We are family

I was reading an article recently about a mother who decided to ‘return’ her 7 year old adopted daughter because she was unable to cope with her behaviour. This surprised me for two reasons; 1) because I wasn’t aware that one could ‘return’ a person, and 2) I could never imagine why one would want to. The process of getting an adopted child is so expensive and so cumbersome, and not everyone looking to adopt gets a child. You’d think then, that those who were lucky enough to get one would be so grateful they’d never consider ‘returning’ them. And yet it happens, I would later read, for a number of reasons.

The circumstances that bring a child into foster care or an orphanage are often unpleasant. There may have been abuse, neglect, or simply no family able to care for them. In many cases the young minds are permanently scarred from early childhood trauma. Suffice it to say that many adoptive children have a lot of baggage – what a rough and unjust way to start life.

I knew of a couple who adopted siblings, a boy and a girl. They were approximately 10 and 13 years old (the exact numbers escape me) and they didn’t want two children but were pressured by the adoption agency to keep the siblings together. Not long after moving them in to their home the trouble began, lying, stealing, verbal abuse, issues at school – none of these issues had been disclosed by the agency. The couple went to therapy with the children to try to sort through things and discovered the siblings had endured much in the hands of foster care, where they’d spent a good five years of their lives. After two years of effort and intensive therapy the couple simply couldn’t cope. Their once happy home had become a battle ground and their marriage was now at risk. At the end of their rope, they petitioned to return both children to foster care. It was a difficult decision for them, one for which they were heavily criticized by friends and family, but for them there was simply no other choice.

I’d like to think that this was an unusual situation but it isn’t unique. People seek to adopt for all the right reasons. They want to share their lives with a child – they have the means and the desire. And I’d bet most children want nothing more than a happy loving home in which to thrive. This should be a match made in heaven but too often the children are so scarred by the experiences that brought them into an orphaned situation that they cannot trust. Many suffer from low self-worth and they feel they are not deserving of familial happiness. In some cases it’s simply a lack of bonding.

You would think that adopting an infant is probably the best way to avoid the past life scarring many older orphans suffer but there are no guarantees because you don’t always know the circumstances of the pregnancy or their genetics, and the availability of newborn babies for adoption is not as high as those for older children. Nothing is easy.

I know of any number of families where the natural children and parents do not get along and never have, so adoptive families aren’t the only ones with issues. In fact all families have issues (and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying) The big difference here is that the natural families had no choice of what child they get nor did they expect to have a choice. They were blessed with the ease of having a child naturally, lucky them.  In some cases it was an unwanted child (teen pregnancy) later put up for adoption to a home where a childless couple benefited, lucky them.

That there’s so many children without a loving home is heartbreaking – the hardest part to fathom here is that this doesn’t just apply to those without a ‘natural’ family. The children who are adopted are lucky because they were ‘chosen’ to a home which implies they were wanted. Not all children ‘born’ into a home are necessarily wanted and therein lies the injustice. Shouldn’t early life be easier for all children? Heaven knows they’ll have to face enough challenges throughout their adult lives.

Every child deserves a safe and loving environment in which to start life. God bless those generous souls who open up their hearts and their home to help a young life start out, and heaven protect those not chosen because the path is longer and more difficult for them. I can’t imagine that we could ever regret sharing our life with a child, after all, we are all family.


Don’t spit in the wind

My mother always used the expression, “Don’t spit in the wind, it might change direction”, or “Don’t dirty the water, you might find yourself needing a drink” and aside from the mess you’d encounter on your face, or the polluting of your own waters, the general message is one of warning, and the basic gist is what you do will come back to you.

Now that’s not a bad thing if you do a good turn,,,who wouldn’t want a little of that back? Unfortunately this is a two way street so the rules apply to any action you might take. In fact, it’s interesting to note the events and/or people who seem to come full circle in our lives because there are many,,,,, and they do.

My husband grew up literally within yards of his cousins but aside from family occasions rarely saw them. Over the next twenty plus years all married and moved to various parts of the world never giving the other any thought, after all, they had little contact when living just down the street from each other all of their young lives. Interestingly enough the eldest of his cousins moved to eastern Canada and three years later we were relocated to the same place reacquainting a kinship long forgotten and launching a long term friendship. This isn’t coincidence; these cousins were meant to reconnect. It just wasn’t time until then, and it’s a good thing they never quarreled as kids cause that would’ve made it akward.

I have a friend from high school (many years ago) from whom I drifted. There was no reason, we simply went in different directions in life, losing our common ground, which at the time was high school. We both married, had children and lived in separate parts of the country, and in the thirty years we’ve been apart we’ve only seen each other once but we correspond every year over the holidays to catch the other up and when we do it’s like we’ve never been apart. We have little in common so it seems an unlikely friendship and yet it endures. It’s hard to know why some people are in our lives or for how long they’ll stay. It only matters that they are there when they are there, because that is the right time and it is of mutual benefit.

That childhood playmate who reappears in your adult life in an unlikely place or situation, rekindling an old friendship, or that old sweetheart you bump surprisingly into after you’d both gone separate ways. Maybe you find you are both again available and the relationship makes more sense at this point in your life. These chance encounters aren’t chance at all. People come and go in your life, some returning repeatedly, and too often you find yourself forging meaningful relationships with the unlikeliest of friends because you’ve evolved and changed, as have they. This is the point when you’re grateful you didn’t ‘burn any bridges’ in your impetuous youth! (especially if one of these people from your past returns as your boss!) 

I suppose you could spin this warning any way but the end result is the same; you reap what you sow, good or bad. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated and accept that those who come into your life are there for a reason. Don’t try to rationalize it, just glean what you can from the encounter and be grateful for the lesson.

Dont spit in the wind

The Colonoscopy

My husbands family history includes numerous colon issues so as a precaution each family member is required to undergo testing every five years as a preventive measure via a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is a procedure in which a flexible fiber-optic instrument is inserted through the anus in order to examine the colon. (aka, they shove a hose up your arse and blast your innards with air)

In preparation for this procedure the patient must scale back their food intake for several days before to ensure the bowel and colon are cleared for testing. Three weeks ago my husband received a letter advising of his testing scheduled for this week and he took it like a man. (actually he sobbed all the way back from the mailbox)

Four days ago the fasting started, no fruit or vegetables, no nuts or seeds. Three days ago he had to cut out alcohol and any foods with a red pigment. Two days ago he had to revert to a ‘light’ diet’ i.e., no beef, no dairy. The day before the procedure he had to fast completely. He took to his bed, weak from hunger. At one point a friend called and I heard my husband decline their lunch invitation because he was afraid he might be anorexic.

That evening he had to drink a prescribed liquid that would further ‘clear out any solids’ in his system (it would, as we discovered, blow the crap out of him, literally!) His procedure was scheduled for early the next morning but we both spent a sleepless night; I, afraid we’d miss our alarm, and he having to dash to the washroom every 5 minutes.

Finally the big day came. I had a lovely breakfast of bacon, eggs, coffee and a fresh fruit salad (not my arse they’re blasting, why should I starve?) My husband dressed grudgingly, his mood morose. We got in to the car for the half hour drive to the hospital and more than once I could swear I heard whimpering. (that’s my he-man, I proudly thought!) Now I’m not completely without sympathy….such internal ‘exploration’ is humbling, and I did feel for his nervousness. On the other hand last week when I asked him to vacuum he didn’t do it, so maybe this is God’s way of evening things up for me. Either way, I’m ok with it!

We checked in at the hospital and were escorted to a small waiting room where a few other patients sat all looking as uncomfortable as my husband, except of course those of us who were their drivers. It was easy to spot us, we were smiling. I noted the patients kept shifting uncomfortably in their seats, as though anticipating what was to come. (I couldn’t help but smile) After a brief wait (and several more trips to the washroom) my husband was taken in for the procedure. He was as pale as a ghost and turned pleadingly to me as the nurse ushered him away. Poor guy….anyway,  I got myself a coffee, pulled out a good book and settled in for a nice relaxing break.

Two hours later a nurse called me in. The procedure was complete and they were happy to advise they found little of consequence. He would not need another colonoscopy for five years. They sent us off with a list of instructions; he was to ‘take it easy’ for the next few days. (are you kidding? that’s his whole life) They also advised that his system would need to ‘expel’ the excess air in order to return to normal function. (makes sense, what goes in must come out) We headed to the parking lot, my husband with a notable spring in his step, serenading me with a symphony of ‘sounds’.

By the time we got home he was ravenous. He had two grilled cheese sandwiches, a pile of french fries, a cup of coffee and two cookies (apparently this particular form of ‘anorexia’ was fleeting) He then went up to lay down because the hospital did advise he should ‘take it easy’ for a few days. (ok, are we pushing it here?)

I had a number of household chores to complete (I had fallen behind when I had to care for my convalescing spouse just in his anticipation of illness) and a little help would be nice. It was a lovely spring like day and I suggested he wash the car. It was heavily soiled from the winter weather and the task was light enough to avoid strain while giving him much needed fresh air. He grumbled and moaned a little and as he mustered up his speech of refusal I said, “Hey, I just realized, we don’t need to go to the hospital for this procedure next time. I think I can figure out how to do it right in the comfort of our home”, as I lovingly unraveled the garden hose.

Boy, did he clean that car!

man with toilet paper


I’m still standing

I attended a party last night for a golfing buddy of my husbands. It was a birthday party and his chosen theme for the party was “I’m still standing”, (Elton John’s popular hit song) but this was by no means a typical birthday party. In fact, the celebration really was about his ‘still standing’.

This fellow is in his mid-fifties. He has a successful business, is happily married to a lovely woman and has no children. He has a gregarious personality and a natural warmth that invites a broad circle of friends. By all accounts he has it all.

Three years ago he was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor, a glioblastoma, the very same that took the life of popular musician Gord Downey. He has endured several surgical attempts to thwart the progression of this aggressive cancer but to no avail. It is quite simply, terminal.

Now a terminal diagnosis such as this is devastating news to anyone and we could accept any reaction, anger, fear, depression. What is so remarkable in this case is the stoic and dignified way this fellow has chosen to deal with it. He is nothing short of inspirational.

His birthday party was exactly what it should be, a celebration of life. He happily held court in a circle of friends, laughing and telling jokes. If you didn’t know how seriously ill he was you’d never guess – he was animated and quite literally living in the moment and you had to keep reminding yourself that this may well be the last birthday celebration. A sobering thought for anyone, and yet he was smiling. Hard to fathom.

He could’ve shut himself away from the world and awaited the inevitable but instead he has taken control of his remaining time and made the most of it. He made a sizeable donation to a local hospital and has rallied for public awareness in relation to brain tumor research. He has traveled with his wife, maintains an active social life and still plays a respectable game of golf. In short he is still living. He recently sold his business and is now planning his funeral – he wants to leave no burden for his loved ones.

There’s something very special about this man. The humble acceptance of his diagnosis fueled his determination to fight the illness until it was obvious he was losing the battle, and then he simply channeled that same energy into making the most of his remaining time. You can’t help but admire that kind of courage and this gathering has served to remind us all that life is truly fleeting. We’ve no idea how long we’ll be here so it’s important to make every moment count. This man certainly has, most admirably.

Happy birthday dear friend, and thank you for reminding us of how to live with grace and die with dignity. We will only ever see you as ‘still standing’.

Tree of life

Those I admire

Maybe it’s just age but I find myself ‘seeing’ people more clearly these days and with that ‘seeing’ comes a new appreciation for the traits they possess. The traits I admire. The traits I took for granted in my youth. The very traits that now invite me,,,no compel me to want to spend more time with them.

The woman who tirelessly cared for her children and aging parents, all while holding down full time employment and acting as matriarch because she had the strength to do so. People naturally trust her advice, seek her opinion and take comfort in her guidance because she is level headed and sees both sides of every situation. She must be weary, yet she never turns away a friend in need even when it takes away another piece of her. From you I learned commitment and endurance and generosity of spirit.

The man who adores his family, all of them. He sees no flaws, reveling in the joy each brings into his life. He is of simple means and humble desires, satisfied with whatever life gives him. There’s no greed, no jealousy; he is just grateful for all that he has and considers himself among the ‘rich’ in life. I have never heard this man say an unkind word about another and that’s what I find most remarkable because I’ve never known anyone so forgiving, so accepting. Few of us in society bite our tongue when we probably should – this man actually does and it’s likely why so many gravitate to him because in his company they know they will never be judged. From you I learned acceptance and tolerance and gratitude.

The woman who leans heavily on her faith oblivious to the reactions of others. She is steadfast in her beliefs and incorporates them in every aspect of her life without imposing her mantra on others. She is the victim of gentle ribbing, even criticism, as a result, but she manages to deflect any negativity gently and with love. Her motto is not ‘do as I say’ rather it’s, ‘this is what I think and I respect your right to your beliefs’. From you I learned courage and what it is to follow our hearts.

The young woman who keenly feels the pain or suffering of others. She cries too easily, yet manages to muster up courage in the face of adversity. She loves wholly and unselfishly, wearing her heart on her sleeve. She bears a wisdom that can only come from a loving and generous heart and yet her obvious naiveté makes her vulnerable to the unkindness of others. She has a gift for working with children and animals, on any level, and they in turn, adore her. Her soul is pure and gentle and kind and your first instinct is to offer her protection from the harshness of life. She is nothing short of an angel in earth and she has taught me unconditional love and innocence, in its’ truest form.

If any of these descriptions ring true, perhaps you are seeing snippets of yourself because it is my circle of friends and family I based this on. (if you do not see anything familiar here you’re likely one of those negative types I try to avoid – life is too short) These people, you and many others, have taught me some very valuable life lessons; lessons I should’ve learned long ago but I was not open to their message. I was not receptive to this type of learning, not then. Maturity has given me focus and an understanding of what really matters in life.

Interestingly enough these individuals are also those I consider the most fun. They have fresh and spontaneous personalities and they are among the few who can still make me laugh out loud. Who wouldn’t want to be around someone like that? They are my inspiration and not a day goes by that I don’t give thanks that they are in my life.

So I guess I admire you for all the wonderful qualities I want to emulate because those are the traits the world needs more of; commitment, endurance, generosity of spirit, acceptance, tolerance, gratitude, courage, unconditional love, and innocence. Throw in a boisterous sense of humour and you have the stuff life long relationships are made of….what a gift!

Man, I really am turning into a mushy old lady!

the people in my life    old lady with hanky