Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Writing

Words are important. I've always felt that but this past week, with the help of some friends from the past...I picked up the phone and had an hour long conversation with two really incredible people that I had lost track of many years ago. A few years ago, on this day...on this blog...I wrote out some memories of an incident that impacted me deeply and still does. I write for my own well being. I write to free the words from my mind and I write to quiet the thoughts that continue to plague me until I find an outlet for them. I often write oblivious to where the words will go or who will read them or how they will feel reading them. I know at times my words have helped others articulate their own feelings or emotions. At other times, I know my words have caused discussion, arguments, even division. I am responsible for what I put out there...whether written or spoken.

Last week, the words I wrote a few years ago here brought me back together with a family I have long admired and loved. A couple who experienced the unimaginable loss of a son and embraced his friends and allowed us access to their pain and their memories and their love.  So I caught up with them on the phone and as soon as I heard their voices, I was right back in their living room, reminiscing and hearing the stories of life in between the days when I really was in their living room and the conversation we were having on the phone.

I don't have any profound words tonight. Most days I'm alone and the words I have to speak stay unspoken, but they get written in the middle of the night in a notebook by the bed, or on the back of an envelope in my bag. They don't get sent out into the world though they do often go to the inbox or cell phone of some of the best women in the world.

This week the privilege of being able to write freely isn't lost on me. I don't take for granted either that I have those I can trust with my words and my thoughts in these days - even if they can't be published.  I just wanted to say I'm still here. I still have words and I'm still writing. I just know that there are things that need to be written and things that need to be published and they're not always the same thing.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Learning to Let Go

At any given time, on any day you choose, it's likely you know someone who is boarding a plane or travelling abroad or in a different time zone. This morning, I woke up realizing that my firstborn was about to put an ocean between us and I started to panic. I mean,truly panic, like I would unpack his bag and lock him in his room kind of thoughts. I laid there for a moment, waiting for it to pass, and I thought that at this moment, I know that Carly and Kyle and Dawson and Lynn are all somewhere mid Atlantic and heading back to Canada. I have friends going to bed or tucking in children while I am getting out of mine and following the dog down to her bowl for her the first priority of her day - getting breakfast!

I realized that we live in an age where it's not uncommon for your children or your family to be on an entirely different continent than you and yet, I'm nervous and anxious despite knowing it's the result of our parenting that Jason and I raised a young man who wishes to travel and see the world. We instilled in him a sense of exploration and placed a value on learning by experiencing and we taught him how to navigate a bucket bath and a long-drop (outhouse) early on. We taught him that being invited into a new culture or community is a privilege and one that you can not take lightly. He knows that it's an opportunity not afforded to everyone to travel and see different cultures and taste different foods and smell different smells - both lovely and not so pleasing.

I hate when the values we teach our kids take them on roads that are uncomfortable for me. I'm still a mother at heart and my first reaction is to bubble wrap him and feed him well enough that he wants to live in my basement until he's married and has his own grandkids...and then we swap....he moves upstairs and I live in the basement when I'm old and grey. Alas, I am equally sad and elated this is probably not going to be our future.

Someone once said, not very kindly, that my mother must have done something to drive her children so far away as my brother lives in Japan and I was in the USA at the time. My mother replied, correctly, that she raised us to be independent. It's true. You give your kids roots and you give them wings. You nurture them and you let them go. You hold them and then release them.

I'm not sure how it's supposed to work. I want to hold tightly but I am so very proud of Aidan today. Seeing his excitement over the past weeks as he's prepared for this trip, knowing the cost of working hard and saving money to make it happen, and watching him say goodbye to some really amazing friends who showed up early, early this morning to see him off....I know he's ready to fly. I guess that means I have to learn to let him.
Brennan, Jake, Aidan and Lauryn. <3

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


It's 2018. I sat down at the computer a couple weeks ago and saw everyone doing a Top Nine photos 
challenge on Instagram, where the computer picks your best nine photos according to which were the most liked by your followers. I did it with a fearful heart, knowing it had the potential to be painful. It was...but it brought peace too. 2016 - 2017 were difficult.  The end of 2017 was devastating. I do not exaggerate when I use that word. Everything around me changed and I found myself completely at a loss of where to find my footing, how to heal my heart and how to carry on as a mom but not a wife. 
It brought beauty too, which I posted publicly on Facebook, again, with fear and anxiety. I felt that I needed to lift the lid on what had remained a secret for far too long.  I had carried many things on my own in an attempt to protect my husband and our boys and to try to save a marriage. The marriage is over and the story is ours. It's painful and it's humbling and it's not easy but it's ours. The details are private but the pain is shared. 

And then something really amazing happened, which should not surprise me, but my story allowed others to share their stories. Not only that, it allowed people to hold us up and bolster us with love and protection and caring. It showed us our community and it made me, and in turn, the boys a safe place to speak their truth when they want to and a safe place to say nothing when they want to. It gave us back our choices in a period of life in which we seemingly were not given many.

The boys are doing well. We are healing.  We are sad some days and hopeful on others, we're laughing some mornings and not some evenings. We're making plans and doing dishes, driving each other crazy and playing games around the island together. We're eating dinner and we're scraping together meals of cheese and crackers and Kraft dinner with Charlie at our feet drooling and begging for her share. 

We go to work. We do laundry. We tease the cat. We shovel the driveway. Sometimes the recycling is piled higher than the counter and sometimes you can't get in the front door for the number of shoes laying in front of it and the boys are downstairs yelling at the Xbox.  We go to friends' houses, the boys have girlfriends and they fill the house with a different tone of voice and laughter and I love having them around. Easton got his driver's license and Aidan bought a 6 month round trip ticket to Japan and southeast Asia. 

I pay the bills. I run errands. I grab coffee with friends and I sleep corner to corner on the bed because I can. The blinds are open at night and when I can't sleep I watch the sky and am rewarded at times with the northern lights or the orange glow of a full moon on the snow. The boys keep busy and Aidan is preparing to travel and I'm preparing to miss him deeply. 

We're living our life in a new way but there's plenty of the old to keep us grounded. We had to find a new footing and there are times where the ground shakes beneath us and we find ourselves slipping back a bit into despair but we keep on climbing out. I have incredible people around me that are a lifeline when I'm sad and hear me out when I can't find answers to the questions that don't have any. 

We made it through Christmas and it turned out to be a really good day that included Jason in the morning and a lot of laughter in the house for the afternoon. We ate well. We went to a movie and we put the last of the big "firsts" behind us with birthdays and Thanksgiving and we set our sights on 2018. 

And it is here. And we are nearly two weeks in and we are still just putting one foot in front of the other. Pulling each other up when we need to. Pushing one another forward when we need to. Carrying the weight of our new reality of being just three in this house - sharing it when we need to or carrying it alone when it's called for. 

We know we are loved. 
We know there are many who care deeply and are there for us. 
We know we're not healed but we are on our way. 
We love each other deeply and we're getting through this the only way we know how...

Thank you for being with us. This was our best 9 of 2017 and included a lot of great memories including Aidan's graduation, Easton's first date and the last family photo of the four of us.  I'm looking forward to 2018 and what it bring us. I know it won't ever make up for what we have been through but I hope the lessons we learned this past season will take us forward in the next. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Lessons from the Road

I've never been more thankful to hear the laughter of Easton and his best friend in our basement. Despite the fact they are both meant to be in school today, I'm honestly weepy at the sound of them playing Xbox and telling goofy stories.

This morning, on my way home from dropping off Easton at school, I just pulled away and heard on the radio that a teenaged boy had been hit at the other high school near our house. I instantly thought of Easton's best buddy. Then I did the whole mom thing and went 100 mph in my mind to "what if?" and praying for his well being and nearly driving the 2 km to his school to make sure it wasn't him. I calmed myself down with thoughts of the fact that there are a few hundred boys in that school and the odds were, it wasn't our neighbour. 

By the time I got home, I forgot about the news. I had breakfast. I had a meeting with a friend. I got ready for work at Job #2. I was on my way and my phone rang while I was at a stoplight. I don't usually answer my phone ever. I never answer it on the road. But today...I pushed speaker phone and said hello. As soon as I heard it was the school counsellor, I pulled over into a car dealership and took the call. Easton had been in her office and was asking if he could leave because his best friend had been hit by a car. I called my boss who just said, "Go!" and I went. I picked up Easton, I picked up some McDonald's and dropped Easton at the door of our neighbour's house. (I ensured it was ok'd by his mom and that he was up for it.) I drove into my garage, closed the door and let go of the tears I'd squashed this morning.

A while later, I heard familiar footsteps and laughter and in walked the two of them. Oh man. I'm not a hugger but that boy walked in for a hug and I held him, gently but with such gratitude. He's banged up. He looks like he left a good portion of his cheek on the pavement and he's definitely moving pretty gingerly...but he was smiling and upright and I've never been so glad to see him.

To say things have been emotionally charged and a rollercoaster around here is an understatement but there are times of incredible calm and peace and gratitude too. Today was full of both and yet, we're here. Still standing. We've left a good portion of our hearts on the road. We're moving gingerly but we're smiling and upright.

I can't express enough how grateful I am for those who my kids call their friends. They are surrounded by good people and I'm so thankful. We all are. Our circle is wide but it's also very, very deep. There's much to be thankful for. And we are. 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Splitting Open

I have no idea how to write these days. The truth is worse than fiction and my life feels like a bunch of sadistic, soap opera writers have taken over my story line and just gone nuts. But, sadly, whether they have or have not, the life I'm living right now is an incredible departure from the one I had planned. 

Jason and I are ending our marriage. I'm sorry for those of you who are reading this here for the first time. I have no energy for the list of people I would love to call or have coffee with and ease them into it. It's been abrupt. It's been painful. It's been clear that our marriage has not been healthy for a long time. It's crystal clear that it is over. I'm coming to terms with that daily as are the boys and I imagine Jason as well. 

I know that one thing Jason and I both hope for is that at some point, we will come out of this as two healthy individuals who can continue to love and raise these incredible young guys that we've been responsible for. I'm praying that at some point, the friendship that we shared in our marriage will be restored, once we move past this incredibly painful separation. 

We love our friends and extended family dearly and we know what it feels like when someone you love ends a marriage - we've been on that side of it many times. I hope that if you love us, you'll reach out to us in whatever way you're capable and support us as we try to move forward. We are broken, human and have made incredible mistakes but we are doing our best to put the hurt behind us and move into a place where we are able to feel whole and happy again. 

Much love, Shelly

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Real Heroes

There is an incredibly beautiful event going on today. It is making the news in Saskatchewan but it should be front page throughout the world in light of the days we're living in. It's taking place on Red Pheasant Reserve and it's a feast to celebrate the life of Colten Bushie. If you don't know the story of Colten, you can google his name and read how he was shot and killed when he and a group of friends pulled into the farm yard of an armed and defensive farmer here in Saskatchewan. I'm not going to debate the events, I wasn't there, but the bottom line is that a young First Nations man was killed and his family misses him dearly. I put my thoughts here long ago.

The racial divide was amplified when the story broke as racist and hate-filled commentary flooded the internet over this incident. It was illuminating the dark pockets of racism and hatred that percolate in communities and cities across our province, in particular. It seemed to give those who value property over life a platform to spread their hatred for others and it gave voice to the fear and hatred that First Nations people struggle under every day.

And yet, today. Colten Bushie's family is hosting a feast. It's one year to the day that Colten was shot and died. One year since the family was treated in what can only be described as an "insensitive" manner by the police who informed them of Colten's death and then combed their home for evidence against him, the victim, while his mother howled in grief.  And yet, today...a feast. And the RCMP who have since worked on the case and kept the family informed and done their best to repair the damage done in those first horrific moments...are invited. In fact, anyone is invited. Farmers. Families. Friends. Police. It's a movement towards reconciliation that I can't even fathom having the grace to make and yet Colten's family, in their worst days, are exhibiting the kind of forgiveness and grace many can't even muster against the smallest slight.

I'm incredibly moved by this family. I have watched from a distance as they've fought to have Colten's character and true nature remembered in days where there was a campaign to paint him as a dangerous threat. I have watched them in their grief, remind others that forgiveness and peace are the way to reconciliation. I have watched them speak in the media and urge for the divide to be bridged, not widened, as they missed their son every step of the way.

If they can afford this generous gift of forgiveness and reconciliation in their grief, how can any of us hold back the same.

I think these are true heroes. Those who reach into their pain and pull out whatever beauty and peace they can and generously give it to others who need it even more. They are an example to me of the type of forgiveness I need to be doling out in circumstances that have cost me far less than the life of one of my sons.
Colten's mom, Debbie Baptiste, and his Uncle Alvin.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Life Lessons from Quickbooks.

Last year,  I was let go from a job I felt was the perfect fit for my skill set and my passions. I'm not going to lie, it's still a bit of a gut punch at times to be "downsized". The truth is, I miss a great deal about the work and the ability to do some of the things I love most more often. I've been fortunate to have a new job that although it's way outside of my scope of knowledge and education, it's interesting and engaging and it doesn't hurt to work with a brilliant woman whose vision is contagious.

It hasn't changed much about my passion for those who are vulnerable. It hasn't been a deterrent to continuing to stay connected to the communities I care most about. It just has hindered, financially and time wise, my ability to go and be on the ground in those communities.

I'm just having to re-prioritize finances and timing to get myself back to where I can sit with those I love and be part of the day to day conversations and happenings in the homes and communities that regardless of distance, stay at the centre of my heart. 

Finances have never been a strong point for me. I guess I've fostered a bit of a hippie approach when it comes to money in the sense that it's "just" currency. And yet, in the past year, I'm beginning to see the need to prioritize some thoughts about it so that it's available when I want to use it to do what I feel I'm most passionate about. 

Interestingly, I had a stellar week at my new job this week. Stellar, not because I invented anything or brought anyone to tears with my words or abilities...but stellar because, well, I conquered a very frustrating part of my day to day role. Quickbooks Online. I feel like I finally turned a corner with what I have long thought of as my nemesis. Math. Accounting. Finances. 

Thanks to my long suffering accounting teacher, Mr. Skerlak, I felt I was doomed to be incarcerated for fraud and embezzlement with my creative accounting practices. I didn't understand why everything had to be so damn neat and tidy and add up and balance. It was all just so....uptight. 

And yet, last Friday, I was driven nearly to tears by accounting. I had been taking a course to fully comprehend the bugs and seemingly deliberate glitches in the program and I was finally beginning to feel confident that I knew what I was doing. (This only after 9 months? Oh, Jan...who have you hired?)   And, so, as I opened the program on that fateful Friday morning, I was completely undone by the fact that the program had been "updated". What the heck QB? Are you trying to kill me? Are you purposely keeping me in the dark so that I have to use your superbly under-helpful online chat? Is it that you wish to keep those who are actually providing support to your problematic issues in the dark and unable to keep up with the bugs and glitches on their youTube channels that I have now subscribed to?

Whatever the reason, it was what I will now refer to as a "Black Friday" in the office and no one got any bargains on electronics this day, friends.  I left for the weekend. Feeling inadequate. Despondent. Dejected. Exactly as QB seemingly intended to make me feel.  Well played, QB update. Mission accomplished. 

Thankfully, on Monday morning, I worked through the "new" QB (isn't all this accounting talk sexy, by the way? I know!) and I was feeling decently prepared again. By Friday, QB was back under my thumb and I had caught up on months of work and left at the end of the day feeling utterly jubilant.  I was elated by the fact that I had mastered a skill I never wanted to have. I was celebrating (literally) in my car by singing and hand surfing out the window on the way home. I was completely at peace with my QB relationship. And then it hit me....

I am completely and utterly insane. 

I've hit a new low when the highs come from conquering the mundane. 

Saturday was a low. I woke up feeling defeated. Is this the "I can do hard things" kind of stuff that memes are made of? Is this the "accomplishment" and "rise to the challenge" kind of marker for the rest of my life? Am I going to remember that on Friday, June 2 - I beat my accounting nemesis into submission?  Oh Lord, I hope not. 

And yet, the funk. Post celebratory let down? Maybe. More so, it was the realization that I really did jump a hurdle that's been mostly mind over matter (or math-er as the case may be...groan) and I accomplished something that makes my life easier and makes my boss' life happier. (And that's the goal right now, Jan....)

I did. 

But, I also felt a little nagging thought that grew and grew over the day. If I can conquer something that's stood looming in front of me for so many years....something I didn't even WANT to be good at or ever THOUGHT I could take on....

why, dear Shelly, oh why...am I not taking on the challenges of that which I want to spend my life doing? 

If I can conquer computerized accounting...what can stop me?  There are always going to be unscheduled and surprising and not always welcome updates to our lives. Why have I let the past few derail me from doing what I really want to do?

Vocationally, I'm stuck at this job. No, truly. My boss has threatened me with using me as a cadaver for teaching if I fail to give her less than three years notice for any changes to my employment. (She knows how to make you feel valued...) But, I have time and energy for more than just vocation. I have a desire to live with intention to fulfill dreams of writing and travelling and supporting that I push to the bottom of the agenda all the time.  And in the meantime, I'm just going to enjoy all the perks that this job entails....

Mandatory after lunch naps with the kids.

My coworkers laugh at all my jokes!

I can take my dog to work because you know...she's great company. 

Severed arm in the lunchroom? No big deal. 

Where else do you get two butts shipped to you at work with removable glutes?