A Victim’s Response

We’ve all seen the news. We’ve all had reactions of one type or another to the news that a boy/man who raped an unconscious woman only got 6 months of jail time, with a possible early release if he behaves himself. There has been a lot of press covering who he is, what he’s done in life and the occasion that has brought him to the forefront of media attention. But we need to remember that there was someone else there. There was a woman. A woman with her whole life ahead of her. A life that will never be the same again. He will go to jail, serve his time, likely get out for good behavior and then carry on with life. He may face some discomfort but I am sure that Daddy’s money and influence will pave the way to success for him as if nothing had happened. But the same cannot be said for her…..I would know. I’ve walked a similar road. I’ve linked to her statement in full – I encourage you to read it. Trust me. It will be very hard to read. But you need to. Why? Because it’s the same statement many women around the world could make every. single. day. Don’t be fooled. Reporting rates don’t even BEGIN to tell the true story – for every report there are many that go unreported. I would know. I was one of those.

Circumstances were different but the feelings are the same and it took me YEARS to overcome them. YEARS. I can barely read her words because it makes my own experience come back to mind with a vengeance but I SO wish someone had shared with me that I mattered, that my story mattered, that my CONSENT mattered. Maybe then I wouldn’t have engaged in behaviors that harmed me later on, maybe I would have recognized the red flags of abuse in future relationships, maybe…..maybe I would have known my true worth as a HUMAN long before my 35th birthday. It took 20 years to get to that place after all was said and done….20 years and more energy,courage and strength than I knew one person could possess. The fact that this kid only got 6 months for his CRIME is abhorrent to me and is should be to everyone everywhere. Where is the accountability? When did the punishment stop fitting the crime? When did being unconscious downgrade the seriousness of an attack? When did this world become so fucked up as to allow for this kind of injustice??? And how on earth do we turn a blind eye to it?

Does this topic make you uncomfortable? Do you want it to go away? Yea, me too. I don’t enjoy talking about what happened to me or the repercussions of it. Reading this woman’s words makes me sick to my stomach. Sick and angry. So very very angry. It makes me so angry that she was made to feel like she didn’t matter, like her story didn’t matter, like she must have done something to deserve his actions, that she was somehow responsible for his choices. But her words also made me cry as I read her declaration to women, girls, everywhere:

…to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining. Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you. Thank you.

Maybe, just maybe, had I had someone telling me the same thing before my assault and living out the truth of that afterwards, maybe things would have been different. I can’t go back there but I can change how things are for others in the same circumstances. I can teach my kids to respect others, to stand up for others, and that their voice matters. I can tell my story so that others know they aren’t alone. I can support organizations and ministries that work to help victims of sexual exploitation and assault. So can you.

You can read her statement here: Sexual Assault Victim Impact Statement

I also need to speak to abusers, to rapists, to those condoning their actions by inaction & victim-blaming. There is help for you. There is hope for you. But more importantly than that there is forgiveness. Do your actions and attitudes anger me? Absolutely. Rightly so. But you do not have to continue identifying with those things. You can change. My prayer is that somehow, someway, you will see the error of your ways and will seek help, will seek forgiveness and will do whatever you can to redeem your past. Just as there are groups for victims of assault, rape & abuse, there are groups for the perpetrators of the same. Please find one today.

Bittersweet Memories

Routines are hard to change.

Liam and I were heading to the store to do some Christmas shopping. As I drove up Columbia Street, I told my phone, via bluetooth and voice commands, to make the same phone call I have made almost every time I have gotten in the car and headed out to run errands. The ringing of the phone could be heard and then the call connected. Her voice filled my car and my eyes filled with tears. She’s not there and the only way we’re going to ever hear her voice again is on the outgoing message of her voicemail.

My aunt, my dear friend.

See I had this routine. Making phone calls at home with 3 kids constantly clamoring for my attention is always difficult. There is rarely any privacy (if that is needed) and quiet is, well, if you’ve ever been on the phone with me while Liam has been playing dragon you’ll know there is no such thing as quiet. I’ve discovered the best place to make phone calls is in my car between home and wherever I am going.

Lois was always the first person I would call. Sometimes we’d talk for only a few minutes. Other times we’d talk for half an hour. Didn’t matter how long – it was the connection that mattered. The “checking in” that counted.

It’s been 3 weeks since she passed. I’m still having a hard time believing it. And then I am reminded in ways that resemble a hammer to the head, a knife to the heart.

I laid in bed last night thinking about her, of all my memories. There are a lot of memories as I’ve known her for 38 years.

Dancing with complete abandon, while singing as loudly as we could, to the tunes of Mary Poppins on the record player.

Sleepovers every Christmas where cookies would be made and eaten, movies watched, fashion shows (wearing her clothes of course) executed, snuggles had.

Visiting the office where she worked and walking down Victoria Street together to get lunch, feeling oh so very special and important.

Hundreds of thousands of phone calls over the years.

Introducing each of my 3 children to her – she ADORED them and they her. She spoiled them – after school snack wasn’t just an apple with some peanut butter. Oh no. After school snack often consisted of mac & cheese with farmer sausage, or grilled cheese sandwiches, or pie & ice cream! Often it would fill them up so much that come supper time, they weren’t quite ready for it!

Watching and listening to her reading story after story to Liam on our couch just over a month ago.

Family dinners where copious amounts of yummy food was placed in front of us, on a table that was always set beautifully. She had such a knack for pulling together the most mismatched pieces and creating a beautifully comfortable space.

“Shopping” in her closet every time I’d come home for a visit – the woman had incredible taste in clothing! My only disappointment was that our feet were never the same size…mine being 7’s and hers being 9’s.

Driving around town in that little orange “Bug” with the top down in the summer…driving up Columbia Street in the winter in a different “bug” in which the windshield wipers didn’t work very well on a VERY snowy evening. I will never forget Lois driving with one arm out the window, snowbrush in hand, clearing the window every few minutes. We laughed so hard as our feet froze!

She was always the first one to shed tears whenever extended goodbyes were required – and it was not uncommon for those goodbyes to take an hour. Ironically, her own leaving of us was quiet and quick, without any of those difficult and tear-filled goodbyes. She hated them. I hate them.

Christmas this year is going to be filled with bittersweet memories. I expect there will be moments of collective tears as we remember her and miss her presence with us. I also expect there will be quiet moments of weeping after the day is done and all is quiet, when I have nothing but Christmas lights and memories keeping me company, long after everyone else has gone to sleep. While it hurts and it’s hard, I am so grateful that the hurting comes from a place of much love and cherished memories.

Bittersweet memories.

Figuring out this "selfie" thing...not the best picture but memories of a great day go with this (my cousin's wedding)

Figuring out this “selfie” thing…not the best picture but memories of a great day go with this (my cousin’s wedding)

When Life is Noisy & My Voice Gets Quiet

I don’t know about you but I find that the crazier life gets around me, the quieter my voice tends to get. Not my speaking voice, although my family would probably prefer that, but rather the voice that I use to express whatever is in my heart and mind. For some that’s music. Others it is art. Some it’s a physical activity. For me it is writing. When life gets crazy, my thoughts jumble and the one thing that actually helps me process is also often the hardest thing for me to do – maybe because there just doesn’t seem to be time.

Anyway, lately I’ve been really quiet. I’ve been dealing with a lot of stuff and many of my thoughts have become all jumbled up and messy. A great big mess of intersecting ideas and thoughts that have turned my brain into a great big room filled with unending noise and mess. It’s hard to make sense of any one idea. It’s exhausting and has me craving escape and retreat, quiet and aloneness.

I’m honestly not quite sure what I would do if I was granted those things. I’ve become so used to functioning in what feels like a perpetual state of mental chaos lately that the idea of stepping into a place of quiet, peace and tranquility is almost frightening. I can hardly hear myself think these days and to suddenly have space to do nothing but hear myself? I’m not sure I would like some of what I would hear.

But I know that taking time every day to do just that, to enter into a place of serenity, peace, quiet and tranquility is essential for me to continue to function well in this life that is mine. Without it I flounder. Lately I have been floundering big time. I have no patience for anything or at least very little. I start my day dreading interactions to come and end it feeling anxious and frustrated. My ability to balance the daily chores and needs of my family has dwindled significantly as the thoughts in my head grow more jumbled.

I find myself craving silence and space. I long to sit down, without being plagued by the thoughts of all that needs doing, and just be with the thoughts that need to be dealt with. My heart is broken and grieving the loss of a dear dear loved one who I wasn’t ready or prepared to say goodbye to a couple of weeks ago. I’m wanting and needing to be alone with all the thoughts/feelings that come from that. I am trying hard to be a good homeschooling mom, whatever that looks like, but I need time to look over and think through things in order to be prepared for each day. I have a toddler I need to play with, to engage his little mind and body in activities that stimulate and interest him but I need time to bring ideas into being. I have friends that need attention and time. A husband that needs attention and time. A business I am trying to grow. But my brain and heart are such a jumbled mess of all these things that all I want to do is be alone.

And maybe that’s just it. Maybe, after all is said and done, the best way for me to take care of all that needs doing is to take a step back and away, by myself, for a time, and simply spend time alone. It seems almost counter-intuitive to me – that the best way to take care of my family and others is to actually retreat from them. But at the same time, it makes sense. Even Jesus took a step back from ministering to others from time to time. Those who have lived lives of service to others took time away to regroup and re-energize. There are many professions that build sabbaticals into their framework of expectations. Why then, if we allow it for others and have no problem seeing the need for it, is it so hard for moms to allow it for themselves? So hard for me?

I’m not a big “goals for the new year” kind of person but this year that is one of my goals. I want to go away for a weekend by myself, to a hotel somewhere (ideally with a spa! and maybe a giant soaker tub in my room), where I can spend some time taking care of me. Where I can wander nearby shops or go for a nature walk. Where I can enjoy good food, scenery and quiet time. Where I can read, write, plan and organize. I need this.

Sometimes it isn’t always possible to step away from life for a few days and retreat. So what then? I say this to myself more than anyone: a few days away won’t do diddly squat to help if I am not making a point of taking time every day just to be. So it’s time I start carving out thinking time for me. Processing time. Time to be alone with a notebook and a pen, my Bible and my thoughts. I try to snatch moments but often those end up being stolen moments as I retreat for two minutes to pee by myself or in the car as I run to the store for milk. Not exactly good for getting myself back into a good place mentally! So that will be my goal for the next month – to reestablish the habit of alone time.

The noises are loud and my voice is somewhat quiet. But I see hope. I hear the noises getting softer and my voice becoming stronger again. I see chaos becoming order. I see my ability to just be, to listen to what I need to hear, coming back into being. And I feel hope.

Liam My Crazy Little Joy-filled Boy

Liam
My Crazy Little Joy-filled Boy (disregard the mess behind him!)

 

This Changes Things

Cpl. Nathan Cirillo - picture taken shortly before the tragic events of today unfolded. Thank you to Guillaume Hache for sharing this with us.

Cpl. Nathan Cirillo – picture taken shortly before the tragic events of today unfolded. Thank you to Guillaume Hache for sharing this with us.

Today, October 22, is a day that Canada will never forget.

History was changed and made.

A man lost his life as he stood proudly in his uniform. It was a senseless act of terror such that our country has never experienced before.

Today a country was changed.

Much will be written about today, about this man, about what this means for us as a nation. Many tears will be, and already have been, shed as a reaction to what happened today. People are mourning the loss of life and the loss of a nation’s innocence.

Today changed me as a mom.

My son recently joined Air Cadets and I’ll admit that I was viewing it as a great opportunity for him to meet other kids, to learn new skills, to learn some discipline that comes from a source other than me! The implications for the future beyond the potential for him to get his pilots’ license hadn’t really occurred to me. Until today.

Today I realized that one day my son may choose a career in a branch of our military. At 13 he stands almost as tall as myself – maybe an inch

My Son.

My Son

shorter. He can rest his chin on my shoulder when he hugs me. He is starting to look like the man he will grow up to be. And I realized that some day I could lose him simply because of his uniform. I was moved to hug him and as I did, the tears flowed as I grieved the events of the day and said goodbye, in my heart, to the little boy who has grown up.

Today my country was changed. A family was changed. This mother was changed. Will we ever be the same? No. Our country will always mourn the loss of our innocence and sense of security. A family will always mourn the loss of their father, son, friend. I will always miss the little boy who has grown into a man in front of my eyes and wonder at the speed of time.

Today has changed everything. It has changed how we see the world around us. It has changed how we see ourselves. It changes how I see my son. And now the hard work begins – working to make sure that those changes move us towards good, to make sure that we don’t lose ourselves, to make sure we don’t allow the enemy to win, to make sure that I don’t hold on too tightly allowing fear to win.

Thank you to the men and women who responded in this crisis. Thank you to those who put themselves in harm’s way to protect our nation. Thank you to Nathan Cirillo for your service. And thank you to my son who is teaching me to be a better mom simply by being himself.

“God keep our land, glorious and free…Oh Canada we stand on guard for thee.”

canada

 

 

Anniversaries

Usually anniversaries are things we love to celebrate. Whether it be the anniversary of the start of a relationship or of years worked with a single company or recovery from a life-threatening illness or of time sober, they are things we want to note and embrace and take joy in. They are easy anniversaries filled with good feelings.

But there are other anniversaries that are not so easy. The ones that are filled with pain and tears and are so very hard. The anniversary of a marriage failed, of a loved ones’ life-altering injury, a death. These are the ones that often times go unmentioned, unacknowledged and yet cause the greatest pain.

I know about both of these anniversaries but lately my mind and heart has been occupied by the latter of the two. It has been filled with grief and pain. Heartache and sorrow. A deep soul longing to return to a time that is no longer and a relationship that forever is frozen in time.

3 years.

3 years ago we were waiting on a bed in hospice for my mom.

3 years ago my kids & I visited her in her home with our brand new kitten in our hands. She knew us but was so very weak and frail. A few days later she was admitted to hospice.

A few days later she went to be with Jesus.

On Wednesday it will be 3 years since we had to say goodbye to my mom. I know she went to Heaven and I will see her again but in the meantime we have to learn to live life without her here. Some days it’s really really hard. Sometimes it’s a series of days.

Lately it’s been a series of days, almost going on weeks now. I miss my mom. There are so many good things going on in our lives right now, big changes that she would love to be a part of, and so many other things that I would really love to be able to ask her about or talk to her about.

Sometimes anniversaries are easy. Sometimes they are really hard. Both are part of life and we can’t appreciate the one without the other. While I wish with all my heart that this upcoming anniversary wasn’t one that my family had to face, I also can’t help but be thankful for the many years of memories that have made my mom’s passing so hard. I’ll embrace the tears and the painful memories and keep on living life knowing she’d like what she’s seeing.

Below are some of my favorite memories in recent years with my mom:

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Mom. Snowshoeing at Sunpeaks. December 2009.

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August 2007 – Shareski Wedding in Shaunavon, SK. An epic roadtrip weekend.

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Kamloops Lake at Tranquille. Fall 2007. My kids sure do miss her.

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Sharing a laugh on the shores of Lake Louise. August 2007. Not sure what was so funny but knowing mom it was slightly twisted! 🙂

No Apologies Here!

*Just to clarify…

I want to clarify that this post didn’t come as a result of anything family said this last week. I have found myself speaking apologetically about a variety of child-related things when speaking to others for quite some time. I simply became much more aware of this when we were visiting family last week because I had several of the same conversations with a bunch of people as happens when you are seeing a bunch of people for the first time in a while.

Some of the judgements I have felt in the last 18 months have been felt because there have been judgements. Some have simply been things I perceived but were really just me projecting my own insecurities into the situation. Whichever the situation, as parents, we don’t need to feel like we have to apologize for doing our best for our kids.

 

We just got home from a week in Edmonton with family we don’t see very often. It was a great visit! But I came away aware of something I have started doing that I really don’t like. I was apologizing for things I really don’t need or want to apologize for.

We’re doing things a little different than might have been done 12, 13 years ago when my older kids were babies. We’re definitely doing things differently than they were done 25 – 30 years ago when Tim’s kids were babies. We’re doing what works for us as a family. We feel good about the choices we are making and they are working for us. I was really surprised, then, to find myself justifying or apologizing or even feeling a little bit of guilt about when we were talking with various people this last week.

We wear our baby. I rarely use the stroller. Liam is on my back or cuddled against my chest. He’s happiest that way when we are out in public. I love the closeness as much as he does. It really works for us. And besides, have you seen how beautiful carriers and wraps are these days?? Not to mention how comfortable they are for everyone involved!! I was really surprised by how many eyebrows were raised when we were out and about around Edmonton this week – I felt like the only person on the planet who wasn’t using a stroller. And I found myself apologizing for being different in this way.

Mid-Morning Nap snuggles.

Mid-Morning Nap Snuggles

We are still nursing. Liam is going to be 18 months old soon and he LOVES the boobies!! Some days breastmilk is providing the bulk of his nutrition. Other days he is totally into his food and only nurses when he’s thirsty or tired. We ALWAYS nurse to sleep for naps and bedtime. Those sleepytime snuggles and nursing times are long and cherished. He often won’t go to bed without them, especially for naptime. A typical nursing day has him nursing for 7 long sessions (30 – 45 minutes at a time) and several short ones (5 – 15 minutes). It affects my sleep. It dictates the rhythm of our day. It influences how our family functions all around. But it works for us. And yet I was apologizing and almost feeling sheepish about it when people we don’t often see realized this about us.

We are looking at homeschooling our kids starting in September. This decision has come after much thought and consideration of our kids needs as well as considering a number of other factors. It’s a big commitment on our part. We’re aware of the potential challenges. We’re certain this is what is best for us at least for the next year. We’re confident in this choice and are excited about the possibilities. And yet I felt, more than once, like I needed to apologize for this choice.

These are just a few examples.

But why am I apologizing??!! These are the things that work for our family. These are things that have been thought about, talked about, agreed on or simply have evolved because they are what works for us. Some things are things that are pretty standard for families in this time. Other things are a little out of the norm. But whatever the case may be, I DON’T HAVE TO APOLOGIZE FOR PARENTING MY KIDS THE BEST WAY I KNOW HOW. I don’t have to apologize or explain why my husband and I do things the way we do. We aren’t breaking any laws, we aren’t putting our kids in harm’s way, we aren’t neglecting them or depriving them. The only thing we are doing is living our lives in ways that work for our family the best we can figure and sometimes that means we’re doing things that you’ll agree with and sometimes that means we’re doing things you wouldn’t do. Either way it’s okay.

I’m not going to apologize or justify why we do what we do any more. And if you find yourself doing the same thing, you don’t need to apologize either. Only we know what really works for us! Everyone else may have their opinion, they might make different choices, but just because what they think might differ from you, doesn’t mean you’re wrong or they are wrong. We’re all just DIFFERENT! If we could just agree to be different, to embrace those differences and maybe even be willing to engage in conversation about those differences so as to learn more about each other and ourselves, we would all feel a lot less pressure and a lot more confidence.

Own your choices!

Embrace the differences!

Confidently walk through life with your family.

Haters are going to hate. Doubters are going to doubt. Don’t allow them to rob you of your confidence and resolve to do what is best for your family. No More Apologies!

The Day Between

Woman-Grief-Painting-150x150Saturday afternoon I sat on my bed, trying to make sense of the thoughts in my head. Earlier in the day I had gotten the news that a friend’s sister’s battle with cancer had taken a turn for the worse. They weren’t sure what that meant, still aren’t just yet, but they knew it wasn’t good and I could only imagine that they were feeling rather devoid of hope, confused and unsure of what to do next. As I thought about that, and about the crucifixion of Jesus, I couldn’t help but consider what those around Him felt that day between…and as I thought of that the words flowed. This is what I wrote:

“Darkness descended yesterday late in the day, taking with it all hope, certainty and confidence in what tomorrow would bring.

All we are left with are questions – what do we do now? What do we BELIEVE now? How do we move forward from here? He said “It is finished.” but WHAT is finished?

I am empty, feeling drained of thought and emotion. Frozen in place, unable to comprehend what has happened or to sort out what it means.

My heart aches, weeps, physically hurts, as I watch the family grieving this loss. So much pain contained in their faces. My life has been affected by this and it hurts me but how much more it must hurt them. I know the pain they are feeling, having lost loved ones of my own – different circumstances and certainly different reasons but loss none the less. So I know the pain but there is a huge difference between my losses and this loss. My losses, while hard, have also made a certain amount of sense. At least there has been reason to explain them and make them easier to accept. 

This, THIS loss makes NO sense.

He was INNOCENT!! The most right man any of us has ever known or will ever know. I realize it sounds impossible but He NEVER DID ANYTHING WRONG! EVER! Not one bad thing or thought! 

How does a person condemn a perfectly good man to die in such a way? Where is the justice in that? And if they can do such a thing with someone so free of guilt, couldn’t they also do this to me or any of the others?

I am afraid.

I thought I would spend the rest of my life with Jesus, working and living alongside Him and His family and friends. But now I don’t know what I am going to do or where I am going to go. I don’t want to leave these people – I really have no place to go – but I can’t imagine they will want me to hang around for too long. I’m not really one that is welcome in most circles given my past. With Jesus gone, I’m sure it won’t be long before they realize that.

Jesus was the only one who knew my past and truly did not care about it. It’s like He saw who I really was, what I had done, and then forgot all about it. I have changed since I started following Him and I know I will never be that person I used to be again, of that I am certain. But I am uncertain of what the others see.

The only one I was certain of is now dead.

Oh Jesus!! I don’t understand!

I feel so alone. So afraid.

How does life go on when the one you have loved the most, been loved by the most, has been killed and now lies in a tomb?

My heart is breaking. I cannot wait for Sabbath to be over so that I can go to His tomb. I just want to be close to Him, even if just His body. Maybe things will start to make sense then.”

I wrote this from the perspective of a woman, one who had a sullied past, who wouldn’t be accepted as equal in society of those days. We know Mary Magdalene was such a woman, and she was the one who found Jesus’ tomb was empty and the first with whom He spoke. The despair she must have felt the day between would have been erased in a moment!

So often we are faced with loss, with hardships, that don’t make sense. The days following are dark and so very hard. It can seem impossible to move forward. And yet the day comes when everything changes. We have to live through the Friday and experience the Saturday in order to get to the Sunday. I am certain that what Mary discovered on Sunday was nothing like she imagined she’d find and the same is often true for us. Friday is always so very dark, Saturday seems impossible to move beyond but Sunday always comes. And for that I am so very thankful.