It's Saturday morning here at my house at exactly 7:44. It was a rather cold, dry night, with our furnace making the house a little warm due to our experimenting leaving it up one extra degree, and my nose kind of fried to a crisp and my lips cracked up, so here I am wide awake while my sweet wife sleeps sitting propped up in bed beside me. She has to do that to help her with her breathing issues. That's a polite way of saying she snores.
It's been a little while since I've posted an update on how things have been going around here, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to do so since I can't immediately go back to sleep. I don't know how many people still check into this place to view my ramblings, but I thought I'd talk for awhile anyway.
My little girl Alexandra is doing very well in school this year. Her focus is on construction for the most part, and that's her home room class. It's one that's filled with all boys except for herself and two other girls. We had a parent-teacher meeting not long ago, and he told us that Alexandra is doing very well up to this point, one of the better students in the class. That's no surprise to us. As long as she shows interest, we know she will do very well. The only class she's struggling with a bit is political sciences, a class she chose herself. I do believe, though, that she'll pick up and come back to eventually achieve success. I have no worries. We don't really place pressure on her to do well, apart from picking on her to do her homework and study sometimes. We just always emphasize to her how important it is to do well in school to advance her chances of a brighter future. There's only one thing that truly stresses me out about her academic ambitions, that being her supposed desire to go to university or college in England. I don't believe at all that it's because of any schooling or anything educational that's offered there. We do our best to try to ground her vision and try to make her review her best options to further herself realistically, without her compromising her future goals or dreams. The fact is, though, when she graduates in a year and a half, the world belongs to her and she can do what she wants. We can only influence her as best we can as to what is not a good idea.
All this makes me reflect on when I was a kid her age and how I was with my own mom. Things were a bit similar. I grew up in a poor household... we pretty much live in a poor household. I had this feeling of invincibility, like most kids... like Alexandra does now. I saw myself with a career that would come to me no matter what I did at the time, without a plan or any kind of action. Alexandra seems to think that this England thing will magically materialize before her eyes, with no contingency plan. I defied my mother and her warnings about the future to come... Alexandra does the same with us, though she's equipping herself far better for her future than either Janice or me ever did. I felt like I had all the answers... Alexandra thinks she's got everything down too. All this considered, I sympathize with the stage she's at in her life, and I know how her mind works. We have to balance very carefully stressing the importance of her future while at the same time allowing her to be a kid while she still can be. The beauty and the curse of being a parent is that we get to watch our kids travel the roads that we've already been on, and try to warn them of the potholes, rough patches and dead ends ahead of them. But kids are cocky. They will drive those roads like they're driving Hummers when they're only modest Hyundai Accents; adequately endowed, but unprepared for the worst. Parenting is unique indeed. I find myself recalling what it was like when I was a teenager myself, trying to set myself back into that frame of mind, so I can readily prepare myself as to effectively influence my own little girl. It's a bit different in my case compared to many other kids, in that I was fatherless throughout my teen years, though my mother did an incredible job filling in that role as well. A lot of kids today are growing up with just one parent. I definitely feel for them. Indeed, it's quite heartbreaking thinking about it. Many single parent experiences are very positive though. I know my mother was the very best person for the task that she had in raising me. It wasn't easy!
One of my little girl's dreams is that of becoming a singer. She's participating in a thing called Maritime Idol, in which a bunch of kids from around the Maritimes are competing for that title. The format is a bit strange, though, with no real judges except for the very small live audience and the internet crowd. Some might say that having no judges spares the kids the potentially harsh criticisms that lie before them after each performance. My answer to that is, bullshit! The kids NEED the harsh criticisms if it's due to them. How are they to improve if they don't have the tools to do so, one of the main ones being the due criticism? Sometimes we do well and get accolades. Sometimes we trip up and get pasted about it and have to find the means to pick ourselves back up. Life is about triumphs and failures. Welcome to life on planet earth. So... we've attended two of these Maritime Idol things now, with Alexandra doing very well at the first one, and okay at the second one. There were other kids participating that absolutely did not belong on a stage at all, at least at this point. The potential for embarrassment is extreme for allowing some of these kids to continue week after week when they clearly don't have 'the stuff'. It can be a complete pleasure being onstage and performing. But when you're a kid, if you don't perform well, it can be hell once you step off the stage and face your peers. That's where the responsibility of judges comes in. Part of their job is to advise contestants how they can better themselves. These kids have none of that. This is where I'm conflicted. I am proud of Alexandra just for getting up on a stage and singing in front of a bunch of strangers and for the internet world to see, much less her Mom and Dad. Being a true-bred Cook, I also believe in honesty. If she comes off the stage and asks me how she did, I will tell her, truly and bluntly, with consideration for her soft heart, unlike an actual judge. Her first outing, she did surprisingly well, with me believing... albeit with bias... that she had the performance of the night among her other ten opponents. I told her that too, but also told her how she could improve the next week. She took it all in stride, but basically ignored most of my advice. So in the second week, she didn't do quite as well, although she over-challenged herself with her song selections, which I also warned her about. Other kids this week fared far worse though, and I feel badly for them, because I fear the judgment they receive will be from their peers in the hallways in school. That's the danger of no real judges. Kids can be cruel, and that's what worries me a bit with Alexandra facing her friends, and would-be friends. She did, however though, take our advice this time out, after some tears and disappointment, and picked two country songs for next week that are clearly within her abilities. I look forward to her actually having fun with these songs. But as parents, we already know she's going to do her best, and we already are proud of her. It doesn't matter if she advances or wins anything. She's already won in our eyes by stepping up.
What a year this has been for my wife. Janice has had struggle after struggle placed in front of her as the months progress toward the end of '12. From enduring a harsh bout with the flu, to her sister Debbie's passing, to her bout with Bell's Palsy, to her trying times as post office manager at work, to enduring trial after trial with her chronic arthritis and fibromyalgia, to putting up with me, even. She says she hasn't been quite the same since BP had struck this past summer. Though it's actually passed, it's left residual effects that left her face still numb and painful on one side. She had to stop her medication with Enbrel for the duration of BP, since Enbrel is an immune suppressant to aid in the treatment of her psoriatic arthritis. That led to her stiffening up and store, though she did combat these effects by stubbornly going to the gym regularly. Imagine doing an intense weight workout with heavy weights for a good solid two hours, then going home and going to bed, waking up the next morning. That stiff, sore feeling? Janice feels like that all of the time because of her arthritis, only worse. So I don't know quite how she maintains a positive outlook. She does say that her favorite times are when she comes home from work and gets to be with Alexandra and me, especially the days when neither of us work. When Janice and I first got together, we worked together. She was actually my boss. This enabled us to be together all the time, and we thrived on it. Where a lot of couples need that time apart, time apart for us is actually dreaded. We talk sometimes of how it would be if she only had a post office in a store where I was receiver too, so we'd be together at work again. People always say, "you guys wouldn't get along and your relationship would suffer." To which we say, no, we've been there already and that didn't happen. If something like mom and pop stores still thrived today, which they don't, I could envision us owning one. Only like the old days, I'd want her to be the boss! She's the smart one between us. She even makes a little more money than I do, at least marginally. Hell, I wish she made a lot more. I don't have this macho male pride thing going on, but I am very proud of my wife. She's a warrior. A beautiful warrior.
And then there's me. Ah, what a year it's been. It certainly saw a year of changes over what 2011 was. That year was a learning experience, to put it politely. On the one hand, you have the notion in your head of how people see you. Then you have the reality of how they see you reveal itself, and the shock sets in. I still recover from it day to day, really. It certainly isn't as bad as it was one year ago, but the shock waves sent through my system of the actions of one particular friend and some family during that time have led me to realize that I'm far, far more damaged from it than I even first believed. I have a doctor's appointment this coming week to try to address my mental and emotional issues, which unfortunately actually lead to physical issues as well. I have said before that I am alive today because my wife made sure of it. At no time in my life has that been as true as the past year and a half. Without her, I'm sure, positive that I would lose the will to live and wither away during times like this. Through the first part of the year, I took on the misguided notion that I could wean off of my meds and regain some of what I had before I went on them. While I'm on them, there's a sort of 'fog' in my head, though not actually hindering in any way, but it keeps me balanced, so to speak. However, if I am on them, I have a much better sense of reasoning and balance. Although even that's been challenged in the last little while. I remember my tae kwon do master telling me as I was learning my forms and techniques not to beat myself up over my lack of progress at times, that trying to move forward was all that mattered, because as long as you do that the rest will take care of itself. There are times that finding the will to move forward can be challenging for a man of my condition, though. However, I am aware of all of it, and I am taking steps to advance. As they say, knowing is half the battle. My wife is definitely an inspiration. As far as I'm concerned, she's been through far, far worse than me this year, although they say these things are relative. When you're faced with adversity, you find out what you're truly made of, and you really don't know until then what you really are made of. It often takes retrospect, looking back upon what you went through. "I got through that?"
It will be a very different Christmas for us here in a way. We will be happy, though. We have a roof over our heads, warmth on the cold winter nights, food and drink and especially, each other. In our little family of three (five if you count Crocky and Marbles, which really we should), we have never suffered any kind of crisis. Nothing that threatened to tear us apart or divide us. Some situations have arose where we perceived there was jealousy at our tightness, but none of it ever phased us. Nor will it. We love each other too much around here. The one thing that will make this Christmas slightly different is our financial situation. Money has seldom been as tight as it is these days. With winter being here and the oil furnace burning, we have to tighten our purse strings more than usual as we struggle to pay debts and bills. Just this past Thursday when Alexandra did her Maritime Idol thing, I couldn't even scrape together $7 to go until the very last minute, and we're over a week removed until the next payday, with absolutely no Christmas shopping done because the funds just don't exist. But this season, we will eat well, we will be warm, and we will have fun, because we have all the things that matter to us. We'll be like the Who's in Whoville after the Grinch took all the stuff. Still happy and still full of spirit and love.
And I will leave this blog on that positive note. If I don't get to address this blog again until after the season, have a great Christmas and a splendid New Year. And thank you so very much for visiting my humble blog.
Now fire up those colortinis and watch the pictures as they fly through the air.