to hold him without the aid of the pillow, but, as you can see from her smile, she was absolutely thrilled. I remember that moment like it was yesterday and I’m so happy to be able to hold on to it.

momwithanas

Love you, Mom. Happy birthday.

When Life Happens – ROW80 Sunday Check-in

ROW80LogocopyA special woman I know, who had just turned 100 this past May, passed away a week ago. This weekend I attended the funeral and spent time with my family. There was no time for writing, and to be honest, I had no desire to write. Therefore, since my check-in last Wednesday, I have managed to add about 1000 words to my story, posted some photos on my blog, and tried to read a little before passing out from exhaustion. I stayed off of all social media for the last two days but now that I’m home, I’ll get back into the swing of things.

So yes, life happens and sometimes our well laid out plans have to allow for these things. I wouldn’t change a thing about my weekend. I’ll get back to writing tomorrow. I need some sleep. G’night!

With my sister. Norma was an inspiration to us all. Rest in peace.

With my sister. Norma was an inspiration to us all. Rest in peace.

Falling Into the Abyss: Discussing Mental Health

The discussion of mental health has come into the spotlight over the past few years. It is being talked about in every home in North America. Everyone has been affected by it somehow, either you know someone with it, or you are suffering from it yourself. After Robin Williams killed himself, instead of simply mourning his loss, people reminded each other that we need to look, really look, at mental health. When a deranged gunman opened fire in downtown Ottawa, people gathered their wits and saw the crime for what it really was – despite what the government tried to make it out to be. It was not an act of terror, it was a rampage by a madman. The gunman fell through the cracks…or, in this case, the chasm of a decaying social safety net.

Sadly, that net has been decaying for a long time, in fact, I’m not even sure if it was ever properly woven, but it’s taken a huge hit most recently. Our government would rather turn our attention elsewhere than face ridicule for how it has single-handedly weakened our social programs to the point where they are barely able to function. People aren’t that easily distracted though and more and more are calling for measures to be taken to help the vulnerable. People are tired of seeing so much misery when solutions are available. Our government, however, isn’t only to blame. Helping those who need it most, appears to be an elusive skill right down to our local governments and institutions. So many who deviate from our so-called norm struggling to function in a society built only to serve the norm get passed around from place to place because no one really wants to deal with them. Psycho-therapeutic drugs are pushed on people; a quick, band-aid solution because the underlying issues are too messy to work with. Even more importantly, the wrong people are suggesting solutions to something which they have no expertise instead of making a simple referral.

Lest you think I’m talking about something that I’ve only read about or heard about, let me tell you something. Someone who is very close to me has been greatly affected by mental health issues – very serious and destructive issues. I’ve seen the effects first hand. This person, whose name I am not using for her own privacy, has a son who is now in the court system because he, too, fell through the cracks. Today she wrote about her thoughts and experiences in an essay which was what prompted this post. Her story is one of heartbreak but also of love. Her writing not only demonstrates her frustrations but her determination. She has included information which could be very useful to other parents who are facing the same problems. Even if you are not a parent with a child who needs help, this article is a true testament to the state of affairs in our country and, as we’ve seen, is a problem that affects us all. Please read her story here and pass the link along so that we can all be involved in this very important discussion. The more we talk about it, the more we will all be aware of where help IS available and who to turn to. Eventually, let’s hope our discussion can help to build a stronger system where NO ONE falls through.

A Mother’s Letter

(Note: Experiences expressed in this letter are particular to the area in which this writer lives. People living in other areas may have different experiences)
Mental Health has entered into our family and reared its ugly head for the last ten years. Before exhausting all our options alone, and becoming frustrated before an incident happened, we had no idea what resources were open to us before it was too late. Your G.P will not usually refer you to a mental health facility/counselor, but will prescribe anti depressants. Ours was brilliant (tongue in cheek) enough to prescribe a medication for ADHD which had absolutely no relevance to my sons issues. He did so with a weak description of symptoms at that time coming from a 13-year-old who was unsure of what he was going through and therefore could not communicate what he needed from our health practitioner. Troubling as well he had parents who believed what he was going through at that age were “growing pains”. We were ignorant to the fact he was indeed showing classic signs of depression, anxiety, anger issues which lead to a black hole of behavioural issues. All before the age of 14. Who wouldn’t realize this was beyond the normal hormone change? Our G.P. prescribed this medication without fully understanding his train of thought and anxiety. He prescribed a medication that had a street value and so began our journey into prescription drug addiction and a temporary but dangerous means of making money independently as a preteen. We stopped refilling once we were aware of what was happening. He still found a way of getting his hands on even the most dangerous of drugs. He is no saint. AND dare I say this. The gateway WAS marijuana. Period. Let the controversy begin, please give me one reason to express my feeling on that.

 

What we have learned and what most parents or individuals don’t know is assistance from a mental health counselor is available to you through your school board. The entire family is afforded six free sessions, separately. That means each member is allowed to seek individual assistance if needed for six weeks, free. This was never offered to us regardless where the information from his OSR (Ontario Student Record) pointed to. Their answer was to permanently de-register my son, through a written letter, no meeting, before exhausting all areas of assistance that we begged and pleaded for since he was seven years old. This then turned into a year and half of trying to locate a school in our jurisdiction to take him on, his special needs, his past history, his education. His education. “No child shall be turned away”. Hm hmm.

 

We supported the Catholic School Board, and when the Catholic schools wouldn’t take him because he didn’t meet the requirements we were told it would be in our best interest to seek registration with the Public School Board and good luck. We then went through every public school in our jurisdiction, only to be told they do not have the funding for his needs and let the Catholics look after it. This is truth. This turned into countless letters to the school board and CC’d to our MP. Nothing came of it and my son was sitting with a grade ten education. We considered correspondence however if you are under the age of 18 you need to be registered with a school board in order to enroll otherwise the cost to you is $500 per class.(based on the resources and channels we went through) He needed over twenty credits. We then looked into a GED (General Ed) class. They were willing to consider his application before the age of 18. We went to countless meetings, we set up a time-table and got as far as registering and a date to start. We then received a letter from the college a week prior to starting. “We regret to inform you however as of January 2013 we can no longer accept students under the age of 18”. Nobody wanted to touch him.

 

Then finally we found an alternative learning program at one of the public schools and only because a close friend mentioned it during a conversation. At least he was a registered student again, but there was no structure to these classes and he craves structure in order to stay focused. My son is brilliant, quick-witted and more than capable of learning. At the age of 12 he completed third in a biathalon with over 2500 participants. He’s athletic, a genius when it comes to math, and his musical talents would blow you away, what he can pick up on a guitar by listening to a song once. Regardless what he has done in his past, I know my son is in there and I love him so very, very much and I’m frustrated that I’m unable to help him, I feel guilty that I, a stay at home mother who was attentive to the point of paranoia, didn’t pick up the signs that would eventually destroy my sons self-esteem, confidence, and mental well-being. This is not an “Oh, woe is me” cry, this is just a mom who feels she failed her son on so many levels and the past four years have consumed me to the point of obsession to help him, but I can’t do that without the proper guidance. There is always a road block where there shouldn’t be when it comes to our children. I’ve said it before and have been very vocal. The time we received help was when his behaviour finally escalated and he found himself belonging to the courts. I no longer have control over a situation that we can help him get out of. Other than to ensure he has a good defence lawyer.

 

THE POINT TO ALL OF THIS – If your child has been identified with a learning disability, you know all to well that with a learning disability comes behavioural issues. Sometimes well beyond parenting. Sometimes too much for a child to bear on his shoulders because he doesn’t understand why he’s like this and impulse behaviour is only a brief satisfaction before suffering consequences. And this is just a fraction of their suffering while as a parent you’re justifying, enabling and making excuses for their behaviour out of sheer ignorance and denial. You have got to play hard ball, read, read, read what other parents going through similar situations have posted or blogged about out of mere bewilderment that it’s happening to them, and sometimes it just feels better when written down, they are the ones who can offer support through experience. Educate yourself, if you don’t understand what your child’s teacher is saying during meetings, tell them to dumb it down so you have a clearer understanding, ask questions upon questions, upon questions and write those answers down. Ask your doctor to refer you to a specialist if he/she is unable to help, surely to God they have information but why is it so damn hard to obtain the information? Know that help is offered through our Mental Health association be it through the school board your son or daughter is attending, be it through the EAP (Employee Assistance Program) – It should be posted in your work place above the WSIB information.

 

Join a parent group, you would be surprised how alone you are NOT. Talk with a child/parent conflict manager, they’re available through CAS (Children’s Aid Society). Most importantly, talk, talk and talk with your child. Something triggers them to misbehave in ways some of us cannot fathom and unless you have a designation in psychiatry you’ll never get it. Know their friends and what their friends are bringing into your home. Those backpacks aren’t harbouring school books. And for the love of God, don’t let them attend the Youth Centre. It’s a breeding ground for fights, drugs, and all sorts of trouble. I don’t think it’s always been like that but when I say it’s not controlled, I mean in every aspect it’s not controlled or monitored.

 

A year ago my son was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, weapons dangerous, burglary. November 15 at 6:01 am our house was raided. We had 15 men from the Police Tactical Unit surrounding/securing our home, we had five officers searching our home inside and out and finally we were evacuated from our home so they may continue looking for whatever it was they were looking for. Search Warrants are not something to take lightly. Until that day, we had our issues but lead a very quiet life, operated a reputable business within the community. One of which we take pride in, it’s our livelihood. One we operate from our home, off a highway our most loyal customers drive to their work place everyday. As selfish as this sounds, I was concerned who was going to see the circus in our front yard and never call us again? We have lost friends who think that our sons actions is something we should be crucified for and charged with as well as he. But we also had our families combined, our friends who stuck by us and have supported us. Who know my son and genuinely care about him and see all the good that is inside of him, who he really is. A good kid, with poor decision-making skills, with low self-esteem, who surrounds himself with like peers because that is where he is accepted. A son whose actions validate what he believes he’s worth.

 

I will say this, I’ve never, ever had a gun drawn on me until that day. And all I could think about was, “what has he done”? To this day I can still describe the smell of the officer who detained me in my bedroom for over an hour. I did not see my son leave the house handcuffed and thrown into a cruiser. Information to us was not allowed to be provided until the bail hearing and even then it was vague. Until we retained a lawyer we didn’t understand the full extent of our sons actions. I was beside myself. I made the hardest decision of my life that day, with my mother beside me. I denied bail and let him spend time in detention until his next hearing. He was able to call me from the facility. I couldn’t talk to him. Conversation was cut short and when I hung up, I cried and I cried hard. How can I save him from this? Who is he?

 

Our experience has taught us, there are so many programs available to our youth. Drug and Alcohol Counselling (this one is tricky because the individual has to go through the process of wanting this help and they will fall time and time again) and therapy and guidance through our Youth Mental Health, the Heads Up program which involves a psychiatrist. These all offered to us, not by court order, but coming out of the mortar when your child messes up big. All these programs that our School Boards are aware of. I still don’t know what the right question would be to initiate this help when talking with your teacher or principal, if this hadn’t happened, we would still not be aware of these programs that help our youth. I’m hoping with the beginning of our Government’s involvement with Mental Health, these programs will be included in orientation news letters and promoted through our schools to make parents aware they’re not alone and help is there.

 

My son has a chance at being offered the D.A.R.E Program for six to nine months as his sentencing. The sad part is, he has to be recommended by a parole officer through the courts. There are countless interviews and applications to be filled out and signed and documentation supporting his purpose for applying before he can be given the chance. Here is something you need to know. Project D.A.R.E offers a youth at risk program. Your school board is aware of this program and should be readily available as an alternative to parents who see their child suffering. With the help of the student’s OSR and through meetings with the teacher/principal you can gauge where your child might be on the risk meter. This program can be initiated through parental referral. Teachers have our children between six to eight hours a day and they see first hand how they respond to authority, how they progress academically, how they interact with peers, who their peers are and sometimes, there are children who act much differently in school than they do outside of school in front of their parents. Such was our case. We thought both our boys were saints. Boy, were we slapped hard in the face when we realized they weren’t. Schools have the resources to help if you have the slightest suspicion your child is slipping into the danger zone. You need to know about these resources when it becomes out of your control. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and be persistent.

 

I wish all of this didn’t happen, but in the same sentence let me say it opened doors for us to get him the help he needs now and we go forward and we continue to be his support. He will be a productive member of society and my wish for him is to thumb his nose at those who thought he was not worth the effort, or a lost cause, or unteachable. Sometimes the biggest bullies are the adults without knowing the effects their words and actions have. And that’s only part of it.

 

What I’m proud of is how he’s handled this situation without so much as blaming anyone but himself. He continues to face the music, which is a hard, hard lesson. He is cognizant of his actions, how much harm he’s done not only to his victim, but to his family. He’s regained the confidence to realize he can obtain his high school diploma with hard work and determination. The hardest thing he had to endure before even considering his future was becoming clean and sober. With the help of the programs listed above, he’s conditioned his way of thinking and feeling worthy and capable of moving forward. His plan remains, as it did when he was a little boy, to join the military. It’s a long road and may have a lot of barriers but I know, he’ll break them down and no matter how long it takes him to achieve a sound, stable, healthy and happy life, he’ll get there. I have faith in him.

 

I’ve written this and if you know me, nothing is ever short and to the point, but if I can help at least one family who have recognized themselves in this, then I feel I haven’t failed my son. He’s opened my eyes and I’ve never been alone, I just didn’t educate myself to know what was out there to help me. I’m not ashamed of sharing this. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to seek the help you may need. Bring forward Mental Health. It may be the most important thing you’ve ever done for your loved ones.

Directory of Helpful Links:
Children’s Aid Society
Project D.A.R.E
Heads Up Program
Addictions Centre

Summer Vacation 2014 – First Leg – Georgian Bay

Hello all! I’m here in Prince Edward Island and have finally had time to take a breath and go through the hundreds of photos I’ve taken in the last week. I can tell you that it’s quite an overwhelming undertaking. However, I did divide them into the different legs of the journey which made sifting much easier. We have crossed four provinces and have driven almost 2,300 km in a week. We’ve visited my Dad in Georgian Bay, taken the kids to La Ronde in Montreal, toured historic Quebec City, made a quick stop in Fredericton, and are finally resting a few days near Alberton, Prince Edward Island before heading back to Ottawa.

Georgian Bay is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places in Ontario. My Dad and his wife are fortunate to have a lovely cottage in the area of Honey Harbour. Although they don’t look out onto Georgian Bay itself, they have a gorgeous view of a smaller bay that is relatively quiet and sheltered. Although the skies were overcast all weekend, it did not stop the kids from swimming. They had a choice of going in off the dock or splashing in the sandy beach area. Aside from 1000 shots of them jumping into the water and searching for fish in the shallow waters, I spent the rest of my time taking nature shots.

The most frustrating thing in the world is to try to take a photo of a Loon. I swear that they purposely taunt me by appearing just close enough to shore that my zoom lens can barely make them out or by popping up right next to the dock when all I have with me is my cell phone. Then, just as I’m about to take the shot, they dive under the water and, after what seems like an eternity, pop up again 6 miles away. So, you’ll forgive me if the shot I’m displaying here is not entirely crisp but it’s the best darn photo of a Loon I’ve ever taken.

Loon Georgian Bay

The other photo of a bird I took was purely out of curiosity. I wasn’t sure what it was. It was soaring like a Hawk but was far too large to be a Hawk. It seemed much too graceful to be a Turkey Vulture, and yet, that’s what it turned out to be. I had never realized that Turkey Vultures have beautiful silvery wings, but as it dove and soared over the cottage, I could see them glistening in the sun. I’m rather glad that, due to my distance from the vulture, I wasn’t able to capture a clear shot of its face. You can, however, see the red around the eye and the yellow beak if you look closely.

Vulture GB_sm

The Muskoka Chair is kind of a cultural icon especially in areas North of Toronto. It is the Canadian version of the Adirondack Chair. There are subtle differences if you look closely. It seems almost like a faux pas if you have a cottage and don’t have one of these chairs. The well crafted ones are very nice and are quite comfortable. I liked the secluded location of this one in the photo and thought, if I had time to myself, I’d like to curl up in it with a good book and enjoy my surroundings.

Muskoka Chair GB_sm

Of course, I have to include a few of the flora as well so here they are – Lily Pads and Daisies.

I’ll return soon with stories and photos from Quebec. :)

Change of Scenery

Hello dearest readers. At the end of the work day today, I’m off on vacation! JUST A LITTLE EXCITED. I’m going up to Georgian Bay and then off out East to Montreal, Quebec City, and Prince Edward Island. Soooo…I’m planning on taking a million photos…give or take…and I will be posting as many as I can here. A change of scenery is always inspiration for a photographer. It may also inspire some creative writing…you never know. 

This past week has been quite pleasant and relatively relaxing as lazy summer days tend to be. Even the kids have (more or less) taken it down a notch and enjoy their time outside. We went looking for rocks along the shore of the Rideau River. They love tossing rocks into the water which provided me with the photo of the ripples in the water. We ran through fields of clover which smell so lovely. And we spent time in my backyard having water balloon fights and running through the sprinkler where I discovered that my wee rose-bush had actually produced some lovely flowers. As always, it’s the simple things that I enjoy and love to try to capture in photos.

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See you next from Georgian Bay.
– Your soon-to-be roving blogger. :)

Freedom

BridgeLast night my son had a softball game at a park out in the country south of Ottawa. There are 3 diamonds there, a playground, and large open space divided by forested area and a stream. It’s quite idyllic really. Since my daughter isn’t playing this year, she likes to go to the games just to hang out with the siblings of the other players. Luckily, she discovered that one of the other boys on the team has a sister her age. After only one game, they have become like two peas in a pod and completely inseparable for the full two hours of the game.

The GirlsWithin seconds of arriving last night, the two girls disappeared down to the stream. Occasionally they would pop up and then disappear again. I walked over to their preferred play area a few times and, at one point, found them with soaked shoes because they were collecting shells in the stream. They were so excited with their finds and could care less about their soaking feet. My heart soared just to hear the joy in their voices.

Remember there was a time when kids would spend their whole days like this? Only to return at dinner time, dirty and starving? I couldn’t go twenty minutes without craning my neck to catch sight of them. That’s the sad part. Like all of us parents these days, our watchfulness falls somewhere between between Awareness and Paranoia. But the good part is, they had no idea I was keeping an eye on them and they clearly loved the freedom they felt to roam and explore. THAT is what childhood should be all about.

The Bridge

A Week in Review

I’ve gotten rather lax about posting Beautiful every day. I can’t promise to improve, but I’d like to for my own sake. It’s nice to look back and see what object or event was special to me on any given day. Thing is, with the nice weather coming around, I spend less time in front of a screen and more time outside. That, however, should give me more to write about. So no excuses…

Here is this week in review:

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My daughter created a pre Mother’s Day gift from natural elements. I wasn’t sure how long it would stay intact so I photographed it. I think it’s perfectly lovely.

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The children in the daycare were creating their Mother’s Day gifts using paint. Kids enjoy mixing their paints instead of keeping the colours separate. I loved the effect on their palettes.

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Came across these lovelies, Glory-of-the-snow, growing along a path at a local garden centre. They were so bright against the dark earth. So beautiful after a long winter.

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The Canadian Museum of Nature has a wonderful new exhibit called Creatures of Light. I got an opportunity to see it yesterday. These are bioluminescent mushrooms. Fascinating!

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Today it was warm enough to slip on my flip flops! In other words, it was above 20 C. Joyous toe freedom!

This was a good week!