Photo Challenge – Optimistic

photochallenge-optimistic


January is the month that we have to turn vacation requests in at work. I’m usually excited to do it but it’s getting more and more difficult to work around everyone.


This year, we have a wedding to attend in Ottawa (super pumped about that!) and Tyler’s spending 6 weeks at the military college for cadet camp in Kingston. We’re planning a big camping trip, trying to arrange for several families to attend, while still holding out for Tyler’s return from camp. If it all goes well, I’ll get to see my parents for the first time in person in two years. I’ve really, really missed them. It’s really difficult to be away from them.


So I took on the task of checking the calendar, checking dates and trying to map out how we were going to do this. With Tyler away for so long, we will be putting Caleb in day camp for a couple of weeks and figuring out other arrangements for at least two other weeks. That was our big project this week… and I get pretty excited about planning our family time when it’s still cold and dreary outside.


Devin’s vacation has to be approved first, before I can hand mine in… he has to work around his co-worker’s vacations because they have seniority, but for me, it really doesn’t matter. I am fairly lucky that way!


Yes, I can almost smell the Algonquin pine trees and the evening campfires… I can hear the birds chirping, kids playing and wood being cut for fires. The optimistic was of looking at it is that it’s only 6 months away!


Optimistic

Right Here, Right Now

righthererightnow

I’m snoozing in the front passenger seat of our Journey.. The vehicle is fully packed, with our bicycles on the back, and we’re driving through the twisty roads of cottage country. The radio is on, but my husband has it set to Slacker, because the stations don’t come in well out here.

We’ve made two pit stops, and two coffees have done nothing to keep me awake.Β I’m tired. It was an early morning… getting everyone up and ready and out the door by 8:30 a.m. The excitement for the week ahead has finally taken it’s toll on me.

My husband slows the vehicle down, and turns the right-hand signal on… the kids remove their headphones. We’re here.

We park off to the right-hand side of the campground gate. The vehicle is silent except for the kids, moving stuff around, as their second-wind kicks in. I open the window and breathe in, deeply. Oh that smell of pine, campfires, and sunshine. Can sunshine have a smell? Oh yes, it can here.

My husband returns to the Journey with some papers, and a big smile on his face. MY second wind just kicked in.

This is going to be an awesome week.

Write Here, Write Now

Coming Out – A Teen’s Story

Coming Out

Written by Tyler Riches

Hey, people of mom’s blog! I’m Tyler, and a little while ago, my mom wrote an article about her experiences after I came out as gay. Well, little did she know, earlier, I had written something similar about my own experiences. So after my mom wrote her article, I showed her mine. She’s asked me to summarize it so she can put it on her blog, but instead, I just rewrote it completely. So, here you are!

TGTG Story (Revised)

So all my life I knew something was up. Something was wrong. Something was eating away at the back of my mind. I really had no clue as to what that ‘something’ was.

In Grade 2, I told everyone I had a crush on this one girl. She was beautiful (and still is), so I crushed on her throughout elementary school. But once again, something was wrong.

Gradually, over the next couple years, I got an idea of what that was. I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out why there was only one girl I thought was pretty. In Grade 4, I wrote a letter to my parents explaining this, and left it outside their door. But I started to worry over what they might think, so after only a couple of minutes, I grabbed the letter and tore it to shreds; I made sure the pieces were so small no one could read them. I cried, and decided to leave it. It will go away, I told myself.

By Grade 6, I knew what the word ‘gay’ meant, and by Grade 7, I wondered if I could be gay. The very thought scared me. The number of homophobic comments in elementary school was exponential, and I resolved to never tell anyone. Instead, a girl and I started dating. We didn’t actually go out on dates or anything, we just said we were boyfriend and girlfriend. Still, that didn’t last long. She broke up with me without a reason, but we were still friends. Ah, elementary was weird.

In Grade 8, two big things happened. One was good, and one was bad. The bad thing was that I tried telling my best friend that I was gay. This was a time when I myself hadn’t even accepted that, so I was scared out of my wit. He was nice about it, and he swore he wouldn’t tell anyone, but it actually made him sick. Like, physically sick. He had to take a day off of school. By the time he got back, I had been so shaken up by the experience that I said “So I’m not actually gay. I just told you that to see how much I could trust you.” He was visibly relieved, and that was that. I told him a couple weeks ago that ‘I lied to him by telling the truth’, and after explaining what I meant, he laughed. Anyways, the good thing was that I joined the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets. I’ve made so many close friends in this group, it’s astounding. Not only that, but some LGBTQ+ cadets were open about themselves. And even though I hadn’t accepted, or even began to accept, myself, this still made me feel better.

Then comes high school! In Grade 9, I ended up joining a group called ‘Positive Space’, which focuses on preventing bullying, specifically LGBTQ+ bullying. I felt comfortable with these people. Some were trans, gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, non-binary, or just straight allies. But it was inclusive, and I felt at home.

After I joined Positive Space, I did my research. I learned all about different sexual orientations and genders, and used that information to sort myself out. I was cisgender (which means comfortable with your assigned gender); in other words, I was perfectly happy being male. I also decided that I might be gay, or bisexual, but I didn’t know, and honestly didn’t want to know, so I told myself I was ‘Questioning’. I still didn’t tell anyone, but regardless, it was a step in the right direction.

Oh yeah, and I told that girl I had a crush on that I didn’t ‘like’ her anymore. She was relieved. See, in high school, it’s not just who’s ‘pretty’. Crushes are often sexual. And that idea honestly repulsed me. I guess it didn’t matter; we’re best friends to this day.

On February 13th, a day before Valentine’s, at around 11 at night, I was texting one of my best friends from cadets. I told her that I had a big weight on my shoulders, and she inquired as to what was bothering me. After about 5 minutes and a couple tears, I told her I was questioning. She tells me right after that she’s bi. I was so relieved. A million bricks just melted off my shoulders. We spent the next three hours talking to each other, gradually getting years of built up stress off our chests. We also came out in the group chat to our small social circle of 6 tightly-knit friends. It was so relieving. Definitely one of my better nights.

It turns out, that out of those 6 friends, three are bi, two are straight, and then myself, the gay. In time, this news would be music to my ears, as I’ll eventually realize I was never alone.

The next couple months just seemed so empty. I denied it when people asked if I was gay. I broke down and cried every now and then. Why? Because I knew I was gay. I’d go to school sometimes, telling myself over and over that I was gay, and by the end of the day I’d be in denial again. I remember one time after gym class I walked home and cried because I hated going through that. I think the only good thing that happened happened on my birthday: Rainbow Prom. In a nutshell, it was a dance for students across the district, and you could wear, go out with, and dance in any way you wanted, and no one would think the better of it. I was Master of Ceremonies, and the Prom King and Queen were both trans. It was one hell of a night, and I’ll never forget it.

Before school ended in June, I told some of my closest friends I was gay. All the reactions were positive and supportive, and that made me feel a bit better. After months of crying, I found that I just kinda accepted myself. I stopped doubting it. In June, I went off to sea cadet camp in Kingston for three weeks. I told some more close friends, I even told the Padre, whose there for spiritual reasons, but also just for support. He gave me a muffin after our talk and sent me on my way with a smile, but still, I couldn’t shake the growing feeling of depression. Now I’ve never been diagnosed or anything with depression. But some days I’d be super teary and emotional, and others I would feel empty. Sure, I put on a faΓ§ade of cheerfulness, but most people do. Now, a lot of people suspected I was gay, and some even asked, but usually, I’d say no.

Last major story, which you’ll remember from my mom’s post, was camping. On the first day of the vacation, I just felt so… empty. I don’t really know how else to put it. But it was the second day, August 16th, when I was all emotional. I had a breakdown and my mom took me aside and asked what was wrong. After a lot of convincing, crying, wheezing, and more crying, I told her. I felt, rather than heard, her sigh. She asked me how I felt, and I told her I don’t know, because I didn’t know her reaction. She said she didn’t know how to react. But by the end of the day, my parents told me that I deserve to love and to be happy, and that the road ahead wouldn’t be easy, but I was just happy I have a future where my parents still love me. A lot of LGBTQ+ people don’t get that opportunity.

Now, they were still visibly shaken. They’re both Christian, so it’s even harder for them. But they were determined to get through this together with me. Unfortunately for them, I was one step ahead of them; after I told them, my depression faded away. I’ve never been happier. While they were still reeling, I had started to tell people at school. And you know how quickly things spread in high school. But, I didn’t get one bit of negativity. Same at cadets; everyone welcomed me with open arms. Then, on November 10th, I told the world via Facebook. I got so much support, I cried tears of happiness for the first time in my life. Everyone knows now, and no one thinks of me any differently.

Now, it’s Christmas Eve, 2015. I’m hardly the same person I was a couple months ago, let alone a whole year ago. My parents seem to be coping a lot better, and occasionally ask about my crush or poke fun at me for not having a boyfriend yet. Which, I guess, is my resolution for 2016. And since my 2015 resolution was to come out, this one can’t be hard at all.

There are so many small details, so many breakdowns, so much more to this story. But this is a blog post, not a novel, and I have to make it fit. Plus, some of those memories are so dark that really, I don’t want to share it with you guys. No offense.
In conclusion, I’m a 15-year-old unattractive (motherly interjection – Um, I don’t think so!) gay potato who is a meme lord, artist, writer, cadet, straight-A student, future naval officer and politician, and I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time.

The way I finished my last article probably doesn’t apply to you guys, but I’ll say it anyways. I know it’s cheesy, you hear it all the time, and I myself didn’t believe it, but I’m not lying when I say it does get better.

My Blog-spiration

My Blog-spiration

All it takes is a couple of clicks through my posts and it’s easy to see that my family is my inspiration for everything. And no wonder, they are my entire world.

My husband and I came from close-knit families, so it’s just been natural for us to raise our own family this way.

Ever since the kids could sleep through the night, we’ve taken them camping, to parks, the movies, and when they could walk, we taught them to ice-skate and ride bikes. Every time I see a free or cheap family-themed activity that I think we might all enjoy, we try to go.

This, in turn, creates memories and stories. I love that we have fun together. Even more than that, I love that we don’t need to have a lot of money in order to enjoy each other’s company.

It is my goal to not only raise my family this way, but to offer my readers inspiration to do the same with their own families. And to readers whose families have grown up and moved on to have families of their own, I hope I offer them a laugh with my stories, and give them opportunities to share their memories, stories and advice with me.

What is your blog-spiration?

Coming Out – A Mother’s Story – Part One

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(originally written on October 7, 2015)

I had no answer to the question. I didn’t think I’d need one.

So let’s backtrack a little bit. A little over fifteen years ago, our first, beautiful baby boy was born. We couldn’t wait for him to talk. Then when he could talk, we couldn’t wait for him to shut up (parents of talkative kids, you KNOW what I mean… I love him dearly but omgwouldyoupleasebequietforfiveminutes instead of tellingthecashieryourlifestory).

He wasn’t a sporty kid, and although I always encouraged him to give it a try, to join a team, he just wasn’t interested. I was okay with that. He loved Thomas the Tank Engine, Transformers, and when he was fixated on something, he went ALL the way with it. I will never forget his obsession with weather… and how he had to set up a mini weather station out on our back deck. His grades? Never been a problem. Very responsible kid, we could trust him with a house key at 10, and watching his younger brother for maybe an hour when he was 11. Dependable, smart, trustworthy.. there just aren’t enough positive adjectives to describe him.

He had a crush on a classmate since grade one, they became close friends, went on dates to school dances. Then when I asked him one day, he didn’t like her “that way” anymore. No reason, just not interested.

Then he became quiet, and sullen. I tried not to look too much into it. He was 15… I was the same way in my adolescent years. I knew it couldn’t be us as parents, we were always telling him how proud of him we were (and are), always asking him about his day, what’s going on in his life. We have these conversations at the dinner table, nearly every night, as a way to stay in touch and reconnect. We’ve always been supportive of his interests and decisions, and encouraging him in any way possible.

He was so quiet, I was getting tired of hearing myself ask him the same question over and over again, Are you okay? Do you want to talk? He always had plenty to Facetime his friends about, but God forbid his father or I try to make him laugh. I could not, for the life of me, figure it out. He began to wear this worried look on his face… well, maybe worry, with a look of guilt too. Again… didn’t want to pry. He’s a teenager, I’m a parent. I know my place. If he needs to talk, he will. We’ve raised him to know that.

We went on our beloved camping trip this past summer. Things became serious when he wasn’t even looking forward to our trip. We were nearly there, and he asked for a big hug, in a Walmart parking lot, as we picked up a couple of things. He apologized for being depressed, and I told him that the fresh air and a week of campfires would do him good.

Two days in, about to head to the beach as a family, and get into our rented canoe, he asked me for another hug. He started crying into my shoulder. Wtf? I asked my husband to take our other son and go ahead, we’d meet up with them… I was bound and determined to get to the bottom of this, which was not unlike putting toothpaste back into the tube.

After several minutes of tears, and hesitation, and deep breaths, and him telling me he was sure I would hate him (I even told him I had a feeling I knew what he wanted to tell me, but that he was going to have to say the words), I needed to do or say something to relieve the tension. I jokingly asked if he’d gotten a girl pregnant. I knew that was NOT it… and the look of horrified shock on his face told me I had done what needed to be done in order to move this along.

“I’m gay.”

This was in August, and I’m still having a hard time even typing the words. Saying the words out loud is like trying to speak a foreign language… even still.

God… I don’t know how I pulled the strength together to be okay that day. I smiled, and hugged him, hard, and told him I loved him, no matter what. That’s my job as his mother. It wasn’t a lie then, and it isn’t now.

My husband and I spent a LOT of time talking about this, once our son told him later the same day. We went for walks, talking, discussing, asking questions of each other, sharing our dread over telling highly-religious family members. I cried when I was alone in the shower, I cried myself to sleep, I cried every single time I thought about it.

I crumpled to the ground and sobbed like a baby, on our favourite beach in the world, mourning the wedding dreams I had for him, mourning the “bride” I would never meet, much less go wedding dress shopping with. Mourning the biological grandchildren I will never have from him.. Mourning all the dreams and hopes and wishes I’ve had for him since the day he was born. I couldn’t catch my breath and my husband held me, and tried to comfort me the best way he could think of. He had no idea how to do this because it’s not something you plan for.

Even as I write this, the tears are spilling down my cheeks.

He was afraid to tell me, because it’s never been a lifestyle I’ve accepted. I have had gay friends (and been deeply hurt and disappointed when it became obvious). Sometimes you know, but don’t admit it to yourself. With my son, there were always little things, but not enough to make us choose one side of the fence over the other. God works in mysterious ways, doesn’t He? “You don’t accept this way of life? Well, missy, let me fix your little red wagon!” That’s exactly what it feels like. And my son waited 6 years to tell me, as he struggled to come to terms with feeling different, and really, really not understanding why. To be honest, I’m not sure if any of us, even him, understand WHY.

The only solace I get from this, besides the fact that immediately after telling us, he became a much happier kid (which is really the best part of all of this), is that he was honest and told us this is not something he wanted. He never wanted to be gay. He never wanted to be different. He agreed with me when I explained how I now felt about his wedding… he said he had always had the same dreams too, if he ever decided to get married.

It’s been three months. On the homefront, absolutely nothing has changed except my husband and I watch our comments and jokes a little more closely. He’s just shared his news over Facebook. My heart breaks every time I think about how he’s felt every day since he’s realized it for himself, and he’s had NO ONE. But it feels like it’s way too soon to be sharing it. I’m still not used to the whole lifestyle switcheroo here, can I get some time to catch up? He’s full steam ahead, and we’re still reeling, even if it’s not something we are constantly discussing.

I can’t say I understand how he’s felt all of this time, while slowly making the realization, and then fearing telling his friends, and then finally, telling his immediate family. There are still many people who don’t know… and others who will open their mouths well before they should. But I will fiercely defend him if he needs me to, like the mama bear I am and have always been. I’m still dealing with this, but there is no way anyone, family or not, is going to make him feel like he is inferior or less of a human being. If that happens, our relationship is over with them, then and there.

I’m finding it to be a very difficult place for a parent to be.. supportive, absolutely, but you cannot shake the lingering questions and all of the second-guessing… did I do or say something? Did I give enough love and support? Did I give too much? What makes this happen? Will he see heaven someday? Is he doomed? Am I doomed for having these thoughts about my own son? Holy f&%#, what kind of a mom am I to think this shit?

All of these equally rational and ridiculous questions make my head spin and this might be why I don’t dwell on it for too long, if I can help it. I don’t have any of the answers. And no matter how bad the questions we have, my fantastic kid just smiles and says, “I know, Mom… I have felt the exact same way you feel.”

But I am thankful for that vacation we spent together as a family. Even with as much crying as I did. We became closer to each other than we ever have been before. My son is a young man, and that camping trip literally made him grow up before my eyes. He is more and more like an adult every day… and it is so hard to let go of the little boy he once was. He still pulls the teenager stuff that all other teenagers pull.. trying to get away with things and be sneaky about other things, but for the most part, we talk as adults now. It’s refreshing and scary and new, all at the same time.

To friends of mine who may have gay children, or be gay themselves… please forgive me for my ignorance. I don’t know if I’ll ever be “okay” with the gay lifestyle, but right now, I am okay with my son being gay, and right now, that is all that matters. As supportive as we are, it would still be nice to discuss this with someone who’s been there. 😦

What would you do if your child told you they were gay?

Attend a Parade – Remembrance Day

remembrance day parade

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A great family event is attending a local parade.

I never used to be a “parade person”… I couldn’t quite understand the attraction of standing or sitting outside, watching a bunch of people walk past you. And let’s be honest, most parades are in the colder months. Stand outside? Voluntarily? In the cold?? When I could be sleeping???

Three years ago, our oldest son became a Sea Cadet, having been through Beavers and Scouts… he wanted to try out Cadets, and we said sure. It seemed innocent enough, and then he came home with his uniform! I know he’s my son but wow, what a handsome young man he was in uniform (ladies, you know what I’m talkin’ about!!!).

All of that aside, he had a very, very busy first year. He wanted to participate in every single event, which was great, but the second year, I was DREADING November, because of how many events were booked that he participated in, in the first year. Turns out, he only picked a couple of events, obviously any mandatory events, he was there. The Remembrance Day Parade was one of them.

A mom could not be prouder of her child as I was when I saw my handsome son, in full uniform, marching down the street, in unison with everyone else, listening to “Left. Left. Left, Right, Left.” I was hooked… it’s so different when your kids are in one!

I’m not what you would consider a political person. I should pay more attention than I do, but truthfully, I don’t have patience to try to figure out all that hoopla. Most of it is lies anyway.

But, I do consider myself to be pretty patriotic. I have never been known to watch hockey games at 7 a.m…. that is, until Team Canada was playing for gold in the Olympics! Yup… I cracked my sleepy eyes open, after only a few hours of sleep, and I watched the entire game, screaming and cheering, much louder than anyone should be at that ungodly hour!

When Ottawa was attacked by a terrorist in 2014, I mourned with the rest of my country… it felt so personal. It’s amazing how personal it can feel when you have actually visited the area. I didn’t know Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, but, knowing Tyler would want to, we made sure to visit The Regimental Foundation of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, the unit from which that Cpl. was from. We thought the same as pretty much every other Hamiltonian, because the base was completely and totally littered with letters, flowers, trinkets and cards. You could NOT walk by all of that with a dry eye. None of my family did (except for Caleb, who didn’t quite understand it the way we did, but he was sad that someone died).

cirillo

Respects paid to a fallen soldier

So, even with as much zest as I have for sleeping in at every possible opportunity, I am on board with parades. And I believe that attending the Remembrance Day parade is a sign of respect for those who died for our freedoms. Will I continue to attend after my son is no longer in them? He is definitely my incentive to go, for sure, but now that we’ve been to a few, I don’t think it’s something any of us should miss, if at all possible.

Flanders Fields

Caleb and I, before the parade began

poppies

Devin with Caleb… in the clear street before the parade

Back to family events, this past weekend, I prepped chili for the crockpot on Saturday, and Sunday morning, we got up and had breakfast. While getting ready, my husband put on a pot of coffee, and we enjoyed a cup on our way to the parade, and filled a Thermos with more… and filled another Thermos with hot chocolate for Caleb. I also packed some frozen, homemade muffins. The crockpot of chili was on, and it was a beautifully crisp fall day to honour our veterans.

They’ve revamped the downtown core, which is called Gore Park. It used to be where you would go to catch a city bus, but they’ve moved all of the bus stops out of the park area, and have erected memorial plaques, all involving tidbits of history of Canadians and various wars. Photos of various war times throughout history commemorate our veterans in a beautiful way. I hope that it doesn’t get vandalized, because it’s truly something to see.

remember

Tyler, mixed in there somewhere, with his Corps

Tyler looked amazing in uniform, as usual. We were located in the park where The Argyll were situated, and I felt deep compassion for them, since all of them had worked with Cpl. Nathan Cirillo.

The only part of the entire service that I don’t particularly enjoy is the cannons going off… and they scare the crap out of Caleb. We were standing pretty close to it, since it’s RCSCC Lion (Tyler’s cadet corps) who are in charge of firing the cannons. But, after two shots, and some talking that I couldn’t quite hear, everyone in uniform began to march, leaving the park. At one point, I said to my husband, “I dare you to walk anywhere without marching in step to the beat!” Love the bands (and I never used to!)

police

That was our cue to leave, so we headed back to our Journey, so we could meet Tyler at the barracks.

After all of that fresh air, and the peace that comes with that moment of silence, it was a great day… and even more awesome to come home to dinner already made.

Please share about a parade you’ve attended!

Everything You Need to Know About Geocaching

geocaching


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In my last post, I started talking about one of my favourite family pasttimes: geocaching.

I mentioned that to get started, you should sign up for a free account at www.geocaching.com, and install the app on your smartphone. You can buy handheld GPS units for geocaching, and although we haven’t gotten that far yet, we’re definitely interested!

Once you have your free account and the free app, you’re all set to look for geocaches. I suggest opening the webpage at home first, to see what’s around you. The webpage does this by tracking your location, and will show you as a blue, radiating dot on the page. The geocaches around you will be green markers on the map (I believe the orange markers are geocache events, something we have not participated in).

geocaching

Zoom in, and get a closer look at a geocache in your area by clicking on it. Each geocache has a name and a GC code, with latitude and longitude coordinates. Clicking on the geocache of your choice will open up further information about the geocache, such as, what size it is, what kind of container it might be in, hints on finding it, and whether you need to bring a pen or a pencil. It will also give you information on when it was hidden (how old the geocache is) and when it was last found.

We're getting closer!

We’re getting closer!

We like to check out the geocaches ahead of time online, and send the information to our phones, so that when we’re “out and about”, we can save time and battery power by already having the info with us. When you’re outside and looking for these treasures with your smartphone, it is an awesome feeling! And it’s such an accomplishment when you find one, you feel pretty darn good about yourself πŸ™‚

The great thing about using your smartphone is that it has a compass feature that you can follow, and it’s accurate within 5 meters.

Closing in...

Closing in…

Almost there!

Almost there!

Last weekend, we headed to a family function, and enjoyed the nice drive and fall colours on the way to and from… and we found a geocache along the way!

geocache

Success!

What's inside?

What’s inside?


Our last name is Riches, so we leave play money for the next person to find!

Our last name is Riches, so we leave play money for the next person to find!

Once you find the geocache, you will want to log that you’ve found it, because this information tells future geocachers when it was last found. You can do this step immediately, or wait until a little later, but I wouldn’t wait too long! It’s good to keep the information as current as possible.

Found the geocache log!

Found the geocache log!

My husband signing the log sheet.

My husband signing the log sheet.

I can’t say enough good things about geocaching, as huge a fan as I am of the great outdoors. It’s an addicting activity, and so worthwhile πŸ™‚

I hope you’ve enjoyed the information I’ve shared. If you’ve been geocaching, what would you add?

Tyler's idea of a fun family photo!

Tyler’s idea of a fun family photo!