Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Tales out of the Rink


 
It’s in the air.  Do you feel it?

Hockey season.

I think I’m a dying breed.  I am a mom and I love hockey.

I am so tired of hearing parents say “Oh.  My kid is NOT playing hockey”. 

Um.. did I miss a memo?  Since when is playing hockey so… un-chic?

From where I sit (really cold wooden bleachers, Tim’s in hand, Small town rink, AB) hockey has been great to our family. 

We spend weekends together, albeit mostly spent in the van on the way to practice or games, talking about life, listening to music, and relishing in having all five bodies in one place for longer than 5 minutes. 

As a family we take our spots to watch the game.  My younger kids play with other little brothers and sisters, my husband takes his place on the bench as coach, and I sit with the other parents in the crowd as we collectively cheer on our little stars.

It’s a way to get out of the house in the frigid Canadian winter, a time when staying inside seems far more preferably to scraping the windshield, warming up the car, loading the kids stuffed in snowsuits, and heading out in white-out conditions on the way to the rink. 

Where little boys everywhere dream of being Sidney Crosby, scoring the golden goal and bringing Canadians to their feet, and little girls watched Hayley Wickenheiser skate on the Olympic ice with a Canadian flag draped around her shoulders.

I don’t know a lot about the semantics of the game.  In fact, my seven year old just taught me what an offside is. (I can almost see my dad cringing at that comment.  Years spent being a hockey little sister, a hockey girlfriend, a hockey wife, and now a hockey mom and I JUST figured it out!)

But here’s what I do know.

Hockey parents are crazy.  But if you’ve even been to a cheer competition, baseball game, dance recital or spelling bee you can attest to the fact that parents are, in general, just crazy.  There are always going to be those parents that are a special breed of crazy, but rest assured, they will show up everywhere.

I mean, we can all agree that on the whole, adults ruin everything. 

It’s not the kids calling out coaches, fighting with other parents, and deciding the politics behind the game.  That’s on us.

And in every single sport I have had a child be a part of; those same fatal parental flaws are evident.

Hockey is a tough, physical sport.  But the physicality of it teaches a certain amount of body awareness unparalleled in other sports.  The agility and strength my seven year old has from 3 years spent on skates is unreal.  Watching him try other sports like skiing and baseball and lacrosse only reaffirmed my suspicions.  The athleticism derived from hockey is transposable in more ways than I ever imagined.  Our kids learn to be aware of their strength, aware of their bodies, and comfortable with the power innate in themselves. 

And tough.  Really, really tough.

These kids work hard.  They give their all over to a game that gives right back.

Hockey is not a sport for the young only.  I know a guy who is well into his 70’s and still plays pick-up hockey once a week.  My husband, who played his whole life, still makes the yearly trek to play for our province in the RCMP Western Championship tournament. 

Hockey is more than just a childhood pastime.  It gets in your blood.

It’s the dents in my garage door, the paint missing on my basement walls, it’s the sound of Hockey Night in Canada as my son settles in to watch his heroes. 

It’s the milk jugs hanging from the net on the driveway, the mini-sticks in every room, and the terrible smell coming from my son’s hockey bag. 

It’s the early morning practices, it’s the parents I’ve become close with, it’s the ability to watch dreams on display that make this game what it is.

As a mom watching her little guy in his first year, with a jersey so big it’s getting caught on the top of his skates, skating his hardest in the wrong direction, falling down and losing his stick, then a glove, then getting stuck on his back until his little buddies skate over and help him up, it’s about so much more than just putting a puck in a net.

Now that he’s older and getting mad at himself for missing a shot, or making an error resulting in a goal for the other team, it’s about controlling his emotions and getting back out there. 

Working hard even when he’s down by more than he knows can be made up. 

It’s a game that teaches him about getting back up, trying his hardest, and looking to his teammates for help when he’s down. 

But always, always, getting back up.

That’s why I love this sport and why I’m so confused when parents scoff when I say I’m a proud hockey mom.

Because, hockey is a giant metaphor for life.

You win some, you lose some, and in the end it’s about your teammates and the memories.

With a side order of rink fries, Tim Horton’s and a cowbell.
 
 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

So You Married a Police Officer.......


Someone once asked me to write my advice on a successful police marriage for new wives just about to welcome the badge into their marriage.

Really.. me? I suppose I can try, but in the spirit of transparency,  I’m a rookie. 

I’m only 8 years in… so I suppose my advice is really only valid for the first 8 years, ok?

The nights spent alone, and the running of the kids to activities by yourself sucks.. no doubt. 

But that doesn’t appear to be the killer of police marriage by any means.  It’s your ability to communicate or not, that squashes police marriages like mosquitos.

In my experience as a police wife, I can tell you that it needs to be you that they turn to on the hard days. 

And the fun and exciting days too, but really, especially, the hard days. 

Of course talking shop with the guys in the dressing room after hockey, hitting the golf course with his unit, or yet another potluck with the whole detachment family is a form of therapy in itself, but for the long term health of your marriage, you need to lean on each other.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s no debriefing, I rarely know any details of what he’s working on, but I do know what he’s feeling. 

And no, he’s certainly not a sensitive and effluent communicator.  He’s actually a man of very few words.  There’s no way he’s going to walk in the door and exclaim that “I need to talk to you about my feelings”. 

While we are making dinner, or going for a walk, or having a nightcap (or two!!) after we put the kids to bed, we just hang out.  It’s amazing what just hanging out can do for a marriage.  Sometimes we talk about important issues to us, most of the time I fill him in on what’s important in my life, and then he laughs at me and tells me to care less about CW shows and characters in books that are fictional.

It’s no secret that this career pulls couples apart physically.  There is a LOT of time spent at work, catching up at the office on off hours, on course in another province, overtime shifts, call outs for emergencies, and the BlackBerrys.  Yes, the bbm’s, the email checking, the generally being attached to one another that happens even at home.

So hanging out, just the two of us, talking but not REALLY talking about our emotions, seems pretty important. 

Benign, but important.

Because the cancer that seems to eat at police marriages is the time spent apart combined with the time spent NOT communicating.  I’ve never claimed to be a math wizard but I think that’s a dangerous equation.

I don’t think any other profession is different in that aspect, I think where this profession seems to have inherent problems is that the crap our significant others deal with on a daily basis are life changing.

 And, occasionally, they have to deal with things that are awful.  Things you cannot erase from your mind.  Things that alter the way they see people and situations forever.

An accountant does not suffer the risks of waking up in the middle of the night agonizing over a tax return.. of this I am certain.

While we love them for knowing ridiculous trivia and being the worst dancer ever, these totally normal human beings have to walk into situations out of a horror novel, document it, interview purely evil people, and have to ensure emotions don’t get in the way. 

But they also have to find that ON switch for emotions when they come home at night (or morning, or the next afternoon…) because their daughter might run to them with an absolutely abstract picture and need them to guess what it is.

I mean, it’s gotta be tough.

Some days it’s harder than others.

Sure, there’s the fun stuff.  Brief snippets of the glamorous life Hollywood thinks they do. 

The car chase, the drug bust, the apprehending of the criminal.  The loud sirens, the blue and red lights.

And the gun.  People are fascinated with the gun.  Have you drawn it? Have you shot anyone? Can I hold it?

Then there’s the reality.

Long shifts, short staffed, missed holidays, half eaten supper that’s going to have to wait.  Phone calls, quick exits, coffee.  Lots and lots of coffee.  And paperwork too.  Don’t forget the paperwork.

And, of course, a work family that can rival your own for both the love and dysfunction that come with the territory.  

But then there are the bad days. 

As a wife you don’t wear the badge but you are on the front lines of officer survival. 

Because, on those hard days.. you’re it.

It’s the files that are the ugliest.  It’s the very worst of the worst.  It’s the next of kins that hit too close to home.

You know enough to know it’s been a bad day, but no more.  It’s palpable when they finally make it home.  There’s heaviness in the air that sits, stealing the oxygen out of the room.  It’s on their faces, in how they move around.  The weight of ten thousand tonnes stacked on their shoulders. 

But you’re just a wife.  You have no training, no guide book telling you the best or the very worst thing to say.  So you feel, and you talk, and you try your best to be a mind reader, a psychologist, a soft spot to fall, a sounding board, a place of refuge, a bartender.

You find your way through the darkness.  Stumbling occasionally, until that moment when you suddenly feel his hand firmly grab yours and the darkness lifts.

The hard days are the days no one prepares you for. 

How to be a partner in those moments when the dark side of humanity just seem like too much. 

Thankfully they come few and far between but it’s in those moments that your police marriage feels the weight of the badge the most.

But there is a way to survive the weight, and despite the really long winded answer to a question posed to me, you can skip all the above and just read this:

KEEP TALKING

 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Faith in The Modern World... By an Educated, Liberal Woman.


I’m going there.. hang on.

Faith is a very interesting subject these days.. in fact, it seems like it’s almost more socially acceptable to post Miley twerking videos, or “I support Gay Marriage” (which I do!!) on your timeline, than scripture or any talk of God or Faith whatsoever.

I mean, faith is for the na├»vely ignorant and uneducated… right?

Well, I am a Christian, liberal, educated woman who is finding my way through this faith game the best way I know how.

Also, can I take a moment to clarify something that is a personal pet peeve of mine among ‘Christians’.  Catholics are also Christians.  So are Jehovah’s Witnesses.  So are Mormons, Lutherans, Baptists, Pentecostals, Agnostics….  absolutely anyone that believes in CHRIST, hence the origin of the word Christian.  When I tell you I am Catholic, and you respond, “Oh, I am Christian” you sound kinda.. well, uneducated.  We are all in the same big ol’ Christian boat, where we perhaps differ is in denomination. 

Mine is Catholic. 

I am been imbued in faith education my entire life.  Not because I grew up in a super devout family, (we did attend mass.. mostly on holidays and sometimes when my parents felt the Catholic guilt eating away at them), but because there was such religious diversification in my life.

During the year I went to Catholic school, where we still studied for our sacraments during school time,  had a big part in the church, prayed three times a day, sang Christian songs during school assemblies and had Christmas concerts. 

Not Seasonal Celebrations, but Christmas Concerts. 

I was raised and educated as Catholic as they come.

However, my auntie and uncle, with whom I spent the entire summers, were steadfast Jehovah’s Witnesses.  I went with them to meetings, bible studies, and became a part of their congregational community during those long hot Manitoba summers. 

There was never any unwarranted fear by my parents that I would somehow be swayed to a denomination upon which little is known, and very much is spoken.  Yes you may know of the JW’s as the people who come to your door with pamphlet, but soul stealing creatures of the night they are not.

I’m not getting into the finite aspects of their beliefs, but what I will tell you is that I was free to ask all the questions I wanted of my Auntie.  She knew the bible better than anyone I knew (except maybe Father Abello), and she was kindly receptive to my sometimes rude 12 year old ignorant questions. 

By high school, I became more and more curious about religion.  I became good friends with a girl who was Jewish.  I went to another friend’s house who was Hindu.  Their beliefs were perhaps the most different than mine, but from what I could see.. if you subbed in Shabbat dinners for Sunday nights around my table with different prayers, you wouldn’t see a difference.

 I also met devoted ‘Christians’ (the first of whom informed me they were “Christians” when I said I had been raised Catholic.  I should have known right then) who should have been the most like me.  Afterall, we only differed by denomination.  Well, they were some of the most ignorant, uneducated, hostile people I had ever been around.  In striving to be the best Christians they repeatedly ran down those of other beliefs, or no beliefs, and spoke of themselves in divine terms.  I made the mistake of going to a Saturday night Youth rally and was confused at what I heard.  In my teenaged world, people who devoted their lives to God just didn’t talk like that about others.  According to them, Jesus loved them the most.

By university my quest for answers intensified, and I had enrolled in many Religious Study courses and studied all the major religions. 

I loved the Buddhist philosophies and couldn’t believe how similar Buddha had been to Jesus, I liked the idea that as Hindu, a life lived well could bring you back into better standing the next time around.  I was actually studying Islam during 9/11 and was horrified at the misinformation that was being reported.

By fourth year I was wandering through a drunken religion haze, unsure of how I really felt about anything.    

I mean, how could we all think we were right?  Ganesh, Muhammed, Jesus, Buddha…  Surely one of us had to have figured out the truth by now. 

And as much as I loved Religious Studies, History was my major and I was well versed on evolution, the big bang theory, ancient civilizations, not to mention the atrocities committed in the name of Christianity.  And I also read the news.. churches, especially the Catholic Church was taking a real hit (rightfully so!!).
 So how could I possibly synthesize my beliefs with what I knew to be fact.

Then I ran into three University professors who taught me more about faith in the modern age than they would have ever realized. 

And, all for different reasons.

Enter the first.  An Ancient History professor on his way up.  He believed in nothing other than what science and facts tell us about our past.  He repeatedly referred to the messed up Museum Of Natural Creation which basically told Science only through the bible.  It actually concurred that the pyramids must have been dropped by the Angels.  So you know, not giving much credence to those of us who were both religious and educated.

He was a self-described atheist because, after all, there was no proof upon which to lay claim to the existence of God. 

Of anything other than what we can see and what we can physically study.  He was sort of a jerk on all fronts, but admittedly, a very, very intelligent jerk.  And I mean there was no defending this Museum of Natural Creation.  It was really, really dumb.  Just like there was no defending those who will not accept evolution as the natural progression of humans.  People, come one.  The proof is irrefutable.  He left me straddling two mountains.. fact and faith.

Enter professor number two.  A Lutheran pastor who was teaching the Religious Studies course, “The History of the Bible”.  He set out on the first day to clarify this was an ACADEMIC study.  We are not trying to prove or disprove whether Jesus really did turn water into wine.  Rather, we were going to study the themes, voices, and threads that are woven throughout the New and Old Testaments.  He was amazing.  He taught me so much about how to really read the bible, how to decipher the different authors that show up in different books, and one particular discussion left me reeling.

We believe what we know about Alexander the Great to be fact.  He lived before Jesus, and less was written by his contemporaries.  In fact, most of what we know about him was written 100 years after his exploits.  While historians have worked hard to prove and disprove the story of Alexander the Great, as a society we take what we’ve heard to be truth.  The life and stories of Jesus.. even if we take out the miraculous ones, and those of his crucifixion and death, just the everyday ones, about him learning with rabbis and turning the other cheek, were in part written by those who were there to witness this man.  His buddies, the guys we know as his disciples. 

He stoked a new flame within me.  Maybe there wasn’t proof of the miracles, but there was proof of a man named Jesus who walked the earth.

Finally, the third professor still remains one of the most engaging, kind, and intelligent people I ever encountered in university.  He was a Jesuit priest and he taught, appropriately enough, “The History of The Jesuits”.  (For those of you who don’t know.. the Jesuits are a pretty amazing institution.  While they are priests, their life is dedicated to education and missionary work.  They take different vows than a priest who you would see at Sunday Mass.  Both do their own work for God, and good in their own ways, but very different in their day to day life.)
He was both enlightening and questioning, and more importantly brought in a female professor from Harvard who spoke about the inner struggle I was dealing with.
How do I stay educated and religious? 

I sat enthralled with her words, and came out of that lecture inadvertently with answers. 
Suddenly it all made sense.  Not because of what she said, I don’t remember everything she touched on, but for the fact that it was possible to stand on both mountains. 
But, for each and every person the balance will be different.
I believe that the bible serves as a set of stories for us to live our lives.  I believe it is a book of lessons to be shared and taught as what is right. 

I believe we cannot always take the bible literally, that there has to be room for modern civilization to alter the definition of the absolutes present therein.  Like punishment, and love.  In the same way that society dictates that my husband can no longer beat me as long as the stick is no wider than his thumb, maybe, just maybe people who love each other can just go ahead and marry each other, too.

I believe that there was a guy named Jesus.  I believe he was not an ordinary man. 

I believe that there is absolutely no proof that God exists.

And I also believe there is absolutely no proof to say he doesn’t.

Friday, September 27, 2013

During the longest of nights....


Grady was up sick all night last night.  I spent the better part in the recliner watching cute puppy videos on YouTube with him until my eyes felt like Lindsay Lohan’s hair extensions… dry and all shades of red.

Not that puppy videos didn’t have me on the edge of my seat… but my mind did have a chance to wander, as I tried everything in my mommy repertoire to get the little nugget calmed down.

I started to think about how things have changed in the last little while.. and then about the circle of life, and how in the last 18 months it had cycled before our eyes.  How every beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

As logic begs us to do, shall we start at the beginning?

Which, I guess is my reproductive ability.  Stay with me here…

I have three kids. Only one of them has been planned.  (You may be asking yourself how this can happen.. I have too.  Clearly, I cannot be trusted.  I must have missed that day in Grade Nine health.) 

Fresh off a back surgery that was emergent in nature, I came to a startling realization one weekday afternoon. 

I felt a little different. 

Maybe, a ‘little bit pregnant’, actually.  (That girl from the commercials can piss off.. there is such a thing as being a ‘little bit pregnant’.  It’s the time between having no clue you are pregnant, to the time when you take a positive pregnancy test.  The waiting period in between is officially deemed being ‘a little bit pregnant’). 

Like all experienced mothers, I didn’t head to the drugstore right away.

 Nope. 

I headed to Dollarama. 

Listen, I’d be dishonest if I said I had never made a stealth trip to Dollarama before for this, um, product.

Whether $1 or $15 they do the same thing.  Two lines means whoopsie daisy. One line means carry on, business as usual. 

Well, on this day I was about to get a little surprise.

After saying nothing to anyone, I headed to Dollarama and grabbed a few tests.

If you're asking yourself why I didn't just have some stocked around the house, well as a perennial perfectionist, and excitable test taker I cannot be trusted with unopened pregnancy tests anywhere in my vicinity.  I love me a good test, and will take them even when I know darn well I am NOT pregnant.  It’s a weird phenomenon, in which I am certain I am not alone.  After all, they do sell packs at Costco.

But as I said… usually I passed.  (Wait is a positive a pass or a fail?  I guess that’s all in perspective. )

 Anyways ,back to my story..

I came home and took the test only to find absolute, conclusive, proof that I was no longer a little bit pregnant.  I was a LOT pregnant. 

My next logical step was to sneakily text Mike’s sister Amy. ( As my health guru and Registered Nurse,  she knows way too much about me, and I’m sure loves the pictures I send of the kid’s cuts and rashes.)  So, I texted her ASAP to ask her what her professional opinion of Dollarama pregnancy tests are.

She phoned right away.  I was not as stealthy as I thought.

Next stop.. the awkward, “Um Mike.  Can you come here for a second?”

To which I simply showed him the positive test and let him draw the conclusions.

I was pregnant with out third baby.

In life, and certainly in the circle of life, the ups and the downs seem to cancel each other out. 

At the same time I was getting used to the idea of baby #3, in another province my Grandpa heard some bad news about his prognosis with a lung disease. 

It wasn’t great. 

In fact, it would seem he didn’t have a lot of time at all. 

So it was with great pleasure I phoned to tell him of my oopsie daisy.  Gramps always loved babies, and was thrilled to hear about my news.

As my pregnancy marched on I even got to phone him and tell him the second part of the news.  It was another boy, and I got to share with him how the kids reacted (Ben, super excited.. Belle super upset that as a Mommy and a girl, I would have the audacity to have anything OTHER than a girl).  He laughed and told me he thought that was great. 

Unfortunately the doctors were right, and Gramps didn’t have a chance to meet Grady. 

Not long after I told him the news, he took the invisible elevator and headed on up to heaven. (Anaology kindly provided by my oldest after hearing the news that Gramps passed away.)

After saying our goodbyes to him, my Grandma, his wife, suddenly found out her time around here was nearing an end as well.

She asked me one thing… she wanted to meet Grady after he was born.  I promised I would get him there.

Before long I was 36 ½ weeks pregnant, diabetic, and seriously ready to get this baby out.   

After waking up in the middle of the night with mild cramps, I woke Mike up to ask him what he thought I should do. 

He told me to have a bath and go back to bed.  Again, by the third baby, no one gets too excited over anything.

However by the third baby, it also meant that you have an innate sense when maybe you should get checked out… just in case. 

After a quick bath, hair and make-up, and our friend arriving at 2am to watch the kids, we headed out the door just to make sure I wasn't going to be the latest installment of "Homebirths: By Accident".

We sang and laughed on the way to the hospital (can you not sing along to ‘Springstein’ by Eric Church??) and by the time we pulled up I was sure I was going back home.  I told Mike not even to bring in the hospital bag since we wouldn’t need it. 
5 minutes later he had to go back outside to grab the bag.  I was 6 ½ cm dilated (with no labor pains yet) and was told they thought I was going to be delivering within the hour.

The ‘question’ came shortly after. 

If you’ve had a baby you know the glorious question to which I refer.

“How are you planning to handle the pain?”

To which I answered a resounding “DRUGS PLEASE!!” and turned to Mike as soon as they left the room and whispered excitedly,

“They are giving me drugs and I’m not even in labour!!!”

He assured me I was, I kept laughing and we had multiple nurses tell us we were making labor sound like way too much fun.  As it turned out, the medical professionals were right.  I was in labor in a big way, and Grady was on his way to meet us.

Grady was born not long after the giggling, and after 20 minutes of the most peaceful bliss we started calling friends and family to tell them our surprise.  He was healthy, he was a vivacious eater and we were even offered to go home that same night.  (To which I declined. Are you kidding? Prepared meals, laundry and only the baby to take care of? How long can I stay??)

We made it home only for a few days before we were readmitted with the curse of the white baby (jaundice).

A few weeks late, after a high temperature and a middle of the night SOS call, we once again found ourselves back at the hospital with what I can only describe as the worst fear of parents of a newborn. 

Meningitis.

(Side note: For those of you who are not vaccinating your children can I just tell you it is absolutely terrifying to sit in a hospital while your tiny baby is hooked up to a million lines and machines, waiting for the results on the  cultures grown from their spinal fluid.  Of course he was too young to be vaccinated, but please, please think of this scenario when you ignorantly choose to NOT vaccinate your baby due to disproved, INACCRUATE information.  If you can avoid this for your baby why wouldn’t you?)

While in the ER we were dealt another blow.  Our beloved 5 year old black lab mutt Sam, was full of cancer and was going to need to be kept comfortable until the end.

The end came staggeringly fast. 

While Grady rallied, and was a tough little baby, requiring only 3 days of hospitalization.  He came home right in time to spend Sam’s last night with us.

Sam was peacefully and lovingly sent into eternal slumber by our friend who is a vet, who kindly came to our house that quiet night.

With tears we said good bye to our favorite four legged guy, and held our newborn tightly knowing how lucky we were that their fates had not been reversed.

Grady recovered fully at home, and we were told he was good to go. 

And go we did, to make good on a promise I made.

Grady met his Great Grandma in what I can only say was a moment in which words do not suffice. 

He smiled and she kissed his little hands repeating “I love you, I love you, I love you” until tears of joy, mixed with tears of the knowledge of what was to come, streamed down everyone’s faces.

She joined the chorus of angels watching over Grady soon after.

Grady was the sole beacon of light left in what felt like such a gloomy world. 

Hospitals.  Funerals.  Good-byes.  All had characterized his first few months in this world.

But, like babies do, he kept us smiling.

He shone light into the darkness my dad felt after losing two parents so quickly after one another.

He reminded us that life goes on.  The circle of life can feel heartless, and cruel, but that despite the inherent sadness we feel when those we love leave this earth, it is but the natural order of things. 

The old give way to the new.

The lives lived long, and lived well by those who came before us, breathe life into the little ones just learning how to make their way in this confusing world.

And as the seasons turn, and time marches on, those little ones grow.

Soon they are a year old, only a whisper of those first few months are left on their soft, smooth skin. 

Only a hint left in those dimpled cheeks, of the sad tears shed all around them.

And in those old legs that can no longer stand we soon see little feet trying to navigate gravity and all that comes with teetering and wobbling.   And as those weathered hands lose their strength and let go, we feel those little hands looking for a safe place to hang on to, dimpled knuckles grasping to pull that little body to stand. 

In these moments we see the circle of life in its most beautiful grandeur. 

In the fevered snuggles of those little arms on that long night, I couldn’t help but feel myself circling back. 

In the darkness of the night, in the safety of the embrace between infant and mother, I felt myself momentarily hinged in the centre of the circle.

Briefly pausing in time with those who held us on those long nights, and those that held them…

And then I smiled.
Grady meeting Great Grandma.. A promise kept.

 
 

 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Unsolicited Advice.. As Usual


There is a plethora of advice out there for parents.  Whether it’s your first baby or fourth, there is always someone, somewhere, that has a little piece of wisdom they would like to bestow upon expecting parents. 

Please allow me to throw my hat into the game. 

First, some background.

After cleaning up our baby stuff, and getting it ready to give to other new parents (sidebar.. um I think almost ALL of my good friends are either expecting, or about to be..) I found myself a total hot mess, sobbing in the kitchen to my husband that “I’m not ready for this to be over, it’s going too fast”.  He hugged me and looked at me incredulously since we still have a baby in the house.  But, as I’m sure other moms can attest to, despite his status as still being a ‘baby’, he’s not a ‘baby’ baby anymore. 

What I was trying to convey through hiccupped sobs, and a little snot too, was that in making the decision to be ‘done’ having kids, I was having a hard time with the idea that this was essentially the end of an era. 

No more pregnancy tests, no more feeling the baby move for the first time, no more ultrasounds that set your heart on fire when you see your little space peanut wave at you or flail around, no more literally having you heart set on fire from heartburn in the third trimester, and finally, no more moments of seeing that little person you grew inside of you for the very first time. 

It hit me hard to come to the realization that this part of my life was coming to a close.  And I think the fact that we started early, and therefore are done early, while my friends are still having their firsts, made it seem like it sped by way too fast.

Now, whether I would like to or not, there is no going back on us being a 3 kid kinda family.  And you know, I don’t want to tempt fate.  I’ve had three healthy, hearty babies that have grown into fantastic, ridiculously good looking kids (and currently one cuter than cute baby).  But, there is something inside of me that still feels sad that it’s over.

In coping with these feelings I went back and thought of the moments with each of my newborns that I will remember forever.  Strangely enough, all three were the same moments.. so here’s where I’ll take the liberty of expunging advice.

There’s a moment.

After the adrenaline filled moments after birth, when all the family has been called, mass texts have been sent out, when the nurses have left you, the baby, and dad alone in your room for the first time.  It’s an endorphin rich serenity that so far in my 30 years, I have felt nothing akin to.

 It’s the moment when quiet comes, and you sit back and look at the little pink hand moving in their sleep, or daddy dozing off holding the baby in the recliner, when nothing outside the room and this moment mean anything. 

Where the world could come crashing down around you and you wouldn’t notice because you are drawing the outline of that little mouth to remember forever in your mind, where your husband looks at you, and back at the baby with the kind of tenderness and adoration you thought was reserved for made for TV movies.  It’s a feeling that for the rest of your life, nothing will matter, or be more important than who you just met. 

It’s absolutely intoxicating, and a vacuum in time that will never be duplicated. 

Soon this moment of calm will shift, and you will be awoken from the hypnotic bliss from that surge of pure, unadulterated love.  Soon you will go back to reality where diapers need to be changed, papers need to be signed, grandparents will show up, nurses will be doing rounds, life will march forward. 

So, my advice… please, please take the time to relish this moment.  Sit still, and really take in this moment of absolute perfection. 

Because before you know it, you’ll be a puddle in the middle of your kitchen one night, sobbing to your husband about how life needs to slow the f down. 
 
 
 

 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

“If You Don’t Stand For Something….


 



.. You’ll fall for anything.” ~ Alexander Hamilton
 

Wow.  Things around here sure have gotten busy in the last few days. I’ve had feedback from all over Canada and the US, and have been humbled by the kind words, and touched immeasurably by the heartfelt thanks given to me by families of fallen members.  Your sacrifice was the ultimate, and not a day goes by that we, as wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, and children, don’t send our loved ones out without remembering that.

Of course, there was negative feedback, some with a differing point of view, on which I was willing to open up a conversation on, and some that was just nasty and aimed to hurt.  I left commenting open for a day, which I felt was fair as the new comments were redundant (both for and against my stance).  The majority of the dissenting viewpoints held by people centered around the belief that police, the RCMP in general, was a corrupt organization that needed a cleanse by media.  I guess here’s where we agree to disagree.

I entitled my post “ A Wife’s Point of View” (with an html that was embedded with a rough draft that held a typo… please know I cringe every time I see it linked.)  Because, the heart of my message wasn’t some PR blitz, or a call to ban all media coverage (I never even insinuated that) but my personal view coming from where I sit.

I have no team of editors, I write on my laptop in my kitchen while my kids are napping or playing.  I have no hidden agenda or any professionals vetting what I write.  I say what I have to say from the heart, always trying to remain insightful, while respectful and positive.. and apparently with one typo, too.  (Yup.. I had a bonehead typo.  I guess one typo gave a person credence to question my education, bravely anonymous, of course.)

It’s a confusing time to be married to a police officer.  Because what I see in my everyday life, our friends, our experiences, our time spent in the community, is so different than what I see in the media, or hear about on chat forums, and Facebook.  You could argue I’m in a bubble, and I’ll vehemently disagree.  Let me explain.

We have been to three posts which were all vastly different experiences.  A small farming town, a northern rural LDP(Limited Duration Post), and now a municipal post in a city.  We have moved provinces, and garnered experiences I can only describe as positive, and enriching.

We have always put ourselves out there, had many friends outside the force, and took a piece of every post with us.  I’ve volunteered to coach kids in every place we’ve ever lived.  My husband has played evening pick up hockey with local teams at every post.  We’ve been invited into livings rooms, shared stories over the fire, and become a part of the community. 

Our children were accepted in communities where my little white kids stood out like sore thumbs.  My son went to Cree immersion preschool and learned from elders.  Our daughter was given a beautiful baby gift of handmade wraps beaded by a kokum. 

We rode in combines with lifelong farmers on their homesteaded acres, have taken gardening advice from the church group ladies, and sat in stands and cheered with the rest of the community against the rival senior team.  We felt at home wherever my husband’s job took us.  This, in communities where he was highly visible, communities he was called upon to police. 

His job meant he had to arrest some members of these communities, give tickets, and lay charges, as is expected in his course of duties.  I think that one of the most underrated aspects of RCMP members in these communities is maintaining this precarious relationship.  Being visible, doing a good job at work, and still being accepted and liked by the community.  But they do it… all the time.   

Oh sure, there have been some uncomfortable moments.  There is a fragment of society that won’t be so happy to call you friend, no matter how nice you are.  In a small community there is no hiding who you are married to, who your kids are, and where you live.  It comes with the territory.  In a larger community, I think most spouses can tell you a time or two when their off-duty police officers made a sudden exit at a public event, to ensure some of the aforementioned fragment didn’t get the pleasure of meeting their whole family. 

This is my reality.  A life lived in communities with my husband’s coworkers, but many, many other great people.  So back to my point, and what spurned me on to write the post in the first place.

It seems like every time I read a police involved article (and can I clarify I mean local.  I don’t even pretend to understand the goings on with the Commissioners, Deputy Commissioners, or Super Nintendos.  Wait…  Intendants) I feel so confused about why they are portrayed in a light that’s so black.

I’m taking issue with the everyday police officer.  The ones I know are a well-liked part of the community.. on duty and off. 

And what I wondered, was to what aspect the media plays a role in this disparity I’ve come to notice.  In other words, but the same sentiment I expressed in my first post:

 As a society, has the loss of respect for those in authority positions (I think teachers and nurses might feel the same way) created an environment where we want to hear salacious details about how people in these positions have screwed up.  OR, is the increasing trend to publish character witnesses for the accused professing their innocence, and blaming police for an injustice without taking the time to adequately illustrate, or even acknowledge, that there is another side. 

I’m not asking for the coverage to stop.   It can’t, it’s news.  I’m not asking for censorship either.  And I’m definitely not pretending that police officers are anything above an average human who has faults.  Flaws.  That a few can make mistakes, fail to do their job properly, and in those cases, who must be held accountable.

 I’m just asking to think critically about what we see portrayed in the media, and to ask ourselves the bigger question.. do our latent opinions affect the media coverage, or does the media, unwittingly or not, shape what our opinions are?

And finally, because this is my personal platform, I’m choosing to end it with something I feel is poignant.

TEARS OF A COP

I have been where you fear to be.

 I have seen what you fear to see.

 I have done what you fear to do.

 All these things I've done for you.

 I am the one you lean upon.

 The one you cast your scorn upon.

 The one you bring your troubles to,

 All these people I've been for you.

 The one you ask to stand apart.

 The one you feel should have no heart.

 The one you call the officer in blue.

 But I am human, just like you.

 And through the years I've come to see

 That I am not what you ask of me.

 So take this badge and take this gun.

 Will you take it?

 Will anyone?

 And when you watch a person die,

 And hear a battered baby cry.

 Then so you think that you can be

 All those things you ask of me?

~ Author Unknown

 
 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Police and Media.. A Wife's Point of View


 
This week in Alberta a police officer was beaten, left in a ditch, and subsequently airlifted to hospital.  He remains in hospital in stable condition days after.

It barely made headlines.  In fact, you had to search it out in order to find any information about the incident until days after.

It’s no secret that it’s been a rough few weeks in Alberta.  There have been four major incidents leaving three suspects dead, and two in hospital with gunshot wounds.

Alberta is also home to the deadliest police shooting in RCMP history.  Mayerthorpe, for most RCMP and their families, brings back the memories and headlines we all watched in shock.  Someone wanted to kill the police, and ultimately succeeded in extinguishing four, young, bright, lives.

The whole country reverberated again when in Saskatchewan, two other RCMP were killed not long after, followed closely by a member who lost his life in BC. 

And, of course, there are many times officers are injured on the job that never gets reported to the media.  Let me be the first to tell you it happens much more often than you think.  Luckily for the majority of cases, the RCMP get their man.

I am both a student of journalism, and an RCMP wife.  As such, you can imagine the double edge sword with which I read these stories in recent weeks.  I was taught that reporting always has to be fair, unbiased, and accurate.  However, the reporter’s angle, or sources they choose to use can turn one very cut and dry article, into a slam piece almost unknowingly.  It would appear as of late, this seems to be happening more often than not.

A reporter wants to get to the most intimate sources of any story they are covering.  Hearsay never used to be thought of as a reliable source, however more and more you see it used as such in articles. 

For example, “I never knew the young man who is accused, but his family says he’s a great, solid, hardworking kind of guy, who just doesn’t have it in him to do this.”

So his family thinks he’s awesome despite the plethora of charges he faces… you don’t say. 

You see why I bring this up, is that it almost always happens in a police involved article.  Of course the police do not  and cannot speak publically about character.  It’s as divisive and biased as people are, but the media loves to jump on the random character witness willing to talk all day about what they’ve heard someone say about someone who knows the family well.

I know they want a story, but here’s where the other half of me kicks in.

It’s totally biased and completely unfair to paint the accused/suspect as a family guy who was going about his daily business, and to seemingly juxtapose the police as heartless, cruel, abusers of force.

I can’t help but feel like the media has scapegoated police to the point that we now, as a culture, believe this to be fact. 

Police cannot be trusted.  They will beat you, and perhaps shoot you for no good reason.  They are uneducated, modern day thugs paid to enforce unfair laws and rules to a generally law abiding, and peaceful society.

Uh-huh.

As wives and children of police officers perhaps we are more sensitive to it, but we as a society hear it all the time. 

The dickhead police officer that pulled you over for DOING SOMETHING ILLEGAL. 

The asshole of a cop who didn’t like being called an asshole of a cop. 

The police watchdog pages, the petitions against use of force by police, those who video police doing their jobs in attempt to catch a slip-up.  The people who are completely terrifying for anyone who loves someone with a badge: The Police Hater.  More and more prevalent, they despise everything the police stand for and, like the sad events of Mayerthorpe,  and Spiritwood proved, will force those we love to pay the absolute price for wearing the badge.

Then you open a paper, cringe as the headline blasts something awful like “MAN KILLED AT HANDS OF POLICE” and read the articles that accompany the quotes about the stellar attributes of the people it would appear were unjustly accosted by the police. 

No one deserves to die.  It’s that simple.    No police officer wants to have to use deadly force as an option to protect themselves.  That’s also simple. 

Here’s a piece of unsolicited advice.  Don’t do drugs, be in a gang, or party like it’s 1965.  Follow these instructions and you’ll probably never have a run in with the police.  You don’t often hear about a friendly  game of Yahtzee getting interrupted by police tasering them.  Just sayin….

I mean I’ll admit to being completely biased, but the police officers I know are the kind of people that volunteer to coach kids, give elderly people their seats, respect those in leadership or professional positions (ie. Nurses, doctors, teachers..), and want to get home without killing someone.

You know, just average kind of guys and girls.

I don’t dispute there are some bad police officers.  Like any other profession the people behind the badge are humans. With flaws and faults.  I believe that those that made mistakes need to be held accountable.  I believe that an inquiry must take place to find out if appropriate action took place in cases of deadly force being used.  What I will take issue with, and shout on a mountain top (I am in Alberta after all.. I can totally do it…) is that on the whole, these men and women we ask to protect us are pretty awesome human beings. 

What has made it impossible for me to keep quiet, is this unnerving realization that policing is becoming more and more dangerous in a world where the media is claiming to make things more fair.  Back to the old chicken and egg conundrum.. which came first?

As a society have we raised children who learn at an early age to dislike and distrust police enough to grow into full blown police haters by adulthood? And is the media simply picking up on the underlying diminishing of respect for police and reporting the stories as thus, OR is the media’s constant reports about police brutality, and dysfunction within the police forces, leaving a taste of utter lack of respect and indifference to the men and women sworn to protect us?

I don’t know the answer.  I feel like I’m just here to ask it.