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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve, old memories.

The last few days I have been pretty lonesome for my Nanny. For those who don't know, Nanny was my father's mother, and she lived just a few hundred feet from our house as I grew up in Mabou Harbour. Christmas was her favourite time of year, she took great delight in watching the kids opening their gifts, and having family all around all the time. When I think back now, I don't know how she always managed to have so much food available for everyone who came through the door. 

It was ten years ago today since Nanny passed away. The sadness comes every year, but I never know when that deep sadness will come, you know, the sadness that makes you wish you could call up a lost loved one just to hear them one more time. It came for me last night. I fell asleep wishing I could at least dream about her so that she could feel close for just a little while. Instead she sent her sign this morning, when I woke up to a bell on my phone, at the exact same time that I got the call ten years ago that Nanny had died. 

When I was about 8, Nanny and I were walking down our lane, and we promised each other that whoever died first, they would let the other one know that they were okay. Years went by and we never talked about that promise. And then I got sick, and had to have a bone marrow transplant. I made it home for Christmas, and on New Year's Eve me and Nanny had a long, long chat. And she asked me if I remembered our promise from years ago. She told me she was too scared to ask me before that, because she didn't want me to think that I was going to die. We didn't talk about our promise again for years. It wasn't until she was dying with cancer that we once again talked about the fact that we needed reassurance. I knew life would never be the same again without my Nanny, and I honestly worried about how I would cope. She was always the one who could help me get my priorities straight, who made me realize that I was worrying about silly things, and the one who loved me no matter what...I could be silly, self-centred, or whatever, and she was my constant. She loved unconditionally, and I could not imagine life without her. 

I had left the hospital through the night of the 30th-31st, and when the phone rang early that morning, I knew before I answered it that she was gone. As I hung up, I looked out the window and the yard was full of birds, and she was always watching the birds. I took that as my first sign. And while others may not believe in heaven, or signs, or whatever, the signs that I have gotten over the years have been my way of coping with the loss of a wonderful woman from my life. I know I watch for signs, and I believe she sends them. 

So while I always take stock on New Year's, it is a day that is full of memories of my Nanny, and this year, the ten year mark seems a little more sad. It feels like it was yesterday, and it seems like it was a lifetime ago. I miss her stories, I miss how she kept me connected with all my cousins, I miss her voice, I miss her cookies and rolls, I miss her great conversations, and I miss just her presence. We could just sit and not say a word and be comfortable. 

Nanny was an incredible woman, who loved her family more than anything. She really was something else, and every year as I sit down to think about her, I make a little resolution that I will once again to try to be as good a mother as she was, and hope that I will someday be a Nanny who will be loved as much as she was. If you have a grandparent, give them a hug for me today, and I want to send special hugs to my Dad, and all my aunts and uncles. We were all lucky to have had Nanny in our lives, and she loved you all so much. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Why can't others get such media attention?

Last night my Twitter feed blew up, with the rage over the Bill 10 filling up the page. There was an outpouring of how people felt this was so unjust, and wrong on so many levels. As a quick synopsis, the bill will mean that youth wanting to form Gay Straight Alliances at school, can form them, but the school will be allowed to say whether or not it is allowed. If the school does not allow it, students can appeal to the school board, and then if they also deny it, they can take it to the Court of the Queen's Bench.

While I do not support taking away the rights of youth to form any type of group, I kept waking up all through the night with so many thoughts going through my head that I had to share. Because if you force me to answer, I will say that Gay Straight Alliances are more for the parents than the youth, and I would be very interested in seeing how they would run. Because you know what makes me sad? That people think we need such "alliances". An alliance to me suggests a "us against them" line of thinking, and I think that is wrong. Let me explain my line of thinking.

When I went away to college, I made all kinds of friends. I felt like I had been thrust into some kind of bakery where suddenly I could find a pastry to suit my tastes instead of always just settling for bread because of no variety. I met people from different cultures, races, and countries, and I hungrily learned about the way they grew up and how we were all different. And there was one girl that I started meeting up along the route to class, and we had so much to chat about, we quickly became friends. I loved that she loved talking about books and music, and politics and she was just fun to be around. We ate together, we hung out after class and chatted about life. Now remember, I was from rural Cape Breton, and I had very limited interactions with people of colour, of different religions, and with gay people. In fact, I would say I knew gay people growing up, but I never knew they were gay, it just was not talked about at home, and when people moved away and finally "came out" it was still "the talk" for a while afterwards.

Christmas exams came and went, and we were getting ready to go home for the holidays, and this young girl asked me to go for supper downtown. I could tell that she was nervous, and I wondered aloud almost right away about what was wrong. Turns out she was gay, and I had no clue. And she was terrified of telling me because she was not sure how I would react. And I will never forget that moment, because I was so sad that she thought it would change how much I liked her. Twenty three years later, we still keep in touch. And it still makes me sad that people need to create alliances because of how they choose to live, what religion they are, or even if they are a woman or not. That's just me, it makes me sad. This video kept popping into my head last night that I saw a few years ago.
I want that for everyone. I don't care if you are gay, transgender, straight, bisexual, whatever.

But I was upset last night for another reason.

Last week it was reported that in the last 8 months, 18 children have died in the Child Welfare system of Alberta. Just stop for one minute and think about that....18 children. 18 children that are just like your children, just like your grandchildren, children that will not grow up and ever have the chance to have the lives that we all so often take for granted.

I am willing to bet you didn't hear that story. And this is what makes me angry and sad over and over again. Where is the outrage for those 18 children??? Why are we not flooding twitter and screaming about THEIR rights?? We have been fostering for 6 years now, and I will admit I have become a bit jaded with the system, as it doesn't work for the children, it does not have their best interests at heart, and it needs to be fixed in so many ways. So why keep doing it you ask? Because of those 18 children, and all the others who keep getting lost in the stupid government bureaucracy.

But it's not just the government at fault. People in general, just don't care about foster kids. It took me  6 years to say that, but it's true. If you have a dog found in a dumpster, more people will react to that story that they will to a story about a child in foster care who has died. It's like everyone puts blinders on to these kids, they are someone else's problem. And as foster parents, we are often silenced about the system because we don't want to cause trouble for workers, or the agencies we are with, but I think that is usually an initial reaction, and many of us find our voices and try to bring some changes for these children. Problem is that the government is not listening to us. And children will keep dying in care. We are lucky in Fort McMurray to have two wonderful agencies which supports their foster parents. I don't remember, and cannot find a story of a child dying in care up here. Maybe the government could start by looking at what is different up here?

And lastly, on the Bill 10 issue, I have been talking with a young woman a lot lately(not from Fort McMurray, but she does live in Alberta), about this bill. And last night we were messaging back and forth when she said a few things that really struck me. First of all she said that having these clubs would be nice for some at school, but in general, gay people don't go out trying to "form alliances or friendships with straight people specifically, so why do straight people feel the need to go make gay friends?" And she also made another point that people of her age(she is 16), don't care what "the suits in Edmonton decide".  And that point really struck a nerve with me, because I started thinking about my own youth, and when politicians made decisions that I thought really sucked....generally, their decisions or their thoughts on matters really didn't change my life that much. And like this girl said, youth today are way more socially intelligent then I was at their age. They are like me in college, where they really don't stop and analyze if someone is gay or not. So maybe it's time for us adults to just back off some, and make sure that your kid is growing up feeling loved at home, and they know that they and their friends can gather at your house to discuss whatever in the heck they want.

My final admittance is that I have always been a parent who believes that it is not the school's duty to raise our kids. Yes, I want schools to be a place where all students feel safe and secure in expressing themselves, but I will forever think it takes a village to raise a child, and I feel that way too much responsibility can be put onto the schools just so that some parents don't have to actually parent. But that's a whole other post.

I guess the point of my rant is that while it sucks that some students might have to fight for a right to form a club, I would rather focus on the children who are being denied so many other rights. Alberta, can we can a little more upset about dying children then about the right for a club that many will probably not even join in the first place?