“I don’t believe an accident of birth makes people sisters or brothers. It makes them siblings, gives them mutuality of parentage. Sisterhood and brotherhood is a condition people have to work at.” – Maya Angelou
The other day I e-mailed my brother to share an article that I thought he would like. The article was well written and funny and it reminded me of my older brother. He emailed me back to acknowledge the article and inquire how we were all doing. He then said something so simple and I’m sure he has no idea just how much this simple line touched me. He said “I enjoy reading your blog, it’s good and you are a much nicer person than me – I feel humbled – lol!” Kevin has been reading my blog since I started and he’s always been supportive of my writing. Growing up, Kevin was my senior brother by seven years and I didn’t always feel that he was supportive of me or my ambitions. To be quite honest when I was a young girl and a teenager I quite often thought he was an asshole and I’m sure he thought the same of me. We didn’t get along, I always felt he pushed his weight around and he was in my face which made me push back and at times it could be explosive! I drove him crazy, I knew it and knowing that I drove him crazy only encouraged me to get under his skin some more. I can be like that, if I feel negativity coming my way I tend to face it straight on with my head high and get in negativity’s face no matter what the consequence.
After reading that line in his e-mail, I realized how far we’ve come. Acknowledging my writing and complimenting me erupted within me a feeling of satisfaction and made my day. I realized at that moment as a young girl growing up under the weight of my big brother that I was looking for his support and craving his acceptance. Looking back at our up-bringing I realized that Kevin and I were destined to be in an explosive sibling rivalry by the very nature of our family dynamics. Our parents split up and divorced when I was eight and Kevin was 15. The divorce was nasty and full of tension and anger leaving the children to fend for themselves on an emotional level. I look at my 15-year-old son right now and what he is going through in terms of growing pains, hormones and emotions and then I think of my brother watching our father walk out the door and the emotional toll it took on our mother and I realize now why Kevin was such an asshole. By nature most 15-year-old boys are assholes as they are trying to find their way and become young men. Kevin was expected to be the man of the house and take care of his younger sister and brother. My younger brother was pretty quiet about everything but I could be uncooperative at times and a sassy, quick-talking little bitch. I’m sure that’s what my brother wanted at 15, to be responsible for two children who didn’t really want to be a part of the whole mess either.
Kevin was a good hockey player and he was a smart cookie in school. My father coached hockey and coached Kevin up to that point. My father gave up coaching, Kevin quit hockey and picked up a different group of friends which led him away from school and into endeavours that put him on a different path, a path that was the opposite direction of his former life. It’s not for me to express my brother’s feelings, but I’m sure he was angry and I think that anger came out in so many different forms. I’ve always been able to channel people’s feelings and emotions and I know now that I was reacting to his anger. Every single one of my siblings reacted differently to the trials of our parents’ divorce and every single one of us have different feelings and versions of events. Difficult really, places brother against brother, sister against sister and brother against sister. Divorce doesn’t have to be that way but it was that way for our family.
As I sit here this morning writing this post, I am 3000 miles on the opposite coast of my siblings and I miss them. I miss our bonds no matter how unpredictable and temperamental we all can be. The truth of the matter is when I get together with my siblings I feel like I’ve come home, truly come home and I can be myself as I react to the constant banter and wise cracking comments between us. I love the nature of our relationships and I wouldn’t trade our up-bringing or past experiences because I believe these experiences have shaped us into who we are. A couple of years ago, Kevin and my sister-in-law, Sandra, flew to the west coast to spend some time with my family. It was such a good visit, we had a lot of fun and Kevin and I talked about old times. It was during this visit that a light came on for me as I realized all of our past trials and fights happened because Kevin and I are more alike rather than opposites as I believed growing up. I guess you can say Kevin and I finally came home, home to a place of mutual respect and acceptance and realized we are both assholes!
“Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.”
― Samuel Johnson, The Rambler
I stumbled upon a new blog that intrigued me – Duane’s World. His writing is simple and he has changed his world by eradicating all negativity and perfectionism from his life. The post that really caught my attention was “What would 10-year-old Duane think?” No I’m not copying Duane but think about it, how often do we think of our 10-year-old selves and what he/she would think of our adult selves.
I haven’t thought of 10-year-old Jo in forever! My 10-year-old self – here it goes – if you met 10-year-old Jo you would think she was this quiet, beautiful little girl. Jo tended to be a little shy but in truth Jo was carrying many burdens. Jo was an outdoorsy, curious girl who wanted to spend her days running through fields, climbing trees, catching spiders and finding different bugs to add to her bug terrarium. Jo hated it when people fussed over her, she hated having her hair brushed and she hated wearing skirts. Jo played with barbie but barbie was always on an outdoor adventure and wearing clothes that logically fit the lifestyle – no pretty dresses for barbie. Jo’s day usually started by rummaging through her drawers to find anything to wear and much to her mother’s horror Jo would be very under dressed as she ran out the front door as clothes just interfered with her curious nature. Winters were cold and harsh, but Jo was outside all the same. No bugs to catch, but forts and igloos to build, snow angels to make and skating at the community outdoor rink.
At home Jo’s life was difficult – full of chaos and sadness and Jo’s mom didn’t embrace her inquisitive nature. Instead Jo’s mom tried to break her curious spirit by showing distaste for Jo’s interest in everything from bugs, clothes, messy hair and her close relationship with her father, her mom’s ex-husband. Not all bad as Jo learned to stand up for what she believed in and taught her the importance of always being yourself.
What would 10-year-old Jo think of 50-year-old Jo? 10-year-old Jo would like that she still lives her life in the outdoors every chance she gets, she would like that she married someone who loves all of her, good and bad, she would like that she has two boys and no princess girls, she would love that she plays hockey and she would like that she still likes spiders and snakes. What 10-year-old Jo would not like about 50-year-old Jo – she would hate all of the skirts and pretty clothes in her closet, she would think that she covers herself up with too many clothing items, she would hate all her shoes as you only need one pair, she would hate that she is tied down to a full-time job, she would hate her lack of freedom because of commitments and she would hate her house because housework is just a waste of time.
Truth be told – 50-year-old Jo is still very much like 10-year-old Jo and she still struggles to not let outside forces interfere with who she is. Her mother is no longer around to show her distaste in her choices but there are plenty of other people to replace her. The little Jo in her ignores them all and to combat the negative forces she heads outdoors where she is accepted as a whole as she blends into the accepting and curious forces of nature.
“Sitting in a rowboat,
paddling around the lake,
looking for a good fishing spot,
life suddenly becomes uncomplicated,
makes me wonder why I don’t sit in a boat more often.”
“Before I got married I had six theories about raising children; now, I have six children and no theories.”
– John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester (1647-1680)
I wrote about the boys when they were little farts in the “Wonder Years”. It seemed like those years were filled with special, magical moments that I’ve captured in pictures time and time again. Life with teenagers is a whole other dimension. At times I feel ill prepared and I say and do all of the wrong things. The most I can do is offer them support and guidance and hope all goes well. I was a teenager too and I remember those years and to be honest my children are a breeze compare to what I was like. I was a rebellious little bitch back then and I thank God I don’t have a teenage version of me in the house.
What I’ve really noticed is the language has changed. When the boys were younger we talked all the time, now that they’re teenagers the most I get is yeah, no and I don’t want to talk about it. Being me I ask another question and I get “I told you I don’t want to talk about it.” However, they don’t have jobs, they can’t drive a car and they need my husband and I to act as their chauffeurs, give them money for their entertainment and support their sport endeavours.
A while back my fifteen year old asked me to drive him to the movie theatre so he could join his friends. On the way over to the theatre I asked him what movie he was seeing. I made a comment that I wanted to see that movie and I got a blank stare. Then he said “mom you can’t come to the movie with me, you know that right?” Ouch… “What makes you think I want to see a movie with a bunch of fifteen year old boys Brendan?” “Well just in case you did mom, you can’t come in.” “Wow Brendan – really – believe it or not I much prefer your dad’s company.” A couple of months later my thirteen year-old asked if I could drive him to the theatre to meet his buddies to see a movie. Same chatter, different day – I asked him what movie he was going to see. “We’re going to see the Fury with Brad Pitt mom.” “Matt I love Brad, I want to see that movie.” Blank stare and after a few moments of thought Matt said to me, “mom if you want to come in and see the movie, can you drop me off, drive around the back, come in a different door and sit in the other side of theatre.” “Matt that is such a sweet thing to say.” Perplexed he said “really, I’m telling you to sit in the other side of the theatre and you think that’s sweet.” “Yeah Matt, the fact that you invited me at all makes me happy, but as enticing as your offer sounds, I’ll pass and pick you up when the movie is done.”
Recently there has been the drama of girls and I am really not prepared for that as I was never a princess girl and I keep telling my boys if they are going to date to make sure they look for girls who don’t play head games and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. Don’t bring home a princess head game player because your mother won’t survive it. Both boys think I’m nuts and that’s ok because I am nuts – you have to be certifiable to raise teenagers.
Day in day out I question if I’m doing it right and at the end of every day when all is quiet and the boys have washed up for bed – it’s usually the same routine – I’m in the kitchen cleaning up the day’s mess and Brendan comes down and gives me a big hug and says good-night and about five minutes later, Matt comes down and hugs me good-night as well. Makes me smile every time and admit to myself that maybe just maybe I’m doing something right!
Walking through this old graveyard gave me a sense of humbleness. Dreams, hopes and passions of souls lie in the unmarked graves. Every step was a step into the unknown, a reflection of my life as I continue the journey.
“Lifting peoples’ spirits by showing them they have friends who are willing to help them will ultimately allow them to reach out of poverty.” Jas Singh
This is not the first time I’ve posted about Jas Singh. A simple man with big dreams and day by day he is making his dreams come true. His only goal in life is to feed the poor. Not only is he feeding the poor, he’s taking a whole community along for the ride. He has a database of 1100 volunteers who help him run the farm so he can produce the food needed to feed the less fortunate. His goal in 2014 was to produce 500,000 pounds of produce from 70 acres of land to donate to the local food banks. Jas sustains himself by growing and selling crops on the side for very little income. He has big shoes to fill but he doesn’t see this as his lone mission, he sees the bigger picture and he sees his goals achieved by a community. He does it with volunteers and the support of a large social media community whom answer his requests every time he calls out for help, whether it be sowing the fields, harvesting the crop or setting up an ice rink. We don’t often get cold enough weather for an outside rink in this town, but when the temperature drops Jas takes to Facebook to appeal for help to flood the fields, for donations of generators, lights, speakers and music, barbecues, hot-dogs, hot chocolate – you name it he gets it as his army of volunteers answer his call. The general community comes out as well and share his pledge on Facebook with as many as 58,000 views. The weatherman said last week that we would have a cold snap, so Jas answered the call and his rink was ready by the morning of December 31st. The sun was strong so the boys and I headed to the farm by 10:30 am to get as much skating in as possible before the ice started to break up under the heat of the sun. We skated until 1:30 in the afternoon and left as the ice was getting soft. I read later that a thousand people showed up that day all enjoying a day of skating with their families, eating hot-dogs and drinking hot chocolate. The skate was by donation as Jas is raising money so he can seed his land to grow the crop he plans to donate to local food banks. His mission is simple but an incredible up-hill battle as he faces daily challenges. His secret to facing these challenges is that he doesn’t face them alone – he has many supporters and for this he is humbled. For more about Jas – read his story here: