Tuesday 19 October 2021

Out in the Middle of Nowhere: The erosion of trust.

Do you remember when you thought your parents were infallible, they knew everything and that they were perfect? You love them, trust them. They could not possibly ever lie to you or purposely hurt you, right? Being totally dependent on them, these perceptions give you a sense of safety and protection from the outside world. What happens when much of what you believe to be true turns out to be a lie?

My life has been a roller-coaster experience. It started in my childhood where I was not allowed to express feelings. I was told that I was too emotional, sensitive. Because I was the eldest daughter, I had to take on responsibilities not normally placed on children. My mother's English was poor during my school years. It became my job to deal with adults on the phone, write business letters and manage the household while my mother occasionally went to work at our family's place of business. She kept the books for for my dad's automotive repair shop. I also sewed a lot of my mother's clothes. No small feat since the alterations were a bit of a challenge.

I also became my mother's confidant. Because she didn't want anyone to know what was going on in our family, including her sisters, I became her best friend. She had no close girlfriends to vent to. My dad was abusive and my mom would complain about him to me. Overtime, I began to despise my dad, not even talking to him. Things got progressively worse as by dad took his frustrations and anger out on us children, especially myself and my younger brother. 

I remember one incident when I was still in Junior High. I had gotten a new wool car-coat to wear for the winter. It was dark grey, double breasted with silver buttons, it had a hood and belt with red embroidery on the edges and belt. It reminded me of a Russian design.  I was very proud of that coat as it was brand new, not the usual hand-me-down, and it was in fashion. 

Our family and two other families related to us, went for a walk in early spring when the ground was still covered with deep wet snow. The adults decided to descend a steep ski hill in a park near the river valley. I found the ground to be slippery, as I wasn't prepared with proper winter boots, and I was nervous about falling.

Two thirds of the way down the hill, sure enough, I slipped and fell. The whole backside of my coat was wet and mud encrusted. I was very upset and became angry about my new cost being ruined. I started to mutter under my breath, " Stupid idiots, had to walk down this hill." Unfortunately, my dad somehow heard what I said and turned around and yelled at me, "What did you say?" By the look on his face, my first instinct was to run. He eventually caught up to me and backhanded me so hard in the face, I saw stars in front of my eyes. I started to sob, in pain with my nose gushing with blood,  wet and freezing in my soaked coat. By then it was dark. My dad ordered my relatives to load up into their cars and leave. I stared in disbelief as the cars disappeared and I was left alone in the middle of nowhere. If there hadn't been some street lights in the distance I wouldn't have been able to see where I was going.

I trudged through the snow toward the lights, for what seemed like an eternity, shivering and sobbing uncontrollably. All I could think about was that I would be abducted and murdered and then everyone would be sorry. I was several km from home and had no idea how to get there.

Eventually, I saw some vehicle lights coming towards me, which freaked me out at first. I had reached the road by then, which ascended a big hill out of the river valley. It was one of my aunt and uncles who had come back to find me and take me home. I was relieved to be rescued, but did not want to go back and face my dad. We sat in their car in front of our house for a very long time, my aunt and uncle trying to convince me to go in. When I realized I had no choice, I did eventually, but I was shaking from head to toe with a mixture of fear and anger.

When I got in the house, no one said a word. My dad never mentioned the incident, nor my mom. It was like nothing had happened. For weeks afterwards, I would get a bloody nose at school. Years later, I noticed that my nose was off to one side in photos that had been taken after my dad had hit me. I am pretty sure he broke it. 

It wasn't until 1994, almost 30 years later. that I confronted my dad about what he had done. He said he did not remember, but said that he was sorry if he had done it. What hurt the most, was the fact that my mom never protected me from abuse from my father. It was almost as if it was better that it was me than her, to be the object of his rage. 

That traumatic event, and others, haunted me for years. I grew up afraid of my dad, actually hating him, and not quite trusting my mom. I avoiding dating at all costs, was extremely shy and secretly defiant of authority. Once I graduated from high school, I found a way to get away from my over-controlling parents, as fast and far away as possible. Unfortunately, my troubles didn't end there. 

This is the last blog where I examine my childhood. I have forgiven both my parents for mistakes they have made, otherwise I could not look after them as a full time caregiver now that they are elderly. I love and respect them and know they did the best they could at the time. They helped me through some difficult periods during my adulthood and now it is my turn to look after their them. Sadly, my dad passed four years after I first wrote this blog, but did not publish it. Unfortunately, he never did overcome his own childhood trauma.

However abusive your childhood experiences may have been, put the past behind so that you can move forward.
Do not pass the abuse cycle on to future generations. It isn't easy, but you have a choice in how your past effects your current life. You aren't alone, you can get help. Call on Jesus, pray that the Holy Spirit can transform you. Ask forgiveness for past mistakes from God and the people you have harmed. 

Tuesday 9 February 2021

Why it is more Important to be Kind than to be Right

Most people believe "honesty is the best policy", which I agree with. Some people, however, use sensitive information about others in a hurtful way. By bringing up the subject in front of other people, for example, which is humiliating. Then if the person complains about it, insult is added to injury by saying they were just being honest!  If you really care for people, you don't do that.

There are kinder ways to give pointers to someone and remain truthful. Pause before responding. Think about how you can say something in a way that respects the other person's feelings. Some people are more sensitive than others. It is easier to communicate face to face where body language can be read. How many relationships are ruined by texting in anger and haste, where messages are often misunderstood? If you have to rely on emails or texts, at least take the time to clarify meaning.  

Then there are the soapbox people that have to rant and voice their opinion as if they were the only ones in the right. Yes, you are entitled to your opinion, just don't expect everyone to agree with you. Publicly humiliating someone, on social media for example, even when you feel wronged, is never OK. Then blocking the person, so they don't have a chance to defend themselves, is just plain nasty! 

It all comes down to being respectful and having good manners. I was sometimes guilty of foot-in-the-mouth disease in the past because I wanted to be honest. I have learned to keep my mouth shut if the issue is not important or if expressing my views is a waste of time.

I once read that you should treat family, loved ones, like company. Often we treat those closest to us poorly, with unkind remarks, because we think we can get away with it. Even if someone is rude to you, rise above it, don't take it personally and choose to be kind! Sometimes the best thing is to do is say nothing at all, just listen.

I wrote this originally 6 years ago. Listening to the news and what is going in the world, division, hatred, this blog is more timely than ever. Looking for the best in people is always good advise. Take care of yourselves friends.

Monday 8 February 2021

What Makes a Good Friendship?

I want to start off with stating what is not a healthy friendship. Some people drain the lifeblood out of you, They are always negative. Their story is the worst one ever, and your problems can not possibly compete with their's. They will monopolize the conversation and not really listen to anything you have to say. They have an addiction to sympathy and a "poor me" way of thinking. Basically, these people are self-absorbed and have nothing to give. You begin to feel that the relationship is one-sided. Okay, everyone has some baggage, unresolved issues, but if there is no effort for self-improvement, these people remain stuck. Their misery will start to effect your personal happiness. I call these people "takers".

Another type of person to avoid are the well meaning people who want to make you their make-over project. I call them "control-freaks".They say they have your best interests at heart, give you helpful criticism to "expand your horizons" and lend advice you did not ask for. They pretty much think they are smarter than you and have all the answers. In reality, their own lives are a mess and it makes them feel better try to fix yours, because you are much worse off than they are. (sarcasm) In this "friendship" you always feel like you aren't good enough, that you can never live up to that person's expectations.

What will ultimately kill any friendship? Jealousy! No one can be a true friend if they are not happy for you and your accomplishments. Feeling superior to you keeps everything just perfect from their point of view. They are often the type that confide their problems to you in hopes that you will reciprocate.This personal information about you becomes juicy gossip they can pass on to their other friends. This makes them feel important, having the latest info to thoroughly make you look bad when given the opportunity. Of course they are free to embellish or even invent a story just to be the center of attention.Trust is big component to a friendship and once breached, can not be easily regained.

With that said, the chances of finding true friends appears bleak. Once found, however, friends are precious gems to be nurtured and cherished. The people in my life I consider good friends have become lifelong relationships and are not superficial. Age, distance, cultural background, race, gender, occupation, education and economic status, do not present a barrier. Even after a long period of no contact, that person still has a place in my heart.

Thank you to all who have been supportive of me during the difficult times of my life. I tend to be oversensitive, but I realize now it is part of who I am. It takes time for me to get over feeling wounded by people that are critical of me. Hence my absence from social media at times and withdrawing into my own little world. 2020 has taught me to be more grateful for what I have, especially friends and family.

So many people are satisfied with their own little cliques and do not allow new people in. They are afraid to lose their position of influence (power) and do not like change. Being open to new relationships keeps life exciting. Everyone has some knowledge, insight to offer. A friend is not a clone, mini-me. It is an individual that has their own opinions. Friends respect differences and accept you the way you are. I like to say I am a work in progress and I try not to judge others where they are at in their journey. However, feelings need to be mutual. You can't make someone like you and not everyone will want to be your friend. Move on, there is a whole world of people out there!

Thursday 27 August 2015

Friends Forever


We met buying school supplies at the local mall. Running into each other more than once in our mission to get every thing that we needed, we smiled, then Shelley started up a conversation. My son was a year younger than her son and her daughter, a year younger than my son. Our children hit it off too. Shelley suggested we take a break and have coffee. During that time, we compared notes and found out we had much in common. We were both recovering from horrific motor vehicle accidents, caused by drunk drivers, where our survival was considered a true miracle. The drivers of our vehicles were killed. For me, my fiance, for Shelley, her best friend.

Shelley told me about the aqua-size class she was attending that was helping her get her mobility back and recommended I join. Fortunately, I had a lot of time to take a fitness class since I was unemployed and lived with my parents. Later on, I was a self-employed seamstress working out of my home. Shelley and I attended the same aqua-size class for about 8 years. We also had coffee after class to socialize with other people we met there. Fun times!

Shelley despite her ordeal, was an outgoing, friendly person with a winning smile. She also had a great sense of humour and called a spade a spade. Everyone loved her. I, on the other hand, have always been an introvert and the aftermath of my accident made me even more so. I was extremely overweight and had a marked limp. Shelley accepted me the way I was and never criticized. She understood. Without Shelley, my life would have been very boring and I would have not regained my walking ability or my self-confidence as easily.

Today, after 25 years, Shelley and I are still friends. So are our children. We no longer live in the same area or even in the same country, but those experiences that brought us together continue to provide a connection. The most important thing we have in common is a faith in God. We believe God gave us a second chance for a reason.
Shelley and I, 2012

Shelly and her mom, reunion lunch with friends.

Friday 14 August 2015

Reflections on Turning 60

Time to grow up? 

In some ways, you do begin your second childhood when you enter your 60's.  Rather than being focused on what other people think of you, you become more interested in having some fun again. Another kick at the can, so to speak. On the other hand, if your parents are still living, you can no longer lean on them with your problems, expect them to bail you out. The roles have switched. You are now the caregiver, looking out for their safety and well being. For me, it made me feel like I was truly an adult. I was totally responsible for my own life, with the added responsibility of caring for my parents. 

When I was young, I thought 60 was ancient. You were considered past your prime, over the hill, a senior, an old bag etc. Now that I have reached that milestone, I honestly don't feel all that different. Certainly not old! A few aches and pains, a bit of memory loss, but I still have my curiosity, the drive to learn new things, intact. I enjoy talking to people of all ages, learning their history, story, valuable information. If I don't experience it first hand, the internet has made it possible to connect with people from all over the world. The isolation and loneliness of my youth has long been banished. I am of the generation that may have initially sworn off using new technology. I did. That included microwave cooking, ATM use, computers and then the dreaded Smartphone. Now, I embrace them all. Microwaves, not so much because of the possible effects on food chemistry. I love digital photography. Being able to view, edit and share images in minutes is very exciting.

I must admit that turning 60 this May, put me in a bit of a funk. I even went off Google for a while. I was depressed. I thought of all the projects I hadn't finished and probably wouldn't complete, all the things that I may never do. Teaching overseas for one. I had started an English course to that end and withdrew. I usually don't give up easily. Over 20 years ago, I had to put my teaching career on hold due to a car accident that left me unemployable for 3 years. After 26 job interviews, the last 3 years ago to teach in Abu Dhabi, I had to except the fact that I was never going to get another teaching job. Thankfully, the United Arab Emirates position fell through.  I wouldn't have been able to help my parents, keep them in their lovely home and country property they worked so hard to build and landscape. I would have also had a more stressful life  as a day care supervisor and would been away from my son, who still needed me. 

What lies ahead? Based on the example of my parents, friends and relatives, life can be enjoyed as long as you keep a positive outlook and live a healthy lifestyle. Don't focus on the negative aspects of aging. Get out and smell the roses, the woods, immerse yourself in new hobbies and interests. Read a good book that not only entertains, but teaches you something about history, other cultures. Plunking yourself in front of the TV, becoming a couch potato, will shorten your life and you won't really live anyway. You will just come to exist. Nourish your friendships and value your family ties. It is people that make life worthwhile. Above all, have faith!

Monday 2 February 2015

Why I write about Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence

Violence in the home between partners distroys the relationship, family life and puts others in danger, including law inforcement. With so many couples couped up in their homes due to the Covid -19 pandemic and the resulting economic downturn in Alberta, spousal abuse is at an all time high. I remember one case, a few years ago, stemming from a marital breakup which was so horrific the headline read "Worst Mass Murder in History".

In an affluent neighborhood in Edmonton, a separated male spouse went on a rampage, killing his wife, two of his children and some of his wife's relatives. He later took his own life. In total, nine lives were lost. The wife may have felt safe because she had a restraining order against her abusive husband. Neighbors later reported hearing a lot of shouting coming from the house. The bottom line is, if a partner threatens to kill you, get out of that house.

The judicial system, the police, can't protect you 24/7. If someone wants to kill you, they won't give up easily. Abusers get extremely angry when forcibly removed from their homes and often feel they have nothing else to lose. They won't just kill you, they may also kill your new partner, relatives, even your children. No house or job is worth your life.

The reason I left my husband, my house, a teaching position and the city I lived in for 16 years, is because I took my husband's threats seriously. I also had a young son to protect who was only a toddler at the time. I have a true story to share that made me realize this was the only safe option.

I got quite close to one of my students, who I will name Susan. I took Susan out for dinner as a thank you for working with me to run a school snack shop. That evening, Susan was wearing a stunning red suit and I remarked how nice she looked in it. Susan told me it had belonged to her deceased older sister, Debbie. Then she calmly related the story of her sister's murder. Debbie had been shot to death by her husband with a shotgun while she sat in a living room chair. Her husband was in a drunken rage when he came home at three in the morning and discovered she was packing up to leave him. Their toddler son was sleeping in a crib in another room. Debbie's neighbor, a mother of 3 children, was helping her at the time. Her husband also shot the neighbor lady to death. Susan's nephew ended up being raised by her parents. Needless to say, Susan's story about her sister was shocking, but also a revelation to me about my own domestic situation.

If you are in an abusive relationship and fear for your safety, be cautious when you decide to leave and have a plan. Do not move in with known friends or relatives, it puts them at risk. Leave secretly while your partner is at work or out of town. A women's shelter can only help you for so long. Leaving the area is your best option. Severing ties with in-laws may also be necessary to keep you safe. An abuser is not going to change without professional help. 

You can read my personal story in more detail in an interview with Gill Andrews http://goo.gl/rLpsHQ
There you an can also find an infographic detailing 7 signs you are in an abusive relationship which I wrote. 

Sunday 27 July 2014

Don't Take Critcism Too Personally Part 2

In my first blog, I wrote about how criticism effected me growing up and as an adult. I must have inadvertently given my son the same treatment, the critical, negative comments, because now he is doing it back to me! It has made me more aware of my own habit of criticizing without much thought about how it effects the other person.

In the latest chapter of my life, I am looking after my elderly parents. When I lived in Germany, I got to know my maternal grandmother better. That relationship made me realize where my mother got the critical personality from. Just recently, I asked my mother about it when she delivered another one of her zingers to me. I forget what it was about because it is an ongoing thing. My mother is 90, I love her, and I never would want to disrespect her. She answered that she meant no harm by the comment, that it was just an observation and that in her home growing up, everyone did it. I mentioned to her that she had complained to me about some of the hurtful things that her mother had said to her as a child. Because my mother has dementia, she remembers some things better than ever, others not at all. Now she speaks of her mother as if she had been a saint.

The main point I was trying to make is that you can't change other people. They sometimes even get worse with age. You have no control what comes out of their mouths. I am speaking about adults here. It is our responsibility as parents to teach our children to treat others with respect. What we can do is to consider the source, recognize that people are just having a bad day and that they are going to be negative with everyone. Don't let someone that is not happy with their life bring you down. When students attempted to do that to me as a teacher, once I got to the point of not taking it personally, I would smile and ask them if they were having a bad day. 99% of the time that was the case.

There are people out there that purposely try to hurt you. That was the evident in my first marriage. My advice, get out! Don't put up with abuse from anyone.

Ultimately, you are only responsible for your own actions and behavior. You can't rescue someone who has had an abusive childhood. You can't make someone else happy and you shouldn't stay in a relationship because you feel sorry for that person. The choice of taking criticism personally, is yours!