Friday, September 04, 2009

Try Again

Try Again Video

Please do click on the link above and watch this video on YouTube BEFORE reading this entry. It is well worth it and what I write after this won't be anything at all without first witnessing the 3 minute video.

This video was going around Facebook today. I was touched to the point of tears and inspired to the point of wanting to share this man's message with everyone I care about.

Of course, the two people who I wanted to show it to the most were my, largely unschooled, (almost) 10 and (almost) 12 year olds.

Since I'm always harping on the value of EFFORT as being of far greater consequence than SUCCESS, I thought this the perfect opportunity to show how one begets the other, eventually, in real life... from a real life inspiration.

Expecting something to the effect of:

"Yeah.... that's what you're always telling us Mom!"

"Wow... I know you're always talking to us about effort... but after listening to him, I really get it now!"

Instead, what I got was:

"I wonder what the toilet looks like at his house?"...

Then began all the pontifications on accessible toilets for a person without legs:

"No, I think it's probably just a hole in the floor like Asian toilets..."

"Yeah or toilets from the 1700s."

"Yeah, why should he have to work so hard just to get onto the toilet? Nobody else has to work that hard to go to the bathroom..."

After they had come to the end of this particular discussion journey, I asked them,

"So, do you know what his message was?"

"Uh... yeah...(like, didn't you get it Mom? It was pretty simple)... It was try again."

As they left my office, they once again picked up on their conversation about different toilet design possibilities for people with physical challenges.

I must admit to being torn... Sigh... I should be happy about this...

After working in the Human Rights field before being a SAHM, I should be proud that they think along these lines at such an early age without my guidance. But somehow, it just feels like the power of his message was lost in the midst of all the toilet ethics.

I have to wonder, have I wronged my children somewhere in my teachings and guidance?!

"The world may never know..." 

(Tootsie Pop Owl)

That's unschooling at work for you.


You never really know what they're learning... here in the Gray Zone... or anywhere else, for that matter. ;)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Quitting Smoking

I quit smoking 13 years ago. I was at a pack a day and was 30 years old, so I had been in-that-place for a long time.

I remember starting in December because my goal was to be 'clean' by January 2.

I moved to a lighter cigarette and started decreasing until I was down to my one in the morning and one in the night. January 1, just after midnight was my last one. I truly turned it into a good-bye-forever-my-love kind of thing. :D

It had to be that way though because I did really like it... but like a bad relationship, it was very one-sided and so Cig(arette) had to go.

That was the year we decided to start a family too and I couldn't expose a baby to that kind of bad relationship.

I missed Cig quite a bit for a while (a couple of weeks) but then I got pregnant and focused on that. There certainly were times that I was lonely for Cig. Every time I would start to think about how nice I felt when Cig was around I would have to remind myself that when he wasn't around, and I was desperately needing to be with him, that he couldn't really care less. He would only come around in exchange for money.

I had to stop my relationship with anyone who still had a relationship with Cig. Why? Because he has a way of really making you want him when he's around. He can be very sexy to some people, as I'm sure you are well aware. ;)

So, even my relationship with Coffee ended for while too, though now we have a nice casual relationship on the weekends and I look forward to long weekends when I get an extra day to spend with Coffee.

And now, at 43, I'm relieved that I did end my relationship with Cig. He really was everything to me at one time and now looking back, I realize that there were some great things that I missed out on because of his 'draw'.

Heck, I remember at the very beginning, sometimes all I could focus on was making it to the next minute without breaking down and going to Cig. Then I focused on the next minute... and the next minute... and the next. Then I focused on days, then weeks, then months.

Sometimes, I would go to a restaurant or party and Cig would be there. I would say to my partner, "We can't stay here. Cig. is here and I can't deal with that right now." It was worth it though because I stayed strong that way. Eventually, the 'draw' of Cig went away and now I don't like him at all, even though I still remember how much I used to like him...

In the end though, like with any past relationship gone bad, I learned a lot about myself through the process. Most importantly, I learned that I am strong and do not have to put up with one-sided relationships in my life. I can move on and though I will experience loss for a little while, I know that eventually those feelings will pass and my life will be better than it ever was before.

So keep it up. I know it can be a minute-by-minute struggle. When you finally decide to end your relationship for-once-and-for-all, you only have to make it to the next minute... and then the next... and then the next.

It will get easier as time passes.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Gentleman's Passing

Czar has finally passed on.

We got Czar, a beautiful GSD (German Shepherd Dog) from the Sarnia Humane Society in October 2001. He was to be a partner for our big old Bouvier, who had lost her partner the week before.

He was 66 lbs, about 20 lbs too light for a Shepherd of his height and mostly blind due to the brown clouds floating over his pupils. He didn't really seem that interested in people... or me.

Anyway, a big German Shepherd was not my first choice. But one of the techs at the Humane Society urged me to have another look at him and give him a chance. Then he met my daughter and bent his head down to brush it on her 4 year old chest. We knew we couldn't leave without him. He was claimed to be 6-7 years old, already grey around his muzzle and had heartworm. Being the deal-maker I am, we got him for half price.

His first night home, he was outside while I was making dinner, when my husband came home from work. The car headlights spooked him. Not yet knowing this was his home, he jumped the four foot high fence and was gone. We called all the area Humane Societies and Dog Pounds, we searched and searched, and we took notices around to the neighbours letting them know that we had a GSD, still wearing a seatbelt harness, wandering around. What a mess!

We would put a dish of food out each night. Each morning it would be gone but we never knew if it was Czar eating it, or some other animal. Then the farmers around us began taking down the corn. We were in a panic but still could not find him anywhere and no one had seen him.

One day, I was holding my one year old son, looking out the front window and saw Czar crossing the neighbours driveway. I threw my son on my back, grabbed my daughter, grabbed a piece of leftover steak out of the fridge and ran out to get him.

As I approached him quickly, he began to hurry in the other direction. I panicked, knowing that if he disappeared into the corn field, I wouldn't be able to find him or track him, having the two children with me.

I quickly realized the problem was that he still didn't know me, didn't know his new name, didn't trust strange people and had no idea where he was. Top all of that with the heartworm infection that made it hard for him to breathe properly and of course he was afraid.

So I sat on my haunches, holding the steak out toward him, coaxing him gently to come get the steak, praying that he would get close enough for me to grab his sea
t belt harness. Well, it took a while but eventually he did. Then I was praying that he wouldn't bite me when I grabbed the harness. He didn't... thankfully.

And so this was where life really began with Czar.

Because of the heartworm infection, he did not run, he did not play. After about a week at our house, he realized this was home and no longer had any desire to wander off. So, we began the heartworm treatment which he just barely survived. Then his recovery really began... and boy did he recover.

After the heartworm was gone, if he knew he was in an open space, he would run like the wind. Over time, we managed to pack about another 20 lbs onto his lithe frame, bringing him to around the 85lb range, which was book-weight for his height. He still ran like the wind and with his back floating above the ground, you could barely see his feet touch the earth.

Finally, when our house went gluten free, the brown clouds in his eyes (pannus) receded to the outer rims, leaving his pupils clear for him to run anywhere, as he wished... And run he did.


Most documentation of pannus notes that it is common in GSDs and no known cure exists. A lot of documents claim some relation to the sun. When his pannus cleared via diet, I posted his/our story on the internet at a place called "BrainTalk" where both medical and lay people talked science stuff about the brain, challenges and how it all related to every day living. Sad to say, this site is no longer in existence.

Eventually, a vet from the U.S. saw one of my postings about Czar and contacted me to compare notes. He had resolved a pannus issue in a much younger GSD and believed the removal of all corn to be the deciding factor.

In reality we had both put the dogs on diets where only minimal amounts of rice was allowed, so there is no way of knowing if it was actually gluten, corn or some other grain related item. For more information, contact Dogtor J, he's very good about responding and happy to tell great recovery stories. Though we have lost contact over the years, I know he is still working full force to help people understand food intolerance in animals:

Czar spent time on soccer fields watching his kids play and enjoyed sitting nicely while the other kids made a fuss of him. He enjoyed visits from various canine friends. He liked to wander out to the road to say hello to the lady around the corner who always stopped to pet him as she passed our house during her evening walks. He loved making visits to Granny's house to get special treats and hang out with his friend Molly. His last visit was just five days ago. When he knew we were going for a visit, he was pacing behind the van, waiting to be lifted in.

The last two years, he really began to show his age. At night, he would sometimes wander out into a field next door and seem to forget where he was. We would have to go out with a flashlight to search for him in the dark. We would find him just sitting quietly. It was like he was waiting for someone to come fetch him because once he saw us or the flashlight, he would come quickly and happily.

This was also around the time he developed a brain (myelin) disorder that began to render his back legs difficult to manipulate. This didn't seem to cause him any pain but created difficulties doing stairs and eventually, because of the loss of sensation creeping up his back, we knew it was only a matter of time.

For more info. about GSD and peripheral neuropathy:

When he was 10 or 11 years, he had more time under his belt than many GSDs see, so of course we began to expect his passing.

Well, he continued on for another 4 years. Even though is back legs were not cooperating the way he would've liked, he could still go in and out but no longer slept upstairs in our bedroom. For several years, he didn't get better but he didn't get worse either. Then in the last week or two, I noticed his back end seemed to suddenly lose a drastic amount of control.

No matter, even a couple of days ago, he was very excited to see his friend Dakota from two doors over, who comes to visit our guys every once in a while. We all look forward to Dakota's visits because the three dogs (and any visiting canines we may have) are always so excited to see each other.

They all say hello in their doggie way, then George (our 9 year old rottieX) and Dakota run and play for a bit and then all three dogs sniff around together like they are in search of something crucial to the very continuance of our planet... until Dakota hears his Mom calling for him out their window.

Another dear friend who he always enjoyed seeing was Peter. Peter is a retired school teacher and one of the neighbours we met when my husband was delivering notes, all those years ago, about our lost GSD. Whenever we went away overnight, if Granny couldn't come to stay with our animals, it was Peter who would come to take care of everyone for us.

Just two days ago, Czar was lying in the yard when Peter came to visit. Peter went to where Czar was lying to stroke his head and talk to him and I wondered, at the time, how many more times I would see that familiar scene.

Last night, I took the kids out to the drive-in while my husband stayed in to do some work. My husband, this morning, told me that when it was time to go to bed, Czar wouldn't come in. He was pacing the yard slowly.

When I got home, I found him lying in the grass looking fairly comfortable but a little too close to a ladder. When I called him, he didn't get up. I figured his back legs needed some help getting into the standing position, which was becoming a common scenario. But as it turned out, his back legs could no longer stand even when I placed them in position under him.

I was able to carry him to his usual spot in the yard but the pressure on his chest from being carried took his breathe away. He has never, in the eight years he's been with us, spent the night outside. I was caught. It was a beautiful night... but would he feel like I'd left him? I was pretty sure he wouldn't make it until morning and to carry him all the way inside might be too hard on his breathing.

My daughter, almost 12 years old now, was still awake so I brought her down to say good-bye. As we went outsi
de, we found his breathing had calmed. He tried to get up. So, I managed to get hold of him again, and carried him into the house, putting him in his favourite sleeping spot in the living room, near the bottom of the stairs. We made sure he had water nearby and that he was as comfortable as possible, lying on his side. Then I sent my daughter to bed.

He did struggle through part of the night with his breathing and getting comfortable. I kept bringing him water and rubbing his ears the way that always calmed him. Finally, his breathing calmed substantially and eventually, I couldn't stay awake any longer.

Before I slept, I prayed that he wouldn't make it through the night because it did now seem he was in pain or at the very least, very uncomfortable. In the morning I would have to make the difficult decision of taking him in to be put down. I really didn't want to do that because he would've hated going to the vet.

The vet terrified him to the point that we always joked around, even in his younger days, that after all he'd been through, he'd die from a heart attack just going to the vet. Through the years, home was always his favourite place.

Thankfully he passed sometime between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m right there in his favourite sleeping spot after eight wonderful years with us, at the generous age of 14 or 15 years old.

A special thanks to all who have acknowledged Czar to be the special gentleman that he was through all the years he spent with us.

Yes, that is a chicken riding on his back in the attached photo. Her name is Blackie. It was taken last year.

Please excuse any typos or grammatical errors. I've not proofed this yet and had some difficulty when to use the past tense and when to use the present tense.

Adopting senior animals can be a truly wonderful and rewarding experience.

Czar was a bird hunter when he came to us and still learned to live with chickens and ducks shortly after his arrival without the use of any corporal punishment.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Do Or Die

It's tax season. Yes, there is an element of "do or die" when it comes to taxes... Death and taxes, eh?

Need I say more? Well of course!

To say that trying to implement a new accounting program during tax season isn't bothering me would be a lie. I'm in an absolute panic to get it done on time so I don't get thrown in jail. And of course there is NOT enough time to get it done. There is never enough time to get taxes done in the day to dayness of running a business and raising children.

But it's not the reason I'm writing today. As always, I like to be a little 'gray' with my introductions and let the reader's mind wander a bit. ;)


I'm writing because last night something happened that is distracting me, on and off, to the point of tears. I can't focus properly on inputting my 400+ inventory items, which turns tax season into a do or die thing for me. But this 'do or die' by paper, is nothing compared to the images rolling around, heedlessly, in my brain.

So, perhaps if I get it all down, I will be able to let it go and get on with my paperwork in a more focused manner.


Now, it begins with me being pretty hard-nosed about my kids learning how to defend themselves. I guess it comes from a lifetime of being female... and a fairly small female at that. (I didn't break the 100lb mark until I was in my early twenties.)

And let's face it, just being female who reaches the age of 20, means that, at some point in your life, you've had a big, smelly, unpredictable man attempt to attach himself to you in ways that do more than make me shiver.

Fortunately, there are more gallant men out there than not who will come to your aid. But you can't always count on them being around... or being tougher than the guy with his big grubby paws on you.

Working in a couple of bars for a while in my late teens and twenties didn't do much to reduce these unpleasant occurrences. But you can't live your life being too afraid to do new things. And when a good paying job comes along... you take it, worms and all.

These experiences made me realize that I wanted to learn how to defend myself in a constructive way. I just never knew where to go to learn what I needed to know.

And I think, since so much of my life, I've depended upon my wits to get me out of uncomfortable situations, combined with a difficulty believing that I really would be able to
effectively defend myself no matter what PHYSICAL skills I developed, I've never pursued self-defence classes.

Add to that being carjacked in 1998 in front of a courthouse and barely managing to get my 13 month old daughter out of the car before the very large, six foot (+) tall man could zoom away with her, and you've got a good recipe for a somewhat paranoid, 5'4", 120lb human-wandering-the-planet-till-death-do-us-part-thank-you-very-much.

It also creates a mother who is determined that her children not feel the same helplessness in their lives, that she has felt in hers.

I am pragmatic, if nothing else, and completely aware that most of these situations are simply a part of the life experience. The difference in the impact upon the psyche is more about YOU than about the person offending you.


So, it' s been really bothering me that the kids are still not learning how to defend themselves.

I've been contemplating calling up a man, locally, who I know teaches self-defence classes. I know he keeps the classes extremely affordable. It's not too far to drive. And after some socialization time with his family a few years back, I found them to be a wonderfully dedicated family unit.

So what stopped me from calling? Doubt.

There's a part of me that just doesn't believe that any amount of physical skill is going to help in a truly (or even somewhat) frightening situation.

Wits (and a good dollop of street smarts) work. That's what I've learned.

the kids have taken Aikido before and it didn't really seem all that effective. Eventually, it was so far away and so expensive that we stopped going.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I ran into this local-self-defence-instructor-man's wife at the library.

"What the heck?" I thought. "Maybe the universe is sending me a sign."

So I asked her about his classes, fully expecting her to give me their phone number, and tell me to call for details from her husband.

I knew that I would take the phone number politely and probably never get around to calling.

Guess again...

She knew ALL the details.

She said NOW would be the PERFECT time to join because there are other new people who just started. She told me we could JUST SHOW UP and try a class. She told me the next class was tomorrow night. And she told me more...

Now aside from being in awe that she knew all the details (as many spouces/spice have no idea what goes on in their mate's point of self-employment), I also considered it to be a slap in the face from the universe.

I was being spoonfed all the information I'd been wishing for.

When this kind of thing happens, I worry that if I don't sit up, pay attention, and take advantage of what end's up in my lap... the universe will punish me for being stupid, unaware and COMPLETELY unmotivated.

And I become especially motivated regarding messages from the universe when my children's future safety may be at risk.

So, it was time to get off my butt and focus on getting the task of self-defence in order.

"What the heck." I thought, "
If nothing else, the children can at least become more familiar with how their own bodies work. And it's so affordable, it seems silly not to sign them up."


So the next night, I packed all the kids into the van so the older kids could try a class and I could watch. Ho hum. I really still wasn't thrilled about two evening classes a week. Life is so busy...

But I was resigned to it. After all, we mustn't ignore messages from the universe.

All I can say is... AMAZING!

I could not avoid signing up the children.

The "master", really is a "Master". That about sums it up.


Now, fortunately or unfortunately, my eldest child is going through a phase of not wanting to join in on anything. Even if I
make her join and go, she will just stand in the middle of the floor, like a lump, bringing the whole class down about 500 notches.

She doesn't get that from me, those are her father's genes coming through. And you better believe he 'got it' that night when we arrived home after I had to pull her out of the class for being a lump.

Nevertheless, onward and upward, I decided if she wasn't going to take the class with her brother, then
I would. For over ten years, if we had any extra money, it always went to something for the kids... no matter how much I wanted something for myself... as is the way with motherhood... as it should be.

But this time, the instruction of that class, moved me enough to not want to miss out on this rather rare opportunity for self-development... So, I have taken her place in the class.

And I am not just taking-her-place-la-dee-da.


I feel like I'm doing something that I should've done a lifetime ago!... Two lifetimes ago!

I feel like another piece of my life puzzle has dropped into place.

Somehow... I feel the universe is at work again.


The "master" not only shows the moves in slow motion, he shows what will come next and explains all the physics behind why the moves work.

THIS is why I am moved enough to put the money out to take this class. He has won my faith. I now believe that, indeed, perhaps I CAN physically defend myself effectively! I GET it!


Which brings us to last night... my third class... and the reason for my focal undoing today...

We were doing wrist hold escapes. Of course, always the cynic, I wanted to really see if they worked. The Master saw my need to see 'proof' and came over to let me experience, first hand, the receiving hand of the defensive technique.

Granted, he is much taller than I, and it goes without saying, much stronger. But what he did, was go through the move in slow motion, with me as the attacker.

He showed me that I was doing a lot of things wrong as a defender.

He showed me that being far away from the attacker was not very effective. He couldn't get away from me.

Then he showed me that getting close to my attacker was more effective.

So again, I grabbed his wrist as tightly as I could.

And, as the defender, he swung around me (again, in slow motion) and his chest actually brushed past my shoulder. As he did that, I could smell him.

Don't get me wrong, he didn't smell bad. He smelled like soap, actually... but I'll get back to that.

Then, though I could not see it, he followed through with the next move, using his free arm, which was, at that point, behind me, to reach around and lock my head (giving him the ability to also snap my neck).

What was so unnerving was that I could not
see his arm come around but I felt it.

The air moved... and I felt it.

It was astounding in a creepy kind of way.

The next thing I knew, I was completely under his control with no way out.

And this is why I cannot focus today. All I can think about is how helpless I truly am.

I'm in a sheer state of panic.

Why? After all, I'm learning the techniques. I'm obviously being taught by an effective teacher and master.

The Master is a kind and thoughtful man who cares enough about people to help them avoid getting hurt. He is an excellent instructor, a good husband (I see his happy, involved wife, so I know he is a good husband), a great father (I see him out and about with his happy kids) and a man who is predictable to the point of explaining the "where's and why's" of everything he does... and he does not smell bad.

Well, something clicked, being touched by a man who is not my husband... and feeling the air move... and knowing how much bigger and stronger than me he was...

I was slammed by the dichotomy of the Master in relation to a few old, previously forgotten, unpleasant memories of bigger, stronger men who were not so predictable and did not smell like soap (who all seem to be looming over me while I sit at my desk today)...


Of course, what happens from the point of view of a somewhat creative, somewhat paranoid person, such as myself?

I then lie in bed thinking about how helpless I am. How most (if not all) men are bigger and stronger than me. How many of them are unpredictable. How a lot of them smell like alcohol or worse. It's about remembering having to 'wit' myself out of situations and the smells of those situations like it was only yesterday...

And I think about how, if those old smells get behind me, I won't be able to see them coming either...

And I think about how I'd like a few less 'old memories' looming over my children when they are sitting at their desks doing taxes when they're all grown up.

I cannot get a blackbelt or learn these techniques fast enough.

I am committed.

And all my children WILL learn to defend themselves... like it or not.

For once, there's nothing gray about it... in what is usually
"The Gray Zone".