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.

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.