Feb 24, 2010

Polka Dot Groove

I have always been a pretty chilled out {lazy} person. I had no problem putting my feet up and spending hours watching tv or reading a book. That has all changed since October and I find myself with lots and lots of {nervous} energy. Now that both boys are in bed early, hubby is working late, and I am up until at least midnight every night, I need ways to fill the time.

I am so grateful that art has filled that space. I decided to start Polka Dot Grove with my friend Lisa...let's see...over a year ago. Life and kids {and trying to pick a logo}* delayed the process a bit. In that time Lisa landed an amazing opportunity to write the Party Mummy blog for the Yummy Mummy Club. So, for now, I am flying solo. I feel like creating art has helped me get back into the groove of life a bit, although I think I still have a long way to go.

Thanks to my great friends, online and off, I have had quite a few orders already. I can't believe it!

I just know that Oprah will be knocking on my door and adding me to her Favourite Things show any minute now. I guess I better buy some cuter pj's so I am ready to Skype with her.

*have I said how much I love these brackets { }?

Feb 9, 2010

Thank You Thursday

I don't know about you, but Follow Friday stresses me out.

There are so many of you that I love tweeting with and I hate the thought of leaving anyone out when I make my recommendations. When I think about who I am going to choose, I am really just saying thank you to people in some way.

So this week I am going to do something new: Thank You Thursday. Instead of suggesting people to follow, I am going to thank a few tweeps that have helped me smile, laugh, think or learn something new this week.

I hope you do it too.

Feb 8, 2010

Oh Canada?

I moved away from Nova Scotia over 10 years ago, but I have never felt farther away from home then I did my first year teaching.

Fresh out of university, my boyfriend at the time and I decided we wanted an adventure and accepted teaching positions at a fly-in First Nations Community in Northern Canada. And by fly-in I mean you can only get there by plane. A series of planes, actually, until you are on a 10 seater chatting with the pilots through the curtain.

About 250 people lived in this community above the tree line, along the Hudson Bay. No malls, no movie theatres, no restaurants, no anything. The nearest community was 350 kms away; the only way to travel to there by ice road in the winter. Fresh produce was flown in every Wednesday, weather permitting, and I had to go right away if I hoped to get anything for the week.

One thing there was a lot of were wild dogs and 2 'tame' wolves. They would follow me to the store and bite at my bags if I bought meat. One dog, that we called Jumper, took on the role as my protector and would walk with me and scare the other dogs away. The dogs would be, not by any fault of their own, one of the reasons I would come to dread opening my door each day.

The children.
The children did and still do break my heart. I taught grade 2 and 3 to a group of children that could not read or write. Many faced horrific home lives. A few did not. Some days I would have to teach with my back against the door because a couple of my students would try to leave and I was afraid of something happening to them if they wandered away outside on their own.

One day I walked into my classroom to find a new student. He sat in the middle of the room with his hood pulled over his face. I asked him to take it off but he would not so I didn't push it. I found out soon that he had been sniffing gasoline when he was younger and someone had thrown a match at him so he had suffered burns. He had been brought to this community for help. Then one day he wasn't there. He had been sent away for teaching our kids how to sniff gasoline. He was only seven years old. I still can't deal with this.

I grew to love these kids that came through my door and sometimes to my house. They were the reason I held on and stayed as long as I did.

I wish I could paint a pretty picture of a community that embraced their culture and were happy but I can't. Every woman I met was abused at some time in her life. This included my friends that I taught with. It got to a point where I could not face talking to any of the men. Although it was technically a dry community, there was alcohol and drug abuse. One of my friends explained it to me in a way that helped me to understand why so many suffered. She explained that her parents' generation were taken from their parents, their culture, their life and forced to conform in residential schools. They did not fit in this new world and they no longer fit in at home when they went back in the summer. The worst part was they never had parenting. They had no role model for what parenting looked like so when they had children, they were lost.

Life was not easy for us there either. I guess my first clue should have been the bullet holes in our house or the bars across our windows. The teenage kids made our lives hell. They would drive around our house at night and throw rocks and sticks at our windows, yelling at us. Sometimes we would hide in the bathroom, the only room without windows. Some girls wrote the word 'bitch' on the outside of our house with an arrow pointing to our front door. One morning I opened the door to leave for school to see a pile of dead dogs blocking our screen door. This became a regular occurence.

One night all of us 5 teachers got together for a dinner. We heard a loud thump. Someone had thrown a live puppy at the house. I took the puppy home and stopped going to work until they hired someone to patrol our houses at night.

He wasn't very reliable and we still got almost nightly visits. School was not much better. I had to cover my classroom windows, to the hallway and outside, to keep a few of the boys from staring in. They wrote threats about what they would do to me on the playground equipment and on the walls of the school. One night, I heard them outside our kitchen window making threats. That's when I started to get really scared. We talked about leaving many times. All the time. I just couldn't leave my kids. I couldn't walk away from their hugs and sweet faces.

A few nights later, we heard yelling outside our house. One of the boys my boyfriend taught was yelling and screaming at us. He was clearly drunk or high. I called the police and told them I was worried he was going to hurt himself or someone else. Unfortunately there were only 2 police men. One was great. One was not. Mr. Not was on duty. An hour later that boy was smashing an axe through our front door. That night we packed our bags with the police stayed with us and we left on the plane the next day. I cried the whole way home wishing I could take so many of the children with us.

My boyfriend and I broke up when we got home to his parents' place. I flew home to Nova Scotia and was a mess. My doctor told me that he thought I had post traumatic stress disorder and wanted to prescribe some medication. I decided to wait and see how I did on my own. My family and friends, along with a life changing holiday to Stockholm, helped me move on. It seems like another lifetime now.

Strangely enough, it is the Olympics that started me thinking about my time there. At a time where we will all feel such pride to be Canadian I can`t help but feel a little shame for what has happened in the far corners of our home and native land.

I also want to say that I hope this post does not offend anyone. This is simply my experience of one community at one time.

Feb 2, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day R

So, I can be a real bitch to live with sometimes. Especially when I am pregnant or tired, which has basically been the past three and a half years. My husband has to deal with my tears, my crankiness, my complaining about how loudly he eats, breathes, moves. Well, you get the idea. What a lucky, lucky man, huh?

I figure I owe him one and since I smashed my tailbone, and am currently on the 'injured list' it's not going to be in the bedroom. So he gets this instead. A letter from me. Just for the record, I am not writing it to get this or this for Valentine's Day. I am doing it because I love him. Honestly. I am. Well, maybe, if he wanted to, and was looking for ideas, he could get me this. But only if he wanted to. Not because of this sweet letter I am about to write.

Dear R,

You just came into our room, where I am hiding from the world and put socks on my feet because I said I was cold. Thank you. I just want you, and everyone else, to know that I love you. I have often told you that you make all of my dreams come true and you have, from moving to Europe to the biggest, happiest dreams of all, our sweet sweet little boys. This is a thank you just for you. To remind you when I am cranky, ungrateful, moody or sad that I always love you and I always will.

Thank you for asking me to move in with you after only knowing me for 4 months, so that I would not have to move home to Nova Scotia.
Thank you for letting me drag on shopping trips all over the world to find 'just the right' top/dress/shoes/magnet/painting/souvenir...whatever.
Thank you for being the best and most fun dad any child could ask for.
Thank you for listening to my parents tell you that I came with a 'no returns policy' and dating me anyway.
Thank you for being the type of person that I can leave with my friend's husband that you had never met, and be cool about it.
Thank you for loving and accepting me for who I am.
Thank you for thinking and saying I am beautiful, even (especially) on days when I look awful.
Thank you for being the best travel partner I could have asked for.
Thank you for not caring about decorating our home but still listening to all of my many ideas and letting me do whatever I want.
Thank you for believing in me.
Thank you for taking out the garbage, moving the lawn and all of the other 'guy' stuff you do every week. (In our house cleaning toilets counts as guy stuff).
Thank you for supporting my need to stay home with our boys. I know it is such a challenge for you.
Thank you for letting me drag you to Nova Scotia every summer to spend time with my (now our) family and friends.
Thank you for making me laugh.
Thank you for being so completely involved in our sons' lives and being such a hands-on dad.
Thank you for working so hard to support our family. I know you would stay home with our boys if you could.
Thank you for planning our honeymoon and keeping it a surprise until we were getting ready to check in our bags.

There aren't words to thank you for being there for me during the past few months, which have been the hardest of my life. You have been there for me in ways I didn't know I would need.

I love you, my husband and my best friend.
Happy Valentines Day