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Recently a news story broke that has shattered reality for many Canadians who have been living in a state of involuntary or voluntary ignorance. Suddenly we were thrust into a cycle of grief for the lives lost of hundreds and possibly thousand of babies and children who were stolen from their homes and robbed of their culture, heritage, innocence and most importantly, the love of their families. Being a Caucasian woman living in Canada right now, I have felt many things in the last few weeks. I have felt sadness, I have felt shame, I have felt anger, I have felt guilt and most of all I have felt grief. My heart absolutely weeps for the children who endured what no human should ever have to, for the mothers who pounded their fists and screamed their throats raw, and for the soul of the Indigenous people, which was unceremoniously beaten and starved by the people who invaded this land and sought to make it their own.

But there is one other thing that I have felt, and that is hope. There is a sense in the world today of progress, of a people that want to understand and want to make right as best we can. There is a feeling of closure that is emanating from the very pores of this country. I know it will never be enough for what was stolen but I hope that it can bring even a whisper of peace to the guardians and keepers of this great land.

This is something that our mother wrote, inspired by the complex and intense feelings that this revelation has brought on. Sometimes we don’t know how to put into worlds our thoughts, feelings and hopes, but I think that she has captured my own beautifully. My wish is that it will bring you some clarity and enable you to start putting your thoughts and feelings and dreams into your own words. Spark a conversation. 💕 #everychildmatters

The gentle hands of the Mother lifted me up. She cradled me against her bosom and she whispered to me as we took flight into the night sky. She gave me comfort with her words.” You are my child, you are your parent’s child, you are of the earth, the oceans, the forests and glaciers, you are one with the mighty beasts and the smallest of Her creatures, you are me.”
Together we flew over the mighty rivers of my ancestral lands, I saw the fields ripple beneath our wind as we passed and I saw the thundering snow as it crashed past the crags and crevices of the great mountain ranges that towered above my peoples villages.
“Where are we going?” I asked the Mother.
“You will see and you will understand,” spoke a voice as gentle as a summer wind.
We soared above the orchards, I saw the ripening fruit hanging low on the branches. We dipped down low and grazed the flowers that decorated the alpine meadows and watched the herds of majestic caribou as they traversed the rocky river beds on their way to the summer feeding grounds.
“ I’m scared,” I softly cried to the Mother.
“ The time for fear has passed,” she answered. “ Open your eyes my child and see with your heart and soul what lays before you.”
We flew above the villages and towns that bordered the lands of my memories. I saw the buildings, the churches, the schools, the businesses. I saw the humanity of some and I saw the evilness of others. I saw my own family as they went about their daily lives. I saw the tears and pain and suffering of those who had no answers and no hope. I saw the joy and peace of so many others as they remembered and I heard the prayers of those who were still seeking.
“What do they look for?” I asked the Mother.
“Come… I will show you.” She answered.
The night began to give way to the dawn of a brand new day as we landed gently upon a grassy field at the edge of a forest. The Mother laid her hands upon the earth and She wept. One by one the children came to her and to each she gave her gentle touch and healing words. Then she lifted us all into her embrace as she again rose high into the morning light.
Again I implored Her to tell me where our journey would take us.
“ I am taking you home,” she said with a voice choked with tears.”They will keep your earthly body for a time but that time is short. The world will know your story and it will weep. You though, will feel no grief or pain for you will return to your homes and your families for that is the way of the Mother. No more will they cry in the night and beg for release from their grief. They shall know… You are free and you are home.”

To the people along the way

Life is a journey; we all know that saying. The reason we know it and it continues to be passed along is that it is true.

Everybody is on a unique, beautiful, painful, joyous, journey that we know nothing about. We don’t know their struggles, their triumphs, their internal conversations, their private conversations, their love, their pain, their hopes, or their fears. Their journey is for them and them alone, but that doesn’t mean that other people aren’t affected by it.

We encounter so many people in our walk through this life and we leave an impression on each and every one of them. I would like to think that my impressions have always been good ones, but that is completely unrealistic. In my life I have had so many struggles and demons to deal with and I haven’t always handled them with grace.

In high school, I had a really, really, hard time. I was unhappy in my home and my insecurities made me endlessly seek approval from peers, resulting in a lot of destructive behavior. I was also bullied terribly which added to my inability to socialize properly, and I sought my acceptance in the worst ways.

I was never into drugs or partying, my destruction came from myself. My lack of a sense of self and self worth led me to become involved with somebody who fed off of my insecurities and made them one hundred times worse. I allowed that person to control every aspect of my life and to make me feel like I didn’t deserve anything different. We were two young and unevolved humans who went with each other down a long and painful road.

I allowed this relationship to consume my whole life. I walked away from my entire support group, I lost best friends, I lost my connection with my family, and I never developed a connection with myself.

I allowed my identity to become the relationship, the people around us always commented on how “neat” it was that we had been together for so long, and that they wished they had something like that. But it was all a lie. Underneath that sunny façade of success and team work was a broken home. Two people coexisting but not partners. It was two people who were just too afraid of what life would look like on their own, so they chugged along in a dysfunctional co-dependent dynamic that eventually fell apart when they couldn’t maintain the illusion anymore.

When the day finally came that we accepted the fact that it was time for our next chapters, we parted in a way that was respectful of our time spent together and we plowed forward into our futures without one another. Now I am getting married to the most thoughtful, loving, kind and loyal man I could have ever imagined. He brought a son into my life as well who brightens my day every time I think of him and I am so thankful to be here.

You see, without the journey that I went on, without the heartache, the struggles, the sleepless nights and the experiences, I would not be the person that I am today, and I LOVE the person that I am today.

This post is about recognition and apologies, so I will start here.

I want to apologize to that person I met in high school. Ours was a long journey full of difficulties and heartache and they were not only caused by one of us. I hope you can find all the happiness you desire and that you will learn as much from our time together as I have.

I want to apologize to the people that I pushed away over all those years. You only ever wanted the best for me but I was so wrapped up in the stress of my life that I allowed you to slip away and I have to live with that.

I want to apologize to my family; I am so sorry that I spent so many years not being a part of your amazing lives. I am so grateful for the unwavering support and love that you offered me even when I was unwilling or unable to accept it. Even when I was being the biggest asshole I could be, I still always knew that you would be there for me no matter what, and I am so glad that you get to share this beautiful glorious part my journey now.

I want to apologize to the people who I have neglected since the new chapter in my life has begun. Making this transition wasn’t easy and my desire for change left me fearing anything from the past. It is not your fault that this happened and I am sorry for my disappearing act.

I want to apologize to my fiancé. I try really hard to not let my past experiences color the way that I live my life. But sometimes it leaks through and it can be hard for me to process and move on. Thank you for being endlessly patient with me and for reminding me everyday that I am worthy of your amazing love. You have helped me in my healing process so much and I am grateful to be able to share the rest of my life with you.

Last but certainly not least, I want to apologize to myself. I am so sorry that I allowed so many things to take precedence over my own happiness. I am sorry for all the negative conversations I have with myself about how I am no successful enough, not skinny enough, not pretty enough, not parenting well enough, and the list goes on and on. Those thoughts are all bullshit. Nobody, not even you yourself, has the right to make you feel those things. I am working every day to change the conversations I have with myself. I spent too many years allowing other people to tell me those things and it stops here.

Ladies and gentlemen, you are enough, never forget that.
So to the people along the way of my journey. Thank you and I am sorry.

Each and everyone of you has left an impression on my life as I have on yours, whether it be big or small.

I am so excited to see what the future has in store for all of us, and I promise to continue working towards be the best person I can be and to no longer needing to apologize to the people in my path.

K.

Step Mom

I am 30 years old and I am a step mother. I am the middle child of five children and my two older brothers were from our father’s previous marriage. We never have nor will we ever refer to them as “half brothers” they are just simply our brothers. Further to that, they never referred to my mother as their “step-mom”, just mom. So, when I started dating my partner who had a six year old son (“J”), I was really excited. I also had a really hard time managing my expectations as to the role I would play in his life. It has been an amazing adventure so far, and the first lesson I learned – very quickly I might add – was that there is no place for expectations in a blended household. The only way to manage is to just be kind and patient and go with the flow. Now I refer to this amazing little boy as my son, I may not be his biological mother but that doesn’t mean I don’t love him just as much. Here is some of the story of how I got to where I am.

I knew going into this relationship that it meant not just dating one person but two because my partner has a son who was six at the time. This didn’t concern me one bit, in fact I was thrilled by the prospect. I always wanted children, but it hadn’t happened for me with my previous boyfriend of 11 years and I couldn’t wait to have this little person in my life. I thought I was prepared, but let me tell you this, I was not.

After a year of being together I stopped to do some reflecting on how I felt about having this amazing little boy in my life and all of the things that I had thought and felt during the last year and this is what I came up with.

There was really no way to prepare myself for going from having no children to having a six year old. I can honestly say it is the most rewarding and terrifying thing I have ever done.

Here is my list of things I was prepared for:

  1. I was never going to be number one, his son would always come first. This was something that I understood going into to and it was totally ok with me. He still has always made me feel important, special, loved and appreciated. He understands that this was a big change for me and is very supportive of me taking my time and doing things at my pace, however fast or slow that may be;
  2. My life was going to change dramatically. I have always been able to run my life according to my plan, but now there is a little person who takes priority over everything. This is not a negative thing, it gives me a sense of purpose and accomplishment seeing my son thriving and happy. My own needs seem much less important now;
  3. I was going to have to get up to speed fast. On things like which foods J likes and dislikes, his friends at school, his schedules and habits, and his personality in general;
  4. I was going to have his mother in my life. I knew that this was a fact, but I knew very little about her. Aside from the basics, she is J’s biological mom, my partner’s ex, and that she has another little boy from a different relationship, J’s brother. I was terrified of meeting her, and not knowing how she would react to me being in her son’s life; and
  5. I was going to have to let J set the pace in our relationship. I couldn’t force him to like me or to love me, I would have to wait for him to come to me. Thankfully, he warmed to me almost immediately and we have an amazing bond.

Now there is a lot more that I am leaving out, but for sake of condensing this post I will move on. That brings me to my list of things that I was not prepared for.

  1. How nervous and terrified I was going to be when I first started spending time with J. My partner and I had known one another for a long time, and we were both fully committed to this relationship before it even started. But I had not fully realized before hand how much depended on J. If he absolutely hated me then what chance did I have making things work with his dad. He wouldn’t want to subject his son to having a parent in his life that he couldn’t stand. There was no need to worry though, we hit it off perfectly and have had an incredible bond ever since;
  2. How much love I was going to have for my partner after seeing him be a father. It makes me so happy and proud to be able to be his co-parent;
  3. How I would feel when J said I love you for the first time. I told him I loved him probably a hundred times before he said it back (I would never force him to say it). But when he said it to me first, for the first time, I literally melted. My heart felt like it was going to explode and I barely stopped myself from doing a happy dance on the spot.
  4. How confusing it would be when people ask me whether I have children or not. In my heart and mind, I have a beautiful son, so that usually how I answer. But in the beginning, it made me uncomfortable because I felt like was lying or somehow betraying his mom by saying so. Now however I don’t have those feelings because I am more comfortable in my role.
  5. How dismissive some people can be to non-biological parents. These types of people look down on me like I didn’t earn the right to be called a mother, or like I am just playing house and needn’t be taken seriously. Every time this happens it makes me feel so demeaned and sad. The first few times it happened I had to go and hide in the bathroom because I was crying and upset. I have grown a tougher skin than that now thankfully, but once in a while it still gets to me;
  6. I didn’t realize before this that mother jealousy was a thing. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with this unreasonable jealousy that I am not his biological mother. I get so sad that I missed the first five years of his life. I wasn’t there when he came into the world, or when he took his first steps, or said his first word. It isn’t fair to myself or anybody else to feel that way but I do anyway. I wish with all my heart that I could have been there from the beginning. That being said, he did just fine before me, his mom and dad love him so much, and I am so thankful for the time that I do get with him.
  7. How hard it was going to be sometimes to take a back seat in the parenting. My partner and J’s mom are very supportive of me having an opinion and being involved, but at the end of the day they always have the final say and I have to support that, even if I sometimes don’t agree.
  8. How much love I was capable of. This little human has invaded every corner of heart and soul and it is amazing, but also terrifying. I know it sounds cliché but it is literally like your heart is wandering around outside of your body. Parenthood makes you more vulnerable then you have ever been.
  9. How much I was going to enjoy watching his amazing mind grow and learn. He amazes me daily with his witty sense of humor and his inquisitive questions. He is so smart and I am in awe constantly at how fast he is growing and learning.
  10. Mothers day. I did not know what to expect on my first mothers day, I knew I wanted to be included but we had only been together for about seven months and I didn’t expect to be. But when the day came, I received a beautiful bracelet from J which of course abruptly put me in ugly snotty tears. I also got a lovely Happy Mothers day from J’s mom which made the day even more special.
  11. Which brings me to J’s biological mom. I said before that I was terrified of meeting her and how she was going to react to me. I shouldn’t have been. Sure, she was a bit hesitant at first, as any mother would be, but it didn’t take long before she warmed up to me. I can honestly say that I am so blessed to have her as a co-parent. She is a fierce and loving mother, she is a friend, she is a force of nature. We have created a parenting relationship based on support, friendship and respect. With J in the middle as the most important thing. I couldn’t ask for a better person to share motherhood with.

Being a step parent is a wonderful adventure that will take you on many highs and many lows and it is a decision that I wouldn’t reverse for anything. I am so completely in love with my little family and I hope one day we can make it even bigger and full of love. I am so grateful for my partner. He has been so supportive and loving and appreciative through this journey. He always makes time for just us and he loves the bond between our son and I so much, he is my hero in so many ways. My heart is full and I cannot wait to see what comes next.

If you are a person reading this that is currently a step parent, I salute you. You have taken a step that will irreversibly change you forever, and you are making a difference in so many lives.

If you are a person who is thinking of dating somebody with children, here are my words for you. It is not for the feint of heart, however, if you are willing to take this dive, go big or go home. Because you can’t just come and go when there are kids involved, they will love you and you will become one of the most important and influential people in their lives. That being said, if you do decide to take the plunge, I can promise you that it will be worth it. Loving your partner and his/her/your children will be the most fulfilling journey of your life, and I wish you the best!

Katy.

Christmas tree 2018

Sleep

She dulls her senses with little orange pills, knowing that nighttime is when she struggles most. In the cool, dark room nestled beneath the grey duvet, she counts her breaths. In; 1,2,3,4,5. Hold; 1,2,3,4. Out; 1,2,3,4,5,6. If she slows her heartbeat down to a rhythmic pound, and silences her mind just so, it won’t attack. If she repeats her mantra enough times, she will be alright. The suffocating hold on her breath and the feeling of burning ice assaults her senses. Shit. But then, he senses her fear, as if its permeating from her pores and gathers her quivering body into his own sleep leaden arms. He continues to hold her while she is engulfed with terror and when her breathing slows and she returns to the present they both slip into the oblivion of sleep.

-Colleen

To my suicidal self;

I know you feel low and defeated, like there is no where else to turn. I know that that this life seems impossibly confusing and you think you are failing the people in your life in every possible way you can. I can remember the thoughts so clearly; you suck, your stupid, you’re ugly, you’re sick for a reason.. I know the list goes on.

As I close my eyes, I see you waking up; slick with your own blood, sore and bruised. After the typical night of swallowing colorful pills and smoking cigarettes, something in you must have finally snapped. To this day, I still don’t remember what happened, what you were thinking as you got that razor blade and sliced into yourself. But I do know that you survived, and you woke up a stronger person.

You probably won’t believe me, but it’s going to get better. It will take a while, and you are going to have to put up a hell of a fight, but you’ll get there. One day soon you are going to realize the value your life has, that the love you hold in your heart is worth spreading, and that above all else, you deserve to live. You are going to create change in this world and you are going to make a difference in people’s lives. Soon you are going to be able to find joy and learn to battle your demons without altering your state of mind with dirty drugs found on the street. One day soon you will wear your scars proudly, like a badge of honor.

You feel things so deeply; the emotions feel overwhelming and scary. But guess what? That means that one day soon you are going to feel overwhelming happiness, and trust me, those moments of happiness make up for every single dark and debilitating feeling of self-hatred you have had to fight through.

Just please, remember your worth, and take care of yourself above all. Listen to your Mom, she would give you the world if she could and at some point, she is going to be on the only one standing behind you. Call your siblings more, if they knew your struggles, they would be there holding your sagging empty shell of a body up in heartbeat. Call your friends; they love you, and they will support you until the end of time. Listen to your doctors, there is nothing wrong with taking medicine, and once day it will be your saving grace.

There will more highs and lows throughout your life, but you are going to conquer every single one of them and show the people who doubted you just how incredible you are. As the saying goes, this too shall pass.

Love, your 23-year-old kick ass self.

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-Colleen

Itchy

 

 

I have been feeling off lately, my body isn’t what it used to be. I get tired and out of breath quickly, and I seem to sleep more than usual. Going up and down the stairs is too much, so my person encourages me, You can do it! You’re almost there! Sometimes I can’t make it on my own though, and they carry me. How lucky am I?

My mom and dad; the humans I live with, have been giving me special attention, telling me how good I have been. They gave me food right from their plate yesterday, and I got to cuddle with them on the couch after. Even though I had to relieve myself a few times inside by accident, I didn’t get in trouble. I felt embarrassed, but they said it was okay, that I tried my best.

Mom has been crying a lot today, hugging me and petting my fur. I am up on the bed with her, and I try my best to make her feel better with my kisses and I wag my tail. She starts crying even harder, telling me she is sorry. I wish she wouldn’t cry, I have only ever wanted her to be happy. I hope she knows how much I love her.

Now the others are in the room, and they have treats with them! She wraps me in my favorite blanket and brings me to the car. What a day! Uninterrupted time with my people, treats and a car ride. They must love me a lot. I still don’t understand why they are so sad though. How can she be so upset when we are cuddling like this? I am usually so good at making her happy, but not today.

In the car I get to sit up front on her lap, and she showers me in kisses. She tells me that she is sorry. I want to enjoy this time, but I keep falling asleep. She is there where I wake up though, and that makes me happy. When I wake up this last time, we are in the building that usually scares me so bad, but this time I’m not left alone with the strange man. This time my people are all still with me and I feel safe.  Mom and dad, they have been there with me since before I can even remember. Some of my other people that I love are missing, but Mom says that they love me a lot and I know that.

I think I understand now, the way I have been feeling. I’m not the pup I once was, and it is taking its toll on me. I think back on my great memories with them, cuddling and going for hikes. All the different houses we lived in, and the farm animals they let me help with. I remember when I had to guard that chicken for three days while she sat on an egg, and my people were so happy when I finally came home! I was able to see my mom and dad’s children and move away, I got to meet new babies from the humans, and I have lots of other animal friends that my humans brought to live with us. I have had such a great life with them! I hope I have done a good job of loving them and making them happy.

The strange man looks at me with a sad face, and my Mom and Dad both hug me tightly, and I feel a little pinch. It doesn’t hurt much though. My sweet Mom is crying so hard and no matter how many kisses I give her she just won’t stop. I am getting tired again, and I don’t think I can fight it. It’s getting dark, but I am warm, and I feel so loved.

I can hear my Mom’s voice from far away in the darkness, I love you, sweet girl.

I sure hope they know how much I love them.

 

-Colleen

The Barn

My sister Katy and I were walking hand in hand through a seemingly never-ending cornfield. The harvest moon was high in the inky sky, the cerise ball towering above the ready to harvest stalks.  I didn’t know the exact time, but I guessed it was around 9. I was young, maybe 7 or 8, and I couldn’t remember where we were, or how we got there. Katy urged me to stay silent, and by her anxious tone I realized I better follow her directions. We could smell smoke from somewhere in the distance, and my legs and feet were exhausted, they felt drained. How long had we been walking for? It seemed to be ages.  I wanted so badly to ask her again, but I didn’t want her to be upset with me. Out of the darkness, we heard a low whining. I froze in my place, but Katy silently urged me on by tugging gently on my hand. As we continued forward, the sound changed. A sharp scream, then a long keening sound broke through the night. I was horrified, and my body felt cold and tingling all over. We continued walking this time with urgency, I could feel the cornstalks brushing up against us. It felt like small hands tickling us as the stems were jostled and prodded out of the way. I hoped we were going in the right direction, but it was impossible to tell. Without warning, we stepped into a large clearing. The cornfield was circling the old barn, which was as imposing as it was derelict. We paused for a moment, taking in the scene. We could see smoke starting to seep out of its edges, and the penetrative cry was like a beacon in the night. No, no, no, no.. I knew instant what would have to happen next, as if I had been here in this exact place time and time before. Katy gave me a mournful smile, and squeezed my hand 3 times, before whispering that she had to do it. I have to, I need to try and see if I can help them. They might be stuck. I knew enough of my older sister to know that there would be no stopping her. I brushed the hot tears angrily off my face and nodded, before giving her once last hug. I stayed frozen in place while she crept toward the barn, which looked even more humongous with Katy’s frame walking purposefully beneath it. The barn itself was the typical red sort, but it was wind washed and fading. The siding and roof seemed to have better days, but the door looked solid and when Katy struggled to open it, it seemed to be heavier than air. Before finally gaining access to the ancient building, Katy turned and gave a small wave, as if saying goodbye. As soon as she disappeared into smoky darkness, I finally found the power in me to move. This was a mistake, this is bad. I ran as fast as my little legs could take to me to the massive door and banged on it with my fists, scraping my hands against the wood and getting a stinging sliver in the process. I shouted after her, and tried to heave the door open, but it wouldn’t move for me. I could see no open windows or other ways to enter, but the smoke seemed to now be seeping out of the structure’s pores, and the strangers screaming was still prominent in my brain, piercing and throbbing. But then another sound added to the orchestra, my sisters whimper. Quiet at first, then suddenly it was deafening. She was hurt! What is happening? Her scream was wild and raw, as if to tell me of the violent pain she was in. This is it, what do I do? My sister!

 

I woke up gasping and choking on a sob. My heart was racing and my skin was clammy. This dream, again. I had been having since before I could remember. But unlike when I was child, I could no longer pad out of my bedroom into hers to ensure she was safe. I look my phone, bleary against the illumination of the screen, and went to my tracking app, clicking on her name. I track all the most important people in my life, or at least the ones who would let me. Some people think its weird, and why on earth I insist on tracking my family members. But it is for moments just like this, when I need to ease the gnawing panic and worry inside my solar plexus. I see on the screen that she at home, last updated 3 minutes ago. Inhale, exhale. We are okay for now.

Continue reading “The Barn”