What I’m Thankful For

Though I’m not American, and Thanksgiving was last month for us here in Canada, I saw this writing prompt on Mama Kat’s website and wanted to address it: Write a post, poem, or story about something you’re thankful for this Thanksgiving.  The last week has been a crazy one for me and my family.  It’s been one that has made me realize how lucky I am.  I have a lot to be thankful for.

At the beginning of the week we had a strange thing happen in our small town.  It was something that I haven’t been through before, and it caused me to panic.  There was a “situation” one street past ours, which resulted in a lockdown, with people told to lock their doors and not open them for anyone, while SWAT teams occupied their backyards, rifles in hand.  I wrote all about it yesterday, and you can read that hereThat event made me thankful to be living in a place where something like it is extremely unusual, and where we usually feel safe.

Yesterday I received a call from my mom.  She and my dad were leaving for the airport later in the day, but my mom had some news.  A few days before, when my family and I were at my parents’ house, my dad mentioned that he was having trouble seeing.  My mom and I kind of joked about it, saying that he needed a stronger prescription because his eyes were getting worse with age.  Well, he went to the doctor on Thursday, and then was directed to go immediately to the opthomologist.  Turns out he had a stroke in his eye.  And he can only see haze out of that eye now.  It made me thankful for a number of things.  First, I’m thankful that it just affected his one eye and nothing else.  My grandfather had a stroke when I was pregnant with my oldest child, and after that he didn’t know anyone and said very little more than, “Amen, amen.”  It was devastating to all of us who knew him.  Second, I’m thankful that there is an experimental treatment that he’ll have which involves getting eye injections once a month for a year.  The hope is that it could improve his vision in that eye.  I’m also thankful that my parents are in very good health and, though my dad can’t see out of his left eye now, my parents can still enjoy their lives.  They are now enjoying the warmth of Florida for a few weeks.

After telling me about my dad’s eye, my mom had some more bad news.  She had been talking with a friend of hers, who is also the mom of one of my oldest friends (we’ve been friends since we were 6), and the news was about my friend.  Something is eating away at her breastbone, and the doctors think it’s cancer.  They need to do a biopsy to be sure, and that will happen in a few days, but she’s preparing herself for that diagnosis.  I had the chance to talk to her, and her main concern is for her 4 year old son.  She’s feeling bad that he’s so excited about Christmas but she can’t summon up any excitement because she thinks she’ll be either preparing for or recovering from surgery.  And she’s scared.  Talking to her made me thankful that my friend has a very close family – close emotionally and close in proximity – so she will have a lot of support during this difficult time.  She also has a lot of good friends on whom she can lean.  She commented that the phone calls and texts have surprised her.  I think that knowing she has people who can help her out and are praying for her will make a difference.  It also made me thankful that she has a young son.  It’s going to make her fight hard.  That little guy is her everything, and she wants to make sure she’s strong for him.  Hearing my friend’s news made me thankful for my good health.  You just never know when something can happen – without warning and for no reason – to change your life forever.

Although it’s been a week of strange occurrences and bad news, it’s made me see how lucky I am.  I have a lot to be thankful for, and, if you do too, I would appreciate your thoughts and prayers for my dad and my friend.  Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends.

Quite A Scare

I live in a small town. Not much happens in this small town. It’s usually pretty quiet. Any violent incidents are rare. And that’s why we live here. I used to live in Toronto many years ago – before I met my husband and had children – and had a promising career there in broadcasting. I worked for a national broadcaster, at a TV station. I was working my way up, and at the end of my time there I was the “back-up” Queen’s Park Producer, a production coordinator, and a technical operator. But I did not enjoy living in the city. Of course there were times it was great. Many of my friends from university live there, there’s always a new restaurant to try out, stores are open at all hours so if you need something desperately you can get it right away, and there is always something to do. However, I grew up in a small town. And though when I was a teenager all I wanted to do was get out of that small town (I thought I was plenty sophisticated enough to be in the big city!), I missed the environment. So after almost 2 1/2 years at this television station, with a promising career ahead of me, I decided to quit, go to teachers college, and try to get a job in a small town. And that’s just what happened. Not long after I met my now-husband, got married, and had kids. Until earlier this week I have felt incredibly safe here. Sure I’m paranoid, and so I lock all of my doors even if I’m at home – which is rare around here apparently – but I haven’t feared for my safety or the safety of my family. That changed on Monday night.

It was a windy night. So windy that the power was knocked out in the late afternoon. I was supposed to take my daughter and son out of town for my son’s Tae Kwon Do lesson, and my husband had a Parent Council meeting. We decided the kids and I would stay home instead, in case branches were being blown down and around. We thought staying home would be safer than being out on the road. So hubby left, and my kids and I were just spending time in our living room with candles and flashlights. About 40 minutes after my husband left, I received a text message from my aunt. Here’s what it said: “Not sure about this info but Ken’s Dianne said to lock your doors as someone is running around [your town] with a gun. I tried phoning you.” Without power our phones weren’t working. And then this one from my boss: “[Another man from work] just posted on FB cops with guns came to his door and told him to lock it, don’t answer it and turn his lights out until told by them that it’s ok…Can u call Scott and tell him to get home?” I’ve always thought I was a relatively tough cookie, but this freaked me out COMPLETELY. I should have kept it together a bit more maybe…you know, for the kids. Not that I started panicking or anything, but I did hurriedly close curtains, herd the kids to a room with no windows in our basement – which was difficult because our house is multi-levelled and so much of the basement is partly above ground with lots of windows and light – and told them I needed to get Daddy home immediately. I was shaking too, and when I get stressed I tend to start scratching my legs and neck. I just kept thinking, “I hope someone doesn’t try to break in. What can I hit him with??” Anyway, after an alarming text to my husband he came home and we hunkered down. It was strange with the hydro out too, because it was like in horror movies when the killer cuts the power so it’s dark and spooky! My husband freaked me out even more because every time the kids or I used the flashlights, he’d get upset, worried about someone seeing the light. It was a bizarre few hours. And then, at my insistence because the kids were scared and they COULD NOT keep quiet (go figure, a 7 year old and a 3 year old not being able to keep quiet!), we left town. There were a few streets on lockdown, with police cars blocking the roads and SWAT teams in people’s backyards and front lawns, but we were able to get out. We drove to a place where I always feel safe: my parents’ house. Yes, I drove to feel safe with my mom and dad! At 40 years of age! Well, it was more about having a warm home, separate beds for us to sleep in, lights, and NO PEOPLE WITH GUNS RUNNING AROUND!

Thankfully the police caught one of the two people they were looking for, later that night, and then the other person – who got away that night – was caught in a nearby town a day and a half later. It made me breathe a sigh of relief when I heard that. And realize how lucky I am to live in a town where I feel safe almost all of the time.

…There Is Only Do!

Today was a special day for my son.  He started taking Tae Kwon Do in September – which, thankfully, he loves (he’s tried a number of different things over the last few years and not enjoyed them) – and today was the first day he was going for testing.

He said he was pretty nervous, something he usually is not, and he said, “I don’t think I’m going to get [my belt].”  I assured him that he knew what he was doing, he’d practiced, and he just had to try his best.  If he didn’t get his belt, he would get another chance to try again.

I completely understood how he felt.  I am and always have been a worrier.  My husband is too.  So Zander comes by it honestly, from both sides.  I told him that when I took piano lessons as a kid, I had to participate in a competition.  I was nine, so just over a year older than he is now.  I practiced my song for the competition over and over and over and over…well, A LOT.  I think I was a pretty disciplined child.  I think it was because I worried about messing up.  I worried about what people would think of me if I did mess up.  Mostly I worried about disappointing my parents and my piano teacher.  But I didn’t mess up.  I knew that song so well, that there was NO WAY I could make a mistake.  And I wanted Zander to know that feeling of accomplishment from working hard and achieving your goal.

When we arrived at the testing area/gym, Zander got up with the rest of the students to go through his patterns.  We were about 20 minutes early, and so he had some time to see the ones who’d been doing it for years, and see what they could do.  After some time, it was his turn.  There were four other students in Zander’s level, and as one of the instructors/testers started calling out the commands, I thought I was going to either be sick or have a heart attack.  I was so nervous for my little guy.  I knew he was doubting himself and was unsure of how it would all turn out, and the fact that I had NO CONTROL – unlike when it was my competition – was nerve-racking to say the least.  All I, his dad, his sister, and his grandparents could do was watch and hope, for his sake, that he had an enjoyable experience.  He performed all of the tasks he was supposed to.  He sparred with another student.  And then he had to sit and wait.  Though it was really interesting to see everyone do their thing, including breaking wood slabs with their feet (ouch!), and Zander seemed to be fascinated, I kept thinking, Hurry up, already!  Did he get his senior white belt?

The time came.  All of the students were called back to the floor for the results.  His number was called.  He stood up.  He had to be reminded to say, “Yes, sir.”  We could barely hear it because it was so quiet.  I could tell he was nervous.  Then we heard, “Senior white belt.”  Thank heavens.  Relief.  All I wanted to do was cry.  I was so happy.  We all were.  Including Zander.  It’s wonderful to see him enjoying something so much, and being successful at it.  He says he wants to continue doing Tae Kwon Do forever, and as long as he enjoys it, he will have his own cheering section!  Well done, buddy!  We are so proud of you!