parents

My Parents’ Visit

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My parents came to visit me a little while ago. They have always been great about coming to see me wherever I live. First, it was Sudbury, then High Level, and now Fort Simpson. They enjoy seeing the place I live and I think they enjoy hearing me ramble on as I give them the tour, sharing whatever local info I know, and telling them about the people I have met and the attitudes I have noticed. My parents are some pretty adventurous people! Don’t let the fact that they’ve lived in the same place for over 40 years fool you!

The instant I said hello to them and gave them each hugs, I felt like I was home. It was an interesting feeling — I felt at ease, like I could finally be myself. I had not noticed not being myself, but I guess I had pretenses and masks I was using. I guess we all do, and I realize how lucky I am to have such an awesome relationship with my parents.

I love them, of course, but it’s more than that. They are neat people. I like hanging around them. They have interests and hobbies, quirks and neat personalities. My mom likes to collect rocks from places she goes. My dad jokes about drinking Coke or Pepsi, calling it “the hard stuff,” and now his favourite is Dr. Pepper. Both like to read, albeit in totally different genres. Like me, my dad likes true stories, especially stories of pioneers, explorers and wildlife. My mom, surprisingly, likes crime fiction — the more suspense, the better! Mom is doing pretty well with technology, but like me, isn’t overly keen on it just for the sake of new technology. My dad pretty much stays away from the computer, which I understand. When they arrived, they were pretty tired from the crazy week leading up to their holiday, so we all had a nice, long nap in the afternoon. Man, I love napping! And so do they. Both of them have great senses of humour, and they even listen to my opinion on things and sometimes ask for my advice. They aren’t afraid to turn things on their side and look at them in a new way.

In so many ways, I am like them! I am unquestionably their daughter — like a hybrid between the two of them. I love a lot of the same things they love. I do all sorts of things the same way they do — from how I keep my recycling, to organizing my kitchen cupboards, to how I think about money. I suspect a lot of the similarities are genetic, but of course we have a lifetime of shared experiences, too. Perhaps it was our religion when I was growing up that taught us not to believe everything we hear or conform to the crowd. We can talk farm stuff, because we all “get it.” Try agricultural analogies with city people, and it’s like making Jesus references in a room full of tribal Africans. Even though my personal development has taken me down a different path, we still relate amazingly well.

I think what it boils down to is that everyone expects people to act like they do. One friend of mine brings me newspapers, not because I love newspapers, but because he does. Some people are rude because they expect rude behaviour (it’s great fun to be polite to them and throw them off their game). My parents expect me to be like them and I am, so there’s an amazing synergy. When we communicate, we intuitively understand each other. We can also spend time together without words. It’s incredibly special, something that only happens with friends after a lot of time together.

I am so amazingly lucky to have this relationship of respect, love and friendship with my parents. If I could show them how I feel, I would… and I guess I do. Mom, if you’re reading this, I know you’ll “get it.” And then you can print it out for Dad so he can read it, too.

Love Your Children

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I was at the lake the other day, just sitting on a chair, reading and relaxing while some people were out paddling our canoes. It was quite nice and peaceful until one particular family stopped by. From the moment they got out of their truck, the mother was yelling at her kids. They were early school age, perhaps 5 and 8.
“Don’t you DARE go in the water! I won’t help you dry!”
“You get along with your sister or you won’t like what happens next!”
“Stay over there! Don’t come over here!”
“You two stop FIGHTING! That is the LAST time you fight on this trip!”
“I can’t BELIEVE you two!”
… et cetera. Her tone of voice was very harsh and she actually drove one of the kids to tears — loud crying from an 8-year-old — and they had to leave the park.

I felt so bad for those kids. I mean, I had no place to interfere, but part of me wished I had some cool toys that I could lure them over with and then just show them some lovingkindness, because they sure weren’t getting any at home.

I know, I’m not a parent. Some of you might tune me out because of that. But I strongly feel that if that mother had been capable of showing just 10 minutes of concentrated love to her kids, and then some softness throughout the day, those kids would be so much happier. As it is, they are on track to be depressed by 10 years of age and very troublesome teenagers. Those kids had no idea they are loved; in fact, they might not be. Her tone of voice and choice of words indicate they aren’t. Perhaps she regrets having them. It sounds like she hates them. Perhaps they really are little hellions. LOVE would reverse that in no time!!

So please – don’t have kids unless you REALLY want them. Just don’t. Get fixed. Use birth control religiously. Be ultra-careful. And if you think you want kids, consider these points:

- If you think babies are cute, get a kitten! They are really cute and much easier to love and care for in 2 or 3 years when they mellow out as cats instead of becoming demanding toddlers. They’ll snuggle and purr and love you, fulfilling many of the same needs as babies. A kitten from the SPCA would be the best!

- If you want a kid to toss a ball to or take to the fair (to do things with, so you aren’t alone), get a dog! They are great companions! And if you treat them right, they’ll be very loyal and obedient. If you want a little obedient slave, get a DOG, not a kid! Or join Big Brothers or Big Sisters, or borrow a niece or nephew and give your sis or bro the afternoon off! If that’s your primary reason, you don’t need one of you own.

- If a lot of your friends have kids and say you should too, ask yourself 3 things: 1- If they took up skydiving without a chute, would I do that too? 2- Are they REALLY happy? 3- How hard is it to make new friends? They shouldn’t be pressuring you!

- If you want to reproduce to make a mini-me, just remember that they are only mini for a short time, and before long you MUST let them be their own person. They may grow up to be biker-dudes or jobless vagrants, or worse, unscrupulous lawyers! You can’t choose their destiny one bit, and you might as well figure that out before conception.

- If you want children but are terrified of pregnancy and childbirth, why not adopt? There are so many kids needing loving homes.

- If you want children — and lots of them — because your religion says so, I simply say this: Do you ever feel manipulated? Is there a chance your religion wants you to churn out little catholics or mennonites or muslims or… just to keep their numbers up? For statistics, or for preservation of a their beliefs? By far, most people get their religion from their upbringing. Something to consider.

[funny YouTube video about procreation]

So I hope that somehow, that angry mother can learn to relax, love and accept herself and then pass it on to her kids. I don’t entirely blame her — for whatever reason, that is just where she’s at. She’s on her own path, and her children, sooner or later, will come to peace with how she’s treated them. I think Geneen Roth said “over the course of our lives, we get what our parents never gave us.” So, if you have little ones, even if they’re not so little any more, please take 10 minutes to connect with them, do something they enjoy doing, and show them you love them, every day.

I Believe I’ll Have a Coffee

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When I was growing up, someone told me that caffeine stunts your growth, and that’s why kids shouldn’t drink coffee. So, I grew up believing that. I don’t think it’s actually true; kids certainly drink lots of caffeinated beverages now and don’t seem to be hobbits.

I also believed that “if you work hard, you’ll do okay in life.” I don’t know if anyone ever said it quite that plainly, but that’s what I grew up believing. Maybe you do, too — it’s a pretty common belief.

Lately, I got to thinking where this belief came from. It seems to be generally true, but could it have been invented, like the “coffee stunts your growth” bit was invented to keep me from drinking something that wasn’t good for me?

Could the belief about hard work have been invented just to keep me from getting too lazy? No parent wants to raise a kid to be a slacker or shirker!

Why wasn’t I taught that if I work hard at something I love, life will be awesome! That’s what I believe now! But, unfortunately, many of us believe that we have to work hard (often at something that is “the grind”) to just get by. And getting by is all we should expect out of life. Ack! And we wonder why depression is so common!

What if other beliefs you have were sort of given to you under false pretenses? Parents often say stuff just to shut their kids up or to keep them in line. Some religious beliefs originate this way. But do you want to spend your whole life being quiet and in line? Would your world fall apart if you examined some of your beliefs and found them flawed? Would it be so bad if your world fell apart? If your world is based on limiting “shut up and stay in line” beliefs, it should fall apart! It will sooner or later — why else do you think teens rebel? But after the rebellion, comes the conformity. I wonder how much of what we do is just us conforming to society’s view of the “adult way to live.” I’m afraid many of us kissed creativity good-bye at age 12, and started down the rocky road of conform-or-die.

But do we die? No. The best musicians don’t conform at all. Some become popular, and some don’t, but the best ones are creative and unique. Artists, ditto. Blue-collar workers? Oil riggers? Office workers and number-crunchers? Why not!?! There is an outlet for creativity and “out of line” thinking in any job, and if there isn’t much room, then do it lots in your personal life. Although I should mention that I am not advocating “creative accounting!” :)

To kick-start this process, think about diving into something creative, and be aware of what beliefs pop up as a result. Let’s think about starting ballet lessons (even if we have no real plans to do it). What belief pops up? That adults can’t do that? That we’re not flexible enough? Who told you that! Have you seen what yoga-people can do? Lack of flexibility is no excuse. Getting older is no excuse — some people in their 60′s run marathons. And do yoga. (Google “adult ballet classes” and see how many hits you get. I got 6.7 million.) Now try this thought process with a creative thing that you might actually like to try, and see what silly thoughts pop up.

Look your beliefs in the face and see if they have any good backing. Lots of them don’t — we just sort of believe them because someone told us that once and that seems to be what everyone believes. Don’t get all up-tight about it — have fun evaluating your beliefs, where they came from, and how messed up they might be! :) It’s not a crisis, it’s a chance to truly rebel! And while you’re at it, remake all the worst, boring parts of life.

Buffalo Sightings

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My parents came up for a visit last weekend, and although it is great to sit, chat and catch up on things going on in our lives, before long, we all felt like getting up and doing something! I’d been wanting to explore some of the areas west of here, and thought my parents might enjoy that too. Friday was their driving day, so we went for a walk but kept it low key that evening.

Saturday, I made breakfast for us, we relaxed around the house for a little while, and then went to a local bookstore where a friend of mine volunteers. We chatted, knitted, and moaned about our next big knitting project — the shipwreck shawl, which as we struggled to start with the “simple” loop cast on, we nicknamed “the wreck.” :) We took my parents to the little coffee shop in town, where we got our fancy coffees, and had a light lunch. Then it was across the street to the Macleod’s hardware store, which my parents love to visit, because it’s a bit like a general store and has some of the strangest, oldest things around! My mom got quite excited because they had inoculant — a substance used to promote plant growth when seeding a garden — which is apparently quite hard to find.

The next day was cold and miserable, as May long weekends typically are, to spite everyone who’s been waiting all winter to go camping. Inevitably, the campgrounds are full and the people are shivering! We stayed around home and planned the big adventure for the next day.

You see, I thought it would be nice to show my dad some buffalo, in the wild. I figured he’d really get a kick out of it, and I’d been hearing about herds near Rainbow Lake and Assumption for a while and had not yet made the trip to either place. NOAB-CoverThis is a Buffalo Protection Area, and they roam wild and are not contained in any way. They are doing so well, the government has recently issued tickets for them, for hunters to shoot them. We only wanted to shoot them digitally, so off we went, with our cameras, bags of snack food and backroads map book, to find the buffalo.

We went first to the Chateh/Assumption native reserve, where I’d heard the buffalo were often seen roaming in town. We didn’t see any, but there were a few horses unrestrained. The reserve was fairly typical of those in this area, with gravel roads, smallish run-down houses, and as we drove past the grocery store, we weren’t sure if it was closed just because of the holiday or permanently (it looked pretty sad). We drove by the blackened shell of a house, the remains of a house fire. I’m not usually surprised by the use of ATCO trailers around here — they serve as hotels, restaurants, offices, everything! — but was shocked to see the provincial courthouse made up of 4 or so put together. I just wasn’t expecting that. We drove completely through the town part of the reserve, until the road changed from packed gravel to loose gravel-dirt. As I felt the road get softer and softer, I was a little nervous about going on, in my 2-wheel drive car, until we came to the end of the road, marked with green surveyor’s tape.

end of the road
End of the road

Then I was really nervous about turning around without getting stuck! I did it though, and we backtracked to the town, joking about going to the end of the line. We drove around until we found the RCMP detachment, where a friend of mine works, but the member we talked to said she was off for the weekend. He gave us a tip about where the buffalo probably were, then received a call and drove away, lights flashing. He had said to drive out towards the road we were just on, but look for one that went off like a “Y.” We’d seen that trail, and opted to head back to the main road and drive up to the Hay-Zama Wildland Lakes Provincial Park where we finally saw the buffalo.

The country around there is different than most places; it’s flat, marshy, muskeg, with short, scrubby trees giving way to poplar and sloughs. There aren’t many signs of civilization, but it was near an overgrown cutline for a pipeline that I glimpsed the buffalo. Since being shot at, the buffalo are more shy, and in the time between me spotting them and turning the car around, they had retreated into the bush. My mom got only a picture of two large brown shadows in the brush (see below)! But we all got a glimpse and my dad was quite impressed by their size and healthy coats; they are much bigger than the domestic ones. It only took 2 and a half hours to find them!

buffalo in bush
Can you see the buffalo?

We kept going to the Hay River and Hay Lake, enjoyed the sunshine and marvelled at the many hoof prints and shotgun shells near the shore. I doubt if that many buffalo were shot — people might have just been shooting off shotguns for fun. Fun is not the same in northern, remote places as it is in urban centres. After a little while, we drove back through the reserve to the highway and west to Rainbow Lake, a small oil-boom town near the end of the highway. Rainbow is on the side of a large hill, and has lots of tall pines and reminds me of rugged, foothills towns; the lake it’s named after is a widening of the Hay River, south of town. What a contrast to Assumption — white population, clean town, brand new hotel, golf course, new trucks, and large, rich, new houses with quads parked in front. I saw my first-ever quad speed limit sign! I guess they don’t want people going too fast, even if they’re wearing helmets. We saw quads on the reserve, too, as they seem to be an essential form of transportation and recreation.

So those were my recent adventures! Not everyone can say they have buffalo in the wild, almost in their neighbourhood, so I feel pretty lucky.  :)

Hay Lake
Hay Lake (at the Hay-Zama Wildland Lakes Prov. Park)