Happy Birthday to Mom!!

A kind of a bittersweet day!  I love my son and cherish all the moments with him.  He is special. But it doesn’t make me miss  Amanda any less.  She was the one who always had the special touches to a birthday.  Making sure that there was a cake.  Picking flowers out of our garden or the neighbours garden for the vases in the house because she knew I liked flowers.   Amanda never forgot the birthdays because she loved to decorate and looked forward to going out for the dinner.  A family tradition was that the birthday person always got to choose where they wanted to go out for dinner.  I never really was a chooser, I let her do it.  How I miss those moments.

Today was the day that the German documentary came out.  Click here to see it.  I actually watched this one and thought it was well done.

I didn’t understand a single word they said but the interviews were in English.  I am so glad that Kate McHugh was able to to be interviewed from Florida.  I met Katie last year in Vegas at a conference.  She had been bullied too.  She is now in her twenties and it is sad to hear what she went through. Read her book – Ugly ~ The Story of a Bullied Girl.  It is even sadder to know that those things still happen.

Katie and I have stayed in touch since meeting last summer and I love hearing about her new experiences in life and her public speaking engagements.  This journey I am experiencing has led me to many interesting and wonderful people.  I hope to be able to document all these people in a journal one day.

Something came out in Japan yesterday related to Amanda’s story and we definitely needed a translator for that one.  I guess these are my birthday presents.  Gifts that let me know that Amanda’s message is still travelling to all points of the world.

I was talking with a fellow colleague today that lives in my neighbourhood.  He hadn’t quite connected Amanda’s bench at the park with me.  Today he did when I told him where I lived.  I think he was at a loss for words as many people end up being.  I broke that awkward moment by telling him about Amanda rolling along with her bike into the pond because she couldn’t stop.  Good thing that it wasn’t today and now.  That pond is definitely a lot more murkier and muckier with duck poop.

Also make sure to listen to this song – Let It Go by Alex Boye (Africanized Tribal Cover) from the movie Frozen. It’s funny.  The movie was probably years in the making from Disney.  It turns out to be about snowflakes cloaked in purple.  It’s about being strong and being true to yourself.  And it was released at the theatres on Amanda’s birthday last year – November 27th. All coincidences but one can only think – that is so weird!!

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What will I do today? Probably reflect a bit.  Think some more.  Then try to have a peaceful, restful day.  Thank you everyone so far who has sent me a birthday wish.  It means alot to be part of your lives, even though many of us met through unforeseen circumstances.

A candle will burn brightly for Amanda today. Forever in my heart, never to be forgotten. xoxo

Make sure to listen to this song -

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This entry was posted on April 4, 2014. 5 Comments

The Moose in the Maritimes

More about the Maritimes

I learned a few things on this adventurous trip to the Maritimes.  I learned that the moose is a very big animal.  I had to think back because Bullwinkle (from the cartoon Rocky and Bullwinkle) if you can remember that far back ~ was a moose.

On the car ride to New Brunswick, I got my first lesson on moose.  What exactly would be the plural of ‘moose’?

I learned that moose are very ‘big’ animals.  HUGE was the adjective that I was told.  Adam informed me that the fist(s) of a human male (or two) could fit inside a moose’s nostril with room to spare.

Driving along the highways in New Brunswick, you can see that there are parts where there is fencing along the highway to keep the moose away from the highway.  Initially, I thought this was because maybe the moose were endangered and there were not too many of them but I was wrong. For any non-maritimers, can you figure out why???

Well, the moose being very large animals, stand  taller than the hood of a typical vehicle.  A moose can weigh up to 600 to 1000 pounds.  A baby moose can weigh 575 pounds.  So when a driver is toodlling down the highway at … maybe 110 km/hour … and not paying attention (especially if it is dark) that could be disasterous.  The moose apparently just saunter up the roadway within seconds and aren’t very street smart.  Meaning — they don’t seem to be able to look at thee traffic coming before trying to cross the road.

This can be especially hazardous when they decide to break curfew and saunter around in the dark.  As drivers, many of us drive the highways and not expect anything to appear or jump out at us.  But in the Maritimes, you need to be watching all the time because hitting a moose at top speed may not only injure the moose but fatally harming the passengers of the vehicle.

My always questioning mind couldn’t figure this one out.  So I asked WHY?  The explanation I got was certainly a science/physics lesson  – “Well Carol – the car is going really fast.  The moose is standing there dead weight.  The front of the car hits the moose’s legs.  The impact  will likely break the legs of the moose but it is like pulling the legs out from under it.  When the legs break or buckle, the moose will fall on the hood of the vehicle.  And because the vehicle is travellling forward, the moose will more than likely come crashing towards the windshield, breaking the glass and impacting the passengers.

I heard the following stories:

~ someone who hit a moose and survived it told of all the moose bits that ended up in the vehicle afterwards because the impact was so fast and hard.

~ that a woman on the radio heard about about the province putting up a moose crossing sign in a certain area and wondered why they couldn’t have put the sign up to tell the moose to cross further down the road (oh my!!)

~ I also had the thought of ‘The poor moose.  There will be none left.  But apparently there are lots and they live in New Brunswick and Newfoundland (pronounced New-fund-land) and when it is time to hunt moose, the appearance of the hunters actually drives the moose further into the woods as to not be found as easily. When exactly is moose hunting season?

I didn’t get to see any moose, only photo images.  But I did find some highway signs.

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This entry was posted on April 3, 2014. 4 Comments

Thelma and Louise and the tag-a-long BC’er (that would be me)

Before I got to Nova Scotia, I was told that no one should visit and then leave Nova Scotia without going to see Peggy’s Cove. So Leah and her most wonderful friend (M) picked me up at my hotel for our journey to see the waters of Nova Scotia. The first thing Leah asked was if I had brought hats and gloves. Umm.. that would be negative. I’m from BC, didn’t expect it to be that cold (again). And it just wasn’t ordinary cold — it was DARN VERY COLD. At first it seemed ok but then when you stood for along time outside, the fingers just start to tingle a wee bit.

But it was all worth it, the scenic view looked exactly like the calendars you see. Words to describe what I saw would be – breathtaking – picturesque – calm – serene – beautiful. The winds were strong around the Peggy Cove area. It was SO COLD. There were two fellows out by the lighthouse. One was taking photos and the other was waiting. I swear, if you were a lightweight kind of person, the wind could carry you to the edge of those rocks. It was SO COLD. There are warning signs on the lighthouse to be careful of slipping and ultimately falling into the waters. It was SO COLD. I was told that there have been many a lost person as they slipped from the rocks where there could or could not be ice present. It was SO COLD. Leah’s friend went walking beyond the lighthouse on the rocks. She said the wind was really strong. I certainly wouldn’t want to have a small child who was lightweight (and active and adventurous) wandering around there without being attached to me in some way. It made me think of Amanda and how she would have been. I think the cold would have gotten to her first but if the coldness wasn’t there, she would be exploring to the edge. Remembering that she was the one that I had to put cat bells on here shoes so I could tell when she was in motion.From the photos, you can see the homes that live on the land.

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We also visited the where the Swiss Air Flight 111 tragedy took place. (click here for story)

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The best part of this days adventure was being able to spend some time Leah (and her bestie of friends) in a relaxed environment without alot of other people around like there usually in. We were in her home territory and we were just moms talking about our kids. Yes we talked about both the lives and deaths of our daughters. About how similar characteristics of both girls. Their likes and interests. And what they hated most in life. That would be people judging them.

Leah and I also pondered the thoughts about what gave people the rights to judge us as moms in how we raised our daughters and what we are doing now in memory of them. We also pondered about the bureaucratic system of what happened to Amanda and Rehtaeh as we knew as parents, that they would need much help to get better. Did they ever get enough? Which doors of the system were open or closed? And are the doors open or closed now? What changes have taken place? And are they working?

We talked about what made us continue our abilities to talk to others about the message. What the messages were? Who was listening to them? Why they were important? The compared PTSD’s? (I never thought in a million years that I would ever have to do that with someone else.) How we look fine on the outside but how no one had a right to determine how we felt on the inside but ourselves. Why is SUICIDE is a forbidden and scared word? What needs to be done to make mental health become more normalized discussion?

Most importantly, we talked about how similar the paths towards this journey had been and how similar they still are.

Today was special and it will be screen captured in my brain forever. Leah is yet another person outside of my safe zone who I could relate to and call a wonderful person and friend. (As is her best friend M.) Having someone to talk to about Amanda (in all aspects) in a way that can be understood is special. I have met other parents that have not yet experienced this but I will endeavour to connect them up. Because death by self is something that many are uncomfortable talking about, it is important that surviving parents are able to talk to others who can understand, care and then support one another.

FYI – I have more wonderful people to write about and will do so in the coming weeks. I had also had a good time talking with Pam Murchison whose daughter Jenna Bowers-Bryanton took her life just over 3 years ago in Nova Scotia.

P.S. ~ I just heard that the Maritimes is in for a major blizzard storm starting Wednesday.  Glad that I am home in rainy, blustery BC.

This entry was posted on March 25, 2014. 3 Comments

The visit to the Maritimes (Part 1)

Reminder #1 – Never again take a red-eye flight

I thought that taking a late night red eye flight would be a great experience.  I didn’t want to waste my daylight hours flying.  So I would start the journey flying out of Abbotsford.  Monday night at 9:15 pm.  3 changeover stops – one in Calgary, one in Toronto and then landing in Halifax on Tuesday morning at 10:00 a.m.  I imagined that it would be quiet flying on an airplane at night.  And that you can sleep on the plane at night because they keep it dark.  And most people are tired so they sleep.  Boy was I WRONG!!  This plan did not work for me at all.

Firstly, it wasn’t quieter at all. The guys sitting in front of me (and it was 2:30 a.m.) were having the greatest animated conversation ever.  Whatever stories they were telling each other was really funny.  Too each other.  Strike 1.

Secondly, there was the fellow that sat beside me on one of the flights there.  (FYI – I was on the window seat)  He was nice enough. Didn’t snore.  Didn’t try to talk.  But he sat like a ‘guy’ and then used both armrests for his arms.  He also smelled like baby powder.  Maybe I was being hypersensitive but it was strong. Strike 2 for me.

Thirdly, I had seen the following weekend the movie Non-Stop with Liam Neeson.  You know, it was one of those disaster movies.  Plane gets hijacked in the sky. Pilot dies while flying the plane.  Not the best movie to see before flying across Canada.  Strike 3.  (Am I out yet? No, still on that plane.)

I survived the stopovers.  The backpack seemed to get heavier with each new airport.  I was definitely getting more tired.

I arrived in Halifax.  Got picked up at the airport.  But best laid plans, too tired too sleep.  10 a.m. Halifax time is 6 a.m. Vancouver time.  Uhhh… it’s breakfast and coffee time.  Well if that doesn’t perk you up.  So I went out for breakfast/lunch, had the coffee and then (you know it), awake time.  Looked at the itinerary.  Had an interview at  CTV Atlantic for 6 pm. so had to look bright eyed and bush tailed.

CTV Atlantic –  click here 

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I haven’t watched the whole interview but have watched snippets.  I stop at the part when I think I am going to cry.  But .. saying that … what I said was all true.  Amanda started with a mission in mind and left it for me to get others to help get the job done.

The evening ended with meeting Lester.  Unfortunately,  Lester is .. errr was … one of my fav foods for dining.  And everyone around me always do say …. make sure you do something for yourself.  Hmm…. sorry Lester, they told me to do it.  You were yummy.  But I did take a photo of you so I could show you off.   (I also have a whole history lesson on lobster catching.)   With the help of friends, I am hoping that some of Lester’s siblings can join me in Vancouver in the summer.  Thoughts anyone???

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Part Two: Lobster catching, Looking for Moose (tomorrow)

 

This entry was posted on March 23, 2014. 2 Comments

Happy Valentine’s Day

Dear Amanda,

Happy Valentine’s Day!! I can remember all the times watching you write out your V Day cards and scrunching up your face when licking the back of the envelopes.  After card #15, you couldn’t stand the taste and when I wouldn’t lick the envelopes for you, you found either a glue stick or used tape (if we had any left any wrapping Christmas presents).  Then of course, you always wanted to put a candy on the front of each envelope.  Not just an ordinary silver Hershey kiss.  It had to be a foil wrapped heart shaped chocolate with purple or pink foil.  Do you know how hard those were to find?  But we did eventually find them.  Funny enough — they seem to be everywhere now.  Purple is the colour.  Strangely enough, at Christmas I bought a purple poinsettia.  It is now Feb 14 and it is still alive and blooming in my kitchen.  And I also found some purple carnations for Valentine’s day.

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As I talk to my friends anywhere east of Vancouver, I am finding that there is still lots of snow and everyone is kind of tired of it.  Whisper to Amanda – it’s time to stop winter now.

Yesterday I did a video taping for the Right By You campaign.  (www.rightbyyou.ca)  It is an important campaign to increase the awareness of how youth suicide should not be a forgotten topic of discussion or issue.  The campaign encourages people to go to the website and sign the online petition. Once there, take the time to go through the website.  People are encouraged to contact their local, provincial or federal government officials to talk about youth mental health and how important that it is properly funded and supported.  There are way too many young people in need of care and help.  In the past week,  I know of five families that have been in some form of crisis. Some local, others across Canada.

We wish that we could treat each stressor like the puppy.  But we can’t and don’t.  Go to Right By You campaign and sign the petition.   As people who care, we have to look after all the others who need us to be their voice.

Thanks Amanda for putting a fire under your mom and all the others who care.

xoxo  Love Mom

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This entry was posted on February 14, 2014. 4 Comments

Good advice with #Bell Let’s Talk – January 26, 2014

#Bell Let’s Talk Day ended on the west coast 56 minutes ago.  The last I had heard, there were over 100 million tweets, retweets, messages, etc.  This is a campaign which is very near and dear to my heart.  For the reason that many youth, young adults and older adults suffer from the extremes of mental health issues.  Many are embarrassed to talk about and subsequently don’t seek help.   Many are afraid to talk about it for the reasons that it may affect the way others regard them.  They may be afraid that if their employers knew that they had a mental health illness, then they wouldn’t be competent to do their job.  Would an individual get as stigmatized if they had a heart condition, a brain tumour or even a blood disorder?

My daughter Amanda had depression and anxiety.  When she finally had the courage to speak up and talk about how she felt, others made fun of her.  With that, she retreated more into her shell.   Here is a sample of how she felt in a letter she wrote to another mom describing her pain.  I remember Amanda sending me this and found it again in my computer just the other day.  It saddens me how someone so young and who should have been enjoying her teen years felt and internalized feelings that we all wish as parents and caregivers never existed.

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I want Amanda’s words to be a reminder to others to encourage speaking up.  If you are a friend of someone who is saying similar kind of words, HELP them or go find someone who can HELP.  Often the person that is in despair is no longer able to seek support.  That is why it is important that WE ALL learn about the signs of mental illness so that we can lend that hand.

In the Angel Rehtaeh’s Facebook page today, this was found.  Three more teens that should be looking forward to their futures. Three more families devastated by grief.  Many more teens who will be upset at the losses of their friends.  Those teens here and now must be cared for.  Research has shown that the two years after the death of a friend are the most critical. This is the time to talk, not be silent.

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The British Columbia Teacher’s Federation recently focusssed their Jan/Feb New Magazine on mental health issues and titled their cover with ‘Ending the Stigma of Mental Illness’.  As can be seen from the cover below, there are so very many facets of mental health and in this issue, the articles talk about the different concerns, symptoms and what needs to be part of the solutions. Some of this may be new information to many.  A copy of this magazine can be seen at the following link - http://issuu.com/explore .  I have some copies of it in printed form.

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In today’s media, the article below was found.  The headline says it all – Toronto schools will get mental health training.  I think it is a step in the RIGHT direction as the majority (not all) kids are in our school system.  I can only HOPE that it will be something that every school district in Canada and beyond will embrace.

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There was also this tweet on the #BellLet’sTalk twitter page.

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 11.20.17 PM Tony is right.  The conversation needs to continue — every day — 24/7.  But only we can make sure that happens.  Like Pink Shirt Day, it isn’t a one day campaign.  It is a 24/7 = 365 day endeavour.

I have been in contact with many parents from all over the world who have lost their children too soon.  The one message that is the same and consistent no matter what the international boundaries may be, or language barriers, or time difference - We ALL need to work together to SHIFT THE WAY OF THINKING and to MAKE THE CHANGE!!  Please take note of every commerical ad, public service announcement, magazine and newspaper article that talks about mental health awareness.

Every snowflake in the world is unique, individual and fragile.  Just like people.  I miss you everyday Amanda ~~ STAY STRONG!!

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This entry was posted on January 29, 2014. 4 Comments

2012 to 2013 to 2014 in a blink …

2013 is almost over.  2014 is almost upon us and probably is in other countries by now.

Lots to say. Where to start. How to show appreciation to everyone. How to ignore those that have been negative. Life has taken on so many different shades of purple in the past year.  There have been ups and downs.  We have all learned many things watching the news around the world.  In our own countries.  On social media.

I have met so many wonderful people this year that have touched my heart.  People of all ages and from all different cultures of life.  In my travels, hugs are are what has become customary, expected and the unspoken language.  Many of these people, I have continued to stay in touch with.  As my list grows longer, I find it harder to maintain my notes and I only hope they drop me messages and emails just to say hi and not think that I have forgotten them or am ignoring them.  I have found that maintaining contact even over a telephone is hard.  I am so accustomed now to having a few conversations on the go at the same time.  (Thank goodness I took typing in grade 9.  For those of you remember the non-electric typewriters?)

For some, I have been able to connect and enjoy a coffee, tea or grape juice with them.  With others, it might be coffee in front of our computers with some kind of messaging between us.  Time zones are of no difference. We share virtual hugs, tears, joys and laughter. It’s all the same no matter what part of the world.

Some have shared the same losses while others have not and it is hoped, never will.  There have been teens and young adults that have made contact to just share what they are feeling. There are parents who have contacted to just be able to talk freely with another person who might understand.  I am the first one to say, not all social media is bad.  There are many groups that have been formed in Facebook for whatever a persons passion might be.  There are pages set up for grieving parents.  It not only saddens me the loss of life, but the loss of the life of someone’s child – whether it be to a medical condition or from a mental illness.

I will be thinking about my personal goals for 2014 along with the goals for Amanda’s Legacy. I hope that each and every one of you can be there with me as we work together in 2014 to make more of a difference in the world and will write a different post. 

I posted the following message on my Facebook about 20 minutes ago about all the angels that we love and care about:

After reading my FB wall this morning, I had to write these words. It is directed to anyone who has lost someone they loved but primarily for those who have lost their child in 2013.

The posts all had the same resonance. Sadness. Emptiness. A horrible year. How can one possible move on to 2014? 

I remember what it felt like a year ago and want to share. I had the same feelings, thoughts and words. It was hard to see 2012 leave and 2013 enter. As midnight approached, it got harder and harder and I can attest that I was a train wreck. 

The emotions are so hard to describe. It is like leaving something behind. But there is no control. Hours, minutes and days continue to move ahead. It is us as bereaved parents that have our memories. We know we have to move forward and so we do. We have each other here as support and I can honestly say that hearts have been opened so much.

Every date is a hard one. I think this one is particularly hard as we don’t want to ever forget. And we won’t. That is what social media has allowed us – to keep our good memories in concrete. 

To those parents who are experiencing their first NYE without their angels, what you think and feel is so very normal. We will all be here for each other as the clock strikes 12 no matter where you live. I’m sure I won’t be in the ‘good place’ either and will be glad when it is tomorrow already.

Wishing everyone a safe and peaceful NYE!! xoxo

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This entry was posted on December 31, 2013. 4 Comments