Bullying and the Power of One Man’s Words


Today I stumbled upon this video about bullying by Shane Koyczanhttp://www.upworthy.com/bullies-called-him-pork-chop-he-took-that-pain-with-him-and-then-cooked-it-into?g=3 it’s a beautifully written, spoken poem with animation, the animation is beautiful and touching in it’s own right.

This is an incredibly important video and as a person who was also bullied as a child I found myself crying over it. There is one part where he says “we grew up believing no on would ever fall in love with us, that we’d be lonely forever, that we’d never meet someone to make us feel like the sun was something they built for us in their tool shed. So broken heart strings bled the blues as we tried to empty ourselves so we would feel nothing.” That particular collection of words really hit home to me. I was bullied from grade 6 into high school simply because I had buckteeth. My parents were not able to get braces for me until I was 16. The happiest day of my life, and it is sad to say so, is the day I had my braces put on. I grew up in a military family and spent my childhood moving every 4 years. In grade 6 I started in a new school in a smaller town and that’s when the bullying started. I can remember laying in bed at night and thinking the same thing that Shane Koyczan says in his amazing poem; that no one would ever fall in love with me, I was going to grow up lonely, that this would never go away, this would never get better. It did get better as my teeth were straightened, as I grew up and found beauty in myself. However the pain you endure as a child, being barked at all the way home from the bus stop, being called bucky beaver, ugly, freak, the pain of those words carry into adulthood. They make you fear the day your children start school, fear that they will endure the same pain. Or worse that they will inflict pain on others.

Because of my teeth and the relentless teasing I learned to hide away, to not get too close to people for fear I would get too comfortable and maybe forget to cover my mouth with my hand when I smiled or laughed. I was always so careful to cover my mouth. I was one of the lucky ones though, I had friends, friends that considered themselves good people for allowing me to hang out with them, you know, considering…. Friends that would think it were okay to say, “you are the nicest person in our class but you are the ugliest.” I never want my children to have to plan out how they are going to walk from one class to the next to avoid certain people, to have to walk down a hallway while the name calling hits you like a slap in the face. I never want my children to have to laugh when someone makes a reference to how you remind them of bugs bunny, like laughing at yourself will make the humiliation less intense. I never wanted anyone to know their comments hurt me, somehow that made it worse in my eyes. So I laughed along with them and they in turn thought I was so nice, with no idea how much I actually hated them. Thank you Shane Koyczan, your words WILL make a difference.

Please note this blog post was hard to write, I still feel the sting of humiliation recalling that time in my young life. Share Shane’s video, like his facebook page, follow him on twitter; watch him as he makes a difference.

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5000 kms Travelled, Five Kids and Two Weeks of Summer Vacation


I took a bit of a summer hiatus from my art. Part of that hiatus included a two week vacation to Eastern Canada with my family. 5000 kms of driving and five different provinces we took in a lot of cool sights. This was a vacation on a budget which included camping in a pop up trailer with five noisy and often fighting kids. Marsh mellows, smores and scary stories told around the campfire my kids were scared and sticky messes each night before bed. Now our two youngest sleep with their door open for fear that they will be attacked in the night by three finger Willie (thank you Stephan for your imaginative story). A lot of memories were made in those 5000 kms; and after many mosquito bites, boring car rides, late nights and ocean views my kids are pretty impressed they travelled half of Canada in a two week span.  Maybe next summer we will head west.

Here a few of the sites we encountered, photo credits to Stephan Chagnon.

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Keeping Your Children Safe and Out Of Trouble – An Artist and Mother’s Account


If you have read any of my blog you will notice that my favourite subjects to write about are my art and my children. With four kids of my own and two step kids it does lead to a lot of writing material. The current ages of my kids run from a 6 year old up to a 19 year old. So there have been a lot of different issues to contend with as a mom.

 

So far I have been lucky in that my children have not screwed up too much, except for one incident which we will get too in due time. I managed to keep my oldest in line enough that he made it to adulthood relatively unharmed and somewhat balanced. I only ever received two phone calls from a principal, one because he bullied a boy on the bus in the misguided effort to impress a girl he had a crush on. The other because he got the brilliant idea to give the middle finger to a police cruiser from the school bus window. He was pretty shocked when the cruiser pulled the bus over and had “words” both with my son and his friend, the second culprit. But aside from those two incidences he has been a relatively good boy.

 My youngest son however, who just turned 9 seems to live at the principals office. He has done everything from telling his teacher she wasn’t the boss of him, that only mom was the boss, to giving his principal the middle finger, to drawing happy faces on the walls of the school bathroom in permanent marker, to an outburst during an assembly that centered around the topic of Respect. At the end of this assembly the speaker asked the kids “so, did we learn anything here today?” To which my son blurted out, loudly of course “nope, nothing at all.” Apparently he thinks he’s a comedian, but his comedic ways have landed him in the principal’s office like it’s his second home. He’s actually a funny kid who seems to hold no fear for anyone in charge, which scares me and causes many, many sleepless nights. But his stories, of which there are many can be saved for another day.

 No, today’s story centers on the first time any of my children have truly shocked me. You see we have two teenage girls, my daughter who just turned 16 and my stepdaughter who will be 16 this summer.

When they were 14 they had a sleep over with my stepdaughters friend from the city. They approached me the next morning to ask if they could go hang out in the small town we live near. Of course I said no, what would be the point in going and hanging out except to get into trouble. There just seemed no reason, they had no money to spend, it was too cold to go play at the park so what else would there be for them to do but “hang out”. So instead they asked if they could go for a walk around our little neighborhood. We live in the country in a small village that is surrounded by farms. So to this I said yes, of course you can go for a walk. Here is where I failed as a parent; there was a barn up the road from our house that apparently was frequented by the local kids as a “hang out”. I had no idea they spent their time up there, when they said, “go for a walk” I took it at face value. These are kids that have never gotten into any real trouble you see, in fact I will go so far as to brag and tell you they care about school, their marks and their future. So they decided this day to go hang out at the barn up the road. They climbed up into the rafters and talked and laughed and joked around. However while they were talking they also took out two lighters and proceeded to light little pieces of straw on fire and then throw them out the window down into the snow covered ground below. I’m guessing you can imagine what happened next? And you would be right.

One of the pieces of straw went unnoticed, landing below them in a stack of hay where it lay smoldering. This barn was all but abandoned and had been filled to the rafters with old hay. Hay that had been left untouched for years. It was the friend that noticed the flames, as they all had their backs to it. The barn was actually on fire! They jumped down and attempted to put out the fire with snow first, then by stomping their feet into the flames. But for each little fire that got smothered another one would flare up. When it started really spreading they decided to go for help. As soon as they ran out of the barn into the road the whole thing went up in flames. I cannot tell you how lucky we are that this didn’t end in worse tragedy for this dried up barn all but exploded with them just a few feet out of harms way.

This has been by far the worst thing we have had to deal with as parents. It has left these girls with a huge burden; they feel guilt towards the farmer, who didn’t press charges. Only asked that they help in the clean up of the debris. Guilt towards the homeowners who’s siding got melted from the heat of the flames. Guilt towards my husband and I because our insurance premiums rose due to the pay out for the melted siding.  They have had no social life to speak of since the incident, no cell phones, no computers (except for the use of mine for homework). Their life consists of doing homework and going on excursions as a family. It’s a harsh lesson I wouldn’t wish on any kid or parent. Even the kids you think won’t screw up have the potential to truly shock you and you really can’t take your eyes off of them at any age.

Did any good come out of this? I doubt any of my kids will ever play with fire again; this was a traumatic event for the whole family, right down to the littlest one. I also think my teen girls have lost that “it could never happen to me” mentality that most teens have which may save them in the future.  They also don’t seem to take things for granted anymore and have since learned the true value of money. This incident threatened to ruin us financially, if it weren’t for the good hearted nature of that farmer who wanted no money, no charges laid and was satisfied with their sincere and tearful apology.

I just hope my girls pay it forward if they ever find themselves in a position where forgiveness is needed. That they will never forget that farmer’s big heart and forgiving nature as they grow up and move through their own lives. And that they never take their eyes off their own children. 

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Crazy Dog Takes Lessons From An Even Crazier Family – An Artists Life With Six Kids


One day my husband brought home a big dog, without my permission. I saw him driving up the road towards our house, arm hanging out the window, cigar in his mouth and a big black dog in the passenger seat. Secretly I sometimes think he looks more like a redneck but that’s beside the point (and please don’t tell him I said that). I watch him pull into the driveway, with this dog and his cigar and felt one of those rare moments of hate that are inevitable in any relationship. There he was, completely white dust covered from one of his renovating jobs, cigar ashes flying as he strained to cart this dog out of the van. He looked at me; big smile covering his face then shrugged his shoulders and brought the dog in the house. I took a moment, a moment to unclench my fists and breath, just breath. Now don’t get me wrong, I love dogs, although I do admit to a slight fear of the larger ones. Again, I repeat, I do love dogs, however, we have six kids between us, two at that time that were little enough to be home during the day, with me and now, this big dog.

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The dog was a female black lab mix with a little crazy stirred in. First thing the dog did to initiate herself into our family was to chew on the legs of my antique dining set. A dining set that has been around for approximately 130 years but is falling apart under the “care” of my rough family. It managed a 130-year life until it fatefully became part of our furniture collection. So the dog, whom we named Dolly, chewed my chairs and one leg of the table; happily I might add, like they were dipped in bacon grease. This all happened fast, she dove straight for the table and started chewing before anyone could stop her. Could have been comical if not for my total distress at watching my table getting ruined. As the kids and my husband chased her around trying to stop the destruction she would move to another chair, go in for a quick bite and slip away before any hands could reach her.

She was a friendly dog, very hyperactive though which did amount to a lot of interesting scenarios. Luckily a few of our kids were old enough to take her on lots of walks. For the older girls it was more of a tug of war then a walk but still, they got the job done.

For our youngest son though, who was only three at the time, this dog, Dolly, was both a friend and an enemy. They quickly developed a very complicated love, hate relationship; you see we were not used to a big dog in the house. So when we laid out lunch for our little guy, on the coffee table with his little plastic chair pulled up, well little did we know this was the perfect height for a dog thief. Every time our son looked away, Dolly, who would act seemingly uninterested while the food was being served, would then scoot over and devour the meal in mere seconds. Around the third time this happened, our son got up, walked over to the dog that was lying on the floor pretending not to notice him and then leaned forward to lift up her ear and whisper, “Dolly, I hate you”.

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He had seemed to forgive her though, when later he brought the dog over to show us his art experiment. He had gotten into my art paints and brushes and had decorated the dog in multiple colors. What I found most amusing was the patience of this dog, our Dolly, to have sat through a painting session that was long enough for our son to change colors and cover multiple areas of her body. But he sure was proud and Dolly seemed happy enough, probably hoping in return he would just share his lunch with her.

 

I long ago decided my only defence in this family is to just paint!

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