Tuesday, April 11, 2017

13 Reasons Why you should watch with your kids.

I haven't read the book, 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, but I'll be purchasing a copy at our local, independent bookstore, "Let's Talk Books", this week. The Netflix series is haunting, raw, and painful to watch. To say I'm glad I watched it would be inaccurate because it was uncomfortable and heartbreaking, but it was absolutely a worthwhile experience.

I have four kids - two still live at home and are about the same ages of the characters involved. They talk to me about their lives, their struggles, their friends, their dreams... but they don't like to share the grittier parts of wading through high school. The parts we "got through" and expect our kids to "get through", too. The parts that involve alcohol, lying, cheating, drugs, gaming, risk-taking, sex, rape, love, need, depression, anxiety... suicide. The parts I know I've tucked into the dark recesses of my mind, hoping my kids will never know any of these horrifying aspects of life. The parts I don't talk about because, until recently, I didn't think my kids needed to know the details of my high school experiences, whether they were first-hand or not.

But they do.

Not because they need examples of what or what not to do--they've already sorted most of that out on their own, no thanks to the adults who think they're helping when it's possible they aren't. They need to know because even though we remind them regularly we were once teens, we forget how specific examples and detailed stories lend credibility. Maybe they would trust us a bit more if we stopped sugar-coating our teenaged experiences and started telling the raw truth. Maybe they would talk to us more if we weren't so all-knowing and simply admitted we don't have the answers, leaving off the "but together we can figure it out" because they're so far ahead of us on that.

Together, we can figure it out but not necessarily in the perfect-world-kind-of-way and not so blatantly as to make our kids go running in the opposite direction.

I watched the series with my kids. We talked about the actions and reactions of the characters and the events that transpired, but we didn't give input into what we might have done differently because I don't think we could have. They gave me insight into what I have forgotten between the layers of redesigning myself into this thing called adulthood. I gave them insight into how adults think and admitted I don't always know, or even want to know, how teens manage their intricate lives, their stresses, their social circles, their own development into adulthood. That was probably one of the most difficult things I've ever admitted, both to them and myself.

And let's be honest - it's not because I don't want to know; it's because I'm afraid to know.

I used to think we had solid relationships. The tell-me-anything kind of rapport that only happens in the most open-minded, communicative, non-judgemental kinds of families. I never dreamed that my kids kept secrets to protect me because they inherently know adults are fragile, too, even though we're supposed to be their safe spot to land. And while the series, and I'm sure the book, emphasizes that you can't go back--you can only move forward--you can certainly look back to see where you've been and how you got to where you are so you can figure out if you need to change directions.

We're doing okay--so far. My kids are pretty amazing, incredibly resilient, just as I was in my teen years. This show didn't change our lives, exactly, but it did. It opened a different, darker, more honest kind of communication.

It's hard to revisit where I've been and how I got to this moment because it's uncomfortable and heartbreaking, but it's absolutely a worthwhile experience.

Here are my 13 Reasons Why to watch this series with your kids and read the book, if you haven't already:
  1. It's difficult, and we should do difficult things together so we aren't facing our struggles alone
  2. It provides an opportunity to talk about things that really matter
  3. It addresses rape culture
  4. It addresses social stigma
  5. It shows how painful a small, seemingly benign action can be 
  6. It illustrates the distance between teens and their parents and other adults who are supposed to provide support and be positive role-models
  7. It deals with bullying when it doesn't look like bullying
  8. It touches on the damaging effects of social media
  9. It shows how we're all connected, even when we think we aren't
  10. It tells us that any action is better than no action, regardless of how imperfect it might be
  11. It tells a universal teen story, and that's terrifying
  12. It forces you to look at yourself, your kids, and your interactions with them and their friends
  13. It's absolutely worthwhile, even if it hurts or brings up painful memories so you can do better



Friday, March 31, 2017

On Alligators and Paris

You know you really need a vacation when your dreams include everything from alligators to Paris.

This week, I've had two dreams that have stuck with me. The first involved alligators, court hearings, and selfies. The second involved good friends, Paris, and shopping. Usually, my dreams are a mixed-up collage of all that's happened in the day as my mind tries to work through the weirdness to make sense of it all. These dreams were nothing like that.


The first one, the one with the court hearings and alligators, left me feeling both uneasy and accomplished. I'd been to some kind of hearing and despite having rehearsed my lines, I had opted to the tell the truth - which didn't make anyone happy but eased my conscience, so it must have been the right choice. As I walked home, following a sidewalk that bordered a river, I noticed a couple reptile-like heads bobbing in the water. My logical brain dismissed them as an over-active imagination, and I continued on. After all, I live in Canada, and alligators don't exactly thrive in this region of the world.

It must have been raining because the water started lapping at the edges of the sidewalk. As I got closer to the first lump in the water, several more appeared. By now, it was obvious they were, indeed, alligators.

Did I run? No. Did I back away? No.

I dug my phone out of my pocket, presented my back to the impending threat, and took a selfie that I immediately uploaded to Instagram and Facebook. Yup. I was that person.

And then, of course, I woke up. In real life, I'd like to think I'm not an idiot, but this dream proves otherwise.


The second dream is much more delightful. It was so fantastic, I hit snooze on my alarm twice in an attempt to recapture it, but we all know how that part of the story ends.

I was in Paris with a few of my oldest and closest friends from high school, and we were staying in a modern, luxury hotel. Our suite had a perfect view of the Eiffel Tower along with the rest of the city. We shopped, we chatted, we ate, we laughed, and not once did any of us pull out a cell phone or snap a photo. We were very much living in the moment, savouring every detail, and enjoying our longtime friendship...

Until the obnoxious chime of my alarm disturbed the peace.

I'm not going to search the web or crack open a book on dream interpretations - mostly because I'm pretty sure I won't like what I'll find, but I will take a moment to think about what these two dreams mean to me. For the past few weeks, I've been thinking about living life with purpose - really paying attention to the who, what, and where of it all. I'm not about to give up social media or my cell phone addiction, but I do think I need to spend a little more time focusing on the real world around me. I need to budget my time because it isn't infinite, but it is valuable. Every so often, my dreams speak to me, and this time, I think I got the message loud and clear.





Monday, March 20, 2017

Love you forever, sweet Panda Pooch.

Last week, we had to say goodbye to our precious pooch. She came into our lives 10 years ago, a rescue who undoubtedly rescued us. I told people she was my fit of rebellion. I wanted a dog, and my husband agreed, but I didn't bring home the creature he had envisioned. Instead of a small to mid-sized spaniel mix, Panda was a purebred mutt of gigantic proportions. She was my mid-life crisis Ferrari, only she turned out to be the most dependable Toyota.


The shelter told me she was about a year old and fully grown, but within a few months of her joining our family, she grew a couple inches taller and gained ten pounds... possibly the result of too much love and spoiling. Her nose easily crested the top of the kitchen table, where she happily snagged anything within her reach... birthday cakes, entire hams, and apples... she really loved apples.

The shelter volunteers had named her Dot, but my older kids were going through a Yu-Gi-Oh phase and decided she needed a Japanese name, so they tossed around a number of unpronounceable options from their favourite Manga shows. In the end, the youngest suggested "Panda" because she looked like one, and pandas are from Japan. It was cute, different, and appropriate - so who were we to correct a five-year-old on the origins of pandas?


Over the years, she was my constant companion. I said we got her for the kids, but she always was my girl. After getting the kids safely to school, we settled into a cozy routine. I'd write, edit or format, and she'd snore softly at my feet. She rarely barked to announce visitors, occasionally howled if she was feeling vocal, and she groaned like an old man when forced to move or do something she didn't want to. If we had unexpected company, usually of the animal type, she'd growl low and menacing, ready to protect her people, but we never knew her to be aggressive.

When my husband took work in another province, spending weeks at a time away, she promptly filled his space on the bed, keeping me warm, letting me know we were safe. Stoic, dependable, and sensitive, she supported us all through some pretty rocky times.


She'll always be part of our family, her soul is embedded in my heart, and her energy continues to filter into every corner of our lives. It's only been a week, and I know time will soften the sharp edges of grief, but today, with the kids back at school, my husband at work, and the silence of the day surrounding me... I miss her.