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.

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.

The Road to Now – As if walking backwards

Day 9

Part 1 – Who am I?  But not totally.

Chapter 4: The Road to Now – As if walking backwards

I am an elected official. I guess that’s as good a place as any to start, or introduce you to an end to where I am at this moment.

I am a Trustee for the local public school board – the same one I was educated within, hired by my neighbors through a Municipal Election that takes place every four years. We share the ballot with Mayor hopefuls, councillor candidates, and those vying for positions as Trustees for the Catholic and French school boards.

Nobody knows who the haiti we are or what the bloody heck we do. Not even most teachers. That the curriculum does not discuss our place in politics is often brought up by my colleagues. It, as well as our part-time role, highlights our importance in the eyes of others elected in the past to represent their communities.

It’s odd to find myself here even three years into my first and likely last term as a public official.

I ran into an old vice-principal I had in high school a few months back at an open house at a Muslim mosque of all places. It was a lovely, informative, and enlightening evening. I imagined him returning home however,  having an apostrophe of a young teen who spent countless hours in his office and graduated by the seat of his pants. A young know-it-all who made weird, distracting noises, barely passed his favorite subject – art. Who had a knack of playing reunion agent between his father and the Principal who once were teacher and student. The same kid who attended summer school, night school, and who elected to take basic courses in grade 12 for fear he would not make the graduation stage with his peers should he seek more challenging subjects.  My plan worked of course but I am not sure what it really achieved looking back?

I imagined that former educator fearful of the fate of our education system with the likes of me at the lead, but I know that is not what he was actually thinking. It seemed from our great and lengthy discussion that he and other past teachers I have spoken with, have long been fearful without my assistance in further mucking it up.

Being an elected official is a bit tricky, confusing, and in a part-time role, often lonely. We don’t have assistants. We answer phone calls, respond to emails and social media messages and attend neighborhood meetings like full-time officials do. We even get lambasted through these same mediums and find ourselves from time to time the reluctant subject of newspaper articles. We also have families, regular jobs, and other everyday tasks to manage as well.  We sit on committees, attend regular board meetings, and are invited to countless events by community partners. It’s a difficult balance.

I perhaps have found all this a great deal more challenging as a single father who only sees his children half of the time and choses to be selective of what takes me away from my children. It is for this reason that there isn’t a day that passes where I don’t think of calling it quits early so I can go back to just being a father. I love being involved in my community. I really do,  but I cherish being dad to my two cuties most.

It is my desire to mostly focus on being a dad that is the real driver to this story and seeking broader support and buy-in before going any further. I try to take small steps each day towards this imagined goal but I cannot move forward with anything that will take me away from my greatest passion – those girls. For this venture to succeed, I must have the human and monetary investment that will assure all of those involved can live their lives in a ‘family first’ fashion.

I did not take on the role of Trustee from a purely ‘betterment of my community’ standpoint  I must admit. Unfortunately there was a monetary value to that decision to enter politics as well. I was divorced, struggling financially, and was looking for something to supplement my income. I was in search of a thing I could be passionate about and that might lead to an eventual career change having been in the same job for 16 years on election day, October 27th, 2014. Let’s just say that I have come to the realization in my third summer as Trustee, that there is no monetary benefit for anyone in a similar situation as I am. That’s okay though because there truly is far more to be gained from this role beyond our honorariums.

So money is a wash then. Time is being taken away from parenting. Stress levels are high. I have little time for the important things like dishes or laundry or on occasion a shower. Like today. Phew. Yesterday? Bloody hell.

Much of my vacation days are also used for events and meetings related to this ‘part-time’ job. My purpose is now constantly being self examined and my place in politics is growingly becoming moot given what I advocated for and what I have actually accomplished.

I do love my role and am extremely honored to serve in this manner. I am very lucky to have been elected to this position. There isn’t a day goes by that I am not thankful and humbled by having been entrusted to represent my communities voice for something as critically important as their child’s education.

I do have so much more to say about my position as Trustee, but I do not wish to expose the storyline beyond the title just yet. So true to me, I will engage in a bit of a ‘squirrel’ moment for a chapter or two or three, and skip around a bit to what has lead me down the path to now sitting at my diner-esque kitchen table imagining this tale.