Window to Our Hearts

** I originally wrote this almost 5 years ago but I’d like to share it on this first day of Autism Awareness/Acceptance Month.

***Sorry it’s double-spaced I don’t know how to fix my format so the Enter Key just single spaces :(

Window To Our Hearts

He looked at me tonight and asked

“Why was I born this way?

“Why do I live with autism,

Each and every day?”

My heart sank to a place

It’s never been before.

I prayed for words to help me

Because I wasn’t sure.

“Why do you think the grass is green?

And why is the sky so blue?

Why do leaves change colour each fall

And then next spring grow new?”

“That’s easy, Mom,” he said to me

“I’ll tell you why it’s so.

Our eyes are windows to our hearts

Where our love will grow and grow.

If we couldn’t see the grass turn green

Or the sky light up so blue

We’d never take the time to see

The beauty of our world so true.”

My heart soared to a place

It’s never been before.

I had the words to help me

And this time I was sure.

“Autism is like the grass and sky

And leaves that turn each year

It makes us take the time to see

Another beauty that’s so near.

Each of us is different

And we all have much to give

Our eyes are windows to our hearts

Where the love within us lives.

Like the grass is green

And the sky is blue

And leaves turn colour each fall

Autism is a beauty lying within you.

You see the world so different

Through your eyes so pure.

That window to your heart

Has taught me much for sure.”

I looked at him tonight and said

“I know why you were you born this way.

You live with autism to show the world

How to love each and every day.”

Tracey Hilliard

Oct 22/10

Autism Awareness

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Please Don’t Bash Others ~ Regardless

I read an article today from a fellow autism-mom that made my heart sink.  I don’t know her personally and I’m sure there were reasons for her post, but regardless, it made my skin crawl.  It hurt me and it angered me.  I really don’t want to encourage anyone to read it, but in order to get the point of my feelings you may feel the need to skim it here.

I couldn’t just let it be.  All the high-five’s and kudos she was getting from other autism mom’s and family members wasn’t the way I felt at all.  And while I may be in the minority, I had to tell her how I felt.  I did send the following to her, privately, and as of this posting time I have not received a response.  I’d like to share it with you now.

Hi Shanell. We have not communicated before although I have been following your page for a while (I don’t comment a lot on pages).

Please understand that as a fellow Mom who lives with autism in my world I respect every word that comes from your mouth (as I hope you would do for me). I must say, however, that today I did not agree with you. Today I shed tears of hurt, disappointment and shame when I read your article titled ” Somebody Living with Autism Wants You to Read This”.

Allow me the opportunity to explain. Autism has been a part of our life for 18 1/2 years. My son, Matthew, lives with aspergers syndrome. We did not hear the word ‘autism’ until he was 8 years old, although we always knew there was something. At first, we attributed his ‘quirkiness’ to being an only child. He didn’t know how to play with other children because he didn’t grow up around children his age. He was thrown into a world of adults from the get-go. He was an old-soul in a young body. When he started school he was happier by himself, he became agitated when he was asked to share, he didn’t care about ABC’s and 123’s; he was an outdoor’s boy who just wanted to explore. He fell behind academically from the beginning. At first he was diagnosed with ADHD and thankfully, a mild medication allowed him to focus and get through the remainder of his school year. There were still concerns surfacing the following school year which were answered after a series of psycho-educational testings. A nonverbal learning disability showed us why he was having issues with printing, fine and gross motor skills and transcribing. Modifications and adaptations to his curriculum helped but there were still yet many unanswered questions. Privately, he was diagnosed with ASD, specifically, aspergers syndrome. He was in grade 3. What the heck was ASD? I knew nothing about it, I knew no one who lived with it and all I could think of was “Rainman”. That was my introduction to autism. I was alone and afraid and angry.

To say I lived, breathed, ate and slept autism from that moment on was an understatement. Not only did I have to educate myself, my husband and my son but I also had to educate those family members and friends closest to us. We were it. We were the only ones in our circle to have autism affect us. No one knew anything about it. I made it my mission to learn everything I could and then it became our way of life, but not before many trials and tribulations (some of which we all still live with to this day).

My parents (my father in particular) were very old school when it came to children and disciplining them. My father had a hard time wrapping his head around Matthew and his ‘quirkiness’ and then accepting the fact that his ‘quirks’ had a name. It was hogwash and he just had to be disciplined. I searched and I searched and I searched for something – anything- to be able to show my father to help him understand. It wasn’t easy. He was a hard guy to sway. However, eventually I did find an article and from the moment I started reading it, I knew it was the one for him. It was specifically for grandparents and I only wish now I had saved it. He got it. He finally understood that we were not allowing Matthew to behave in a certain way or that he just needed a good talking to. My Dad finally got that Matthew was this way because that’s the way he was. Point blank. It wasn’t a bad thing, it wasn’t a good thing, it didn’t make him any better or worse than other children, it just was. Period.

Is it that easy with everyone who doesn’t understand? Of course not. Are there those who are ignorant (in the negative sense of the word) and who are unable to understand the voice of reason and education? Of course there are. There are no amount of articles, no amount of statistics, no amount of educating that will enlighten them or make them understand – and that’s because they are closed minded individuals.

We want our children to be accepted. We want them to find their rightful place in this world and we want for them what any parent wants for their child.

We don’t want them bullied, we don’t want them ostracized, we don’t want them disrespected and we certainly don’t want them to be made to feel as though they are any less of a person. At least I don’t want that for my son.

Why was it ok for you to feel as though you could bully, ostracize, and disrespect another human being today? I know your article didn’t specify anyone in particular, but even so, in general terms, why do you think it was ok for you to do what you are so set against others doing to your child?

In my mind, every good article, every good, positive form of advocacy that you have shared was totally negated today by your harsh words.

Yes, we all get frustrated, yes we all get angry and want to bang some people’s heads up against a wall and yell at the top of our lungs to stop being so mean and cruel and disrespectful but to call out a population today the way you did that will never care anymore about Kate or Matthew or the millions of others that we stand beside who live with autism did more to hurt you (in my opinion) than it did to help Kate, Matthew and all the others.

Sure, there are oodles of people on your FB page and on your blog applauding your words because they too felt the way you spoke of hundreds of times and are thrilled that you lashed out because the people you lashed out on are the scum of the earth because they couldn’t care less about ‘getting’ our kids or the lives that we live. And at first I thought “Wow, she’s having a bad day, what a shame.” But then, the more I thought about it the more upset I got.

What did you accomplish today? Did any of those vile individuals message you to apologize for their ignorance? Did they offer to learn more about living with autism? Did they offer to spend time with your family and understand the world according to Kate? Did you feel relieved and like you proved something by attacking others with you words? I’ll leave that for you to answer, as I truly have no idea.

We all deal with things our own way and I’m not saying your article today was right or wrong for you. It was obviously something that you felt you had to do. I just wonder how many others out there read it, like I did and thought it was nothing more than hypocrisy.

Your article did do something positive for me. It showed me that the way I advocate for those living with autism works for me. It showed me that making another human being feel belittled and “less, not different” is not the way I want to live my life or show my son how to deal with things. I’m thankful that when Matthew reads my blog in years to come I don’t ever have to worry about him asking me why I was mean to those who didn’t know any better. I’m thankful that I can continue to advocate in a positive light and after many years of dealing with ignorance that I finally realized that those people will not change regardless of what way I try to approach them.

So, while at first I shed tears, as I finish these words I realize that I shouldn’t shed tears, I should just continue to do what I am doing. I truly hope you will get to that point sometime. It’s hard with a young child, and although the teenage years pose a whole new set of issues, I am confident that Matthew is finally finding his way in the world and making many of those paths as he travels them.

I wish you well and look forward to continuing following you and your family on your journey, I just had to say my piece even though it may not be among the views of the majority.

With much respect,
Matthew’s Mom,
Tracey

Until next time…

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A Quick Update

Good grief, the last couple of weeks have been quite exciting at The Hideaway.

The words “Thank You” seem so inadequate as I sit here trying to express how grateful and amazed I am by everything that has happened since I posted my open letter to the families of Cape Breton and beyond.

What started out as nothing more than me doing what I could to draw attention to Two Rivers Wildlife Park ended up being an incredible outpouring of support.

The story I shared took on a life of its own and the park has since seen lots of support from members of the community and our province. To think that by sharing our story some good may have come from it is astounding.

Many people were introduced to one of the most amazing people I know – Matthew.  He has truly touched many hearts in these last 2 weeks.  Complete strangers have contacted us and shared their stories and opened their hearts to us.  That’s incredible, and definitely humbling.

Matthew’s love of animals and nature brought him to Two Rivers as a boy who wanted to help and learn.  Little did any of us know how two-fold this would all become.  As proud of him as I am, I am equally as proud of the park and the people who are there.  I’ve said this all before but its impact is worth repeating.

Talking with a new friend this morning, we got on the whole “everything happens for a reason” topic.  I’ve never realized how true this expression is more than I have in the last couple of weeks.

If we hadn’t moved almost two years ago, if we hadn’t made that first phone call to the park, if we hadn’t finally said ‘ok’ to Matthew that he could begin volunteering, if we hadn’t done everything in our power to make it work how different things could be right now – and not necessarily a ‘better’ different.

I normally try not to dwell on ‘what-if’s’ but this one really has me thinking.  This one really had a profound impact.  It helped Matthew more than I could have ever imagined and in turn it brought awareness to one of the best places around here.  Our circle of friends has grown substantially because of it and in a very small way I like to think that yes, we made a difference when Two Rivers needed it most.

People read and watched our story and reacted to it very positively.  People I didn’t even know stopped me out in public and asked if that was my son in the paper and on tv.  Matthew was able to make several donations to the park on behalf of others who dropped envelopes off to us throughout the past couple of weeks.  All because of our story.  That’s crazy!!  We are still trying to absorb it all and grasp the magnitude of it.

For Matthew, an 18 year old guy who is just doing what he enjoys, it has meant sharing his story.  Letting people into his world.  For a private guy who typically doesn’t like to share much that was a lot for him.  To all of a sudden find himself on the front page of our local paper and on the evening news was overwhelming.  But this time it was a different kind of overwhelming.  He wasn’t frustrated or confused about something.  He wasn’t trying to make us understand how he was feeling or what he was thinking.  He was as amazed as we were that so many people cared.  He was thrilled that his story could benefit Two Rivers and he was so pumped that he could finally do something to help.  He made a difference.  He showed that there are no limitations to what you can do and by doing something you love to do you really have no idea where it could lead.

I am hopeful that the good news will continue for Matthew and for Two Rivers.  We don’t know what tomorrow will bring but I suspect someday in the near future there could be so much more to share.

For now I simply wanted to say those two words once again ~ Thank you.  Thank you for taking the time to care.

Until next time…

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One Hundred Thousand Thank You’s

Little did I know on Saturday that this post –> An Open Letter to Families in Cape Breton and Beyond would be viewed 12, 446 as of this evening.  WOW.  Just, wow.

The whirlwind started for Matthew (and everyone out at Two Rivers) yesterday morning when Matthew, John and Jarrett were interviewed by The Cape Breton Post.  Sharon spent a great deal of time with them taking amazing photos, learning about park life and getting to know Matt.  She put together an incredible story that made the front page of today’s newspaper.  –> See it here

Today saw Matthew and the gang at the park hang out with two TV news reporters.  CTV and CBC did a great job telling our story.  –> CTV  and CBC (at the 14 minute mark).

The main purpose for me writing the blog was to raise awareness and to try to help Two Rivers Wildlife Park raise the funds they are so deserving of.  This park is a treasure to Cape Breton Island and to everyone who is fortunate enough to visit our Fair Isle.  The work done there is exemplary and the people who work there are nothing short of the best, as you’ve been able to see with all the media coverage the last couple of days.

I hoped a few hundred people might see my blog.  I hoped to tug at a few heartstrings and I hoped to draw a few people to the park that perhaps had never had the opportunity to visit.  And if one or two people thought enough of my story to make a donation then that would be the icing on the cake.

What I got was so much more.  My blog was viewed around the globe.  Social media exploded, and awareness was created.  Awareness for a wonderful organization and awareness about autism.  I received messages from animal lovers and from people who talked about loved ones living with autism.  You have all opened up to me about two uniquely wonderful topics that deserve our attention.

Thank you for allowing our family to touch your lives, even for a brief moment.  Thank you for understanding the importance of advocating for causes you believe in and thank you for letting our son’s love of animals and nature move you, if even in the smallest of ways.

As we all continue along on our roller coaster I have a new hope.  I hope Two Rivers will find what they need to continue to prosper.  There has to be someone out there who can help financially.  If we could, we’d do it in a heartbeat.  Instead, I’ll continue to spread the word the best way I know how.  I know Matthew has thousands of hours left in him and I certainly wouldn’t dare want to take that away from him, his friends (coworkers) or the animals.  How about you?

Until next time…

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An Open Letter to Families in Cape Breton and Beyond

{EDIT February 1st ~ I only thought yesterdays views of over 2,800 was amazing and far surpassed any goal I could have reached.  Imagine how I’m feeling now seeing an additional 6,330 views for today!!  I am truly mesmerized that so many of you have chosen to read our story.  If sharing this means that it will bring in 1 new visitor or 1 extra donation to Two Rivers Wildlife Park I will be forever grateful.  Thank you all for reading our story, for sending the many wonderful messages to me and for sharing your own stories.  It’s been wonderful watching my words make their way around the world for such a wonderful cause.}

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Matthew’s Mom, Tracey.  Matthew is 18 years old, a junior volunteer firefighter, an animal enthusiast, an avid bird watcher, a nature lover and one of the hardest workers I have ever known.  He is also a volunteer with Two Rivers Wildlife Park.

As you may have heard, the park had to approach the Cape Breton Regional Municipality this week for emergency funding.  Two Rivers has been a Not For Profit organization since 1995 when the provincial government decided to cease operating it as a provincially run park.  Thankfully the community has supported this venture now for 20 years and the park has been able to thrive, expand and continue to offer families year-round, financially-friendly activities.  Whether it be a walk through the animal trails, camping, star-gazing, cross country skiing, swimming, hiking, skating, or walking the well-known Fright Night Trail leading up to Halloween, Two Rivers offers something for everyone.

I will be the first to admit that I was unaware of just how much was available for families until Matthew began volunteering there in April of last year.  I was ignorant to exactly how vital this park is to our community and to those who work there as employees and volunteers.  It’s a community within a community where everyone strives for the same goal.  The camaraderie of the staff/volunteers is like nothing I have ever seen before.

Personally, for our family, Two Rivers Wildlife Park has been instrumental in allowing our oldest son to find ‘his’ place in the world.

Allow me to explain.  If you are a follower of my blog you have watched our journey and have seen Matthew’s growth since he started volunteering at the park ~ and you know what this means for him and us.  If you are not familiar with our story feel free to grab your favorite drink, sit back, relax and read up.  For now, I’ll sum it up quickly by explaining that Matthew lives with autism (asperger’s syndrome).  He was never inclined to be involved in sports or video games; that wasn’t his thing.  He was happiest outdoors, exploring nature and learning everything he could about animals living in the wild.  He’s always been described by those who know him well as ‘an old soul’ and ‘far beyond his years’.  Finding a group of his peers to grow with and spend time with was challenging because let’s face it, you want to spend time with those whom you share common interests.  For a young boy in this day and age being outside exploring all the time left him pretty much on his own as many of the people his age were spending their free time at a hockey rink or testing their skills with their newest video game.  This didn’t dissuade Matthew from continuing to learn everything he could about the animals he loved and the world that was waiting to welcome him.

A year and a half ago our family moved from the city to a more rural setting.  Matthew had almost 3 acres to call his own.  Now going from a small city lot with houses close enough to touch, this was a huge deal for him and for us.  We only thought we never saw him while we were living in the city.  Once he found his bearings at our new home he was outside from sun up to sun down.  The river, the woods, and the gardens all provided him with a place of solace.  He had many different types of wildlife at his fingertips.  Birds, squirrels, fox, ducks, partridge, you name it, we had it.  He was in his glory.

In the spring of last year we finally looked into him volunteering at Two River’s Wildlife Park.  This is something that we had talked about a few times over the years but for one reason or another we just didn’t ever get around to it.  Now seemed like a perfect time.  Mike got the application and he and Matthew went to drop it off and find out exactly what was involved.  Before Matthew committed, we explained to him that if this was really something he wanted to do he would be doing it on his own.  As a volunteer with the fire department, his father was always there with him but going to the park would be different.  Mike and I wouldn’t be there beside him.  If he wanted to do this he would have to understand that he was flying solo.  We had no problem driving him there and picking him up, but we weren’t staying.  He was ok with that and on April 12 of last year he spent his first day at Two Rivers.  To say I was a nervous wreck would be an understatement.  I prayed he would be accepted.  I worried he would be perceived as a ‘know-it-all’.  I feared it wouldn’t be what he hoped it would be.  Thankfully, I couldn’t have been more wrong.  From the very moment he stepped foot on the park’s grounds as a volunteer he was made to feel as though he belonged.  He was accepted.  He was included and he had found a group of his peers with common interests.  The staff and other volunteers took Matthew under their wing and taught him so much.  And it wasn’t just about animals.  In the less than a year that he has been there he has developed skills in so many areas and has learned so much about so many different things.  Construction, landscaping, animal care, maintenance, hay bailing, and the list goes on and on.  He could certainly produce a resume to be proud of ~ all through volunteering.

But you want to know something?  All the hands-on skills are wonderful and amazing, however that’s not what means the most to me about this journey he’s on.  Matthew’s time at Two Rivers has allowed him to find his place and by finding his place he has gained so much confidence in himself.  He has fit in with a wonderful group of people who have accepted him for who he is.  I think, for me, the most significant testament to Matthew was the day he gained the courage to tell one of his co-workers that he lived with autism.  His co-worker (who is a few years older, but not much) looked at him and simply replied, “So?” ….Exactly.  That one word solidified Matthew’s place among those people and showed him that it didn’t matter.  The only difference it made was that his coworkers were then able to understand why Matthew may be a little more fixated on certain things or why he talks non stop a mile a minute about the same topics all the time.  The thing is though, they knew that as they got to know him for him before they knew that autism was part of his world so at the point when he felt comfortable enough to disclose it (more as an explanation than anything) it really and truly didn’t matter.  And for Mike and I that was huge.  Yes, in some areas of Matt’s life autism has meant he had to find different ways to achieve the same results that would come typically to others and we have had to advocate to make sure that he had all the same opportunities presented to him (especially in school) that every other student did.  At the park, this was a non issue.  He was finally in a place where he didn’t have to struggle to fit in and that place allowed him to see the efforts of his hard work almost immediately.

So you see, when you get right into the heart of the park there is so much more to it than animals and trails.  There are stories.  There are successes.  There are people who make a difference far more than they could ever understand by just being there and doing what they do.  There are hundreds of people who have shared their time to volunteer and work at a place that makes more of a difference to the lives of others than I could ever possibly explain.  Young lives from the age of 7 to seasoned contributors in their 80’s have continued to give their time to this park for years.  And why do they do this?  Because of the atmosphere and because of the difference this park has made to our area and the people and families who take advantage of it.

This is our story.  One story.  One family who has been affected by what Two Rivers Wildlife Park has to offer.  To say this past year has changed Matthew’s life is an understatement.  There are simply not enough accolades in the world for us to bestow to them.

And now Two Rivers needs our help.  They’ve hit a bump in the road and they need financial help.  Because it’s a park much of it’s success is weather dependent.  Visitors were down last year and let’s face it, that means they didn’t take in as much money as they needed.  Have you been out there?  Have you really looked around to see what they’ve got going on out there?  It’s so much more than I ever thought.  And it all takes money to maintain.  Things I never thought about before even beyond the animals.  It’s wintertime now.  Pipes freeze.  Trees fall.  Roads need to be plowed.  Animals have to be fed.  Heat and light bills have to be paid.  Staff have to be paid.  Structures have to be maintained.  It all costs.  Even though they are opened all year round to accommodate the winter-enthusiasts as well by offering sleigh rides, cross country skiing, skating and sledding, the numbers through the gates are far lower in the winter months than during the summer.  So what can we do?  It’s actually quite simple.  Take advantage of what Two Rivers Wildlife Park has to offer.

There aren’t very many places around here that a family can go to spend quality time without paying a fortune and have a great, fun-filled day no matter the time of year.  There is something for everyone and I can safely say that it may even take a couple of trips to enjoy all that Two Rivers has to offer.

Perhaps you can’t just hop in the car and make the day trip out there.  Maybe you would like to still help out anyway.  Feel free.  Here’s their website which includes a link directly to Paypal or you can contact them through their phone number to donate that way.

Two Rivers Wildlife Park

Almost 7 years ago Matthew decided he wanted to donate the pennies he was collecting to Two Rivers.  Even back then he wanted to help.  His pennies helped him adopt a reindeer that was actually born the same day Marcus was.  That should have been an indicator of things to come, right there.  Little did we know 7 years ago he’d go from giving a bucket of pennies to a man he didn’t know to spending time assisting with wagon rides and so much more learning from this same man whom he now considers his boss and a good friend.  Just look at the smile.  As he prepares to complete his 1,000th hour volunteering (on Groundhog Day) let’s give them all a reason to keep smiling!

matt and johnnyMatt and horses

Do you have a bucket full of pennies you could spare?  You just never know what it may lead to.  And if you do, make sure you tell them that Matt’s Mom sent you their way.

Until next time…

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What Makes Them Do It?

Something devastating happened today that hasn’t happened in our area in a number of years.  There was a fatality this morning at a house fire.

It doesn’t matter where, it doesn’t matter what departments were involved and it certainly doesn’t matter if the firefighters were volunteer or not volunteer.  All that matters is that there was a fatality.

For the family who lost a member and for the community as a whole, there was a horrific loss of life today and honestly some of the comments I have seen flying around social media today have me sickened.  Sickened that family members may have seen them, sickened that firefighters may have seen them and appalled that any human being with even an ounce of humanity in their souls could have thought them let-alone put them to print.

There is a time and a place to air views on what firefighters do or don’t do (I suppose).  There is a time and a place to squabble about the worth of volunteer vs. non volunteer firefighters (I suppose) and there is a time to rally around all firefighters to let them know how much they are appreciated.

My husband (and many others I know) have the knowledge and experience of both volunteer and non volunteer firefighting.  Do you honestly think that when the tones go off for a call any of these firefighters are thinking about whether or not they are responding as a firefighter who is getting paid or not or that the level of the work they do during that call is going to be elevated or compromised based on whether they are on-the-clock or getting up from a family dinner?  I can tell you most emphatically, the answer is no.

The majority of firefighters do the job that they are there to do.  They protect.  And as with any of us with a job there are times when they fall short of their goal.  Their goal to protect.  Unfortunately, even with the best equipment, the best training, the best gear and the best of circumstances, they do have times when they find themselves in a sorry plight and they end up grieving at the loss of a life.  They go back to the station and spend much time evaluating, reevaluating and dissecting what they could have done different, what they could have done faster, what they could have done to better protect.  Many times there are no answers.  Many times these firefighters have to settle that they did everything they could to protect as best they could.  Not much satisfaction for them or the family of the person whose life was lost.

So what makes them do it?  What makes a firefighter do what they do?  I’ve asked my husband this a few times and I don’t think I ever got an answer that would justify the reasoning behind someone running into a burning building.  It’s a calling, I guess, like everything else.  We all do something and we all have something we do well.  Firefighters are no exception.

Are they heroes? None of the firefighters I associate with consider themselves heroes.  Are they brave?  Much braver than me, yes.  Are they looking for glory and praise at the end of the day?  If they are, they’re in the wrong field.

I read today that volunteer firefighters do a difficult and often thankless job.  I agree, they do a very difficult job.  But I don’t think they do a thankless job.  And I don’t think it’s thanks that most firefighters are really looking for.  Of course, there are those who want the glory and accolades that come with the hero persona portrayed by few, but that certainly isn’t the general consensus.  Who doesn’t like to be thanked for a job well done?  From a corner store worker to a surgeon, from a janitor to a CEO, from a volunteer to a non volunteer firefighter; everyone wants, needs and appreciates thanks.

Firefighters are a special breed.  True firefighters genuinely care about each other and it doesn’t matter how many stripes they have on their shoulders or what department is named on the trucks they drive.  They have a brother/sisterhood like nothing I have ever experienced before.  They reach out to each other in times of need and sorrow.  They make sure they know there is always someone there.

Upon learning of the devastating events today my husband made sure he contacted as many of those as he knew who were directly involved.  This has been something he’s done for as long as he’s served.  He knows the value of knowing someone is there.  Members of the department that he relieved on shift today and others who he personally knew belonging to volunteer departments.  It didn’t matter.  He reached out to firefighters.  Because that’s what he does.  That’s what he was taught to do and that’s what so many other firefighters have done before him and others will continue to do long after he hangs up his helmet for the last time.  The call isn’t finished when the trucks are back in the barn and the equipment is all cleaned and repacked for the next call.  They take care of each other in only a way that firefighters can.  They do their best to protect their communities and they also look out for and protect the protectors.  It’s a life that can’t possibly be explained unless it’s lived.

And as low as the lows are when there is a loss of life; the highs are just as high.  When a firefighter looks into the eyes of a 7 year old girl touring the fire department with her Brownie troop 6 1/2 years after some of those same firefighters pulled her out of a burning building; that’s when they get their thanks.  Not necessarily in the form of words but in the feeling they get with a job well done.  Sometimes words aren’t needed.  Sometimes there simply are no words.

Before you think you have all the answers, remember first, there is always a time and a place.  Firefighters who are firefighters for the right reasons don’t care about the age-old debate of volunteer vs. non volunteer.  A firefighter is a firefighter is a firefighter.  And at 3:00 some morning in the middle a raging snowstorm when your house is compromised by flames, you really shouldn’t care either, as long as trained, competent firefighters are responding when you need them with the services they can provide to the best of their ability.

In a time of tragedy it’s always easy to point fingers.  It’s only too easy to say what should have happened or who should have done what.  Let’s try instead to rally around these men and women and show them our support.  If you ever at any time feel as though you can do better, I’m sure there are many departments that would only be too glad to recruit you to their teams.

To the family who lost a loved one today, may I offer you my most sincere condolences.  To all firefighters who responded to the call early this morning, may I offer you my gratitude.  Your training and your dedication allows you all to run toward danger as many run in the opposite direction.  Your efforts are not unnoticed nor is your dedication and commitment.  May you sleep easily tonight knowing you do make a difference and that your pledge to protect saves many more lives in our communities than are lost.

The man who really counts in the world is the doer, not the mere critic-the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done. ~ Theodore Roosevelt

Until next time…

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My Year in Review 2014

Our first full year at The Hideaway is now under our belts.  It was a great year.  Let’s travel down memory lane.

Our year started as it ended.

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Followed by another huge dumping of snow 2 days later.

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February didn’t get a whole lot better.  We saw ice like we have never seen before.  I think someone is trying to get me used to country living in the wintertime.

3 Feb

March saw the introduction of our Fox Cam.  It was a lot of fun to watch the wildlife during the night and see the paths they took.

4 Mar

April.  Oh April, what can I say?  We survived 5 1/2 days with no power.  Trees down across our laneway making leaving the property impossible for 2 days, ice that broke the strongest of trees and cold, cold temperatures.  It was certainly an experience that left us all thinking we were living in Walnut Grove replaying an episode of Little House on the Prairie.  Matthew began volunteering at the Wildlife Park and Marcus turned 6.  April was a busy month!!

5 Apr

Thankfully by the end of April, that was pretty much over and done with.  May started to see flowers blooming and nicer weather.  The long weekend in May meant the addition to our family as we adopted a rescue puppy from Newfoundland.  She certainly didn’t stay a puppy for very long and fit in to our family quite nicely.

6 may

Finally June arrived and meant summer vacation was just around the corner.  Matthew successfully completed the PEERS Program at his school and received an award for all his hard work.  Let the summer begin!!

7 June

July saw our first of a few gatherings over the summer as we welcomed Mike’s shift to join us for Canada Day.  Lots of fun and a ton of food!

8 July

Marcus also started summer soccer this month.  Kept us busy through the summer and showed us he truly is going to love sports – of any kind.

9 July 2

The weather certainly made up for our long, hard winter and we enjoyed many outdoor activities.  August saw my sister and her hubby host his family reunion and they couldn’t have done a more amazing job.  What a great time!

10 Aug

In the blink of an eye summer was behind us and it was time to get back to the school schedule.  Grade 11 for Matthew and grade 1 for Marcus.  Where does the time go?

11 September

The beautiful weather continued right into October and we took advantage.  During all the storms of the past winter we decided that we better get some of the trees down that were really close to the house.  No reason to tempt fate a second year in a row.

12 Oct

November already.  The weather is still staying really good and Marcus learned a new song this month.  “All I want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth”

13 Nov

The end of November brought heartache to our area.  On a cold Saturday afternoon, St. Mary’s Polish Church in Sydney burned to the ground in a fast-spreading fire that devastated the Polish community along with all CBRM residents.  It was truly the most devastating fire I have ever seen but plans are to rebuild, and I’m sure they will rise far above the ashes to build another church that will mean just as much to its members and the community as a whole.

14 Nov 2

December is here and still no snow.  This time last year we were pretty buried.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, I just hope we don’t pay dearly for this…lol.  The last week of December saw more seasonably cold temperatures which is to be expected.   Christmas was great and New Year’s Eve saw a repeat of last year.  We ended 2014 the exact same way we started it.  At The Hideaway as a family.

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May 2015 be a year for us all to remember – for the right reasons.  Our thanks to all our family and friends for your continued support and love over the last year.  May we all continue to be blessed and look at what we have gratefully.

Until next time…

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