Thursday, March 19, 2020

Month of the Military Child


Celebrating our OUTCAN Military Children

April is the Month of the Military Child.

I had a completely different post written to celebrate our OUTCAN (Posted OUT of CANada) kids. A fun, positive, upbeat piece about how fabulous our OUTCAN children are (and they are!) and how we can celebrate their resiliency.

And then…this.

Coronavirus. COVID-19. Pandemic.

I mean, how do we even begin to fathom what our OUTCAN military children are going through right now, when we can’t even fathom what we are going through ourselves?

It’s mind boggling.

Kids who don’t know what ‘home’ is, living far from the general area they associate as their home, watching almost everything they know and care about evaporate into thin air…invisible, like the virus that is threatening us all.

Friends. School. Practices, games, competitions, extra-curricular activities, proms, spring break plans, school trips,  concerts, birthday parties, playdates, graduation.

All gone.

They are being robbed of the things that make their already chaotic lives livable, and we, as parents and caregivers can only watch while we try to cope with the ever-changing reality of life in lock-down.

As a mom of three, I’m having difficulty even sitting here, writing this.

How can we celebrate military children when the world is in a state of emergency?

I guess the best place to start is at the beginning. Take a few steps into their world.

Talk to them. If you’re a friend or family member back in Canada, acknowledge their hardship in a text, message or call.

They’re scared. If they’re not old enough to understand what’s going on, they understand that you are scared. They know that something is different. Older kids know that the border just closed. They know that this is serious. They know that they or someone they love could get sick. They’re worried about what this means for their grades and their future post-secondary plans. If this is a posting year, they’re worried that they may never see their friends again.

They’re angry. OUTCAN High school seniors quite possibly are in their fourth or fifth school, and have spent the last 12 years preparing for this moment…the moment when they can finally have some control over their lives. They want to celebrate, and there is a very real possibility that every part of their graduation celebrations could be cancelled. They still have school work or classes without the benefit of hanging out with their friends, or the physical outlet of sports and extra-curricular activities. There is no way to control what is happening to them right now.

And they’re sad. They are grieving the loss of all of these things. It’s a lot to take on when you’re already on shaky ground. Their hopes and dreams are on hold, maybe cancelled altogether. Even though life before wasn’t normal, they want to go back to life before. And if they see mom or dad is sad, they are sad too.

To celebrate our kids, we can take these emotions seriously.

Whatever their age, validate their feelings. This is real. Their emotions are real. And make time in the day to appreciate their struggles, even if it’s just talking while supper is cooking.

"Clearly, they are anxious and simplistic assurances rarely work. So that is not the thing to do. It's to take their fears seriously and then address them,” says Dr. Peter Silverstone, a professor of Psychiatry at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. “Never use, ‘Oh don’t worry about that. Everything will be fine.’”*

Help them move forward in these difficult days. Celebrate the simple things. Do your best to maintain a structure to your day.

Because, in the end, OUTCAN military children are resilient.

I’ll admit, I’ve grown to dislike the word resilient. It’s a word often overused to generalize the ability of military children and spouses to uproot their lives over and over and over again, and still be successful. I feel it’s truly inadequate to describe how strong military family coping skills are, and how much they have to put up with.

It isn’t enough.

But it’s less pop culture than ninja warrior, and less cutesy than super-kid or wonderchild. Really, it is the best word.

The Dunnes adventuring in DC over the Christmas holidays.
OUTCAN Military children are so very resilient.

My nest is almost empty, and—even though they are almost all adults—my kids continually amaze me as they cope with whatever life throws at them. This crisis is no exception. They are carrying on, taking it day by day, making the most of their new normal.

Celebrate that. Tell them how proud you are of them. Tell them they have the ability to do this. That you are there for them. Each day is a new day.

If you want, tell them they are ninja warriors, super-kids and wonderchildren.

Celebrate each and every day of this crisis with the applause it deserves. Let them control the few things that they can control—what they wear, what they have for supper, what time they get up.

And lastly, if you reach the point where you are beyond your scope of care, reach out for help. There are so many resources out there. Websites, literature, apps, lists of educational resources, and other people in the same boat.

Help is only a phone call, text or email away. And I am always here as a listening ear.

Stay safe,

Brenda

Other Resources:
Family Information Line (For Canadian Military Families OUTCAN) 1-800-866-4546
MFS Outreach Social worker Tel: 867-873-0700 ext. 6845



Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Words to Live By

Military Spouse Appreciation Month


We’ve all heard the buzz words.

Resilient. Loyal. Hard-Working.  Words used to describe the ‘typical’ military spouse. Military Family Services uses them regularly (check out this video for more) and they most certainly are not wrong. We are ALL of those words.
 
But the truth is, most military spouses start off just as a person in love with their spouse.  The upcoming hardships are not really important, are they? In fact, they’re kind of exciting. New adventures! Opportunities for travel! It’ll be romantic! Even as an officer in the military with eyes wide open, I had great big stars in my eyes when I married my husband. I didn’t really care what it meant and how it would affect my career, my mental health, my entire existence. I was ready for the roller-coaster ride ahead.

And then, sooner or later in the first five years (more or less), it happens. Maybe more than once.  That moment when the reality sinks in.

Alone in a new location, with an interrupted career (or no career), no family, no friends and a spouse that is AWAY…the washing machine breaks, the basement floods, the car dies and your two-year old (or dog, or cat, or…), throws up all over your last set of clean sheets. The moment when some people (like me) sink down in the midst of the still-unpacked boxes and have a darned good cry.

That’s when the REAL words happen.

Gritty.

Tough.

Inventive.

Gutsy.

Persistent.

Kick-a**, baby-wearing, puke-cleaning, duct-tape slinging SUPER HERO.

The words that don’t often go on a resumé. Words that find us when we are at our lowest, that help us get up and push through the bad times to the many, many good times.

Words that speak truth. 

Military spouse-hood is not all smiling faces at the end of deployments, nor is it weeping faces at the beginning of them.  It’s embracing the difficult, long hours of going it on your own, and coming out okay at the end. It’s molding your personhood around the ups and downs of the military lifestyle, and carving out something that is uniquely you. Words that ADD to the resilience and loyalty and hard-working professionalism that we celebrate this month, Military Spouse Appreciation Month.

And to the almost 35,000 Canadian military spouses, they are the words that count.



Brenda


Brenda and her spouse of 21 years.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

LFB Reviews: Hope for the Flowers

One of my jobs at the Library Friends Bookshop is to sort donated books onto the appropriate shelves. It's a small task, but I really enjoy it because you never know what you are going to find in the donation bin. We get everything from recent bestsellers to thirty-year old textbooks, mint-condition vintage hardcovers to well-loved picture books.

Hope for the Flowers
Available on Amazon Here
I work with people who have such varied tastes in literature that sometimes someone pulls out a beloved favourite that I've never even heard of. Hope for the Flowers (words and pictures by Trina Paulus) was this sort of book.

It's an unassuming little yellow hardcover that has a very seventies look about it (published in 1972 by Paulist Press), and the back cover heralds it as:

a different sort of book for everyone except those who have given up completely (and even they might secretly enjoy it)

I probably would have shelved it under the children's picture books, as that what it looks like; art and colour and a hand-written font throughout. But my coworker recommended it as something everyone should read, and on the front cover it mentions that it is

a tale—partly about life and partly about revolution and lots about hope for adults and others (including caterpillars who can read)

I'm not a caterpillar who can read, but I gave it a try.

Hope for the Flowers is a very quick read, about a caterpillar named Stripe who sees a giant tower of other caterpillars climbing to some unknown destination, crawling all over one another to get to the top. None of the caterpillars know why they are climbing, none of them know what's at the top, and at some point the climb becomes nasty. The striped caterpillar meets another caterpillar (Yellow) on his way up and they both decide it's not worth it and climb back down. They fall in love, and spend many days just being in love, always in the shadow of the tower of climbing caterpillars.
Stripe and Yellow in the column (page 32)

Stripe becomes restless, still wanting to know what's at the top...and in spite of Yellow's encouragement to stay, he sets off again, leaving Yellow to make her own way in the world.

Obviously this is a book about life...about the rat-race to succeed and the things we give up in order to reach the summit, and even thought it's 45 years old, it's a book that's just as relevant today as it was when it was written. It's so easy to look at someone else, see them running in an unknown direction, and think, "Why are they running that way? Shouldn't I be running that way too?". You see it at theme parks and at businesses, a large group of people hurrying toward an unknown destination is like a magnet. None of us want to miss an opportunity to experience something extraordinary.

But just like Stripe, we have to be aware of our own motivations, and stay true to who we are. Stripe, as a caterpillar, has no idea why he wants to be up in the sky...and his character suffers as a result. Often if we are patient and observant, we can figure out a better way.

This little yellow book was a pleasant surprise in the donations pile. I'm so happy I got to read it. I'll be taking it back, not because I didn't enjoy it, but because this is a book to be shared, and loved and passed along.

Total Keeper (10) to Back to the Library Friends Bookshop Post-Haste (1)?

10/10. You should come to the LFB and buy it. 


Brenda






Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Powerscourt, Ireland 2007
Are you wearing your green? Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I love Ireland! 🍀

I've only visited twice, but both times were amazing, and I hope to go back again soon. The folklore, the green hills and steep cliffs, the AWESOME sweaters (my favourite writing sweater was made in Ireland) and of course a few of my favourite people (ah-hem, DUNNE) make it the perfect basis for my latest novel, SKIN.


Aran sweater and a selkie story...a great combination!


Hope you are having a fantastic St. Patrick's Day, and have a great weekend!    

Brenda

Monday, February 6, 2017

Julie and Julia: LFB Reviews

Week 4:
Julie & Julia, My Year of Cooking Dangerously
Adult Memoir/Cooking/Humour
The Movie Adaptation
Cover
by Julie Powell


I was putting some cookbooks away at the Library Friends Bookshop and I came across Julie & Julia.

Firstly, it caught my eye because it isn't really a cookbook, and in my humble and unschooled library-bookshop-volunteer opinion, it shouldn't have been shelved with them. There are no real recipes in the book, although there are lots of references to Julia Child's Mastering The Art of French Cooking. The Memoirs are shelved very close to the Cookbooks in our wee little shop, and I guess I can see how the mis-shelving could have happened.

Secondly, I'm a purist when it comes to book-to-movie adaptations and I've passed by the Julie & Julia movie many, many times on Netflix or On Demand because I hadn't read the book. Why would I want to ruin the book? In my humble and unschooled movie-connaisseur opinion, book-to-movie adaptations are so much more enjoyable when you've read the book first and have a bit of background info...although sometimes the screenwriters/director fail miserably at bringing my mental picture to life. It's a problem.

The original cover (not the movie version) of this copy made it even more appealing and I may be one of the only book lovers on the planet who hadn't read this book...Soooo, into my bag of goodies it went.

Now I have to say that this book is the reason why I started LFB reviews. I picked this book up just after New Years, and I was looking for a project. Something to energize my writing. Something to push me forward and make me see alternative ways of doing things. Similarly, Julie Powell was feeling a trifle stagnant in 2004, when she picked up Mastering the Art of French Cooking and for some insane reason  decided to spend 365 days cooking up every single recipe in the book and blogging about it daily.

If you've seen Mastering the Art..., you'll recognize that this was no easy undertaking. Julia cooks with calves hooves, with freshly-scraped bone marrow, with quails eggs and pigeon and any number of bizarre ingredients that are not readily available, even in modern-day New York City.

On top of all of this, Julie is in a dead-end job (sorting through the aftermath of 9/11) and still in love with her patient high-school sweetheart while all of her friends are having crazy-exciting affairs. She has a tightly-wound biological clock with incoming pressure from her parents, and is moving to another (under ventilated and mouldy) apartment. She deals with black-out power outages and unexpected blog popularity, and even the death of Julia Child, herself.

Being a rather lackadaisical blogger, I am in awe of Julie Powell's determination to not only cook something crazy every day, but to blog about it EVERY DAY. That's insane. Seriously. Who does that? All while dealing with all of the other things that life threw at her, and while maintaining her sense of humour. It's pretty amazing.

Her writing is humorous, poignant and un-pretentious...all three things I need right now in a book. We all could use a good laugh in today's world climate. It's a book you can put down for a few days and not feel lost when you pick it up again--although you won't want to put it down in the first place.

I loved it. It inspired me. The result is my tiny commitment to read and review books from the LFB, and share them with you. Heck, if Julie can write a blog while cooking calves hooves in a New York City loft, I can put a few words down more regularly.

So there you go.

Total Keeper (10) to Back to the Library Friends Bookshop Post-Haste (1)?

A good, solid 9.5/10. If you haven't read it yet, you should go get it. 

Incidentally, I searched for Julie's original blog, and although there are lots of references, I couldn't find it. But you can my other LFB reviews here:

My Name is Memory
The Bar-Code Tattoo


Brenda

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

My Name Is Memory: LFB Reviews

Week 2 and 3:
My Name is Memory
Adult Action/Adventure/Romance
by Ann Brashares

I loved the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants books. LOVED them. My copies have been read and re-read and passed on and passed back. And I'm always curious how an author with a well-known series of YA books moves on to something else afterward--like J.K. Rowling after Harry Potter. My Name is Memory came into the Library Friends Bookshop three weeks ago, and I hadn't read it, so into my bag of goodies it went.

Although Sisterhood is considered YA, this book is not. It is, however, an adult book with a YA bent, as the book opens up with two high school kids around the time of graduation. Daniel 'remembers' Lucy from a previous life...in fact from many, many previous lives...but she does not remember him.

It's a cool concept, starting their relationship in ancient civilizations, and then following their connections from life to life, never quite connecting in the right age-level or circumstances. Always close enough that he could be with her, but not close enough that they could be together as a couple. Though the concept is fantasy, the lives are told in very real terms, and the two fall in love in various ways throughout many different centuries and settings.

But then there's the evil older brother Joaquim, who also remembers, and who has made it his purpose through time to hurt Daniel through his infatuation with Lucy.

The story dances through time until modern day, when the three come together a final time to determine their fates.

I very much enjoyed this book, but the ending...not so much. I don't think it can be compared to the Sisterhood books, as it's such a different premise, but Ms. Brashares still writes with a quiet, lyrical style. I loved how the stories mixed and mingled, with different situations each time, but I felt the ending did not suit the intensity of the story.  I hope that's because Ms. Brashares is setting it up for a sequel, but I'm not sure the storyline warrants it. I guess we will all have to wait to find out.

On a scale of Total Keeper (10) to Back to the Library Friends Bookshop Post-Haste (1)?

I give it a 6/10. I'll keep it, but would have liked a better conclusion to what was a fabulous love story through time. 


Brenda

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Teaser Tuesday: SKIN Sequel



I've been typing away at SKIN #2, tentatively called SWIM, and it's going surprisingly well. This sequel thing is not my forté, but I hope to keep picking away at it to get the sequel out this year. 

We'll see. 

Ocean and Sam are back, but there's all sorts of trouble in selkie-land, A.K.A. Prince Edward Island. Starting with Ocean's mom. Here's a sneak peek: 

“What is the problem tonight?”
He’s beautiful sitting there in the dim porch light, freckles barely showing. 
“You,” I say.
“Me?”
“Yes, you. It seems she’s having second thoughts about my ‘involvement’ with a nasty Black.”
His grin stays, but the corners of his eyes shift. He doesn’t like to be associated with his father. 
“Well, that is a problem.” He faces the water, the lilt in his voice coming out more because he’s upset. Like Irish music playing to the tune of his emotions.
“I told her I wasn’t an ‘involvement’,” I say.
This catches him, and he turns back to face me again. “No?”
I try not to smile. 
“No. Involvement is too businesslike. I told her it was lust.” 

If only life could stay that simple, huh? Don't worry, things don't stay fun and simple for long. I'm 165 pages in, and Ocean and Sam are in a lovely mess. Unfortunately you'll have to wait to find out what that means. 



Enjoy your day!

Brenda