Monday, 26 June 2017

We Are Not Half-Breeds

Growing up in small communities in Ontario, my friends would always talk about their family history. Their aunts lived around the corner, their uncles lived down the street, their great-grandma was the first lady to work in the general store that’s still standing….. They could go on and on about their family history.

All I had was a handwritten version of my maternal grandmother’s family tree going back a few generations, and the knowledge that my paternal grandparents grew up in Dunnville after their parents immigrated to Canada from the UK. Granted that’s a lot of information, but it wasn’t at the same time.

When I was in grade 4 we moved to a super small community called Lafontaine. My maternal grandfather stayed with us almost all the time. He’d take us for hikes and walks, and bike rides into town. When we’d go into Penetang it was often for fishing on the docks. Grandpa would often see people he grew up with and stop to chat. – this was when I first learned where my grandfather came from. A few times, he’d start talking to someone quietly in what I thought at the time was broken French. Whenver I’d ask him why he spoke the French funny, he’d get offended and say I just misheard him. I never pushed it. At school one of our projects was a small family tree. I drew out my maternal grandma’s side, and my paternal side going back to great-grandparents with ease, then I went downstairs one day to ask my Grandpa about his parents. He asked me why, I told him, and he absolutely refused to tell me anything. I still remember how mad he was when after asking their names, I asked their nationality. Our class had a “medieval times” theme that month, so we made “coats of arms” out of where we came from. He flat out lost his mind on me saying that they don’t “need to find us” and that was the end of that discussion.

Being the moderately curious and pushy child I was, I asked my teacher if she knew anything about the Beausoleil family in Penetanguishene. When she asked me why, I explained to her how my grandfather refused to tell me anything. Her only response was, that he has his reasons, and it’s best not to ask those questions. I never asked those questions again until grade 10.

For my grade 10 history class we had to write some sort of essay or something on where we came from. 

I definitely took that one a little too far. 

My paternal grandparents were starting to get older and dates were confused… so instead of asking my nanny any more questions.. I may or may not have mailed over 100 letters to everyone in Dunnville with the last names Foster or MacIntee. Let’s just say I got the information I needed to and my Nanny didn’t talk to me for about a year.

I still had the copy of the Italian family tree so that side was done, my paternal side was done after a very irate Nanny called me with every date I had ever requested… that left my maternal grandfather’s side of the family.

I convinced one of my friends to drive me to the Penetang  library and then I walked to the museum and sat down in their very-minimally-stacked records room. I used the old microfilm reader and constructed my very first version of that side of my family tree. I found out that my grandfather’s twin brother was killed when he was 7-8years old while tobogganing and that my grandfather’s entire family going back 2 generations were all devout Catholics baptized, married and buried at St. Ann’s Parish in town. Then I went to the graveyard and was lucky enough to find one of the staff there, who showed me where his twin was buried, and where his parents were buried as well as several other family members. I noted all of this new and exciting information down on my newly created family tree.  Based on all of the information I found, I believed that my grandfather’s family was French. They all had French sounding names, so it seemed like a fair assumption.

After my second trip to the library that day, the librarian came over and asked me what it was I was working on. I remember telling her that I was creating a family tree, and asked her if she knew anything about the Beausoleil families in town. She looked at me with this confused sort of look on her face and told me that they were one of the “half-breed” families in town and walked back to her desk. I sort of just stood there for a few minutes trying to figure out what the hell that meant, then went out to find a payphone to call for a ride home.

I included all of the information I had found, minus being a half-breed, and handed in my assignment. I knew it meant something bad, but I couldn’t figure out what. I wasn’t about to ask my grandpa or my parents so I just sort of sat on it. I was instantly embarrassed and ashamed. I never told anyone.

Later that semester, we learned a bit about Canadian History and the Red River Rebellion. It was there in my grade 10 history textbook that I first read the words “half-breed”.

We were some sort of half-breed Indians.

What the hell was an Indian? What’s a Métis?

“I think I’m a half-breed”

Is not a phrase you blurt out in Grade 10 History. However, I’m not always one of those who think prior to speaking.

Let’s just say that all I accomplished by blurting that out was adding to my already ridiculed persona.

I didn’t mention anything to my family until after my grandfather died in 2010. I reached out to his still living sisters in 2011 and asked them if they were Native on a voicemail. Neither of them returned my call, and neither of them have answered my calls since.

I began my research slowly, the more I learned about our family history the more I was confused. Every time I’d bring it up to a relative I was met with annoyance or ignorance. “I don’t want free stuff” was a common response when I asked family if they were interested in learning more about what it means to be Métis and becoming a part of the Métis Nations of Ontario.

I didn’t learn a whole lot on what a residential school was in high school, and felt too uncomfortable about just researching it on my own until I moved away from home.

In 2012 I was invited to be a part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Toronto as an Honorary Youth Witness. It wasn’t until that exact moment that I truly understood why my grandfather and his sisters absolutely refused to talk about their ancestry. I sat through First Nations, Inuit and Métis survivors recounting their stories for hours. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, I couldn’t even process the photos I saw, I scanned through the names on some of the photos in the one room and recognized some from my family tree.

No wonder they never returned my phone calls. No wonder my grandfather lost his shit on me at 9-years-old. He wasn’t speaking broken French in hushed tones, he was speaking Michif.

It took me a solid two-years to get over myself and continue my research, except at this point it wasn’t just a family tree. I was aiming to create a genealogy book for my children so they knew where they came from. So they understood why they grew up far from their “home communities” and why they never learned to speak Ojibway or Michif.

In 2016 I was finally ready to step out into the “Métis world” and embrace my culture and heritage, regardless of the scorn that I faced from some of my family members. I’ve learned SO much over the past year and a half. I’ve learned that I’m not the only one who grew up with unanswered questions, I’ve learned that many of us didn’t even find out WHO we were until we were in our 20s and took matters into our own hands.

Our Métis history and culture was hidden from us out of fear for generations after Louis Riel hung and our people were declared enemies of Canada. It’s time for us to take our culture back, to trace our homelands and to finally be accepted as a people. This isn’t about “getting free land” or “no taxes” or “free school”. It’s about Canada’s government finally acknowledging that we ARE a people, we HAVE ancestral homelands, WE ARE NOT HALFBREEDS.

From Riel, to Powley to Daniels. We’re not going anywhere.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Walk Like You, Talk Like You

"Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation"
Oscar Wilde, De Profundis 

Today's technology allows us the instantaneous access to different types of knowledge bases around the world. With the click of a button, or a swipe of your finger, millions of articles, books, blogs, and stories are readily available. 

News is published as it happens in the forms of posts on popular social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Occasionally updated as more detailed factual information and evidence becomes available. In a few simple seconds, we can read the first few sentences of something and share away onto our own walls, pages and feeds for everyone we know to see!

With so much legitimate information available and easily accessible, why is there so much misinformation and misrepresentation floating about?

Unfortunately, there are some people who have no desire to learn and grow as intellectual individuals. They don't want to be challenged, they don't want to genuinely think about what it is they are talking about. All of their knowledge is based on the words they've heard from others, not based on genuine research into a subject. 

Technological advancements like "internet tracking" popular sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google can tailor your searches to only show you the stuff you already "know or believe in". The internet tracks the things you click on and search the most, and makes a record of that, then predominantly shows you those things the most. 

In laymans terms, the internet helps further the bubble that some put around themselves by only interacting with people who walk, talk and think like them. It will rarely put something in front of you that goes beyond how you normally think or feel, therefore never challenging you with a difference of perspective or opinion.

You can unsubscribe, unfriend, unfollow and unlike anyone who thinks differently than you.

With the ability to cover your eyes and ears to seeing or hearing things you don't agree with or believe in, you close off your mind's ability to learn discover and grow. 

We are capable of learning differently and thinking differently, but we need to open our minds up to those that are different from us. 

Don't be live as the thoughts of others, challenge yourself to learn and grow.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

The Minimum Wage Debate - From A Single Mom

Minimum wage right now is $10.25 an hour; before taxes, working a 40 hour work week and not including stat pay etc. that’s a yearly income of $21, 320.

Current taxes on income under $43, 953 is 15% so you’re figuring about $3, 198 in taxes, leaving you $18, 122.

You’ll more than likely be receiving baby bonus (CCTB and UCB) in and around $450 a month (per child, UCB is also only until your child is 6).

We’ll add that “income” of $5,400 to your total income from working, after taxes, giving you a total income for the year of $23,522. Not bad!

Your two bedroom apartment costs you around $800 (I’m using an example from the Waterloo area) a month plus utilities… so let’s say…. $960 total a month, sound fair? So that expense runs you about $11,520 a year in housing costs. $12,002 after all of that seems pretty fair! Right?

Well… now we have to factor in the daycare costs associated with going back to work as a single parent with no help or family to watch your child. You go to apply for daycare subsidy and…. low and behold! A massive wait list due to region budget cost cuts. Look who has to pay for daycare… in full!

The YMCA, a licensed daycare provider, charges approximately $50 a day for an 8-hour shift (this includes a half hour each way travel time, so 9 hours total). This is about $250 a week totalling $13, 000 a year.

What was that figure we came up with earlier, income after rent? $12, 002 right?… so

$12, 002 - $13, 000…. is…. $-998.

Seems legit.

Now this isn’t even including a bus pass, car insurance, food… clothing… etc. etc.

If you’re lucky enough to receive child support from the dad, that’s a different matter. But even still, it’s barely enough to live by.

This is why we have so many families below the poverty line, especially in our region. Our local soup kitchen feeds upwards of 200 people a day for lunch, the food bank’s numbers I can’t find on the internet but I’m sure they dole out a LOT of food as well.

This is why our minimum wage needs to be raised.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

My Story of Domestic Violence

Two years ago I made a life-changing decision.

On December 5, 2011 I called the local OPP detachment to file a police report and have charges pressed against my daughter's biological father for assault.

This wasn't an easy decision for me to make, in fact, it took me several months to summon the courage to do so.

On March 13th 2011 I was involved in an incident of domestic violence that left me with several bruised ribs and a broken nose.

It was shortly after the hockey game had finished, I was sitting in front of the television with my legs crossed doing some crafts and homework. Cadence was passed out in her vibrating chair with her soother loosely dangling from her mouth.

He was across from me in the living room about 7 paces away drinking a beer.

We were arguing about a girl that he had been messaging, I felt like the content of their messages was inappropriate and asked him if he could stop talking to her in that way. He told me I was being dramatic and controlling and to "shut the fuck up".

I started ignoring him and he began ranting at me, pointing out every flaw he felt I had. Complaining that I was on Social Assistance and not working (I didn't have enough hours to obtain EI for Maternity Leave so I went on OW for four months after giving birth); continually reiterating the fact that I was "useless" and a "drain on society". I blatantly told him to "shut up and watch the TV" then tossed my slipper at him.

Instantly I realized I had made a mistake.

As soon as I saw him move to get up I stood up to bolt to the bedroom and lock the door; this wasn't my first rodeo with his temper.

I got about half a foot before I remembered Cadence was sleeping in her chair beside me so I turned to reach back and pick her up.

Just as I was reaching for her he grabbed me in a headlock and dragged me two feet across the living room, crushing my nose with his bicep. I couldn't think to kick or scream, my entire body went limp and I went silent - I knew that there was no point fighting him.

He slammed me to the floor and held me for about thirty seconds; I felt like I was going to pass out. He got up and kicked me three times in the ribs with his bare foot, walked a few paces away and came back.

"That didn't feel good enough" he said as he kicked me twice more... then he spit in my face, walked back to the couch and continued drinking his beer.

My vision was blurry and I layed there for a few minutes.

I realized my nose was bleeding and started crying uncontrollably. As I sat up I noticed Cadence still sleeping quietly in her chair.

He was sitting unfazed on the couch watching some sporting event.

Still sobbing, I picked up my phone and walked to the bathroom. I noticed my nose was crooked and started crying harder.

I knew I'd need to come up with a solid story my family would believe so I quickly snapped a picture of my nose for reference later.

I grabbed a cloth and went to clean up the blood; he was still sitting on the couch completely unmoved by what had just happened. I asked if I could take his car to the hospital to get my nose x-rayed. He told me I could, so I packed up Cadence and went to Soldier's Memorial in Orillia.

I told the nurse I was wrestling with my dog and he smacked me in the face, I could tell she didn't believe me.

She put gauze under my nose and had me wait in the waiting room.

As I was waiting I saw her use the phone and could hear her talking quietly to someone on the other line, all the while she kept looking at me with this look of pity on her face. 

I waited until she was done on the phone and left the triage booth before I bolted for the door, just as I was pulling out of the parking lot I saw a police car with a female officer pull in. I knew the nurse didn't believe my story and had alerted authorities of a possible incident of domestic violence. I went home, put Cade to bed and fell asleep on the couch. 

The next morning I brought her to daycare and went to Barrie's Royal Victoria Hospital for an X-ray, I managed to convince the staff about our dog breaking my nose and they scheduled me for surgery for March 17. 

Since I am a pretty clumsy person, it wasn't difficult to convince my parents and friends that the dog broke my nose.

On the 17 I went in for surgery.

That night we got into another argument where he threw me off the bed and into my stand up mirror, smashing it. 

Two weeks later we were supposed to go out with our friends Derek and Amanda, a "couples night out" and his parents were going to watch over Miss Cadie.

When we got to their place everything seemed fine. Amanda and I were drinking some spiked slushies and doing our make-up in the bathroom and him and Derek were watching TV. I sat down on the couch beside him. I can't remember what we were all talking about, but he leaned over to smack me it in the face, in front of our friends, he tried brushing it off saying he was just trying to "move my hair" but I wasn't fooled. A few minutes later, while he was playing with their dog Maya's rubber ball, he got agitated with me again and threw it at my face. 

He was fairly intoxicated at this point, Derek took him outside to talk. He decided he was going downtown without us and I had his parents come get me and take me back to their house. 

A similar incident happened a week or so later where he got drunk and started being rude and violent towards me, kicking his car door as I was sitting in it. 

On April 12 after a ball hockey game we went back to his parents house because he wanted to have a few drinks and celebrate with them. I set myself and the kids up in the spare room above the garage. Cadence was being extremely fussy and I was becoming overwhelmed so I went to find him to see if he could help in any way. 

He was really ignorant and started insulting me, I gave up and went back to the room. About an hour later I went to ask him again, this time he was worse. I went to hug him and say sorry for irritating him and he pushed me into the couch, poured his beer on me and spit in my face. 

Then started yelling "you hit me get off me". 

His brother and his friends were in the adjoining room and didn't see anything, but took Mark's words at face value. 

I told him loudly I hated him and that I'd had it, I was calling the police and telling them the truth about my nose and everything else.  I went upstairs, packed the kids up and went to leave. After the kids were in the car I went back inside to talk to him, he grabbed a paintball gun from the garage and told me he was going to shoot me. 

I left. 

Partway home he called me saying he was calling the police because I "stole his car" and needed to come back right away. 

I called my friend Amanda because I wasn't sure what to do. 

She told me to call the police. 

I contacted them and they told me to go back to his parents. 

They went inside and spoke to him, his brother and friends. 

They managed to convince the police I had attacked him, and that they all witnessed it. 

The police told me to go home and come get him in the morning when he sobered up. 

He moved out a few days later. 

There were also several other incidents where he would come over to "talk" and things would escalate to violence. 

During the July long weekend in 2011 he came over on Thursday, June 28 to watch our daughter while I went to play an open mic with a friend in Barrie. 

When he found out the friend was a male, he snapped. Pushing me down in the hallway and kicking me in the ribs several times. 

At this point I had had enough. 

I overdosed on a bottle of Tylenol. 

I realized it was a bad decision and called my friend to bring me to the hospital. I co-operated with the nurses and committed myself to their psychiatric ward for three days to talk with the staff about what to do and to make sure I was in the right frame of mind. 

During this time I needed someone to watch our daughter. He refused to take her as he had plans to go to Ottawa with his friends for Canada Day. He left me several ignorant messages saying I was just trying to ruin his weekend. Told me I should have "ate more pills and washed them down with alcohol".

Over the next few months I received ignorant texts and voicemails almost daily. 

I was getting harassed by his friends at school and when I would go out with my friends. 

It got to the point where I stopped going to school because I couldn't handle the negativity. 

I decided I was going to move and have a fresh start. My close friends helped me set the plan in motion. 

As my moving date got closer his harassment increased. 

The gentleman I was seeing at the time and my two best friends told me I needed to come clean and contact the police. 

Brandie came over on the 5 of December and sat with me while the officer took my statement, copies of the pictures of my nose, text messages and voicemails. 

He was charged. 

I packed up my entire house and moved ten days later to Waterloo. I changed my phone number, my name and deleted my Facebook. 

I knew one person who lived in the area, my best friend Matt.

The hardest thing I think for me with this whole scenario was the sheer lack of support I received from whom I thought to be in my "core group" of best friends. For the longest time no one believed me, they thought I was over-exaggerating things or that I was just mad he left me. 

I feel so blessed for those who did stand by me from start to finish, and who are still here today. 

It took over a year until he plead guilty to the charge of domestic assault, the verdict processed in January 2013. 

I always get pretty moody when this date comes around. 

I don't regret charging him, but I can't help feeling guilty about it. I don't like hurting people, but what he did was wrong. I didn't charge him out of spite, I did it so he would leave me alone and hopefully realize that his actions had consequences. 

So that's the background of my "big move" with both children. 

I feel comfortable posting this now as all of the court-related dates are done. 

Monday, 25 November 2013

Words Are Lethal; Bullying Kills

I woke up this morning feeling off. 

I couldn't quite put my finger on what was bothering me; I've felt a little sad all day.

Just as I sat down at my computer I started tearing up... what the heck is wrong with me? As I look down at my dock... it hits me. 

Today's November 25th.

Which means tomorrow is November 26th.

It's amazing the things that your unconscious mind just knows that your conscious mind takes a while to figure out. 

Nine years ago, I was sitting on the computer at my boyfriend Nic's house playing on MSN and watching the new Riddick movie "Pitch Black".

A call to their landline came in, it was my dad. He didn't technically know I was at Nic's, I had told my parents I was staying at someone else's house that night.

He called several times before we finally answered it.

I answered the phone sheepishly, knowing I'd been busted for lying about where I was. I was fully expecting a lecture on lying... his voice to be angry at the other end.

"Cassie?" he said, his voice sounded tired... and sad.

"I know I lied I'm sorry I'll come home right now" I replied hurriedly.

"It's okay, I'm not mad. But I have something to tell you and you might want to sit down" I could barely hear him, he was talking so quietly.

I laughed a little, wondering what was going on. "Josh is dead". My heart dropped. "What do you mean?" I whispered, thinking he meant my younger brother. 

"A call went out today about a suicide victim on Scotchmere just outside of Strathroy. Your friend hung himself".

I collapsed. Sobbing uncontrollably and the rest is a blur.

In the coming days I got in touch with a few friends from "back home" about what happened via MSN. 

It was no secret Josh was being bullied in high school, but I don't think any of us knew the severity of it until after it was too late. 

Josh was a happy kid, quirky, funny, and loving if you were his friend. I can still hear his "baby voice" he'd use when talking down to you. There were eighteen of us in grade school that were "our age" (born in 1989), the number fluctuated as people moved in or away over the years but stayed pretty consistent. I attended Metcalfe for grades 5, 6, 7 and 8. Josh was one of my first friends as he lived right around the corner. For the first two years living there Josh, Sarah, Candice and Chantal were my "besties", their older siblings were all friends and I lived on the same block as the first three. We'd bike to school together, play after school, ride the bus together. 

I was essentially joining the group as I was the "new girl". My first friend upon moving was Sarah M, but she wasn't very popular, so once I figured that out I stopped talking to her and played with the "cool kids", grade school bullying at it's finest. I guess that's probably where it all started. 

I was also really good friends with this kid Matt, he was tiny and scrawny and we used to pick on him a lot, his mom was the Boyscout leader and since my brother was in beavers and cubs with his brother, we saw each other a lot. I don't feel like talking about Matthew right now though... Maybe in 8 years. 

Josh was made fun of a lot at Metcalfe because his closest friends were girls and he was an "artsy" kid; even as a kid his drawings were phenomenal. I'd always have him help me with my art class stuff because I was artistically challenged. He was also really fast and won triple jump and the 100m dash for our age every year at track and field, and kicked my ass at cross-country.

I guess as he hit high school it got a lot worse. He was "gay" because of his sensitiveness and art skills. He was made fun of relentlessly in the halls, classrooms and at home through MySpace and MSN. He just couldn't escape it.

Then on November 26th 2004, he hung himself from the tree in his yard.

His father had to cut him down. 

I can still remember the funeral as if it was yesterday, the church was so packed, almost three full busloads of kids from his high school came. 

I was sitting in one of the back rows with a few girls I went to that school with, wondering how if he had that many friends... he felt so low and down that he had to kill himself. Where were all of the people that filled the church when he needed them? Where was I?

We were all so caught up in our every day lives that we couldn't see someone we cared so much about struggling, we weren't there when he needed us.

I've always felt a little responsible, because I wasn't there for him. 

When I moved after grade 8 my friendships with everyone I had grown up with were strained, we didn't have things like Facebook back then. It wasn't as easy to get in touch, we couldn't text and our internet was dial-up.

I know it wasn't my fault, in the end his choices were his. But I can't help feeling guilty for being so wrapped up in myself that I couldn't see someone I was once so close to struggling.

After Josh died I started a group within my school called Teens Against Bullying, and I started speaking out at schools about bullying and how serious it was. I adopted the slogan "Words are Lethal and Bullying Kills" that his father had said to a local newspaper in regards to his son's tragic death. 

I started talking to "the dirty kids" and befriending the people I thought looked lonely. I tried making everyone feel included when I did things and started going out of my way to talk to people I'd lost touch with and mended bridges with those that I had burned. I even went as far as painting a mural with a few of my friends in the English hall advocating anti-bullying and how serious words can hurt someone.

Before Josh killed himself I would cut myself all the time because I was having a hard time dealing with how a certain group of girls at my high school treated me. I skipped my math and english classes every day just so I wouldn't have to see them; which in turn led to me failing both classes and repeating them in grade 10.

We moved from Strathroy because I refused to go to high school there as I was afraid of a few people and thought they'd be mean to me. So after two months of massive temper tantrums and running away I convinced my family to move North.

When we moved we moved into our family cottage. It had no road or running water at the time since we were putting an addition and full basement onto it. I had to wash my hair in the lake and shower at our friends place a few doors down. I had to take a boat to my bus stop and had to wear a floater suit to school.

The girls had a heyday with it, I was a "dirty dyke" for awhile. Then just one of the dirty hick kids because I didn't wear "classy clothes" and my hair was always messy. High school was pretty much a living nightmare for me and I was grateful to get out. Over the past few years I've been approached by a few girls, that were extremely nasty, who apologized for what they did. One actually came to me in tears at a bar one night saying sorry for everything she did stating "you didn't deserve it and I am so sorry".

I don't feel like kids realize how serious their words and actions are towards one another. 

"Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me" is such a commonly thought saying; but how true is it?

There's a few songs that I listened to relentlessly after Josh passed away that really made me want to make a difference and show people how serious bullying can be. To teach people that each and every action we make does have a consequence... you never know how something you say can affect someone.

On another level, Josh's death had an everlasting affect on me. As I too was battling depression and was self-harming.... I felt alone... like no one loved me or cared about me. But as I looked around the church on the day of his funeral... I saw over a hundred people crowded in... crying, holding each other... I realized that Josh probably felt the same way I was feeling... and look at everyone who came out to pay their respects...

It's days like today that just make me sit back and think about everything I've ever said to anyone. Things I've said out of anger or frustration, hurtful things. Hurtful actions I've done onto others; stuff I'm not proud of. 

I always visit Josh on the anniversary of his death and his birthday... bringing him yellow roses as a symbol of ever-lasting love and friendship... as I did on the day of his funeral... It never gets easy, I still cry sometimes... I love this quote by Rose Kennedy:

"It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone." 

It doesn't feel as though it's been nine years, I can remember it like it was yesterday. I have that painful knot in my stomach as I type this with tears in my eyes  I can still hear his laugh, silly voices or how he'd always say "kep" instead of "okay". This will be the first year I don't travel to Strathroy to lay flowers on his grave... but my grandmother was kind enough to agree to do so for me. It surprised me that I could give her exact directions to the location of his grave, including the number of rows up it was from the front gates. 

I realize that a big part of me being able to move on from his untimely death, and the meaning behind it, is to forgive those who I've felt contributed to it. 

The bible speaks on forgiving others in Ephesians 4:31-32

"Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."

There was one individual that the majority of the blame was placed on, and I've had a lot of hate in my heart towards him over the years. 

I spent the time today locating him on Facebook.

I wrote him a message on Facebook telling him that I no longer hold any negative feelings towards him. 

He responded and we talked for a bit, it was enlightening hearing his side of things.

I'm not placing the blame on him, or any one person.... I believe that collectively... everyone involved in Joshua's life played a part in his circumstances. As William Burroughs said:

“There are no innocent bystanders ... what are they doing there in the first place?”

But in the end.... the choices were his to make. There were people who would have witnessed the acts of harassment and bullying at school that did nothing about it... but that doesn't make them solely responsible for his actions. 

I think that we all need to let go of the grievances we have with others... and maybe even ourselves over what happened... and move on. 

We've all learned from his death... taken something away from it in one form or another.... Let's grow and become better people for it. It's what he would have wanted.... he wouldn't want us fighting, blaming each other or blaming ourselves... He'd want us to live our lives to the fullest and to do whatever is within our means from putting others through the same torment he faced on a day to day basis....

So let's just be accepting of those around us... let's just love everybody. 

This is dedicated to Joshua David Melo... February 5th 1989 - November 26th 2004.

Forever in our hearts <3

"Love is a Verb"

In high school I read a quote by Robert Heinlein
"Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own... Jealousy is a disease, love is a healthy condition. The immature mind often mistakes one for the other, or assumes that the greater the love, the greater the jealousy."
And to be honest, I don't think I've ever felt that way about someone. I've had the butterflies, the breathlessness and the goosebumps; but they never last. It's like the fire in my stomach burns out after a month or so and then everything just becomes a chore. I mean, I've gone out of my way to do nice things for the person I'm with, to make them happy, but it's always felt like work.
Then I read this blog a few weeks ago, and boy did it ever hit home!

After reading his story, it gave the quote I read when I was younger by Heinlein an entirely new meaning. I think for the first time I felt that I truly understood the meaning behind it. 

When you love someone, when you're truly in love with them. You're going to have those moments of fire, butterflies and goosebumps... but you're also going to have those moments when you want to stomp your feet and yell at them like a toddler. Just because that fire in your chest has dissipated and has been replaced by feelings of stress and frustration, doesn't mean it's gone! Throughout all of those feelings, deeply routed in your heart, is going to be the desire to make them happy.... the knowledge that their happiness is just as important, and tied to, your own. 

You don't just express your feelings to someone with outlandish gestures and "I love yous", but in your day to day actions. Appreciate the little things you do for your partner, and they'll appreciate yours. Don't look for applause and praise for doing the dishes or making the bed and don't throw it in their face either "well I did this for you so you do this". It's about give and take, love really is an action, it really is a verb!

That's the problem I think a lot of us have in life, we have this expectation that when we meet that special someone it's going to be all daffodils, daisies and roses 365 days a year. We're not prepared for the difficult times that the majority of our world experiences; whether it be financial hardships, loss of a loved one or a career change. It's so easy to just up and leave someone in today's society; that instead of investing the time and initiative in a relationship to fix the "grievances" we may have, we just move onto the next one. I'm not saying we need to suck it up and "settle", my life is living proof of that.

What I'm trying to say is, that we're not always going to see eye to eye with our partner. There are going to be times in each and every one of the relationships we have with others - whether it be a spouse, family member or friend - that we're not going to have the same perspective. 

I listened to Patti Smith give "Advice to the Young" and this segment really stood out to me.
"There's beautiful things in life, so when you're suffering, just, you know, it's part of the package, you know. You look at it; we're born, and we also have to die. We know that, so it makes sense that we're going to be really happy and things are going to be really fucked up too. Just ride with it. It's like a roller-coaster ride. It's never going to be perfect. It's going to have perfect moments, and then rough spots, but it's all worth it."
What she said, it really sticks with me. I've found that I've applied it to not only my relationships and friendships with others, but on the way I live my life every day. Life is all about ups and downs, it really is a roller coaster ride of good times and bad - as cliche as that sounds. 

There are going to be really amazing times, and really hard times in every interaction we have with the world around us. That's what life is, positives and negatives, ups and downs, highs and lows. 

I'm looking forward to the day that I meet someone I'm willing to compromise with. Someone I'm willing to do stuff for and with, when it doesn't feel like a chore or work; when it just comes naturally without me realizing. 

I'm not going to go out searching for this level of love and commitment, I know that when I am good and ready... when I'm "mature enough" to accept myself as I am and make the changes I need to make to equate another's happiness to my own, God will bless me. I must first seek to change my ways that have strayed from the path He made me. As it says in 1 Peter 5:10
"And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you."
When He feels I am worthy and accepting of the next chapter in my life, things will change. Until then I must stay true to my faith and my journey, my mission to better my life and the lives of those around me. I will continue to love not only through words, but actions as well :)

#LoveIsAVerb #Happiness #PattiSmith #Heinlein #Love #Learn