19 Years and Counting

I won’t lie.  I was scared.  Scared beyond words.  I didn’t know how to be a mother.  I was entrusted with this small life and I had no idea what I was supposed to do with it.  The thought of having a baby was a whole lot more fun in my mind than in reality.  All of a sudden I had someone in my life that was totally dependent on me and I wasn’t too sure that I liked it all that much.  Thankfully, we worked our way through the rough patches that welcomed us and then it was one adventure after another.

19 years ago today you came into my life and as much as I loved you I was so terrified that I was never going to be able to give you what you needed from me.   Heck, some days I’m still not so sure that I provide you with what you need.  But I’ll tell you something, my ideas have certainly changed a lot over  the last 19 years.

Little did I know when you were placed in my arms all those years ago what an amazing journey we would walk together.  I know you can’t remember way back then but I remember it like it was yesterday.  You were perfect.  The most handsome baby I have ever seen.


Before I knew it we were sending you off to preschool.


Then it was off to ‘big school’.

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Good grief!!  Look how little you were!!

The road we walked was filled with lots of learning along the way – for all of us.  As hard and as difficult as your journey was starting school we learned one very important thing.  We all learned how strong we were.  And are.  We learned that by sticking together as a family there is nothing we can’t get through.  The tears, the fights, the broken hearts and the constant worrying (on our part) seems like a distant memory now as I sit here and write this thinking about what a truly remarkable young man I have standing in front of me.

Our journey wasn’t just all about heartache and hurt, Matthew.  It was about growth.  It was about learning how to stand up when you’ve been knocked down and it was about believing in yourself and not settling for anything less than you deserve.  Did you always get what you wanted?  No.  And that’s because it’s not always about what we want.  Did you always have what you needed?  Absolutely.  Because your needs during your school years were all that mattered.  There were times when we had to really learn how to compromise with your teachers and the rest of your team and learn to find different ways to have your needs met but at the end of the day we all learned more during your school years than reading, writing and arithmetic.  We learned to work together as a team and we learned how to make sure your voice was heard.

This time 19 years ago I was sitting in a hospital room marveling over you.  Amazed that someone so small was mine.  I couldn’t have ever imagined the way our lives would twist and turn over the last 19 years.  Even with all the bumps in the road I wouldn’t trade these last 19 years for anything because of all that I have learned from you.  Because of YOU.  You have taught me more about life and love than anyone else before.  You have taught me the true meaning of unconditional love.

And it fills my heart with pride to look at your growth.  Good grief!!  These last two years alone have been incredible.  You have accomplished so much and grown in ways I couldn’t have imagined.  You make me so proud.

Who would have ever thought that just a little over a year after starting volunteering at Two Rivers you’d be standing next to the Mayor receiving and award for your volunteerism?

Matt Volunteer Award

And then a few short months after this you spent your summer living in a trailer more than you lived at home!

Matt and the trailer

Then it was home to start on your final leg of your schooling.  Grade 12.

Matt grade 12

And the milestones continue at warp speed.  Today you turned 19.

Matt 19

Even though I’m saying a lot, there really are no words to adequately express how I feel Matthew.  I’ve never doubted for one second that you had so much to offer this world.  I’ve always said that.  There’s a special place in this world for you, we just had to find it.

I’m glad I was able to help you during your search.  Keep doing what you do because truthfully I can’t wait to see what tomorrow is going to bring.

Happy Birthday, bud.  I love you.

Until next time…

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Y’all Hashtag This…. “On Tour” with Dean Brody

Anyone who knows us knows how much we like our music; all types, but especially country (and if there was any doubt, go back two entries and take a look at my post titled Happy 24th Anniversary, Mikey).

Anyone who knows us knows how much we love our boys (Matthew is 18, Marcus is 7) and will do what we can to make their dreams come true.  So far, we have been able to grant two of Matthew’s dreams.  Almost 3 years ago he had the chance to meet one of his biggest idols, Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer.  Then almost one year to the day later he got to meet the second person on his bucket list, Temple Grandin.  Needless to say, when I saw the opportunity to sort-of make his last dream come true, I took it.

The Canadian Country Music Awards are coming to Halifax, NS this year.  It’s the first time since 1982 that Nova Scotia has hosted Country Music Week and the buzz leading up to it has been electric!  The entire province has benefited with various communities hosting 3 separate concerts in a Songwriter’s Series: The Road To Halifax.  Since the first concert, held in June, the excitement has been building and we are now only 3 short weeks away from hosting hundreds of Canadian musicians, artists, songwriters and music industry personnel as they flock to our provincial capital.

Fortunately, we were able to attend the Songwriter’s Series that was held here in Cape Breton towards the end of July.  Carolyn Dawn Johnson made her first visit to our area and was joined by our very own Bruce GuthroJordan Musycsyn and The Ryan Sisters.  We had a great time and it was a treat for us to hear 3 of the 4 musicians for the first time.  The talent we have on this Island is amazing!

But it was what happened afterwards that was the highlight of my night.  As we were leaving the venue there was a young man walking towards me holding the almost life-size cutouts of the nominees for the Fan’s Choice Award.  I commented to him that my boys would love it if I could bring Dean Brody home with me for them and his reply was “I don’t see why you can’t – here!”  and handed Dean’s cutout to me.  I was so excited!!  As soon as I got home I put Dean down in our kitchen and snapped a picture which I immediately sent to Matthew who was out at the park.  Needless to say he freaked thinking Dean was actually standing in our home.  Unfortunately, I had to burst his bubble and tell him that wasn’t the case.  But looking quickly, you’d think so, hey?  Marcus certainly did a double-take the next morning when he walked down the stairs.


Dean was a wonderful guest the past few weeks.  I was a little concerned at first that he might try to Bring Down The House, but I learned quickly that wouldn’t be the case, at all.  He minded his manners, never interrupted, wasn’t disrespectful, certainly didn’t eat much and traveled quite lightly.  In fact, we almost forgot he was around most of the time.

As much fun as it was knowing he was here (especially when his songs came on the radio and Marcus would go over and stand beside him to do karaoke), time was getting on and we knew he had to make his way back to his CCMA family.  After all, there were lots of events coming up that he would be required to attend.

Before we could return our new friend we thought it would be nice to show him some true Cape Breton hospitality.  He has been here before to play concerts, but we were sure he didn’t have the chance to see much of our community up close and personal, so we decided to take him on a sight-seeing tour.  He was a great traveler, other than the need to extend our trunk by putting down the back seat in our Jetta.  Oh well, at least he had the chance to stretch out and relax.

The time he spent at our home was mostly indoors so we started outside at Hilliard’s Happy Hideaway located on the Mira River.  Naturally, Marcus was in charge (as much as we’d let him) and had to be in the first picture with “his buddy” Dean.


Our first stop had to be Two Rivers Wildlife Park where Matthew has been working and residing this summer.  Unfortunately, Matt was busy bailing hay and wasn’t able to show our guest around, but he would have the chance to before Dean left, we promised.  Here Dean is meeting Bud and Jenny and hanging out on the park’s grounds for a bit.

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He was a great help in the booth and seemed to really enjoy his time with the horses.  What better place for a country-guy to visit than a Wildlife Park?

Next we headed to Louisbourg.  We were hoping to get him out on the rocks at the lighthouse but as we were driving out the fog fell in on top of us, as so often happens along the coast.  Safety is always first!  He did manage to get a good look at the lighthouse and was the only one of us who didn’t seem to mind the deafening sounds from the fog horn.

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By this time it was getting dark so we headed for home.  Mike decided it would be better to continue the tour the next day.  Even though I had to work Mike, his mother, Marcus and Dean hit the road early and traveled over to the Northside, where Mike was born and raised until we were married 24 years ago.  Mike thought Dean might appreciate a good game of golf so he stopped at Seaview Golf and Country Club but they soon had to scoop Dean up and put him back in the car as there was a lineup starting to grow behind him at the first hole.


Close by was Munro Park, a recreational facility in North Sydney that won $250,000 last week through Kraft Project Play.  Dean was really excited to see the area and can’t wait for us to keep him posted on all the amazing upgrades they have coming.


No trip to North Sydney would be complete without checking out the ferry terminal at Marine Atlantic.  North Sydney is the gateway to Newfoundland where you can almost always see the ferries coming and going.  It’s something we never get tired of watching.


Mike couldn’t visit his hometown of Sydney Mines without sharing his life’s passion with Dean.  A trip to the Firefighter’s Memorial Park was next on the list.

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Marcus didn’t move too far away during this stop as he has years of knowledge to impart to Dean.  Hey, when you live in a firefighting family like we do, it is what it is.

Finally, no trip to Sydney Mines would be complete without boasting about our successes.  This is one of my favorite community signs in the area.  And yes, I may be a littleslightly…completely biased here as Bruce Guthro is my favorite-all-time performer! (Dean understands…we talked.  He knows he’s a real close second.)


Next the tour headed west towards Bras d’Or.  A stop at the infamous A&K Lick-A-Chick and Lick-A-Treat was a must.

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Mike and Marcus agreed that Dean was starting to get a little frigidity from being in the car so long.  They decided the next logical place to visit was Kelly’s Mountain.  It was time to get this Mountain Man to a place where he could relax for a few minutes.

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He loved seeing the Seal Island Bridge from the Bras d’Or look-off despite it not being a completely clear day.  It truly is one of those beauties to behold when visiting Cape Breton.

Finally on this leg of the tour they dropped by Ross Ferry Marine Park to check in on all the fine folks there.


As they were heading for their next destination, Dean decided he needed to stretch his vocal cords a bit and what better place to do it than under the street sign that perfectly matched one of his songs: Four Wheel Drive.


The last stop for the day would be to go visit the guys Mike works with at The Cape Breton Regional Fire Service, Station 2.  Dean was going to be inundated with firefighting information on this visit, that’s for sure!


The next day I was able to join in the fun.  Dean, Mike and Marcus picked me up from work and off we went but not before we got a picture with him under the sign showing the greeting of Cape Breton that is on the side of our building.  A hundred thousand welcomes is extended to all who visit.

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Radio has always been a big part of our lives.  Radio is where we met so many years ago.  Naturally, we had to take Dean to visit the radio stations in the area that so graciously give his songs the air play needed to keep producing #1 Hits.  First we stopped to say hi to Nikki at 103.5 The Eagle.


Bill and Rose were next on our list at 89.7 The Coast ~ which reminds me ~ I really have to try to get my name entered for the fantastic contest The Coast is running for The CCMA’s.  What a win THAT would be!


No trip to Glace Bay would be complete without having Dean revisit The Savoy Theatre where many fans were able to see him perform not too many years ago.  It may be time for him to return (hint, hint!)


And just before we leave Glace Bay, another must-see is The Miners Museum.


Time to head back to Sydney to visit a few more points of interest.  First stop is Open Hearth Park located right in the heart of the city.  Families can spend the entire day here and always have lots to do from walking trails to playgrounds for the kids.


My favorite stop of all was next.  The Radio Building, the corner of Prince and Charlotte, CJCB Radio.  The place where it all started for Tracey and Mike.  This place is near and dear to our hearts and I was taken back in time as soon as I walked up those stairs.  Marcus thought it was pretty neat to see where Mom and Dad worked and met all those years ago.


Keeping with the music theme, our next stop was to show Dean The Big Fiddle located at our Port of Sydney.  See for yourself ~ it really is the largest fiddle in the world!

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Cape Breton University is growing by the year.  Dean stopped by there to say hello, as well.


For our last stop of the day we headed back to Two Rivers where Matthew was free to spend some time showing Dean around.  He got to meet Maggie and Rose, a team of horses used for the wagon rides, and Matthew had his picture taken with one of his favorite performers ever!  (Sorry bud, I wish it was in person but I worked with what I had…lol)

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Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end and tomorrow it would be time to return Dean to his CCMA family so he’d be there for all the upcoming events.  We weren’t finished showing him the sights between here and the road to Halifax quite yet.  We were up and on the go early and although there were no dirt roads for this Dirt Road Scholar to travel on our way, we were able to take him to visit The Old Sandbar in East Bay.  We tried our best to make him feel at home while he was here.


While driving through Ben Eoin, we thought Dean might like to try his hand at golf again.  The Lakes Golf Club was buzzing with activity bright and early on a Saturday morning.


Rita MacNeil’s Tea Room located in the heart of Big Pond is always a must see for anyone visiting the area.

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The ‘noisy bridge’, as we called it when we were kids, was our next stop.  St. Peter’s Canal links the Atlantic Ocean to the Bras d’Or Lakes and it truly is a sight to watch the bridge open as many boats use this as their thoroughfare.

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Every time I leave Cape Breton Island I get homesick, even if it is for just one day.  I don’t know if I could ever truly explain what this place we call home does for me.  As we head towards the Canso Causeway I reflect about how much Cape Breton really is The Home of Our Hearts.

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Once we arrived on mainland Nova Scotia there were a few more pit-stops to make.  We had to show Dean Mother Webb’s.  Again, he wasn’t much of an eater, so we just breezed through.


A good friend of ours works at 98.9 XFM in Antigonish and graciously met us at the station on Saturday morning so we could have a quick visit.  Dean was slightly tormented, but was a great sport about it.  And now we have a picture of him with Da Lobster (for any of you who don’t know what this means, Mike refers to me as Da Lobster…his lobster.  The reason why is explained in the link).

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Dean was going to sing us a song before leaving, but we just couldn’t get the mic to work no matter what we did.  Next time, he promised ;)

Barry showed us another really cool spot where Dean needed to get his picture taken.  Pretty appropriate for him, too, I’d say.


Our last stop in Antigonish was, naturally, St. FX University.  A week from now, this campus will be bustling as another school year is only days away.


We couldn’t drive through Stellarton without a quick stop at The Museum of Industry.


Truro was were we stopped for a quick bite to eat.  As much as I would have loved to show Dean Victoria Park we really did need to save a few things for the next road trip, haha!


Alas, the time to say “see ya later” had arrived.  We were in Halifax before we knew it and our adventure was over.  I’ve always told my boys “Don’t be sad it’s over, be happy it happened” and I couldn’t be more happy that, as a family, we were able to have so much fun hosting Dean Brody and sharing some of our special spots with him while we were fortunate enough to have him visit.

Now just about everyone involved in Canadian Country Music is counting down to September 10-13.  Halifax is definitely going to be the place to be and unless a miracle happens that gets us there (I soooooo wish we could make it happen) we’ll be watching for updates and will be glued to the TV on Sunday evening, the 13th, for the Awards Show.  We congratulate all the nominees and look forward to hearing all about Country Music Week.

Of course, we’ll be rooting for Dean who is nominated for SIX awards this year.  The Awards Show will be incredible, regardless.  The caliber of talent our country music performers has is amazing, but we all have our favorites, right?  ;)

For now, we’ll leave you where the big show will be taking place.  Scotiabank Centre is where we dropped Dean, but I have had reports that he made it safely to his host family’s place in Halfax ;)  Thanks, Stacey.  We had a blast.


Until next time… #PumpUpTheCountry

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We Need to Talk About This


A year later. Has anything changed? Worth visiting again….

Originally posted on An Angel's Island:

robin williams

My social media sites became filled last evening with news about Robin Williams’ death.  Everyone was shocked, saddened, upset and devastated that this vivacious man who made it his job to make others laugh had taken his own life.

An online group I belong to started a thread about it.  As the conversation grew I woke to a post this morning from one of the members:

Maybe this thread can lead into a discussion…if more needs to be done to help those with mental illness, what do you think should be done?

The dialogue that opened had members having the courage to talk about events in their lives that were hard for them to discuss.  It humbled me to read them.

I had some thoughts of my own that I shared in response to this group member’s question.  What do you think should be done?  

We all have…

View original 1,299 more words

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Happy 24th Anniversary, Mikey

Saturday, August 10, 1991 our special day finally arrived.  The day we said “I Do”.

24 years ago.

I’ve been thinking about how I’d do this entry for awhile.  Wondering “What I’d Say”.  There simply aren’t enough words or time to adequately say what I want to say to you so I thought I’d try to do something a little different and let the music say it for me.  I could be here just as long this way, but let’s see how it goes.

The summer of 1988 really started it all off when we were introduced to each other.  How many times did I call you at work?  I’d never tell you who I was, but you knew.  You knew me better than I knew myself.   You knew by what I requested.  I had a few favorites that I think gave me away over time but I’d still keep calling.

Pretty soon we were spending hours upon hours at the radio station.  You taught me everything you knew.  I loved all different types of music but Top 40 was definitely my comfort zone.  Given your choice, you leaned more towards the country and Celtic genres never missing a chance to play some local favorites.  Your knowledge and your enthusiasm about artists and the stories behind them was contagious.  There was nothing I could ask that you didn’t know the answer.  We soon started to collect quite the compilation of our songs.  To anyone listening to our cassette tapes, they’d think we were losing it, I’m sure.  We’d seriously listen to anything from Ronnie Milsap to Restless Heart to Bryan Adams to Def Leppard and Phil Collins.  Let’s not forget MadonnaThe JuddsAlan JacksonWilson PhillipsThe Bee Gees.  And then there were those that I wasn’t particularly fond of but you still encouraged me to give them a listen.  So I did, occasionally.

When I was fortunate enough to start working at the radio station along side you, there were quickly a few songs that I came to dislike quickly, but thankfully they were few and far between.  On the flip side (pun intended…get it?), there were those I ‘liked’ so much I gave them extra air time ;) .  The best memory of our radio days was, of course, our wedding day.  Spending a few moments in-studio that evening with our good friend, Ronnie MacKinnon was definitely a highlight neither one of us will ever forget.

After our radio days were but a memory, our love of music certainly didn’t dissipate.  We’re not big movie watchers by any means but there are a few classics that will live forever.  Our taste in movies is as varied as our taste in music.  There are those that we just couldn’t help watching over and over and over.  Each songeach story, holds so much for us.  So much so that we were even able to include one on our special day.  Remember what I walked down the aisle to?

We always joked that whenever we had kids they would be the ones yelling at us to turn the music down.  Don’t laugh, it’s happened.  But thankfully our boys have developed as deep an appreciation for music as we did.  They really had no choice, did they?  I can’t pick just one or two songs for them.  We have to do a top 5 for each.

Matthew’s Favorites ~                                                                                                                              #5 (this is pure coincidence based on the countdown.  Hahahaha)                                           #4                                                                                                                                                                #3                                                                                                                                                              #2                                                                                                                                                                 #1

Then we have Marcus ~                                                                                                                           #5                                                                                                                                                                #4                                                                                                                                                              #3                                                                                                                                                              #2                                                                                                                                                                #1

I think I could have done a Top 10, no problem.  Then one of them will catch us off guard and start belting out something like this or this while they’re out carousing with you.  I’m not completely out of it though because we have been known to turn this or this up a little louder while they’d be out driving around with me, too.

It’s really something, isn’t it?  24 years worth of music for 4 people is a lot to condense into such a small space.  Needless to say, this has taken me the entire evening and I’m not done yet.  I think we could probably have our own countdown.  Hey, that’s a good idea!  I really hope I don’t repeat anything (I started this almost 3 hours ago…lol).  Pick a number, because I’m sure I can fill it easily.  24?  Strange number for a countdown but why not?  It is the number of years we’re married as of today, after all.  Let’s get going with it, shall we?  (Good grief, what I have gotten myself into here?)

Tracey and Mikey’s Top 24                                                                                                                    #24                                                                                                                                                             #23                                                                                                                                                             #22                                                                                                                                                             #21                                                                                                                                                            #20                                                                                                                                                          #19                                                                                                                                                                #18                                                                                                                                                            #17                                                                                                                                                            #16                                                                                                                                                          #15                                                                                                                                                        #14                                                                                                                                                        #13                                                                                                                                                            #12                                                                                                                                                                #11                                                                                                                                                                We’re gonna pause for our Station ID.  This is Radio TRCY and just before we get into our Top 10 here’s a few words from our good friends at Two Rivers Wildlife Park proud to be presenting the Third Annual Acoustic Roots Festival September 4-6.  Make sure you check it out!!  Now….back to The Countdown.                                                                                           #10                                                                                                                                                          #9                                                                                                                                                                #8                                                                                                                                                              #7                                                                                                                                                              #6                                                                                                                                                                #5                                                                                                                                                                #4                                                                                                                                                                #3                                                                                                                                                                #2                                                                                                                                                                #1

See?  I couldn’t do it in 24.  There are a couple more that definitely deserve honorable mention.  And I would truly be remiss if I didn’t include this classic.

Phew!  This has turned into quite the walk down Memory Lane for me this evening.  I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, and I’ve felt every emotion I have probably felt over the last 24 years in the past few hours.  And I know if I asked you to do your countdown lists they could probably be just as different again.  So much music.  Such a big part of who we are.

Anyway, hun, like I said, I tried to let the songs say it for me.  Even though we won’t see each other today (darned opposing schedules) I hope you have a chance to listen to some of the songs here and remember what they mean to us.  Night after night we sit and listen to music and it’s not very often we do too many repeats.  It’s our thing and I hope it will continue to be our thing for many years to come.

I’ve been trying to figure out what I could close off with.  As I was doing our countdown, the #9 song was playing here on You Tube and when it was finished the exact same song was playing on the radio.  So now I know this entry is Debbie Approved and I know what song I’m going to end off with.

Happy 24th Anniversary, Mikey.  PSILY.

Until next time…

me and mikey

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48 Years in the Making

48 years ago today was the groundbreaking for my path in life.  3 years before I was even born.
48 years ago today a child was born.  This child was born into an incredible family where values, morals and respect were always of utmost importance.
As a youngster his interests revolved around his Uncle’s pig farm, spending time with his cousins and exploring the great outdoors.  Over the years his summers in Groves Point solidified his love of nature, his desire to explore and his love of the water.
As this youngster grew his passions grew, as well.  It wasn’t long before he took a liking to his cousin’s garage tinkering with cars and pumping gas.
Now a young man, a new interest emerged.  For the next number of years this man called CJCB/CKPE radio stations home.  He was truly in his element as his natural ‘radio voice’ and love of music echoed through the airwaves.  Day after day, night after night his trademark sign-off “Have a great day, Cape Breton.  Drive carefully.” ended every shift.
It was in the hallways and control rooms of that radio station where two paths crossed.  At first the crossing was met (on my part) with great trepidation.  But over time I was able to see more clearly as the path opened up allowing me to see the magic of my surroundings.
The halls and controls rooms of The Radio Building are now distant memories that we continue to hold in our hearts as our paths have forked over the years.  This man has been fortunate enough to find his true calling.  Always a husband and father first, his heart and soul expands even more with his love and desire to help his community.  The fire service has been blessed to have his dedication, knowledge, leadership and commitment in various capacities over the last 25 years.
His (our) path has twisted and turned and produced some pretty rough terrain.  One thing has remained a constant.  That child born 48 years ago today is still walking by my side.  Now a man, he leads me through the best and most challenging days of our lives.
There are many ways I could describe our relationship.  Let’s see…
We’re like:
2 peas in a pod
Simon and Garfunkel
Sonny and Cher
Oreo cookies and milk
Oil and water (some days….lol)
Romeo and Juliette
Statler and Waldorf
Peaches and Cream
Yin and Yang
Rum and Coke
Smoke and Fire
Mork and Mindy
Sheldon and Leonard
Ok, you get the idea.
When I think that unbeknownst to anyone, the infant boy, born 48 years ago today would eventually find his way into my life and we would be tackling this thing called life together it kind of freaks me out.
Anyway, it’s no secret what this guy had done for me and for our boys.  He does without, he goes above and beyond and he puts up with more than any man I could every imagine.  He’s my Mikey.  And today I wish him a Happy 48th Birthday.
Thanks for picking me to be Da Lobster.
Until next time…
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The Story of an Angel


Another year goes by. Our baby girl joined and left us 13 years ago today. Always remembered and loved. This is her story.

Originally posted on An Angel's Island:

The summer of 2002 started out like any other. Everyone was excited for a couple of reasons. #1 Matthew would be starting school in September, and #2 we were expecting our second child. We were in the process of selling our home and trying to find something bigger as the home we lived in only had 2 bedrooms and with a new baby on the way, we definitely needed something a bit bigger.

Our excitement would be short-lived. On July 12 I was scheduled for a routine 20 weeks ultrasound. My sister had missed so much of my first pregnancy as she was attending university away, I wanted her to come to the ultrasound with me. My pregnancy had been great, no morning sickness, no spotting, no need for concern. Of course, I went in myself initially and she could join us after the technician did all the measurements. Things…

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Getting Settled…and a Whole Lot More

Love seeing my boy so happy. It’s like his first trip to summer camp, a new job, and Disney World all combined into one for him. Thanks Matt for letting me see the beauty of the simplest things through your eyes. The friendships you share, the outdoors that you love so much, the animals that are like your own and the joys you find in everything you do. You make me stop and appreciate things I always took for granted. I love that you share that with me and thanks for introducing us to such a wonderful group of people who have your back. You’re truly blessed.

That was my Facebook status last night after coming home from Two Rivers Wildlife Park and nothing could be more true.  I am truly in awe watching my son in his Happy Place.  He has spent every night except 2 staying in his trailer since it arrived on site 13 days ago.  This is certainly much more time than we originally thought he would be there overnight.  He’s been doing well and there have been minimal issues so we’ve just been going with the flow.

I’ve always been eager to share Matthew’s successes and advancements.  I feel I’ve been equally as forthcoming with his challenges.  I try to keep it real.  It’s not always about the sunshine and roses.  If I want to educate and advocate it can’t be all good all.the.time.  You have to know about the bumps.  You have to know about the hurdles.  You have to know about the lessons that bring him (and us) past the bumps.  These past couple of weeks have certainly seen many lessons.  And I think that’s what makes the successes so much more magnified.  Working beyond the hurdles and finding a way to turn them into teaching moments (that we can all learn something from) can be a challenge in itself at times but if this is going to work we have to be open to the bumps and be willing to learn what they have to teach us.

Fact:  Matthew has very little concept of time and money.  We have known this for years.  It has been a permanent issue on his IPP(IEP) for as long as I can remember.  I’d be lying if I said there has been major advancement in these areas.  He just doesn’t get it.  Two hours for Matthew may as well be 2 days.  $20 could be $2 or $200.  I can remember when he was younger; we used to try to explain time to him by comparing 30 minutes to an episode of Sponge Bob Squarepants.  That was all well and good until the tv show started doing 2 15 minute episodes/show.  Then it turned into whether we were talking about a ‘short’ Sponge Bob or a ‘long’ Sponge Bob and that 2 short ones was the same as 1 long one.  We tried egg timers, we tried counting down (15 more minutes, 10 more minutes, 5 more minutes, 2 minutes to go…) but then it was still hard for him to transition to another task.  If Matthew had to be to work at 9:00 and he looked at a clock (ha ha ha) and saw it was 8:50, that would mean nothing.  He wouldn’t comprehend that he best get on his way down the hill because he only has 10 minutes to make it in time.  How was this going to work if he was staying at the trailer by himself?

Issue 1:  We could send a text but sometimes he doesn’t see them for hours so Mike decided to teach him how to turn the alarm off on his phone.  How important it was to get up when the alarm went off couldn’t be stressed enough.  Mike set an alarm for when it was time to get up and set another for when it was time to head down the hill.  In between it was time to get breakfast, his cup of tea and get ready for work.  This was fine and dandy until Sunday night when we were home and he was there and we found out he was working a later shift Monday morning, but his alarm was going to go off for early shift.  It wasn’t worth trying to get into deleting the alarm over the phone.  The joys of it all.  We managed and so did he.  At the end of the day that’s all that matters.

Issue 2:  The first week, Matthew wanted to experience everything he could all at once and he wanted time to just stop; especially in the evenings.  Sitting around the bonfires has easily become a favorite part of life at the park.  You know yourself how quickly time can get away from you when you’re sitting around a campfire enjoying yourself.  Matthew has always needed his sleep.  As a youngster, 12-13 hours sleep was a regular night – once he fell asleep.  Even through his teen years 10-12 hours/night wasn’t out of the question.  He’s been going on less the last year, for sure, but he still needs a couple of days/week that he’s able to recharge.  He wasn’t giving himself that chance at the park.  He went and went and went and a week in he crashed.  Every night we’d tell him at his normal ‘heading to bed’ time to get going he was still doing his own thing up to 2 hours later.  It caught up with him fast.  Physically, he was exhausted and his body started to let him know that in a big way.  After a couple of days at home he was much better and went back to the park a little wiser (I hope).  This is something that we have all encountered before.  Matthew is 18 and we are his parents.  What do we know?  Certainly not what’s best for our 18 year old son.  Pretty much the same as what did our parents know when we were that age.  We had to learn the hard way, as did/will he.  It just reiterates that he needs a couple of days every week to be home and well, just be.  Staying at the park is wonderful for him and an experience that will benefit him in more ways than one but he still needs that time away from it all, as well.

I can remember when Matt was in grade 8.  His teacher was hell-bent on throwing Matthew to the wolves so he could become independent.  That was her only goal as far as he was concerned.  He had to start showing some independence.  All supports that were put into place for him were withdrawn and he was pretty much left to fend for himself.  Left to be independent.  She was going to work miracles with him and use him as her example.  He had the ability and she felt (without out and out saying so) that he was being coddled.  She soon found out that he was not, in fact, being coddled; he was being supported.  Supported because there were many areas he was unable to execute the skills necessary to be independent.  (Can you tell this word and the connotations she attached to it really annoys me?)

INDEPENDENT can be defined as – not depending on another for livelihood or subsistence.
“I wanted to remain independent in old age”
synonyms: self-sufficient, self-supporting, self-reliant,standing on one’s own two feet

“her grown-up, independent children

Is anyone truly independent?  This definition doesn’t specify whether the “another” is a person or thing.  If we looked at it applying to depending on both another person or thing, how can any of us say we are independent?

I could go back as far as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  We all have needs.  We depend on certain things for livelihood and subsistence.  Our basic (physiological) needs are air, food, water.  Once these needs are met we have others:  safety and security, love and belonging, esteem, and finally self-actualization.  We may find ourselves at different levels on this pyramid at many times through our lives and we may never meet the need of self-actualization or if we do, something may happen to see us revert to a lower stage and need to start building again.

My point is – none of this can be done independently.  We all need other people and things in our lives to survive and be successful.  We need the basics (food, water, air).  We need to feel safe and have shelter, we need to be loved and feel as though we belong, we need to feel good about ourselves and others, and finally there is a need to feel that we are the best that we can be.  Not everyone successfully reaches all these needs, like I said, and it would take me much too long to get into the philosophies behind it all but suffice it to say that we all need at least the first 3 levels of needs to be met just to survive a comfortable existence.

I can’t imagine achieving any of this independently.  I depend on air.  I depend on food, I depend on water.  And that’s only the beginning.  I depend on knowing what time it is so I can get to my job, I depend on my job so I can collect my paycheque, I depend on my paycheque so I can pay for food and water and my home, I depend on food and water to keep me alive and I depend on my home to keep me safe.  All of this depends on me knowing what time it is.  By me knowing what time it is my 2 two primary needs are met.  Then I have to understand the concept of money so I’ll know if I have enough to pay for the food, the water and my home.  See where I’m going with this??  I certainly wish Matthew’s grade 8 teacher did.

We are all interdependent.  Period.  Yes, some of us are more self-sufficient than others but none of us are truly independent.  We all rely on something or someone.  I may have exaggerated the definition somewhat for the point of illustration but when you get right down to it, it is what it is.  Matthew’s understanding of time and money are crucial components to him being able to have his needs met (according to Maslow).

Ok, I’m done with my tangent.  This has been what it’s been like getting him settled.  There have definitely been more successes than challenges.  He’s keeping the trailer spotless, he’s very comfortable, it took him no time at all to have it feeling like ‘home’, and most importantly – he’s happy.  They say a picture  speaks 1,000 words?  Well, almost 1800 words in why don’t I finish off with a picture of Matthew that speaks 10,000 words to me.  This is one of the most genuinely happy pictures of him I have ever had the pleasure of taking.

Matt and Maggie

Until next time…

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