Happy Birthday to My Mother.

 Everything was great until my mother turned 60.


 

We are a family known for great parties, and we had one planned for her 60th.

But around noon on her 60th birthday we decided to cancel the celebration. 
It would just seem in such bad taste to celebrate.
 Her birthday had become tainted.
 It was September 11, 2001.
 When I was supposed to be baking a rather lavish, creative and slightly 
complicated cake, I was sitting in front of the television watching CNN 
interview women who had been widows for a few hours, watching images 
so horrific that I couldn't quite comprehend them. The day those planes 
crashed and thousands of lives ended, life would be joined at the hip 
by this historic event.
 We had a small celebration a few days later. It made me sad that someone 
as loving and giving as my mother, a woman whose birth should be celebrated,
 especially by me, was now overshadowed by evil.
 My mother was 18 when she had me. In 1960 that was not something
 people could quite comprehend either, an unwed mother. So my grandparents
 sent her off to the United Kingdom to stay in a home until she had me, 
sparing her the shame and ridicule that would have occurred in her home town. 
Those were different times back then. You couldn't even say the word 
"pregnant" on television. T.V. couples had to be shown sleeping in separate beds. 
The idea of a music video involved Gene Kelly with tap shoes on singing in the rain.



 

 There had been some suggestions about abortion, and adoption.
At 18, and a "young" 18 from what I have been told,  she stood up for me 
and would not let anyone take me away, before birth or afterwards. 
As a result I was adopted by my grandparents, another courageous 
act by  my mother, done out of love and at the  sacrifice of her feelings. 
She did what was best for me, not for her. I had a great childhood, and 
although she went on to have three other children, as a mother myself 
I know it had to hurt her to see me interact with my mother, 
HER mother, call HER  mom, while I was told my "real" mother 
was my older sister. I don't care how old you are, or whether 
you have had other children who see you as their mother, that had to hurt.

 

 When my mum passed away, my mother stepped in and gave me the 
opportunity to still have a mum, so far I have had that blessing into my 
early 50's. She has been a grandmother to my children and to me she
 has been my best friend, someone I cannot imagine living without. 
She has been my shelter in what has seemed to be a never ending 
storm in the last 15 years of my life.  
I cannot imagine going a day without talking to her.
 She has not had an easy life. She has had more than her share 
of dark times, pain, heartache, and situations that most people 
would  find hopeless. She never gave up. She never lost her ability 
to laugh. She never lost her affinity for kindness and generosity.

 

 Today is her 72nd birthday.
 I was watching some of the anniversary coverage and speeches, remembrances, 
videos made of "where are they now", widows, children who were born after the 
event and never met their fathers, the dogs of 9/11, and stories that emerged 
from the ashes of the Pentagon, World Trade Centre and Flight 93 that 
literally dissolved into the ground in a field far away from its intended target. 
Because of heroes. 
Like my mother.
 And it was then that it occurred to me, that in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy we 
witnessed incredible amounts of hope, love, and courage.
 In almost every way this is a story of a miracle struggling to shine through 
the darkness. For many it was not a day that changed their life for the worse. 

Instead, things got better. The way people lived their lives, priorities changed, 
we appreciated each other more, people found love again, people forgave each 
other, estranged families were reunited, heroes were identified, and 
resilience seemed to be the theme that emerged from what was intended 
to break the spirit of innocent people.
 For too long, my mother's birthday has been overshadowed by the 
terrorist attack. It just seemed inappropriate to be festive while the
 rest of the free world observes a somber anniversary.
 But while we should not overlook what happened we need to remember 
that good was born on this day too.
 My mother is one of those good things.
 She also symbolizes through living her life, heroic choices, 
extraordinary courage, resilience hope, faith, and love.
 I think she was meant to be born on September 11th, albeit 60 years before 
this unspeakable act, because it is totally o.k to celebrate what emerged from 
that day.
 My mother is the personification of all that comes from hardship, sadness, 
pain, and darkness.

She is the light of my life. She is the reason I am here. She is the reason I want to keep being here. I wish I was as resilient as she has been in her life. I will never reach the gold standard she has set in her 72 years here, but I hope she has many more birthdays so I can keep on trying.


Happy Birthday to my mother.  

You are my 9/11/41 hero.

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My Boy Willy.


 

 

 

He died too soon.

 

A teenager in dog years (3) and my shadow.
I adored him instantly. He was born from a mom who had come 
into my home as a rescue from a high kill shelter in California. 
She had cancer. She had two pups, both boys, one was born 
without eyes and ears, and then there was Willy.
 We put his little brother to sleep because the vet said there would 
very likely be other birth defects that would rear their ugly heads
 at some point, so Willy grew up with an exceptional amount of 
human contact.
 His mother, Sun,  passed away several months after his birth.
 He was adopted at one of our adoption fairs by an elderly couple 
who lived in a senior's home and I imagined this most curious, 
sociable little guy would run the place in no time. Yes, I was sad 
to see him go, but I loved him so much I thought he deserved to
 be the king of the castle and boy I knew he would be.
 Sadly his mistress had a terrible stroke a month later and her 
elderly husband returned him to us. He was crying. 
Willy had touched his heart too.
 And that is how I became so lucky to have the chance to 
know and love and be loved by this magnificent little dog.
 Willy had magical powers. He was somehow able to get 
where I was going in the house before I got there and 
usually when I didn't want him to!
 Going to the bathroom was no longer a private endeavor.  
Heading out in the car on a too-hot-for-dog day always 
resulted in Willy playing "dodge human" running from 
the front seat to the back seat depending on which door 
I was opening to try to catch him. I would threaten him 
in my "ventriloquist voice", you know, the one where you
 talk smack to someone with your teeth clenched because
 you think you look meaner. It did nothing! Finally I would 
manage to fake him  out and go to work or wherever I was 
heading, only to be told while I was gone, sometimes for a 
full 8 hours, he would lay by the front door waiting for me.
 Willy was a perfect picture of hurt feelings innocence. The small 
remaining dollop of cool whip on his forehead (after it had "fallen' 
out of the fridge,) his stash in the kitchen drawer, the one whose 
front had fallen off so it was a great entrance to the drawer beneath it, 
one where he sat and waited for various morsels to fall (ok, or be tossed)
 his way. Yes! I cleared that drawer out a little but only to keep the dog 
hair off the baking supplies!
 He shared his toys, treats and even sometimes his drawer, and most of all, 
my  attention, knowing he was top dog in my heart. (Although I didn't
 tell my other dogs that.)
 His favorite place was nestled under my chins and balancing on my 
 bosom when I was watching TV or on line. He became a comforting 
appendage over time and something I would miss almost the most 
when he wasn't here anymore.
 He enjoyed the finer things in life. Bacon to "Snausages" 
(he would give you this look like "but...those are for dogs!" 
and vanilla ice cream sandwiches to the edible oil of cool whip 
(which he would tolerate if that's all there was.)
 His guilty pleasure was dog biscuits in bed. And that would be 
MY bed just to clear up any misunderstandings that he slept in 
a crate or anywhere on the floor for that matter. He slept next to 
me like a husband, except his little legs would usually be 
splayed apart (thank GOD I did not get that treat when I was married) 
and sometimes he would sleep in the wrong direction, leaving 
a less than desirable sight for me if I dared open my eyes during the night.
I have had a very bad two years in my life. Significantly above average 
for sadness, grief, trauma, stress. It was Willy who was my solace. 
I would often cry in  bed at night, because I don't want people 
to see me doing that, and he would rush to my side and lick my 
tears and cuddle closer than normal for the duration. 
He would look "concerned" if that's possible. 
When I just needed someone to touch me, he would 
be there, under my chins, always there, most of the
 time I never noticed he had crawled up to his perch, 
he was just "there."
 I do not know how life will ever be the same without him.
 I didn't know that the last week of his life would be all our last times.
 I got up for work, it was a hot day, I played dodge human with him, 
went to work, and my mother called me a couple of hours later to say 
Willy was walking in circles.
 I went home and she said he was laying in a vari-kennel and would 
not come out. When he heard my voice he came out, seemed to be 
walking ok, but when I picked him up it did not seem "right". I think
 that was his "green mile." He went  limp in my arms and I took him 
right up to the vet. There was no trauma on his body, he just wasn't 
moving properly.
 The vet did not seem super concerned and told me he would call later that 
afternoon with a diagnosis.
 Willy had a head injury. Hi skull was not fractured and nothing had 
penetrated his brain, it was just "squished" a little. Had he fallen? 
Had he run into something? The other dogs in the house were 
too small to have bitten him in the head with such force. 
We just didn't know.
 Willy stayed overnight and was sent home to me the next day 
on prednisone. The vet said he would get better over time.
 He was still wobbly and just wanted to lay on my chest with his 
ear to my heart so that is what we did. I hand fed him bacon, 
and tried to give him some ice cream but he did not seem interested. 
I thought he might be blind. And deaf. I wasn't sure. 
I decided I would go back to the vet the next day and pursue this further.
 In the meantime I held his hands in my grip, stroked him, told him everything 
would be ok and my boy would be back in his kitchen drawer in no time.
 I decided to have him sleep in a little vari-kennel on the night table near my
 bed so the other dogs would not bother him.
 At 6 am precisely he was sitting up and barking so loudly 
I told him to be quiet. In that time between sleep and awake I had 
forgotten his fragile state.
 At 8 a.m. I peaked in and he was sitting up looking at me. I smiled and opened the
 cage and petted him. But I left him in there while I went to get dressed. 
At 8:30 a.m.when I went to get him out, he was dead. 
Cold. 
Stiff.
He had been dead for quite some time.
 I couldn't believe it. My daughter who shares my room said she 
heard me tell him to be quiet. But he had already gone by that time.
 He was saying good bye to me. No one will ever convince me otherwise.
 He was one of a kind.
 We are so blessed to have had the chance for each of us to say our 
goodbyes and hold his hands, hug his neck and kiss his beautiful 
head in his last few hours.
 I am the luckiest for having had the chance to know and love and be loved by this 
magnificent being.
 I wouldn't trade my time with him for anything.
The love that once lived can never die rather, it circles around you forever, alive.
He is with me, I know it. The puzzle of what killed him doesn't matter anymore. 
Willy was a curious, bold, mischievous spirit, whatever happened to take him away 
from me is outweighed by what he left behind.
 I will own dogs in the future as I have a pack now, but none will compare to my 
Willy-boy.

We knew how much we loved each other, and our time on earth, 
both human and dog is really a moment in eternity. 

I will see him again, likely in a kitchen drawer in paradise.
Until next time, "My tears are messengers of overwhelming grief and of 
unspeakable love." 
Washington Irving

The Tragedy of Marnie Frey

.                                                  Marnie and daughter Brittney around the same age

Sadly, the name Marnie Frey, in B.C. anyways, is synonymous with drug addiction, prostitution, “missing women” and a pig farm in Port  Coquitlam (my home town as a matter of fact) where her DNA was found, years after the police ignored her mother’s pleas that her daughter was missing, years after her own mother tried to scale the fence of the pig farm after doing investigative work the police wouldn’t do.

“That night when I went there, when I was backing out of the driveway, I had a very weird feeling,” Frey said. “My heart was pounding and I thought at first it was just because I was having anxiety attacks, but I guess it wasn’t really an anxiety attack. It was a reality check. She was there.”
Frey said after her first visit to the farm, she returned there every time she travelled to Vancouver from Campbell River, B.C.
Why wouldn’t they investigate a missing girl who grew up in Campbell River, the daughter of a well-known fisherman, a girl who loved animals, made her gruff dad have a funeral for a dead rabbit, who was known to be generous with her time and her love, a young mother with a five year old daughter?
Well, that’s easy, she was a prostitute.
I knew Marnie Frey. I was a counselor at the middle school she attended and we had many meetings where we talked about her troubles with authority, boys, school, not fitting in but mostly we talked about our shared love of animals. It was one of the few times I would see her smile. One of the few times her eyes lit up and she was clearly transported to a warm place in her soul where she belonged, where she felt love, where she felt peace. It was her respite.
I lost touch with her when she moved on to high school. She got pregnant sometime after and got in with the wrong crowd, ending up on the downtown east side and eventually addicted to heroin. She had to pay for her addiction so she did that with her body. Despite being out of it a lot of the time, as I would be too if I was in that situation, she called home regularly, she asked how her daughter was doing in the care of her parents, she was interested and engaged, calling home was not a chore for her and was for no other reason than to grasp onto the bond of family, with both hands, if even for ten minutes once a week. She never missed a call until she went missing.
What Marnie was and what Marnie did are two completely different things, but sadly, society, law enforcement, the courts, medical people, only saw the sex-selling, emaciated,, pock marked complexioned pasty looking “drug addict” and not the young mother from a small town, who, as high as she got, still had compassion and a sense of humor and cared about everybody, most notably her daughter Brittany. But to everyone other than her friends and family, she was worthless because of what she did. That overshadowed, to the narrow bigoted minds, to the professionals who were there to protect and serve, who she was.
And there were any more like Marnie, who died alone, in a gruesome, horror-movie style, at a stinky, dark, slop-filled pig butchery, cut up into pieces, by a psychopath who put her through a chipper.
In December 2007, a decade after Marnie Frey disappeared, Robert Pickton was convicted of murdering her and five other women. The remains or DNA of 33 women were found on his farm.
Brittney Frey was five years old when her mum was murdered.
Brittney is suing both the serial killer and his brother, the Crown, the Vancouver police and the RCMP for her death.
Measuring the value of a human life is no easy matter. Measuring the pain and suffering of the victim’s child should rest, in large part, on the circumstances of their death.
Marnie was not a stay-at-home mom, She didn’t have a well paying job or much prospect of bettering herself in the future. She was messed up. But she made sure she did not take her daughter down that path. She made sure her daughter was safe, and loved.
It is possible she could have rehabilitated herself and come home to her very supportive and loving parents, Rick and Lynn, and used her daughter as the motivation to get better and do well. Many recovering addicts say it was the love for their children that put them on a better path.
We will never know where Marnie could have been today.
But Marnie’s worth should not be determined by her situation at the time of her murder.
Whatever took her down the path that ultimately led to her meeting Robert Pickton should not be considered at all when the lawsuit is heard.
It is the path her daughter has been on since that counts the most.
The parent-child bond is the most fundamental of all human ties. When your mother dies, that bond is torn. When she is murdered in the most gruesome and tragic of ways, that bond is blown up into a million bloody pieces of anger, guilt, regret, terror, and profound sadness that will haunt Brittney Frey for the rest of her life.
Brittney has been bullied, her mother mocked, justice was screwed up, her missing mother was dismissed like a rat in an alley by professionals who were supposed to be there to protect and serve. The shame of that is immeasurable and there is no price anyone would accept to walk in the shoes of Brittney Frey.
Let’s hope justice is served this time.
Until next time, count your blessings
Sian Erith Thomson

My Special Kids

My life these days centres completely around my special needs children, Ethan, Emma and Eysiah.

They came in the second ‘shift”, adopted when I already had four ages 5 and up. At the time I didn’t know what I was doing, I was an idiot probably, starting over just as I got my youngest in school, but it was divine intervention and I will tell you about that next time. For those who do not believe in fate, or in prayers being answered, well I just might change your mind.
So without these three, I would be suffering a terminal case of empty nest syndrome. Given that I was an only child and really enjoyed that, you would think I would relish my solo existence once the kids were gone and the husband too (to greener pastures with a girlfriend older and uglier than me…love how that worked out).
But once you get used to cooking for eight every night, or inventing a sock-bin because there are too many people, twice as many socks and no way of possibly sorting that out other than a grab basket that seldom produced a match but at least produced two socks to keep your feet from stinking up your shoes (not mine, but my sons for sure) it is just impossible to go back. I cannot think of anything worse than coming home to an empty house, cooking for one, never running out of toilet paper or milk or gas and not being able to blame anyone but me.

But I am blessed. Not only do I have three young people who adore me, who light up my life, who complete me more than anyone knows, but I have a daughter and two sons who the world considers “different”, “handicapped”, who some people in the world call nasty names and think they are worth less than “normal people.”

Some morons call them retarded.

What’s wrong with the word “retard”? As recently as the 1970s, the word was acceptable in medical fields, even the Arbutus School for Retarded Children existed in Campbell River and was the start of something great, the Association of Community Living and Our Place.

People with intellectual disabilities say that the “R-word” makes them feel left out, different, bad, stupid, and despised. Words hurt.John Franklin Stephens, a man from Virginia with Down Syndrome who serves as a “global messenger” for the Special Olympics has written op-ed articles giving lucid voice to thoughts you may never have heard before.
“The hardest thing about having an intellectual disability is the loneliness,” he once wrote in The Denver Post. “We are aware when all the rest of you stop and just look at us. We are aware when you look at us and just say, ‘uh huh,’ and then move on, talking to each other. You mean no harm, but you have no idea how alone we feel even when we are with you.”
“So, what’s wrong with ‘retard’?,” he asked. “I can only tell you what it means to me and people like me when we hear it. It means that the rest of you are excluding us from your group. We are something that is not like you and something that none of you would ever want to be. We are something outside the ‘in’ group. We are someone that is not your kind.”
Very bad words go beyond the boundaries of political correctness. There are words you cannot say ever. They are humanly incorrect. They are meant to harm. They break the heart and the spirit.
Language should be used to inspire, to welcome, to open doors for us, not to degrade, dehumanize, isolate and slam doors in our faces.      By changing one word you can change a life.

And as far as I am concerned these kids bring brilliance to the world. They are the role model for humanity. They are always happy, they are always giving, they don’t judge anybody, they are not capable of bullying or bigotry or hurting feelings. They love. I am their mother. How lucky am I?

Until next time….strive for fabulous.

Sian Erith Thomson

Queen for a Day.

queen elizabeth
I could have been someone young, thin, sexy, hot, a talented singer, dancer, entertainer, just like the people sitting next to me on stage at the Tidemark Theater last Friday night. The world was my oyster. My mind was free to be whoever I chose. In public, on stage and raising money for any cause I could think of.

Tina Turner was up there raising money for people with red roofs. Michael Buble was raising money for the Clothes for Dogs society, PINK was raising money for the fitness of cats, and I am pretty sure it was  Beyonce raising money for the Checkers for Children Foundation.  I didn’t pick up what Arnold Schwarzeneggar’s mother was raising money for but I can well imagine.
I was sitting next to Jennifer Aniston who spoke passionately about her cause: The ducks, the ducks in central park. They are dying you know, it’s the mud. They need a new irrigation system to put air inside the mud so the ducks can live.
I have been short and fat all my life. Smart? Yes. Loyal? Yes. A figurehead in my family? Yes, I think so. Charitable? The first to go to bat for a worthy charity? Absolutely. I even have some nice jewelry and happen to look good in hats. But what the hell was I thinking?  In my deep state of hypnosis, with my imagination on crack apparently, I announced to the entire theatre that I was Queen Elizabeth, in a perfectly crisp upper class British accent, and I was raising money for the men in the British Parliament to be able to have ladies undergarments to wear under their suits (because you know, according to Elizabeth Windsor, they are all cross dressers and terribly mortified to go into  Marks and Spencer’s and buy their own brassieres.)
WTF?

Why was I not Angelina Jolie (beautifully sculptured cheek bones, not an ounce of fat on her and gets to sleep with Brad Pitt – dammit) No. I am an 82 year old short plump slightly bad tempered monarch who gets to sleep with Prince Philip every second Thursday and one Saturday a month……come on!!!!

Now my excuse is I don’t remember any of this. Well, I sort of do now that the fog of hypnosis is wearing off, and of course everywhere I have gone in the three days since has generated giggles, smirks, whispers, and in Walmart, one man in the cucumber section asking me if I was still “her majesty”. An older lady held the door open in the bank today and I thought that wasn’t right so I said so. She just bowed and said “Your majesty”.  Of course going to work this morning was not helpful. I gather the Queen of England was not above copping a feel when the hypnotist, Wayne Lee, suggested to me that when the music started he would appear to be the hottest, sexiest man alive and I was going to dance with him. There was nothing prim and proper about it. We slow danced.  I grabbed his buttocks. Twice.
Then it got out I guess that Wayne Lee told certain people on stage that whenever he turned his back to us we would believe he was butt naked. My boss decided to try this today at work. Several times. Let’s just say he’s no Wayne Lee!
I learned later that if I was to ever play in a famous orchestra, I would be the drummer. Somewhere in between Keith Moon and someone with Parkinsons whose meds haven’t kicked in yet. I also learned that I suck at being a butterfly and am fairly certain I exacerbated my Carpel Tunnel syndrome while fluttering on stage showing my ‘best moves’.
The only reason I was there was because I had written an article about the event for my newspaper, where I am a small town reporter (often reminded of this when angry people phone up because they don’t like what I wrote.) So I got two free tickets. I invited Jennifer Aniston aka Jacquie from sales to go with me from the office. Neither of us thought for a second we would “go under” and almost didn’t go up on stage until the hypnotist said “you will feel like you have had the best sleep ever”. Simultaneously we looked at each other and said ‘we’re in’. How can you tell we have kids at home.
‘Jennifer’ was worried she was going to take her clothes off. She asked me time and time again leading up to the night, as if I KNEW, “I am not gonna take my clothes off am I?” She didn’t, but she did run her fingers suggestively through the hypnotist’s hair after the Queen of England was finished fondling his ass.
We remained in character for the entire intermission with the audience being instructed to not let any of us leave the building. Our job was to go out into the lobby and get donations for our cause. We were also asked for autographs. When word got out that the Queen was raising money for transvestites, well, let’s just say I had a line up of subjects waiting to toss me a quarter if I would just repeat – again– what I was raising money for. Reportedly my accent stayed intact. I was stoic, slightly pompous, and refused to sign somebody’s arm because, according to her majesty, it was ‘impertinent.”
When we returned to the stage, Wayne Lee collected the money and said he was donating it to Hospice. A great cause. Especially because I have felt like dying ever since the morning after because I cannot go anywhere without someone referencing my royal heritage. This town is not big enough for me and Liz.
I couldn’t sleep that night when I got home because, yes, it’s true, I already felt I had put a good night’s sleep in. I went to the follow-up seminar the next day with the sole intent of writing about it, but instead I was drawn into the philosophy and spirit behind the concept of the power of suggestion, exploring the unlimited potential of the human mind which is obviously capable of leading us anywhere.
I have had a tough couple of years. Stress. Grief. Disappointment. Fear. Did I already list stress?This guy’s sole mission is to help people get from where they are to where they want to be. and achieve that with gusto. I am usually too tired for gusto.
But if it takes the Queen of England banging on a drum and saving all the members of parliament from Victoria’s Secret, if it takes her majesty to get to the bottom of things and do so with the voice of my beloved (deceased) mum, then so be it.
I’m in.
Until next time, strive for fabulous (with some Crown jewels thrown in)
Sian Erith Thomson