We Need to Talk About This

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

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 post 1,299 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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…
DSCF4280
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

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…

View original post 3,080 more words

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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…

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Local Businesses & Community Groups Step Up for Matthew and Two Rivers

idea

Four months ago we knew the summer was approaching fast and we had to try to find summer work for Matthew.  We knew where he wanted to work but the funding had to be there for that as Two Rivers Wildlife Park is a local not-for-profit organization that relies on community support, government funding and the hard work of many volunteers to remain the successful oasis that it is.

We found out many of the summer grants had an application deadline date of February and we had missed out.  EmployAbility Partnership was all set to get him into a program until they realized he was still going to be a student at the end of the summer.  Their programs are geared towards those who have completed school.

Four months ago we came up with an idea.

What if we could get a local business or service group to come on board and sponsor Matthew at the park for the summer?  With over 1,000 hours volunteered at Two Rivers Wildlife Park he had certainly proven he is committed and dedicated.  If he wasn’t able to gain employment this summer we’d have to try other avenues as he needed some type of income.  The cost of fuel, the clothes, the footwear, the mileage on the vehicle; it was all adding up quickly.  And he deserved to get some type of remuneration while doing something he loved.  Matthew had totally gone above and beyond over the last year ~ even surpassing any expectations his father and I had set for him.  His achievements just kept on keepin’ on.

We knew he was going to be spending his summer at Two Rivers with or without a pay cheque.  He would easily turn his 1,000 hours into 2,000 or more by this time next year.  As a family we decided to forego any  summer plans away from home so we could be here to make sure Matthew got to and from ‘work’ daily once school finished up in June.  It’s the middle of the winter and he’s already talking about how he can’t wait for this summer so he can spend all his time out there.

How could we make this happen?  Well, I guess we could try doing what we do best.  We write.  We tell stories.  People were introduced to Matthew and Two Rivers earlier when my blog post An Open Letter to Families in Cape Breton and Beyond was viewed over 13,000 times in a number of days.  The feedback was amazing.  Local media wanted to tell our story.  We were introduced to people near and far who shared Matthew’s passion for animals and for Two Rivers.  We also heard from many families who live with autism who wanted to share their loved one’s stories.  The buzz that our story generated showed us that people cared, that people were interested and that Matthew was doing as much good for Two Rivers as Two Rivers was doing for Matthew.

With all this in mind I sat at my laptop one Saturday morning and started to develop a proposal that would hopefully find its way to a local group or business willing to form a partnership.  This partnership would directly impact Matthew and Two Rivers Wildlife Park.  Indirectly it would benefit the thousands of people and families that visit the park as well as the group or business we would partner with.  Our partner would see first hand how their contribution would allow this young man to pursue his dream of a possible livelihood at Two Rivers.  Matthew has much knowledge to share and now very eagerly awaits his opportunity to teach complete strangers that visit the park all he can about his world beyond the front gate.

One idea we had for our partnership included a local business donating a trailer that could be placed on the grounds of Two Rivers allowing Matthew to stay a few nights/weeks.  This would allow him to gain independence as he would be away from home but still be in the company of park employees who live within the park’s perimeter.  Travel expenses would dramatically decrease as transportation costs would be cut in half on the days he’d spend overnight.

Our proposal included a copy of Matthew’s hours to date as well as a map view showing the distance between our home and Two Rivers.  Also contained was a collage of pictures showing Matthew on site at the park, at our local volunteer fire department where he is also a member, our family participating in 2 fundraising walks for our local autism society, and Matthew receiving his PEERS certificate last year as he successfully completed a program designed to teach those living with autism how to successfully make and keep friends.  To finish off the package we included a copy of the Cape Breton Post article which told the story of Matthew completing 1,000 hours of volunteer services.

Before we ventured on our way, we showed our package to a few people who gave us a big thumbs-up.  They felt we had done an excellent job outlining our request so early one morning Mikey went on his way with a duo tang containing our proposal for each business and group we wanted to start with.

What happened next was nothing short of amazing.  Mike phoned me at work and told me that he had just dropped off our package with the manager of Stones RV in Sydney.  Tom Buffett briefly skimmed though our proposal as Mike gave him the Cole’s Notes version of why he was there and within that 10 minute encounter Mr. Buffett showed great interest.  Of course, being the middle of the winter he would have to wait until the spring to see what he would have available.  He would also have to speak with his head office in New Glasgow but he didn’t see any reason why he couldn’t find something for Matthew.  Good grief, Charlie Brown…what just happened??

Over the next couple of months we eagerly sat tight on this news and worked out the logistics of this possibility with Two River’s manager, Johnny Huntington.  He was thrilled with the idea that this could happen and started planning a location and setup scheme that would see that Matthew’s needs could be met if he were to take up temporary residence during the summer.  There were a lot of factors to consider and thankfully we had a team willing to make sure that if this became reality it would be a successful venture.  Matthew would know nothing about this just yet.  We wanted to make sure this could really happen before we shared the news with him.

To add to our excitement and to help pass the long winter months, Matthew had quite the honor bestowed upon him on April  21.  He was nominated for and subsequently received the Cape Breton Regional Municipality’s Youth Volunteer of the Year Award.

Award pic

What an amazing evening this was!  To see his many hours of volunteer service recognized on such a level was truly humbling.  Not that Matthew has done any of this for what he would get from it, but in turn it has showed him that by working hard you can achieve great things and be recognized for dedication and commitment.   Achievement takes on many forms.  Everyone has challenges and everyone excels at something.  Whether it be academic success, athletic success or humanitarian success to name a few, everyone has something to contribute.  Finding your path in life is sometimes easier for some than others but I truly believe that everyone has something to contribute.  When a passion and a love leads you to finding your place it’s definitely a bonus.  During the short time that Matthew has been involved with Two Rivers Wildlife Park, he has found his place.  He has found his calling.

As the calendar pages changed the time was getting closer and closer.  Mike touched base with Mr. Buffett at Stones RV and plans were set in motion.  They would deliver and set up the trailer, we would have a sign made and displayed next to the trailer showing Stones RV was a proud sponsor of Two Rivers (big shout out to the Cape Breton Regional Fire and Emergency Service Training and Prevention Divisions for covering the cost of the sign), and Stones RV would be tagged on all PSA announcements run on 3 of our local radio stations throughout the summer.  Thanks to The Cape 94.9CJCB and 98.3 MAX FM for coming on board with this project and being such a huge supporter of Two Rivers and Matthew.

Finally, the day arrived.  Yesterday turned into a flurry of activity as the trailer was delivered and everyone was sitting around waiting for me to get off work so we could take Matthew up and give him his surprise.  Unfortunately, Mr. Buffett was not able to stick around as he had other deliveries to make but I am hopeful he’ll be able to visit Matthew at some point through the summer and that the pictures showing Matthew’s excitement will make their way to him at some point.

As park employees began to gather in the trailer we heard the tractor approaching.  My heart was ready to burst from my chest.  When Matthew got out of the tractor and came around the corner I opened the door and of the trailer and said “Welcome home.  How do you like it?”  Once he realized what was happening, that this trailer was for him, the look on his face said it all.

3

After standing there spellbound for a few minutes the guys inside yelled at him to come see the inside.

4

With a grin from ear to ear we showed him the layout of the trailer and explained all that had gone on to make this happen.   I don’t think I ever heard the words “Thank You” so much in my life.  His excitement was palpable.  A quick trip home to gather up some necessities gave him a chance to process the enormity of all that just happened.  It certainly didn’t take him very long to settle in and have the place looking like ‘home’.

outside view tiny garden the matt cave

With his first night under his belt I can’t wait to hear how he got along.  There will be a transition period for sure, but with the help and commitment of his friends at the park I can only predict that this will be a summer worth remembering for Matthew.

Everyone reading this needs to know that this happened because of the enormous support shown to Matthew by the local business and groups I have mentioned above.  It truly does take a village to raise a child and we have certainly been very fortunate to live in a wonderful community that has stepped up to help Matthew achieve the dreams that were so close within his reach.

And for the icing on the cake, saving the best for last, Matthew’s volunteer hours will be declining by 40 hours/week effective July 1st.  Why is this the icing on the cake, you may ask?  Well, let me tell you; for the next 8 weeks Matthew will be a true, bonafide employee of Two Rivers Wildlife Park.  They successfully applied for a grant that would give Matthew his first job ever!

For some kids, their biggest dream is going to Disney Land.  That was never a dream of Matthew’s.  It would be the total opposite for him – not enjoyable at all.  The crowds, the congestion, the rides, the hustle and bustle; that’s not him.  His dream is Two Rivers Wildlife Park.  A gem of its own right here in our community’s back yard.  Hopefully you and your family will have the opportunity to visit the park this summer and see for yourself why this special place is our son’s equivalent of Disney Land – Two Rivers is his Magical Kingdom.

Until next time…

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dreams DO Come True

two rivers

“one year ago I walked in to the doors of TWO RIVERS WILD LIFE PARK. as some one with a dream. and that dream was to help out the critters at the park by becoming a Volunteer. see I love animals so I thought that would be a great place for me and I was right on so may levels. I learned so much and done so much. and made so many friends. I have some NEWS that I’d like to share with every one that’s been following my story. As of July 1 I’m no longer going to be a volunteer at two rivers . . . . I GOT MY FIRST SUMMER JOB AT THE PLACE I LOVE MOST. July 1 I’m going to be the newest STAFF MEMBER OF TWO RIVERS WILD LIFE PARK!!!..i’d like to thank my mom and dad and Johnny Huntington for making this happen!”  ~ Matthew Hilliard, May 19, 2015

Pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?

By the time July 1st rolls around Matt will have just about, if not over, 1400 hours under his belt volunteering.  It’s the next 320 hours that will be making him gleam.  Typing that seemed funny.  A mere 320 hours compared to 1400.  There are just over 4 groups of 320 hours in the 1400 that he’s completed in almost 14 months.  Averaging 100 hours/month plus school, plus his involvement in the fire department.   Seriously, that makes me shake my head.  A lot of hours for someone to dedicate.

Now he will be able to say that his first job, his first real, paying job is where he said it would be.  It will be exactly where he wanted it to be since he was a little boy.  I think that’s quite an accomplishment in itself.  Actually getting hired at the place where you hoped and dreamed to work many, many years before.  Imagine that.

Can you or I say that?  Some can, but I suspect it’s not the majority.  The only other person that I can remember actually doing what she said she was going to do with her life from the age of 5 is my sister.  She was going to be a nurse and she never swayed from that for one minute.  And one helluva nurse she is.

As nursing was and is a passion for her, wildlife has always been a passion for Matthew.  Maybe they are 2 people who truly followed through with their dreams regardless of the hurdles.  I couldn’t imagine going through the years of university and training and long hours and horrible shifts and awful circumstances that my sister encountered over the years.  But she wouldn’t trade it for anything.  She continues to better herself, she’s constantly reevaluating her goals and making sure that she remains on top of her game.  She loves her career and anyone who knows her or has been in her care will attest to that.  Her’s isn’t just a job, it’s a calling.  A calling that she followed from the young age of 5 years old.

It’s not a whole lot different for Matthew.  He’s not years into his career yet like his aunt is but the enthusiasm and determination that I saw in her all those years ago is being mirrored by him now.  She proudly displayed her candy-stripper’s uniform as she volunteered at our local hospital many years ago as eagerly as Matt wears his Two Rivers Volunteer shirt and hat today.  As humbly and professionally as she carried herself through the hospital corridors he now walks the grounds and trails of the park.  The similarities between the two are quite amazing as I sit here and think about it.

And perhaps this is all what makes it so easy for Mike and I to do whatever it is we can for Matthew to help his dreams become reality.  Mom and Dad certainly went above and beyond for both Allana and I but with her going away to university and needing to fulfill her dreams hours away from home it was a little (ok, a lot) more challenging for them with her than it was with me.  I stayed home to go to university and let’s face it; the costs associated with my degree and her degree where at opposite ends of the spectrum.  While we both did our part contributing to our education by getting the necessary financial assistance that we could it also required the less-than-glamorous summer jobs of doing whatever we (or Dad)  had to do to make it all happen.

I watched as my parents did without and scrimped and saved to give each of us what we needed because they saw the desire, especially in my sister, for her to “be” something.  And not just ‘something’.  A nurse.

She wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.  She learned how to help people through birth, death, illness and recovery.  Life.

Matthew’s passion isn’t that far off track from my sister’s.  He has witnessed birth, death, illness and recovery, as well.  With animals.  In less than ideal conditions.  He’s learning his craft through hand’s-on experiences.  While he may not go to university or become a veterinarian he is certainly following in her footsteps.

 The similarities can even go as step further as they both share another life-long dream turned reality in that they are both volunteer firefighters.  My sister celebrated her 5th birthday with a firefighting themed birthday party and as soon as age permitted, she was accepted as a member of the fire department that saw many family members before and after her commit their time to.

This certainly isn’t the angle I expected this entry to take but the more I wrote and the more I thought of the parallels the more blown away I became.  Why didn’t I put all this together before?  It’s really freaking me out as I sit here.

I’ve watched my sister embrace her dreams, get a position in her field and work her way up.  Even though it’s been and taken her years, it seems like it was just yesterday that it all started for her.  All I can hope for Matthew is that his first summer job is the beginning of as many years of enjoyment in a position that he loves as much.

I’ll keep you posted.

Until next time…

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment