Little bitty, ’bout Jack & Cheyenne

Day 174

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Jack and Cheyenne (but not really)

Part 2 – True Adventures Yet To Be Lived

Chapter 19: Little bitty, ’bout Jack & Cheyenne

Jack and Cheyenne met 6 months into Jack’s first term as an elected official, in the middle of his last ditch effort to reverse the decisions to close IMH.

Jack shared equal access to his two girls. He had been separated for 3 years when he and Cheyenne met. That time together had enabled him and his daughters to create a very strong bond between them. Jack found the kid inside. He found patience, determination, and will. Most of all, he found the dad he longed to be and the father he always knew was within him.

Jack had dated a little bit over those years but for the most part it was just the three of them until that Spring of ‘15.

Cheyenne was a single mom who had full custody of her daughter. They had been on their own since her child was 2. Cheyenne was a very successful local manager of a not-for profit and involved in fundraising events when Jack stumbled across her social media profile.

The first connections were really no more than two people building their social  networks, and engaging with like-minded individuals. A month after that first connection however, after many messages back and forth, the two met for the first time over dinner.

They talked for hours about their lives, their work, passions, family, and of course, mostly their children. Jack’s girls, were 8 and 6, and Cheyenne’s daughter was 7.

From that first night, the two were inseparable.

When their kids finally met, at an Annie sing along at a local community theatre, it was also love at first site for the three clowns. They ran around the theater, up onto the stage, through the aisles, and joked around and laughed well into the night in the streets outside the show.

The girls had their troubles over the years as siblings do, but it was always evident when push came to shove (literally), that the occasional cat fight was not something they ever wanted to get in the way of them all being family.

Cheyenne was Jack’s cheerleader – all of their biggest boosters. She was constantly lifting all the girls up, complimenting them and when it came to Jack and his dreams and goals, she was quick to share them with anyone and everyone with great pride and genuine belief.

When Cheyenne believed in something, she would stop at nothing to ensure it got the credit, time, and exposure it deserved. The year before Jack and Chy (shy) met, he had started a little community event for his children after he realized he wasn’t going to be able to spend Halloween with them for the first time. He called it an alternate Halloween that happened a week before the actual holiday, which consisted of a gathering in the park with games earlier in the evening, followed by actual trick-or-treating through the neighborhood at participating homes. That first year seen about 20 kids and a dozen or so participating homes but by the fourth year, the event had ballooned to 250 kids, 40 participating homes, insurance, permits, bouncy castles and so much more.

It was all her. A man is only as good as those he surrounds himself with and Cheyenne was a big influence in all of their belief in themselves. She made Jack stronger. Made him feel like he could conquer anything and everything – including the world which is what this project often felt like. It was a substantial endeavor but somehow she made it feel small – manageable.

From the moment Jack first mentioned the idea for the school and its related entities, Cheyenne was iN. She had questions. She was also Jack’s best critic, but not out of disbelief. On the contrary, she pushed him hard which in turn, helped him strengthen, expand on, and better clarify his vision.

To Jack, Cheyenne was this sweet, giving, forgiving, connector. She was a natural networker in all aspects of her life. Before the idea of the school had even been floated, Cheyenne was making many valuable and sincere community connections. She literally connected people in her full time role, and all those that surrounded Chy benefited holistically from her natural instinct to want to help and the hard work she tirelessly put in behind the scenes. Cheyenne made sure that those she felt needed to get together to achieve like-minded goals, from finding a job/an employee to making a dream come true, met.

One day early on in the project, Jack thought to himself, ‘would I be here today attempting to achieve such a lofty endeavor, had Cheyenne not come into our lives?’. The answer was a resounding no. Chy added so much to their lives. She brought this peace. An understanding and patience with him, his girls, and everything life threw at them – which was a lot. Somehow after all these years together, she was still there by all of their sides. Sometimes she looked a little beaten down, but she still found a way to look at Jack with an adoring love. She would cock her head slightly, do this thing with her lips, and stare so innocently and child like his way.

There were many days where Jack wondered why Chy had stuck around as long as she had. They had been through so much in a relatively short time, but he knew by now that her love was unwavering. He trusted her love for all of them and her pure, and dedicated commitment to being there through everything and anything. There was no doubt in his mind that this woman’s heart was one he could always count on.

Divorce had taught Jack that he didn’t need anyone. It allowed him to see what a great father he was, and that he could do anything he set his mind to surrounded by the right people. Now that he had Cheyenne by his side, he also knew that even though he could survive on his own, he no longer wanted to. Cheyenne was the final romantic path for Jack. It took 40 plus years, but now looking back through everything life had thrown in his way, Chy was worth every obstacle. Every heartache. Every tear.

Jack and Cheyenne. Two Canadian kids doin’ the best they can.

W to the P

Day 140

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Hello aliens! It’s me, Jack. (but not really). This is my first blog post. (but not really)

Come laugh, imagine, and explore with me. Hopefully in that order.

Let’s buy a school. Anyone have a few extra mil under their floor boards?

No really.

Although this is the day I created this blog, I will be posting the chapters that I have already written as separate posts, and back-dating the threads to correlate with the original chapter release dates.

Not sure why.  Maybe it’s the OC… to provide some kind of detailed timeline to remember this journey by.

Yea… that’s the ticket!

The Beginning

Day 125

Part 2 – True Adventures Yet To Be Lived

Chapter 17: The Beginning

The original disheartened admission of the need for a school on the fringes of public ed, dedicated to children and youth with varying needs, was certainly not Jack’s brainchild.

Jack spent three years advocating for the Ministry and local Boards to drive both feet into the air brakes of their misguided inclusion train, and reverse decisions to close facilities offering these inspiring, alternative settings. He ran in the Municipal election on mostly that premise, won, and the first task he tackled was just that.

He  desperately attempted to help his new colleagues see their need to reconsider. Countless emails were sent over many weeks. Images were attached, of the inclusion everyone understood – a Down syndrome cheerleader, in contrast with a snapshot of the last graduating class of of the student body he was advocating for. The children looked no different than any other except each child had a learning disability. Lastly, Jack cited research based on the other side of the discussion, and advice from regarded professionals in the field of special education warning against forced inclusion.

This was the story that could not have been shared with Trustees the previous term, for if they had known of works similar to James Kauffman M., ED. and Daniel Hallahan, P., ED., had they followed stories from neighboring boards and how when faced with a similar dilemma, they proudly cited the importances of these choices and kept one school open. Had decision-makers been encouraged to look at larger metropolises like Harbour City, with 40 some odd alternative schools, their decision to close both schools serving these students would have very likely been different.

Jack realized very early on in this new role, just how hard reversing a political decision was.

Although Jack failed to change the previous Board’s vote, that school was something he often referenced in public and private discussions. Sometimes a bit off topic, sometimes while choking up,  holding back a tear, and from time to time, sometimes with a little anger and frustration in his voice.  He did so respectively, but although he was more or less encouraged to realize this type of facility would not return to their network of schools, Jack wasn’t someone who gave up on the issues he felt very strongly about.

Even though Jack was new to education and his political role, the longer he served and the more he learned about the inner workings of publicly funded education, the more he remembered those pre-election mentions of education on the edge. Not even two years in, Jack found himself becoming increasinging aware of the direction this dream of an alternative school needed to move in.

~

This entire story began with a newspaper article. A few of them actually.  Jack had lived in Waterfall City his entire life, had been educated under this same Board, but yet new nothing about  Ivor ‘The Driver’ Memorial High School (IMH). Suddenly, this school was frequently being discussed in local mainstream and indi media circles.

IMH as it turned out, had been among many in Waterfall City that once focused on vocational programming. Jack would even later learn that his uncle Melvin, who himself had a learning disability of type unknown to the family, had attended IMH. Other uncles had also graduated from vocational schools and gone on to do very well for themselves in fact.

In recent years however, leading up to its closing, IMH, through the leadership of its principle and dedicated staff, had evolved into a school where primarily students with various challenges attended.

Jack had this growing urge to drop into IMH to see for himself, what it was all about. That wasn’t an easy task for a quiet, introverted artist but one day early fall, he did just that. He sent the Principal a message, citing recent articles read and conversations he had had with staff he knew from the school, and within a week, through the Principles invitation, found himself at their parent council meeting.

The dynamics were polar opposite to parent council meetings Jack had attended at his girls schools. From advocating for an audio system or grade 8 trips, to pure survival, the contrast between a standard community school, and IMH, was daunting.

You see, IMH had been voted to close, along with its sister school across the city for students with more mild intellectual needs. IMH itself, was nothing to look at. Obviously in desperate need of repair but that wasn’t of concern to staff, students, or families. They loved this school and everything it represented.

This was the first parent council formed at Ivor Memorial in some 10 years, and they were here to fight alongside the students who had equally been inspired by the the announcement of their schools closure, to take to protesting on school and City Hall grounds.

For years these students and their families had fumbled through mainstream education, until finally finding their way to IMH – sometimes by chance, sometimes through hoops. Obviously the decision to close had been on executive minds for sometime, as they tried to limit it’s enrollment numbers.

That first October meeting, Jack found himself leaving as a community representative on Parent Council.  He had felt an instant connection with this group, but couldn’t put a finger on why it had immediately been so strong. When he had his first tour of the facility during school hours a couple of weeks later, the kindred relationships between staff, students, and the families all made it very clear why Jack had felt an instant draw to IMH before he had even stepped in through those front doors.

It was unique in so many ways, from it’s community mentorship program, breakfast clubs sponsored by the local professional hockey team, music playing in the hallways over the PA system between classes, signs everywhere helping the students navigate the building, dogs wondering the halls with their own staff ID, a greenhouse, smaller staff to student ratios, and some 200 partnerships throughout the City.

The tour guide, an extremely passionate IMH educator, often found herself choking up discussing the love for her school and her students. With each staff member we met, the adoration and advocacy of the need for this special space, dug deeper into Jack’s psyche. Who was Jack kidding. They had him at dogs, reminding him of an early 20’s employer where the owner’s pooches roamed the office freely, stopping by occasionally for a pet.

What really caught Jack’s attention most during his tour of IMH, was the flow of students who came into Principal Pat Seaton’s office, just to say hi. He was well regarded, and the mutual respect he had for his students was obvious. Where other kids, including Jack as a teen, avoided the office, this was a safe place throughout the day for many. One student even had explicit language on his hat (his hat), but it wasn’t something of focus. Neither was language in general either it seemed. Discouraged, but not a game changer among the broader picture.

As Jack was leaving, a couple of former students had popped in for a visit. They missed their school. They missed their principal. Jack stepped back and watched this interaction for a bit, before tapping Pat on the shoulder to say his goodbyes.

“We’ll be in touch, Pat.”

‘Thanks for coming, Jack. We’ll see you at next parent council.”

Jack hadn’t felt this included – this at home, for a long time. He was now a member of this school and he was honored.

He was never the same after that day. He later visited the school to sit in on classes from english and construction, to their composite class. He watched how staff patiently and with great compassion, took turns dealing with escalating student behavior like it was just a normal and very human part of their day. How didn’t office educator’s get this?

In the new year, now an official Trustee candidate, Jack attended the school for a discussion between the Board’s Director, standing Trustee, staff, students, families, and community members, moderated and hosted by a local neighborhood action group. So many in the community had joined the cause to save this school and this program, and this was the Boards attempt to explain how these students and future generations, would be okay under their new full inclusion model.

In Jack’s hand, as he arrived and took a seat in the front row of the IMH gymnasium, was a copy of a book called the Illusion of Full Inclusion (Kauffman/Hallahan). Ironically, it had just arrived that day so Jack brought it and put it on the chair next to him.

Although the moderator kept the meeting civil, neither speaker was able to breath comfort into the hearts and minds of anyone in the room, including IMH Student Council President Will (Megaphone) Martin. With megaphone in hand, Will and his fellow students, who had been quiet throughout, made sure it was known at one point that they would never give up on their fight to save the school that had changed their lives.

A petition of over 1000 signatures asking to preserve the school was presented at the meeting, which included advice from many educators and those who worked with these students in communities across Canada. It meant nothing.

The remaining months were spent reading Kauffman and Hallahan, knocking on doors in an effort to represent IMH in the political arena, and attending rallies.  Will Martin was inspiring people all across the city with his valiant and persistent efforts to make sure everyone and anyone knew about their cause, and why it was important to overturn a decision to close a school nobody but it’s staff and students, truly understood.

In late spring, the school held its annual talent show. It was the perfect example of why having an entire school for these students, rather than a handful of small alternative programs spread throughout the city, was an important option to have. These students would have never taken part in anything like this at their home schools. Jack had a tear in his eyes throughout most of the remarkable performances. These students were amazing. Inspiring. Resilient. They were attending dances, had friends (including girlfriends or boyfriends), for the first time. They were truly included. It was at this moment, where Jack fully understood just how personal inclusion was.

Jack attended a conference many years later where a speaker stated, in talking about these very options in education, that “When everyone is different, nobody is different.” This school exemplified this.

June seen the last ever graduating class of IMH walk across the stage. It was a packed auditorium, and an extremely emotional event. The students all looked sharp. Many were the first to graduate high school in their families, and some were the first to enter into post secondary studies.  These students stayed in school and didn’t just get by, they thrived and enjoyed every last minute of the latter part of their educational journeys. School had not been a great experience until IMH. That alone was worth its weight in ministry funding.

Now, it was all over. The halls silent. The Canadian flag standing guard over the echoes of 50 years of IMH grads, including Jacks’ late uncle Mel. The building, soon to be ashes alongside the program that had so majestically and holistically grown out of nothing – no thanks to any executive design.

The students watched in anguish, as the school was brought to rubble later that same year. It’s a hard enough thing for anyone to watch, nevermind students with special needs wondering why someone would close the first school they had truly found a home within.

What did this say about their value and place in society?

Cranial Conception to Grad Reflections

Day 119

Part 2 – True Adventures Yet To Be Lived

Chapter 16: Cranial Conception to Grad Reflections

I figured the best place to start was at the end.  Imagining how I felt when the dream had been realized. Seeing the support, the tears, the laughter and celebration as we welcomed a fresh look at education, business, community, and how it could all come together in a seamless network.  

We brought back that village that had been missing. That sense of family. Belonging. Acceptance, and a strong delivery of the whole in a very personal manner.  

This was our first graduating class. We had turned everything on its head. Education presentation and monetary structure, business interconnectedness and how community supports both, and vice a versa.  This was business and community modelled after education instead of the long-standing history of the reverse.

Years of network building, fundraisers, public engagements, learning and the proverbial blood, sweat and tears had led us to finally opening our doors, and now standing on this historical stage. This venue had seen 100 years of graduates before, and today, the first of a new and inspiring era in education.

– – –

It was 5 years before when Jack first stood on this old stage looking out into a full auditorium of parents, family, friends, educators and in those first rows, what was supposed to have been one of the last graduating classes of this historied institution.  

The idea of going into education himself had already long been present,  but as he delivered the first of three graduation speeches he was to make that week, he suddenly seen today’s reality in its completed form. For those moments as he talked of the history and traditions of this school, his own education, and advice for the graduates as they started upon their adult journeys, those students became his own. Their parents and other supports, part of his network. The teachers, principals, and staff dear friends and colleagues as well. This was was his dream (all of their dreams), realized. In Jack’s mind, this was already the end he was only today, realizing.  

There were only 12 students graduating with a Provincially recognized diploma or certificate this first year, and 87 students total in all grades in a facility with a capacity to traditionally hold 1500 students,  but interest throughout semesters 1 and 2 quickly gained momentum thanks to an inspiring, award winning onsite social media campaign managed by their teaching partners and students.

425 new students from within and beyond Waterfall City were already enrolled for year two meaning the schools new capacity based on smaller class sizes, in-house community partners,  and alternative classroom setup and delivery methods, was to already be realized in season two of East City K2Life.

This was unlike any graduation Jack had ever attended. From the decorations, performances, the emotion of the families and students (even educators), who found a special place after years of educational struggles, right down to the awards the students came up with for their teachers and staff.

As the students proudly made their way through the front archway into the Welcome Garden, Jack choked up seeing the teachers and educational assistance sitting in their lawn chairs as they had each morning with their coffees greeting students in rain and snow every school day, now symbolically welcoming them to their adult lives and signifying their and the school’s ongoing support for the remainder of their life’s journey.  

The weather hadn’t cooperated well on this momentous occasion but nobody from students, staff, families, community supports, and of course Jack and his family, allowed any obstacles to stand in the way of enjoying every moment of the journey. The downpour of rain somehow made it all that much more exhilarating and refreshing. Then the thunder rolled and all went screaming and laughing for the cover of home – their school.

Halfway through the evening, the rain suddenly stopped, and the setting sun shone brightly through the open gymnasium doors. At that moment, Jack looked over at his partner Kate, reached out for her hand, and led her to the dance floor.

Kate had been there every step of the way. She believed in Jack and this dream, and worked tirelessly to ensure this vision was shared and realized. She was the reason that East City came to be. Kate gave Jack the motivation he needed through every obstacle that came between 5 years prior, and this very night.

In the end, that became East City’s principal vision. Belief in self. Without it, a dream is just a dream we don’t believe in.

Education – Plain and Simple

Day 68

Part 1 – Who am I?  But not totally.

Chapter 15: Education – Plain and Simple

Everyone has a right to a free public education in North America, but education should also be free from politics. Free from religion. Free from discrimination, judgement and bullying.  We should learn and talk about it all but neither should be allowed to influence educational experiences or outcomes.

Our children deserve to come out of the other end of their early learning journeys with the same confidence, same belief in oneself and equally knowing their value in our society. The same humility, compassion, respect for others, and global understanding of our wonderfully diverse world. That no one is better or smarter or more intrinsic than anyone else. Not a King or Queen, Prince of Princess. Not a Prime Minister. Not a President. Not a human over an animal or our Mother Earth. That we are all equally important pieces of our community puzzles. We cannot take away a bee, a wolf, a river, a tree, you or me without taking something from the spirit and harmony of the grander painting.

Students should take that leap into adulthood with these basic skills and understandings. We can accomplish anything when we believe in ourselves, and only a fraction of our full potentials when we are left questioning all the numbers and letters 14 years of report cards have said about us.

Most of all, our children must have an educational experience as diverse as their many different learning profiles. Inclusion must be individual to what feels right for them. Not what politicians and office educators believe is best for our children.

Inclusion is personal. It’s time for our learning institutions to be holistically reflective of this.

Education is in need of the greatest innovation in how it’s delivered from structure, delivery and budget, to programming and environment. INSE seeks to be at the forefront of this innovation.

Happy Birthday to us!

Day 46

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A year ago we gave it a name. Now we’re giving it a voice. Happy 1st birthday to us. Looking forward to you being a part of this journey.

Here’s to 100’s more. Well I’ll be dirt but happy 100th whomever the latest INSE protector is on this day, September 9th 2116.

Darn I won’t live to see 2112 day. 21st day of December, 2112. Hope Rush plays loud and proud all day long. I predict records will be making another comeback by then.

Sincerely,
All of us here at INSE – and Jack (but not really).

“I can’t wait to share this new wonder
The people will all see its light
Let them all make their own music education
The Priests Protector praise my name on this night.” ~ Rush (Lyrics by Neil Pert)

Well commUnity

Day 22

Part 1 – Who am I?  But not totally.

Chapter 11: Well commUnity


If I were to highlight what I loved most about going to church and being a part of any one faith, hands down it’s the food.

No seriously, what I appreciated most through my own experiences, was the sense of community and belonging that, inspired by young, admiring love, most drew me in while exploring Catholicism in my early 30’s.

Although that eighth month long journey found me faithless and sitting in tiny pews in a freakishly small church on the side of the highway, it reminded me of that sense of association I felt when I played hockey as a child. That family. Mostly, it made me see that religion, quite literally in this case, comes in all shapes and sizes.

It was another year before the thought of faith entered my life again, once again taking us back to that summer with the Natives in the valley. Although I hadn’t yet been versed in their belief system through that experience, I did learn a great deal about their traditions, their spirit, their strength and desire to protect Mother Earth. From Sacred Fires to an illuminating sweat lodge ceremony in the midst of a quiet urban forest,  that growingly addictive sense of community was once again present in my life.

People were living in trees, tending to the fire 24/7 to ensure the flame did not burn out, and others were organizing efforts to bring food and water to all those sacrificing time and spirit to save this paradise from destruction. For the first time ever, I was witness to the story not well told in a time when Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist. These were the moments that made me realize the importance of learning about all sides of any situation.

That battle may have been lost in some regards, but things were changed and important lessons were learned.

It was around this time that I truly found writing again – a passion that I had let digress since those young, inspired middle school years. Writing led to being published. Led to meeting so many people volunteering their time to better their communities. Led to starting my own advocacy. Led to fighting for my children. Led to being an elected official. Led to this very story about the very thing I want to bring to our little city, to make it a better place by filling a void left by decisions I respectfully disagree with.

I clean alley’s. I run an event for kids each year. I pick up garbage while walking the dog at night.  I’m a politician. I am also a baseball coach. All of this inspired forward by people in my past and present whether strangers in the park or through the stories of giving back to his community brought out in my grandfather.

Community also comes in various shapes and sizes. From our sports leagues, our own streets, our broader towns and most importantly, our family networks. Knowing the importance of community and having the skill set to work together through good times and challenges, is key.

Being an active part of my community has strengthened everything else in my life from passion, acceptance, belonging, worth, communication, patience, humbleness, and kindness. I love the person I am more and more as I connect deeper with my community.

My work is better. My family is better. I am better.

I involve my girls as often as I can in the work I do in my community from cleaning parks, to arguing on the doorstep of strangers I hope will vote for me about who will knock on doors. I want them to know the value and importance of being involved, not to mention the peace I might find if they would only stop teasing the crud out of one another for 5 minutes. Long enough to go to the loo would be nice.

As with everything else, there is a balance between work, play, community and family so that is important to remember, but what engagement beyond our own lives naturally gives back to our spirits is invaluable and the key to a stronger, more harmonious and respecting society.

We must understand and value all roles played by all individuals across all aspects of our city networks to truly understand our own value and worth in and amongst the greater picture.

Once again, it’s okay to want something in return for engaging in your community. Like promoting your business or looking to network to find employment. I will guarantee however that if you go in expecting nothing, you will come out richer in ways you couldn’t have imagined. You’ll have people shopping at your business. You’ll find employment. You’ll also come out with something far greater than pulling thorns out of your tailpipe cleaning up overrun alleys or collecting business card bits out of the lint catcher thingy that were left in the back of your jeans. You’ll find connection. Pure, real, connection if you are sincere and real in your intentions.

Religious or not, you will find faith in something. Belonging. Appreciation. Understanding. Love. Acceptance.

Losing My Un-Religion

Day 16

Part 1 – Who am I?  But not totally.

Chapter 10: Losing My Un-Religion

Hunk ‘o junk. Sorry, I had to break the religious tension. A story for another time.

I don’t want to get too much into religion. It’s a touchy subject and really has little relevance to the project. Well none of this babble has any real matter now does it for those waiting for this long, self-centred intro to be finally over so we can get to what the bloody h-e-double ringette sticks this is all about already.

I will say that I do not like religion for it’s occasional judgement of others, or the part it plays in war and strife or the pain in my sciatica after an hour sitting in those hard pews. I do like the light banter afterwards in the community room and pancakes and coffee and more pancakes. When it comes to getting people out, have food will travel as the saying somewhat goes.

I have however in all seriousness, come to understand, as someone without religion in their life, the importance of having faith in something in whatever form that takes. Like the Leafs will win the Cup or Friends will have a comeback.

Although religion, for me, has no formal place in work, education or play, I believe it’s extremely important for all of our children (all of us for that matter of course), to have a good understanding of those we share our communities with every day from religion, traditions, and customs. Faith is an important part of so many of our lives. We must respect, honor, and value that in education, work and play because it’s there in our signal to the creator after a score, the rosary hanging from our family photo at our cubicle, or in the attire we wear at school.

I found my faith one summer in a valley learning about our country’s Native roots. If being Aboriginal was a religion I could simply pick up one day, I would have after that summer and a lifetime going to the local reserve with my grandfather, hearing his passion for our First Nations peoples, and his lifelong desire to do more to make their communities stronger.

As a politician, sitting on the First Nation Metis Inuit Community Advisory Committee and our local Indigenous Education Circle, has broadened my respect, knowledge and belief in their teachings and protective nature. Increasingly, it has me wanting to do more and to be constantly conscious of Indigenous teachings with the decisions I make in my life.

So although I cannot be Aboriginal and I chose not to take on any one faith, there are many beautiful aspects to all religions, traditions, cultures, and ways of life that we can all adapt to help us live a life that affords us to achieve our spirits, and those that share this space with us, true potentials. That includes our earth and all of its living entities.

Where once I believed in total separation of church, state, and education, I now see the utter importance in having an open and sincere discussion about faith, rather than shovelling it under the bulging rug. Not as a one over the other discussion or with any criticism, but rather as a matter of seeing the good intention in all of it. If nothing else, then quite simply the importance of believing in a power greater than us. Like lightning or tornados or mom’s chasing us around the house with a bar of soap.

I didn’t need the fear of God. I had the absolute terror of a cheesed off, cursing mother, with bulging central lobe veins leaping after one disrespectful little bugger.  She is my creator and as she often reminded me, also had the power to remove me from the world in which she brought me into. Luv ya mum.

Familie

Day 11

Part 1 – Who am I?  But not totally.

Chapter 9: Familie

Seeing as though my grandfather was a big influence in my life and he was born in Denmark, I thought I would add a little Danish to the mix. Dane on my mum’s side, Scottish on my dad’s, and England-born grandmother’s all around.  The Scottish roots go back a few generations however from when they immigrated to Canada.

Not only am I lucky, as lucky as divorced and broke and 2 jobs each between my partner and I go, I am extremely rich when it comes to family and friends.

Most of all, there are my two girls. Then, there is my partner who is my cheerleader, and her daughter who sits smack dab in the middle of our 3 girls birth years.  Then add an 80lb dog, a Garfield-esk cat, and two of her fluffy- sleep during the day’ kittens and one Gecko. There you have our immediate home. We even have to feed the crickets and worms and the outside cats even come to our kitchen window for a pet and a snack, so all I really seem to do except work and sleep is clean poop and feed things. Lucky they are all cute or fascinating like worms are.

My parents have toughed out many struggles and are 45 years into their marriage. They are certainly an inspiration and my biggest role models. Both my grandparents lived death-do-us part romances, except my mum’s mum died when I was just a baby. All I have of us is a photo of her holding me and a toy airplane. She and planes had a ‘never go on one’ relationship. My grandfather did remarry but at 99 a few years back, he left my step-grandmother twice the widower.

My grandfather and his second wife both lost the loves of their lives far too young. They also were on two different sides of the war. One fought it in while his darling and child stayed back home, and his second love lived surrounded by bombs going off in the second world war while her husband was in battle. Both her men would survive that war.

I have one sister who is one of my best friends. Both my dad,  mom and both my grandfather’s were of big families of 5’s and 7’s so I have lots of cousins who I have mostly been very close with.

As for friends, I have so many buds I have known since birth or early grade school. We may not see each other all that often even though some live close by, but I know they are always there and I hope they know I am always here. I wish for these friendships to continue because through breakups and other important life moments, it’s comforting knowing I have them. It’s always nice of course but life goes by in a rush.

My family is very sociable, kind, giving, lovers of children and animals, reunions, drinks and a game of cards here and there. We are passionate about our local team, big local supporters of small business, and together a very passionate, talented, and creative lot.

None of us have really left this place. It’s common for locals and if you stick around for awhile, you see what a hidden gem our hometown is. Some have ventured off for a short while or came back and moved not too far away. Otherwise, at any given moment we could probably scare up 50 family members including new relatives that pop up from time to time as pasts reveal the very human nature of all of our families.  We are far from perfect but perfect in every way that matters.

Our family flaws are never far from front and centre but our true nature and strength always shines through during good times like weddings and other family gatherings, and tough times such as repair needs or deaths. There is always an opportunity to celebrate and never a second thought to a hug, a kiss, or a strong man shake.

Family is so important and for those that aren’t so blessed, it’s our opportunity to share the strength that our loved ones give us each and every day. I think we do this very well as does the community I live in. I feel that’s because so many families I am surrounded by are of the same cloth. Dealt more shyte than a litter box and maybe a bit broken and guarded, but always giving and quick to love again even though their love is always forever.

I am lucky that my children have known a great grandfather and so happy they have been able to have a close bond with my parents and sister. I know how important all of these relationships have been for me including the bond I had with my aunts and uncles.

My pooch sits up for a little love as a cool summer’s wind rips through our yard, making me think of how I am also lucky to have the forgiving, forever-love of this sweet soul. She and my cuddly cat have been with me through many lonely nights.

There are so many great souls in my life that I feel have all contributed to a powerful passion with so much pent up love and giving to express.

Strengthening that sense of belonging to a family is something I feel is extremely important and a big driver of this project.

Daddy

Above image credit: My two girls (really)

Day 10

Part 1 – Who am I?  But not totally.

Chapter 8: Daddy

Is there anything more amazing than hearing that call? ‘Daddy?’

It is surely soon to slip away. It’s long since been ‘dad’ for 1.

~

For those imaginary people following along this, quote unquote, live writing journey, it’s been a few days since I have hacked away at this tale.

As I believe I have stated – the memory isn’t as good as it never was so perhaps I have, I am a single father. Kind of a misleading phrase considering I am no longer single and I never truly have been. As in single parents without the assistance of anyone to rescue them from tantrums, gadget duals and dirty laundry on top of clean laundry on top of toys on top of candy rappers on top of cat. I believe the run on sentence nicely symbolizes a day in the life of those bearing child minus a sanity assistant. Those angels need a medal or opioids or a big free frickin’ party for single parents at each month’s end sans children and avec whatever the frig they want. Parenting is hard bloody enough with another person or half of one or even one that comes down with the lurgy every time it’s their turn to watch the little buggers.

I love my girls with all of my affection. I have fought hard to be in their lives half of the time and I would gladly accept all of of it. Although, there has been a moment or two in recent months as they enter the ‘can I get away with locking them in their rooms’ years, that I was ready to send them back to mom’s. Of course the moment I get in the car and head for home when our time sharing ends, I already wish them back. Back to give me a hand when I realize on returning home that there is makeup and sparkles all over the bathroom sink, evidence of a long game of dressup, and rubber bullets spewed across the living room and in kitten mouths. Of course in all seriousness, that is codswallop; wishing them home to clean not the mess they make, because I will cherish the already fading desire to want to be with me rather than friends or boys. My aluminum bat is ready and has already had a couple of symbolic taps in my palm.

Before their mom and I separated 5 years ago, I had not gone but a couple of days every once in a blue moon without seeing them. I had to kiss their sleeping foreheads goodnight after spending hours on transit travelling back and forth to work for a few years, or had to settle for having a few moments to read them a story before bed, but otherwise we were hardly apart.

I am lucky to be in the situation I am, aside from an ‘always love her for giving me the greatest gifts ever’/loathe/dislike existence with my former spouse, as I know so many great dads fighting for access when all they want to do is be a part of their children’s lives as much as possible.

Although I cannot change my situation, even though every day I regret the time I have lost and will continue to lose with my gals, I believe I have a lot to offer – especially my children, to help others be better equipped for life’s challenges. This includes understanding relationships and especially our own personal needs. Not that I am a trained professional or have any paper qualifications, but I do have many thoughts on how we can as a society, avoid completely messing the family bed. After all, I  myself have written numerous pages in the Mucking it up for Dummy’s self-destruction manual. I have many degrees in lived experience.

I do not for one moment believe we should encourage bad couples to stay together as our prisons are already in abundance, but I do believe we can provide our children with more tools to help them avoid at least a few setbacks in their lives. Life has so many obstacles as it is. Like tapered jeans, brothers exposing your unaroused neckedness to a love interest and the whole trailer park while you sleep, a Parisienne full of party weekend buds breaking down 5 minutes after departure, or that perm that you thought was a good idea that you’ve never been able to obtain the negatives for.

Divorce seems such a waste in so many ways. Like all that hard-earned cash gone to pot for know-nothing lawyers. Most importantly of course, it’s a waste of precious time without our little beings. The creatures we have waited our entire life to meet and nurture and not totally fudge up before graduating into this sometimes dark and lonely world. I don’t wish this life on them or anyone for that matter. Well maybe some, but not really.

I interviewed other soon-to-be fathers when we went to prenatal classes before our first child was born. I wanted to know what they were thinking, dreaming, or fearful of with regards to becoming a new zombie dad. I in turn wrote a story about my own feelings towards fatherhood. I was scared and excited and in a bit of a fog, but never did I imagine being where I am now. It makes me sad often, like this very moment only hours from having said goodbye for another week. Looking out the window at our small pool awaiting a child’s play, laughter, banter, and the family dog in its second life leaning over the edge waiting to be splashed too with tongue dangling like a rabid lunatic.

‘Single’ life ‘aint all candy bars and rainbows. Sorry it is candy bars; and lot’s of strong coffee like the paste my partner concocts each ‘mor. I mean mmmmm. ‘I love you honey.’

I am so grateful for how close these years have brought me to these girls and mostly proud of my accomplishments, but I have missed and will continue to miss, so very much.

I guess you could say my heartache has inspired me to at least help others avoid similar paths. Whenever they aren’t here, all I do is think of them. At least I can be doing something in their absence that they have inspired, because that is what they have been to me since the moment I first held them or even talked to them in their mommy’s belly. My inspiration. My purpose.

Where once I fancied being famous, called crap on social media, or to be chased by neurotic photographers, now all I want is to be a dad and anything in life that provides me the freedom and peace of mind to be a better father to my children.

I was at the family court house the other day – my nightmare away from home these past few years. As I entered, an elderly woman, perhaps a grandmother or 30 something mom who hasn’t slept in years, said to the police officers as she exited, that ‘this place might just be the most depressing there is.’ I couldn’t agree more.

Why does it have to be this way? All parents deserve better. The children especially.

I love you girls. Sleep well. Virtual kisses and hugs.