Thursday, September 22, 2011

My apologies, it has been far too long since I wrote a post... to be honest, the words are not coming to me... my life experiences and stories are all jumbled in my head and sometimes it is hard to get it out, maybe it's my subconscious telling me to slow down the story, now may not be the time to tell it.  It is a very personal story that I know I am taking a risk by sharing it with the world but the reason I do it always overpowers any conflicts I may have about telling it... the fact that I could reach out, shape my words into a hand and help someone up off their knees because they feel the pain that I have felt or have faced the challenges I have faced.  If my words, so simple yet so complicated, can support even one person reading them to keep going for another day, another week, another month in the face of adversity... then they are so worth it. 

I have been really busy lately with work and home life, it has been hard to find time outside of work, family and personal time.  The summer comes to a quick and abrupt end as David goes back to school and we gained another family member in the house, my 17 year old nephew has moved in with us from Winnipeg who is also going to school.  He reminds me a little of myself, he moved away from his friends and family to get a fresh start, finish school and re-prioritize... it takes alot of guts to do that, but us Olszowiec's seem to have those rock hard guts that keep us going :)  He is a very quiet kind of guy, has a really nice smile when you see it and he loves his movies and games.  David just turned 14 and he is a special young man, very sweet and funny (but only when HE wants to be or wants something... haha)... I am very blessed.

So funny to think back to this time last year, it was just me and D... since then my family has grown to include my amazing, super sweet hunny, Clayton, his two dogs, Duke and Bella and now my nephew... Bella and I are the only girls, but I think we hold down the fort pretty good... however, we may need to add another girl soon ;)  Life and emotions change so quickly... it's almost impossible to give up because you just never know when things will change for you.

Always remember to never have any regrets because you can't change the past, learn from your mistakes and apologize where you need to but it's ok to politely take a stand for what you believe in.  People come into your life for a reason, they may not be in your life for long or they may be there to the very end, either way you should always remember the great times and great teachings you get from them and smile, you are a much better person having had them in your life.  I hope you all have a fabulous day and weekend ahead.  I will try to be back soon.

All my relations :)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Retiring my running shoes

I went to a new chiropractor the other week and she was great, I told her all my problem areas; I had a car accident a few months ago that hurt my neck and shoulder and a baseball injury last year that hurt my ankle.  My ankle has never been the same since my injury, I went running for the first time in a few months and the next day it was swollen.  I tried running again two days later but it hurt so I didn't want to push it.  That was the day I went to the chiropractor and got a bit of a lecture on why people shouldn't run, that long term studies show serious wear and tear on the joints.

I ran a marathon once in Maui, it was in September of 2008.  I had never been much of a runner before that, but my son had run the kids marathon earlier that year and I came across Team In Training which is an organization that raises money for leukemia and lymphoma and provides support for you to raise money and train for a marathon.  I was interested so I went to an information session.  At the session, it was explained how it worked, I had to raise at least $5000 to run a marathon in Maui... what a great experience that would be!  They have coaches to help you train for your marathon.  So I checked the box that said "Maui Marathon" and when it asked for the "walk or run" option, I checked "run" and finally it asked "half or full" and I checked, "Full"... go big or go home, I thought to myself... I think I was a little too ambitious, as usual.

So I started training and fundraising right away, the fundraising was like having a part time job.  I collected money, held pub nights with a raffle, 50/50 draw and silent auction, BBQs at the local grocery store, poker nights at my friend's places, etc.  It took a really long time but eventually I made it just to over $5000, it was for a good cause and I thought about my friend I lost to cancer alot, especially when I was training.  Running is not really that much fun.... haha... there is a point that you get to around 10km where you feel like you can conquer the world but it's really hard to get to that 10km... and I was due to run 42km... what was I thinking!?  I just kept telling myself that people with cancer have to suffer alot more than I was when running, so it was worth all the aches, pains and blisters.  As the marathon drew closer, I was getting nervous... I had only been running since mid-May and the marathon was in September... that's only 4 months to train for 42 km.  I just hoped that I could finish it.  I was struggling with my knee, it just wasn't cooperating... I had hoped it would not bother me too much.

September rolled around and I hopped on a plane bound for Maui with my running shoes and team I had been training with for the last four months.  We were excited and I was nervous.  I had never been to Hawaii before so I was pretty excited about that too.  We landed in Hawaii and drove to our hotel, it was beautiful!  We spent the evening preparing ourselves for the next couple days.  We had one full day to ourselves, then marathon day and the next day we came home.  On the day we had to ourselves, I went scuba diving... our hotel had their own equipment and dive instructors.  It was amazing, I love scuba diving and can't wait til I am able to do more of it.  It was a nice relaxing way to spend the afternoon before a full marathon.

In the morning, we were woken up by our coaches and piled onto a bus headed to a town which happened to be 42km away from the hotel, this is where the race started... it ran all along the coast and through a couple little villages before arriving at the finish line by the hotel.  It was dark as we drove out there.  I was nervous but excited too, my goal was to finish the race and that is what I was about to do.

The race started off great, I felt great... I ran with a smile on my face, taking in the beautiful sights of Maui... the first half of the marathon flew by like nothing and it seemed so easy... the second half... not so much, about halfway there was a steady incline up a hill on the coast, it was beautiful, but this is where my knee started to bother me... shit... alot of times I had to stop and walk for the next few kms.  I found a stuffed batman on the side of the road and picked him up, he reminded me of strength.  Strength I needed to dig deep into to finish this race with a really sore knee.  Eventually the hill started going down, running downhill is nicer but when your knee bothers you it makes it worse.  I ended up walking alot of the second half of the marathon.  I was pretty much ready to give up about 3/4 of the way there when my coach showed up on the side of the street cheering me on... he said I was the last one on our team to come by him so he ran with me.  Coach Ray and batman helped me finish the race that day... I crossed the finish line after 6 hours!  I was so proud of myself to have finished the marathon, what an accomplishment.  I cried as I crossed the line, it was one of the best feelings in the world :)

After coming home and having a long rest for my knee, I continued running... I became a mentor for Team In Training and mentored a group of fundraisers for the BMO Half Marathon in Vancouver in May 2009.  It was fun and I ran the half marathon with no problems and finished just after 2 hours.  It was my personal best and it was at this point that I decided that I didn't really like to run and retired my running shoes for the first time.

Fast forward to the summer of 2010, I was running from second base to third base when some idiot in the left field tried to throw me out at third but instead of throwing it to the third baseman, he threw it at me, as hard as he could and it hit my ankle hard enough that it flipped me over in mid air and I landed on my ass.  Someone picked me up and the pain hit me.  I threw my helmet and walked as far away as I could because I could feel the tears ready to flow.  It swelled up pretty good and I thought it was broken, I spent the next day in the ER but they said it was too swollen to tell if it was broken.  I couldn't drive because it was my clutch foot and I could barely walk on it... I missed a week of work and it took alot longer than that to heal completely, in fact it still hasn't healed completely.  During this time, all I wanted to do was run... I longed for the day I could put my sneakers on and run.

In September 2010, I felt pretty good about running so that's what I did... I ran every morning, I had a 5k loop that I ran every morning and every morning I tried to make the time shorter... by November, I had 5k down to 19 minutes, I lost like 20 pounds and felt so strong until my stupid knee started bothering me again.  I had to cut down on the running.  It wasn't until I met with my chiropractor when I really decided it was time to stop altogether.  So, she said I could swim, do yoga and powerwalk... they have all the same benefits as running without the wear and tear... so I hung up my running shoes.  It was a good "run", thanks for the fun!

All my relations :)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My new life as a young Mom...

I started off breastfeeding David but if you ever find a Mom that said it was pleasant, I call bullshit... it was far from a pleasant experience for me... I was 18 years old and too embarrassed to feed my child in front of anyone so I would go to my room for privacy and after a couple weeks, it was not convenient and it just hurt too much to keep doing it.  I had a health nurse that attended my house once a week to check on me and David.  She said if I absolutely had to stop then I would have to buy formula for him... I didn't care, I was done with the breastfeeding.  So David moved onto formula.  He didn't like it, well I guess he liked it well enough but it didn't like him... he got really gassy and cried alot, I noticed after a while that he was getting constipated too.  I asked the health nurse what I should do and she told me to try him on lactose free formula to see if it made a difference and holy cow, he was a totally different baby who had a much easier time feeding.  So it turns out my boy is lactose intolerant, I suppose there are alot worse things he could have had so I will live with that.

My Mom had suggested that I stay home for a year with David before going back to school, I was ok with that suggestion because I actually wasn't sure if I was going to go back to school or not.  I didn't actually have any plans at that moment in time, all I could focus on was one day at a time and this little person that I was responsible for all by myself.  My Mom used my inheritance to help me financially for a few months, she sent me money every month for my rent and bills.

I tried to carry on with the same lifestyle I had previous to having David which involved friends, boys, drinking and partying, not quite as much because I had to find a babysitter whenever I wanted to do that AND I had to pay them!!  For someone who was living off their Mom, I didn't have this kind of extra money.  I was lucky to have support from friends and their Moms who always liked to have David come visit or stay over... or at least I think they liked it... haha... I admit that there may have been times that they begrudgingly said yes even if they had plans. I guess because he was just so darn cute!

It wasn't long before I realized that living off my Mom wasn't the ideal situation to be in, she lived in a different province altogether and she was paying my rent and bills.  I had to figure something out... but what?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

1997... a year of gains and losses... (Part 3)

My Mom and I arrived at the hospital early in the morning on September 19th, 1997.  My best friend was also going to be present for the birth of my son, this had to be the scariest day of my life.  Not only was I going to be cut open, I was going to be a Mom.  I was given an needle in my spine, I have never seen the size of the needle they put in there but I hear it's pretty big and scary so I am glad they didn't show me.  This needle caused total loss of control and feeling from my chest to my toes... the doc asked me to move my legs and I couldn't... someone had to pick them up and move them.  I was strapped to a gurney with both arms straight out on either side of me... the reason I was strapped down was so I didn't move since I was awake for the surgery, they placed a sheet across my chest so I couldn't see what they were doing which was a little nerve wracking since I couldn't see or feel anything they were doing.  I kept having to ask my Mom if he was out yet and she would keep looking around the sheet and back at me saying he wasn't yet.

Then I heard the most beautiful sound that I have ever heard in my life, my baby boy crying... he was out of my belly and not very happy about it.  I cried when I heard him crying and wanted to see him right away.  They checked him out and wrapped him up before bringing him over to me, I wasn't able to hold him because they were still stitching me up and I couldn't move, so all I could do was look at him while my Mom held him in front of me... he was beautiful and I could not wait to give him his name.  I had decided on his name very soon after I found out I was pregnant with a boy.  I wanted to give him a name that honoured a very special man that I have ever had the pleasure of having in my life, so I named him David, after my Dad.  I also wanted to honour my brothers so I added their middle names, Brian and Scott, Brian was also my Dad's middle name and the name he was called by his family.  Most importantly, I wanted my son to carry on the Olszowiec name so he was given this as well... so my new little man's name was David Brian Scott Olszowiec, a little person with a big name who already meant so much in his first few minutes of life.

The year wasn't quite over yet... I had one more loss that I had to deal with.  I came home with my baby and while most people have the pleasure of motherhood coming naturally to them, there are the select few where that does not come naturally and I was one of them.  Keeping in mind, I was just 18 years old with a brand new baby... I now know it's normal to not have those motherly instincts right away but some people sure made me feel like I wasn't doing a very good job.  Mom and her boyfriend had sold her house and were all set to go to Manitoba, she asked a couple times over the course of David's first two weeks if I wanted to come with her and I still declined the invitation... I couldn't bare to leave my life behind in Enfield.  So, she packed up and left when David was just two weeks old, watching her drive away was almost as hard as saying good bye to my Dad and alot of people judged her for doing such a horrible thing to me (insert sarcasm here).  I was sad for a couple days, but come hell or high water I was going to be a Mom to this little boy and I was going to be the best Mom I could be and believe it or not, I wasn't really that worried that my Mom wasn't around in body because I could always feel that her spirit was with me and David.  As it turns out, I think it was the best thing she ever did for me.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

1997... a year of gains and losses... (Part 2)

So there I was, 17 years old, high school drop out, just lost one of my great friends to cancer, still hadn't dealt with the death of my own father and I was pregnant... not just any pregnant... half-way-through-my-pregnancy pregnant.

I don't know if you know anything about abortion, because I certainly didn't at the time and I didn't mention this before but my first thoughts when I saw a positive sign on the pregnancy test was that of abortion, simply because I saw it as an easy way out and I was a stupid naive teenage girl.  My Mom won't like reading that part, sorry Mom.  But, I am not against abortion and there are circumstances where abortion may be appropriate, I wouldn't choose to do it now if I had to make the same decision knowing what I know now.  Anyway, there are limits to having abortions, there is a one day procedure that you can get up to 12 weeks pregnant and a two day procedure from 12-18 weeks pregnant and then that's it.  So, in reflection... finding out I was pregnant at 19 weeks just means that my son was really meant to be in my life... the first solid bit of evidence in my life that everything happens for a reason.

Alright... so now what?  Well I went back to my doctor, he was concerned about how far along I was and not being on any supplements and not having any prenatal care thus far.  When he asked if Mom knew, I lied and said she did.  He made a referral to the Maternity hospital for prenatal care right away.  I went in as soon as they had an appointment available and I was eager to express my concerns for my baby because I had done alot of things during his first 19 weeks of life that you aren't supposed to do when you are pregnant.  The prenatal nurse asked me what I had done and I was embarrassed to tell her; I had smoked cigarettes, drank alcohol, alot of alcohol, smoked pot, may have dropped LSD, was on the birth control pill, had xrays at the dentist, went on roller coasters in Disneyland, and got in a car accident... do I need to go on??  I was surprised that the prenatal nurse didn't really express as much concern as I had, in fact told me that I shouldn't worry and as long as I didn't do any of those things anymore, the baby will be fine and an ultrasound would show any abnormalities.  Maybe she just didn't want me to stress out... I don't know... either way I got another ultrasound scheduled to check his well being.

I had other issues to worry about, I still hadn't told my Mom or my brother, a couple of my friends knew and it was only a matter of time before it got out but my boyfriend didn't know either... that was a whole other can of beans to open.  I was so in love with my boyfriend at the time and had been for a couple years... he was super sweet and cute, older, had a truck and a job... all the things a 17 year old looks for in a boyfriend... lol.  However, I had a big problem... when I counted the weeks back to conception, it landed on Christmas eve of 1996, unfortunately, my boyfriend and I were broken up at the time and that meant that he was not the father.  Uh oh... not a good situation to be in for many reasons but mainly because I had to tell my boyfriend that I was in love with that I was not only pregnant but the baby wasn't his.  How the hell was I going to do that without losing him?  I carried on for a couple more weeks not telling anyone... Mom found out first.

The doctor called to remind me that I need to get blood work done before reaching 26 weeks and since I had lied and told him that Mom knew, he left the message with her and that is how she found out... I think he did it on purpose because he must have known I was lying.  Mom called all over the place looking for me and when she found me, I picked up the phone, said hello and on the other end she screamed "Why didn't you tell me??" and at first I acted like I didn't know what she was talking about... she said, "You know what I am talking about, get your ass home right now"  Immediately, I began to cry and told her I was scared.  I hung up the phone and like a puppy with my tail between my legs, headed home.  I can't really remember what happened when I got home but it was either that night or soon after that Mom told my brother and the three of us had a family "meeting" about what I was going to do.  I was crying, and all I remember is my brother telling me that I should consider adoption because my life was going to be very hard if I kept him.  By this time, I had already chosen to keep him and I felt like I really disappointed my family.  Right in the middle of this meeting, the door bell rang and it was my boyfriend!!  I opened the door in tears and he was worried about me, he asked if I was ok and I told him I was and asked him to wait upstairs for a minute... that must have been very awkward for him.  My Mom, brother and I finished our chat and the last thing my brother said was to make sure I tell my boyfriend as soon as possible, he didn't know what I had to tell my boyfriend... yet.  The thought had crossed my mind a few times that I could just not tell him the difference and how would he ever know... but I just couldn't do that to anyone involved, it would have been a huge lie to keep and one thing I learned from being raised a Catholic is that lying is wrong... especially something like that.  So I had resolved to tell him, I just didn't know when... I was such a coward.

As it turns out, I didn't have to tell him either... my close friends knew and also knew that the baby wasn't his so since its a small town and loyalty between friends comes and goes... he found out from someone else.  I never got a chance to explain, he didn't let me and just like that, it was over.  I figured it was best but was mad at myself for not telling him before someone else did.  At this point, I wasn't sure what was worse, him thinking that I cheated on him and got pregnant or the rest of the town thinking that I cheated on him and got pregnant.  I cared alot about what everyone thought about me and well this was a good story to tell in our small town so I am sure it would spread around pretty quick.  Another part of the interesting story... if it's not him, then who is the baby's father??

I knew who it was and I had told him at some point during all this craziness.  He said he would do his best to support me but had lots of his own issues as a teenage boy so as people started finding out he was the father, he quickly turned to denial.  I don't want to give him too much space here... he will come up again later... but as much as I dislike the decisions he made, a very small... and I mean tiny... part of me is grateful for the small part he played in creating my son.

Ok, so I was going to regular appointments, the baby was healthy according to the ultrasound, everyone knew and I was growing... I continued going out and chilling out with my friends and going to parties, just didn't do any of the drinking or drugs.  I was always the sober driver.  I liked being pregnant, I felt happy after all the crazy turmoil was over and couldn't wait to meet my son.  I was nervous about being a parent and how I was going to do it, Mom was planning a move before she found out I was pregnant and had decided she was going to sell the house.  She wanted me to come with her to Manitoba, but I wasn't interested... I wasn't ready to leave... yet.  I think she still hoped I would change my mind once the baby came.

As September grew closer, I went for a final ultrasound to see how baby was doing and he was so big and cute inside my belly... well as cute as a baby can be through an ultrasound machine... but he was breech, he hadn't turned around yet to get ready to exit my body.  As time went on, they kept checking if he turned yet and he hadn't, the doctor tried to move him from the outside of my body by standing over me and pushing on his head which really hurt.  He didn't turn around and I was given the option to have him feet first and have the chance of the umbilical cord wrapping around his neck or a cesarean section... hmmm... I chose a cesarean and my baby was going to be born on September 19th.  Mom had helped me move into my own apartment and fully furnished it with furniture from her house since she was moving.  Now all we had to do was wait....

... to be continued...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

National Aboriginal Day 2011

If you had asked me about what National Aboriginal day means last year or even earlier this year, I wouldn't have known what to tell you... while I am part Aboriginal on my Mom's side, all I knew about being Aboriginal was that I had this card that said I was a Status Indian which gave me privileges my non-native counterparts did not have like tax free purchases on or delivered to the reserve and a "sponsored" post secondary education.  I don't know anything about Cree culture or traditions which I always thought was because my Mom married a non native man and I have never lived on a reserve.  Up until this March 2011, I worked with people with developmental disabilities and could tell you alot about their history and challenges in today's society but I could not tell you much about Aboriginal people, late last year I decided it was time to change that.

I had gotten as far as I thought I was going to get in helping people with developmental disabilities, I was unhappy with the state of affairs in this province and the lack of available employment opportunities for people with developmental disabilities.  I no longer worked directly with people which was a decision I made the year before because of the challenges I was facing at the community level so I took an opportunity where I could make changes at a global level.  Unfortunately, the disconnect from the community level and red tape of the global level prevented me from enjoying the job to its fullest.  There were aspects that I loved; the few times I got to work directly with people, networking, organizing and hosting international speakers and providing keynote speeches for businesses and of course, my coworkers were amazing people.  However, over Christmas, I went home to NS for an extended Christmas vacation where I decided my time was up and it was time to move on and for whatever reason, I decided working with Aboriginal people is where I wanted to be.  I had just met a wonderful person a couple weeks before leaving for Christmas vacation who also had Aboriginal ancestry and this had intrigued me as well.

After coming back home to BC, I started looking around at local Aboriginal organizations that could use my education, experience and skills and that is when I found a local Aboriginal organization that is delegated to provide family support and child protection services to Aboriginal children.  They were hiring social workers, so after checking out their vision and mission on their website and the job description, I thought it was a perfect fit and applied.  I was called for an interview for a Child Protection Social Worker, quickly prepared myself for it and was interviewed by three people at the organization.  The interview went exceptionally well as I was being myself and just drew upon my experience with people with developmental disabilities to answer their questions.  I was contacted within one week and conditionally offered a job depending on the results of my criminal record check and degree verification, I went into the office to fill out that paperwork.  Another week went by before hearing from them again... they wanted to check my references which included my current supervisor.  That meant I had to talk to her and tell her my intention to leave, which I did and she kindly provided a reference for me.  I was offered a job and gave my two week notice.

I was nervous and excited to make the move, I started on March 14th and although it's only been a little over three months, I feel like it was the right move and I am exactly where I am supposed to be.  I have been so lucky to learn about culture and tradition while getting paid.  I have had a once in a lifetime opportunity through this work to do 8 weeks of classroom training that is culturally sensitive to Aboriginal people and guided by the Child, Family and Community Services Act and Aboriginal Operational and Practice Standards and Indicators.  I honestly could not think of a better fit for my life right now.

So, with this fabulous experience, I still have alot to learn but I do know a little more about what it means to be Aboriginal and why I don't carry any of the Cree culture or traditions thanks to colonization and residential school systems.  I plan on learning and sharing my teachings with my Mom whose culture was taken away from her.  I also look forward to using these teachings to help families and children who continue to be affected by the government's acts of assimilation so many generations ago and in a way, continues to happen today.

But for today, we celebrate for the resiliency and strength of Aboriginal people in Canada, celebrate their culture and traditions and honor those who lived and thrived on this land thousands of years before any European descendant ever set foot in the sands of the coasts of Canada.  Happy Aboriginal Day!

Raised a Roman Catholic (Part 3)

Okay so I don't feel right about walking away from this story just yet and leaving you in limbo... my Dad was a very well respected man who was brilliant AND cool... not very often you get that combo... but he was also human and made mistakes.  Mistakes that we have all learned from and taken something away from.  I believe we have all forgiven him for his infidelity and though it took many many years after his death for me to deal with it, I have always been proud to be his daughter.

We carried on living in Venezuela watching my Dad walk in and out of the house like it was nothing.  Luckily for us, we made a few friends, Mom made a friend named Andrea a couple doors down where we often went for lemonade and canasta.  I enjoyed watching the local boys play baseball in my backyard and made a friend from Tuscon, Arizona.  Mom made Dad take us to church on Sundays which I guess she thought would make him right again.  The church was beautiful, it had beautiful painted ceilings and large open windows so the birds could fly in and out.

One of the hardest things during this situation was spending time with Dad... I really wanted to because I missed him but felt like I was betraying my Mom too by somehow condoning his behavior.. especially when one day he took me to the local swimming pool to hang out with... you guessed it... his "friend" and her two kids.  Words cannot even begin to explain the mixed feelings I had in this awkward moment when I realized who he was introducing me to... this man had to have gone nuts!  I told Mom because I felt so guilty about it, she was sad and angry.  One Sunday at church, my Mom and I were kneeling down to pray and she told me to go find my Dad because mass was about to start... I went down the aisle to the front door of the church where my Dad was laughing with that stupid woman, what was she doing there??  I was angry she was there, so angry I wanted to punch her.  How could she show up at church when she knew damn well my Mom was going to be there.  I went back to where my Mom was sitting and told her she was there... my Mom was praying and she looked up to look at her as she walked by... the woman turned and smiled at us... the most evil smirk I have ever seen on a woman's face, I will never ever forget that smile and all I could think was, what a bitch.  Protection of my mother was very important during this time and I was so angry with her and my Dad for her presence.

It was shortly after this incident when I begged my Mom to go home to NS, I desperately wanted to get her out of there before Christmas and get her home to my brother who I knew would help me be there for her.  She agreed and we planned to go home.  We left Venezuela on December 9th... which proved to be one of the saddest days of my life, we said good bye to my father who, for the first time, acknowledged his mistake. He was losing what he had left of his family... the defeat showed in his body language as he stood in the window of the airport crying while we walked across the tarmac to the plane... I turned back several times as I sobbed uncontrollably to wave at my Dad.  We boarded the plane and when I got to my seat and looked out the window, I could still see my defeated father with his head hanging low.  I didn't know if I was ever going to see him again... and as it turns out, I never did see him alive again.

Raised a Roman Catholic (Part 2)

Before I carry on with this post, I just want to let readers know that these life events are being told to you for a reason, they are very personal stories of my life and some people might not like what they read but I feel they are significant events that challenged me and made me into the person I am today... I share them because even when you are faced with the worst moments of your life, there is always a bright side and always something you take away from it.  Once again, I ask that you bear an open mind and refrain from judgments while reading, if you are not ready to do that, kindly carry on to the next blog :)

So there I was, 14 years old and had just experienced my first life changing event... I had lost my Dad, again.

Rewind to 1993, I lived in a large house in Milford, NS with my Mom, Dad and two brothers, actually I think my oldest brother was living in Manitoba at this time... he had moved out when I was 10 and he was 18.  I don't think he could wait to move out and he moved really far away.  Dad hadn't been working for a while because the mining industry was really slow and he spent alot of time at the church, helping with various groups there and praying for a job.  Then his prayers were answered and he was offered a job in Venezuela, South America.  He took the job and left in early 1993, Mom and I were to follow when school was finished, so we packed up the house and sold almost everything we owned, stored the rest and when school ended we moved out of Milford and into my Mom's friend's place in Stewiacke to wait to go to Venezuela... July passed... then August... then when September came, Dad still hadn't sent for us... school was starting again and so Mom thought I better start school, she didn't know why he wasn't sending for us but he just kept saying the house wasn't ready.  October was there before we knew and Mom finally told him we had to come now, we were living out of suitcases just waiting... so on October 17th we left Nova Scotia, leaving behind my brothers, my friends and my boyfriend, not knowing when I was ever going to see them again... this was very sad for a 14 year old girl who's friends mean the world to her.  We arrived in Venezuela on October 18th, I was so excited to see my Dad after many months of being apart but something was up, he just wasn't quite the same.

We drove from Caracas to a small gold mine town called El Callao, it seemed to take forever but I will never forget the beauty and smell of the land as we drove through the luscious green rain forest and small old towns.  We drove through the town and passed through streets made of brick, many people and dogs milling about and it was hot.  The buildings were old, some were falling apart and music played everywhere.  It was, in its own way, a beautiful little town.  We drove up a winding hilly road to a gate, the driver gave the security man a wave and opened the gate... we drove through and into a large subdivision I suppose, where every house looked exactly the same, they were long and horizontally parallel to the street.  The houses were situated around a central baseball diamond and a couple of basketball courts, there was also a little restaurant on the corner.  We pulled into one of the houses and unloaded, Dad brought us inside and showed us our new home.  The door went through to a kitchen from the carport, the kitchen had a sliding glass door that opened up to a cement patio like place, the cement came up to my neck and the rest was covered by security bars so it was kind of like looking outside from jail.  Through the kitchen the middle part of the house opened up to a large living room and dining area with a front wooden door and a back sliding glass door that backed onto the baseball diamond, the back patio wasn't as jail like... it actually had a door made up of bars that opened to the back yard, so you could see outside even when it was closed.  To the left of the living room was a bathroom and my parent's bedroom, to the right was another bathroom, my bedroom and what Dad called the office where I was going to do my school work.  I settled in and we got ready for dinner.  Dad still wasn't himself.

The next day, I was moping around in my room, missing my friends and wondering why Dad was so weird the day before.  My Mom asked me to come look at something, I came out of my room where she showed me a shirt that belonged to my Dad that was in the washer, with what appeared to be lipstick on it.  How cliche, a collared shirt with lipstick on the collar... does that really happen in real life?  Mom was sad, and I wanted to take that pain from her, I wanted more than anything for that bright pink mark not to be lipstick... Dad had some explaining to do.  Keeping in mind that I am 14, this was way too much information for my little innocent-ish brain... could my all time hero in my life actually be committing the ultimate sin??  We would soon find out.

Dad came home from work and was confronted with very loud words that I couldn't really make out over the air conditioner in my room... I was scared... Mom came to my door crying and told me that my Dad had something to tell me... I came out of my room and looked at my Dad whose body language said it all.  Mom tried to make him tell me, but he didn't need to... I already knew, I turned and went back into my room, closing the door behind me before bursting into tears.  Suddenly everything made sense, why he took so long to send for us, why he acted strange when he picked us up and why he was weird at dinner last night.  Dad left shortly after Mom confronted him and I tried my best to console her, all we had was each other, it was only our second day in a foreign country with no friends or family nearby and we had to get through this together.  I suggested we go home and Mom said no, she was determined he would change and that he would love her again... I hoped she was right...

The next few weeks were difficult to say the least, we tried our best to act normal on the outside but on the inside there was turmoil... Dad would come home from work to have a shower, eat dinner with us and leave.  I wouldn't see him again til the next day at dinner... every time he left, I watched my Mom die a little inside, I could hear her praying and crying at night all alone in her room, I would go to her and hold her and wish it all away.  It was so heartbreaking for both of us yet we tried so hard to act normal... like everything was ok.  Why was he doing this to my Mom?  to me?  to our family?  Who was this man that I thought I knew?  Who gave his life to his family and the church back home?  What happened to him?

... to be continued...

Monday, June 20, 2011

1997... a year of gains and losses... (Part 1)

So I will get back to that story below soon enough, but I wanted to fast forward to 1997... I was 17 years old for the first half of the year, in Grade 11 for second year in a row because partying was way more fun and it was the year my entire life as I knew it changed.  First of all, my friends were my life during this time, we had so many fun times together but we were also struggling together.  One of us was sick, and though she went into remission and she had seemed to have beat the beast inside her, it came back for another round and she ended up back in the hospital for more treatments.

Meanwhile, I found out through one simple phone call during a house party I was hosting (I hosted many a party at my mother's house while she was out or away) that I had another brother, one who was adopted as a baby in Manitoba and ended up in the US, Mom had never told us about him but he came to find us that year and I ended up talking to him for 2 hours that night on the phone.  It was very exciting news and I couldn't wait to tell my Mom when she got home from her trip away.  She was surprised that he had found us and even more surprised that I had talked to him for 2 hours on the phone... she was eager to call him too.  So she did and subsequently, my Mom, two brothers and I flew to California to meet him, his wife and 6 month old daughter on March Break.  I just remember looking at him thinking, wow, he looks just like us!  We had a great time in California and even managed to squeeze in some time at Disneyland but my heart was still sore thinking about my friend.

When we came home from meeting my brother, our dear friend's 18th birthday party was held in the hospital so we all piled into our cars and headed into the city to celebrate with her, she was happy to have us all there with her but she was very tired.... that was her last "good" day and on April 16th, 1997, she passed away peacefully after one of the girls did her nails.  I always say that she was the best of all of us that all hung out together, one of the most friendly, smart, non judgmental, funny and creative minds I have ever had the pleasure of knowing... she was truly beautiful inside and out... I and many others were sad to see her go.

I can't remember if it was before or after she passed that I was kicked out of high school because the vice principal at the time said I had missed too much school to continue... too many unexcused absences or something like that.  He kicked a few of us out around the same time for the same reason... honestly, I think he took pleasure in it, he told me that "I would never amount to anything" which ended up being one of the most profound things anyone has ever said to me.  At the time I just thought he was an asshole, in fact, I still kind of do.  I didn't care this year, just like I didn't care the last year that I had managed to not get through Grade 11 for the second year in a row.  I had more important things to worry about than school like friends, boys and partying... little did I know, there was more in store for me.

As my bestie and I were getting ready to attend our friend's funeral... I put on a shirt that I had just bought the month before in California and I just couldn't understand why it didn't fit, it was too small!!  My best friend looked at me and said, "buddy, you're pregnant".  Initially I was like... nah... I can't be pregnant, it's not possible!  I didn't have any symptoms of being pregnant other than putting on a little bit of weight and even then, I just thought it was from eating too much.  She persisted but we had to get to a funeral so we forgot about it for the moment.  I don't remember much of the funeral because I had going on in my head... could I really be pregnant?  I remember it being very sad, and though it reminded me of my Dad's funeral, it wasn't quite like that... it was more of a celebration of her life and you know what?  I think that is a way better way to be sent off to the other side than the way the Roman Catholics do it.

My bestie persisted again the next day that I get a pregnancy test, I gave in even though I didn't believe that I was pregnant... sure enough, it said it was positive.  I still did not believe that test and carried on as though I wasn't until I went to the doctor.  The doc tested me again and he confirmed what I was so desperately trying to deny... I was pregnant... oh sheeeeit!!  He directed me to lay down on the exam table and as he felt around my belly, he said he thought I was around 20 weeks along... 20 WEEKS!?!?!  Impossible!!!  He sent me in for an ultrasound right away.

The next few days are a blur so I am not sure if I went that day or within the next few, but I got my bestie and another friend to come with me to the ultrasound... still in denial that I was 20 weeks, I refused to look at the screen on the machine attached to a wand looking thing rubbing along my stomach, it was cold and kind of scary.  I asked the technician if she could tell how far along I was, she said, "Yes, just need to take a few more measurements" and then after a short silence she said, "It looks like you are about 19 weeks".  We were all stunned... I looked at the screen and saw a little person with hands and feet with fingers and toes... I could not believe what I was seeing.  After a few moments of being in a stunned state, I asked if she could tell what sex the baby was.  She asked if I was sure I wanted to know and with my affirmation said, "It's a boy!"

The ride home was a very quiet one with so many thoughts going through my 17 year old brain... what were my friends going to say?  what about my Mom... or worse... what was my brother going to say?  what was I going to say!?  what was I going to do?  how could this happen to me?  what the HELL was I going to do?  So many things crossed my mind about what I had been doing to my body for the last 19 weeks while a little baby boy was growing inside of me... was he going to be ok?  During the first 19 weeks of his little life, I had already been the worst parent ever... was it possible that I could actually be a Mom?  Or was I really never going to amount to anything?

... to be continued...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Raised a Roman... Catholic that is... (Part 1)

When I was growing up, I was taught about God through the eyes of my Grandmother, Bessie and my father and of course, church every Sunday and Catechism every Tuesday... I was baptized, was given my first communion, first confession and even confirmed in grade 9... I went on further to baptize my son when he was three.  What does that even mean?  Apparently, it means that he won't go to hell if anything happens to him... I still don't quite understand what all the hubbub at church was about and if you asked me anything about the Catholic religion or the bible... I would tell you this story:

My Dad's parents were Roman Catholics who prayed everyday together and went to Mass every Sunday, may they both rest in peace, I hope their spirits are in their heaven with their God and they are smiling down on us today :)  Naturally, my Dad thought (or so I think he thought) that it was best for us to learn about God too, just as he was taught when he was growing up... I believe that he felt it was his duty to teach us and then when we were old enough to decide what belief system or faith we wanted to be part of then, at least he had introduced us to his and his parent's faith.  Ok... fair enough... if my Dad believed in God and Dad was my hero as a little girl then I was going to believe in God too and believed that if I committed sins that I would go to hell or pay for my sins for a very long time in something called Purgatory.  This is very scary for a young girl to feel like "someone" was always watching and judging my behavior.  As if this wasn't scary enough, my Dad  was killed in a car accident when I was 14 years old... and with him, died my belief in God.

I was angry at God for taking my Dad away and it was when I started to question whether there was a God at all... the beginning of this misadventure was at his funeral in Roman Catholic fashion.  First there was a "wake" where my father's lifeless wax like body was put on display for everyone and their dogs to see for the afternoon and evening before his funeral, as if this wasn't bad enough for a 14 year old girl who just lost the most important man in her life, we were also put on display so that everyone who came to pay their respects to the deceased and his family could see how sad and broken we were.  My Dad was a pretty popular fellow and had many friends over the many years of his life so it felt like we were standing beside his open casket for days... and if I walked away for a break, somebody found me and sent me back... it was one of the worst experiences a little girl could ever have in her life.  The next day was his funeral and wasn't near as terrible as the wake but it was still very sad.  My Dad was gone, my Mom was broken and though us kids were broken too, we were staying strong for Mom just like I was told, you know what else I was told?  That my Dad wasn't in heaven, he was in Purgatory paying for his sins.  You tell me what a 14 year old is supposed to think about that... be continued...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The tale of Dotty

You will learn lots about me by following me but in the way of a little introduction to myself and where I come from, I want to introduce you to Dotty...

My name is Lolly... born Laurelee Diana Olszowiec but have been Lolly my whole life.  There was a time when I was called Dotty too, a loving nickname that my Mother, Margaret always called me... it wasn't so much the name that I loved to hear in her soft spoken voice, but the way she said it.  My Mom is an amazing woman that shows such strength and unselfishness that I can only hope to be as strong and unselfish as her one day.  Margaret was born in a small Cree community in Northern Manitoba called Nelson House, also known as  Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, where three rivers meet.  She was the first and only daughter of a fisherman and his wife, Robinson and Dinah Spence and her five older brothers: John, Sandy, Roy, Jimmy and Clifford.

My Father, David was a small town Cape Bretoner, half Polish and half Scottish who was the one of six children of a coal miner and nurse.  His siblings consisted of two brothers, Blair and Gerrard and three sisters, Maria, Beverly and Karen.  My Dad was also an amazing person, super smart, handsome and never ever judged anyone... ever.

They met in Northern Manitoba where my Dad was working and Mom says he was very persistent about dating her even after she said no many times.  He eventually won her over and they married and had three children together... Christopher, Scott and, you guessed it... ME... the spoiled lil princess of the family :)  You will hear more about each of these important people who have had significant impacts on my journey thus far.  Though we are all in different geographical spaces, I still hold all of them very close to my spirit and think about them all the time, I also have a nephew, Little Chris and two nieces, Emma and Hannah who are near and dear to my heart.

Another person you will hear alot about is my son, David... who has saved my life in more ways than one and taught me many life lessons in his short life so far... he will be 14 this year and he is the sweetest, kindest, gentlest young man that I have the pleasure of knowing and having in my life everyday.

So that is a very brief history of where I come from, I am proud to be Cree and proud to be an Olszowiec but most of all, I am proud to be my mother's Dotty.

All my relations :)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Welcome! Tansi!

I have been thinking about starting this blog for a while now and just didn't know where I would start however, I have recently come to the realization that I am on an amazing journey... where for the first time ever in my life I feel like I am in the exact place that I am supposed to be at this exact moment in time.... I feel like I have come home.  I want to share this with others because I have been on a long bumpy and twisty road where I have take many wrong roads along the way but managed to make the necessary U-turns that I needed to in order to get here, and I am hoping that there are more bumps in the road to come to ensure I continue learning and growing.  I feel like sharing these teachings is part of the journey in order to help others, who may have taken a wrong turn, to make their U-turn and come back home.  This is about my journey home.

I do hope that you enjoy reading, but before you go any further in this blog or in your life... make a decision to always keep an open mind and refrain from being judgmental in every situation you are faced with.  This lesson is one of many that I have learned will never do me wrong.  Always remember to look at the positives as well as the negatives and take a lesson away, making mistakes only becomes a problem when you don't learn from it.

My thoughts guide me in these writings and though those thoughts come to me often, putting them into words doesn't always happen as often as I would like.  I am hoping that this is the beginning of many inspiring life lessons that I have learned to share with you.

All my relations :)