November twenty seventeen

Posted by bernicky - November 13th, 2017

modeling clay head

Modeling clay head

The pressure on the financial front has not dwindled. It never does entirely but there’s a bit of an awkward crunch going on at the moment which makes for interesting planning. The time between last pay cheque and next pay cheque is only fourteen days. The awkward part is that I was already broke when my pay of the ninth came in. The mortgage, that unforgiving monthly payment, passes through the account on the twentieth and is just one hundred dollars shy of a full pay. Makes for exciting times.

One of the things which being poor teaches you is how to juggle and manage money in difficult circumstances. Banks and ministers of finance have nothing on poor parents.

Our son has decided that he is going to go to trade school to get an attestation in computer support and networking as a first step to getting into cybersecurity. I think it’s a good choice, but also recognize it as choosing a training that will lead to a job because it will lead to a job not because he has any particular interest in it. There’s nothing wrong with that. The majority of people in the world work in jobs that pay the bills not because they have any particular interest in the job. The funny thing is that no matter what the job is most people usually find something of interest in the job which gives them a sense of pride in what they do. Cybersecurity certainly has that going for it.

Our daughter on the other hand has dumped another English class based on the premise that she is changing programs and had more time to do English classes in the future. To me it would seem sensible to get the compulsory classes out of the way to begin with, but talking to either of our children is like talking to a gossamer winged sylph so I generally avoid offering advice.

On the art front just for the sake of it I’m giving sculpting a go. I like the feel of the clay in my hands. It’s kind of fun and reminds me that it was something I pursued briefly when I was in CEGEP. On the writing front a few new short stories have been finished and are going through final editing before being sent out. There’s also a novella competition in the offing which I think I will enter Concrete Memories into.

One of the new short stories called A May Day I plan to enter into the Fiddlehead short story competition this year as soon as it comes back from Donna. To qualify for the contest I had to edit the story down from 6550 words to 6000. I managed to drop it to 5996, but Donna’s going to read it for me to make sure I didn’t break something in the editing. It’s a fine story in my opinion and I can hope the editors at Fiddlehead will think the same thing.

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An early birthday present

Posted by bernicky - January 23rd, 2014

Believe it or not this only occurred to me when talking to Donna on Skype. She was saying that her recently divorced friend was sick and it looked like something Donna had experienced in October/November. It was a kind of debilitating, lingering cold with flu symptoms that never quite blew up into a full anything but kept a low grade fever, nausea and fatigue going all the time. I said “That must be hard, being alone, mortgage payments and then getting sick. You can’t afford to be sick.” At that moment it occurred to me that I was talking as much about me as I was about Donna or her friend. I had just never thought of myself as alone because there are two kids in the house. So, while not alone, there is the added responsibility of two other people who depend wholly on me. For an instant that thought, the very idea of it, scared me and then I was over it. No point being afraid of where you are.

The fact of my position doesn’t mean that I always make sound financial choices to wit: I bought myself a birthday present I couldn’t afford but absolutely adore. Here it is.

O'Canada Comradery by Timothy Hoey

O’Canada Comradery by Timothy Hoey

The first painting of his I saw was enough to get me to investigate his art and it was a special experience. This painting was one of several in which I was interested all had been sold save for this one and another larger painting. This was all I could spend irresponsibly and still cover my monthly nut with a little juggling. It is small – 11.5cm x 18.5cm – but it moves me with the same intensity that I would like to create in a reader when they read my short stories or poems and that alone was worth the cost. If you would like to see more of his art he is on Facebook at O Canada Art Studio

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An act of being

Posted by bernicky - December 17th, 2013

Lynn with our son - Xmas day 1996 (maybe)

Lynn with our son – Xmas day 1996 (maybe)

When Lynn died on December 29th, 2011 she left a hole in all our lives. It was expected, but expectation never prepares you. Lynn was hemiplegic and her ability to speak almost gone for the last two years of her life. My role as the primary caregiver (Lynn was the breadwinner) to the children grew to that of the sole caregiver, or so I thought.

Life without Lynn has been very different. Our children are motherless which, by any measure, is significant. Even when she was at her weakest and least communicative she was still there, she was still Lynn, wife, mother. The mere presence of her, like a rock in a stream, shaped our entire lives. Then, more suddenly than we could have imagined, she was gone and everything changed. Being, that was her best gift to us, just being. The presence of Lynn was what made the family complete. The absence of her made us less than we were, both as a family, and as people.

While Lynn lived I was never the sole caregiver, I was simply the most physically active caregiver. She had humour, grace and love enough to make us better people than we would have been without her. We are poorer now. Whatever future lies before us the only certainty we truly have is what lives inside of us. Long after everything else is forgotten what we remember most about someone is how they made us feel. We remember Lynn as the grace of our hearts.

Lynn with our daughter - Daycare Apple Picking

Lynn with our daughter – Daycare Apple Picking

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Not doing it

Posted by bernicky - January 10th, 2013

In truth training has been an after thought more and more since Lynn’s passing. It seems that there are priorities and as much as running was a priority for keeping my sense and sensibilities at one time the need for me to simply be where my children are is more important to me than anything else right now. It isn’t that they need me per se it is more that my presence is needed. Would our daughter do her homework without my being there to push her about it? Would my son be as relaxed in my presence if he only saw me for a few minutes each day instead of for several hours?

Being a parent is not simply about providing things and instruction it is also about simply being there. The knowledge that the parental presence is in the house is important. We make our choices and for the next few years at least the choice is seemingly clear. The road will always be there to run but the children will not always be there to be cared for. They will grow up and move on which is what they are supposed to do. When they have done so the road will still be there. I will be slower, older and no doubt fatter but our children will know who I am.

This season I will do all the races on the Circuit Endurance but I will not train for them with the fervor which I have in the past. I will run them as runs and enjoy them but they will not distract me from my primary task of being a parent and my secondary task of earning a living. We all make choices and this is mine.

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Trying to be

Posted by bernicky - February 20th, 2012

It has been of concern in the past that parenting in any truly organized fashion had fallen by the wayside after Lynn was paralyzed. In some respects our son and daughter got by with a minimum of supervision and attention over the last two years. There is inevitable guilt over that but at the same time it is unlikely in the extreme that given the opportunity to do it over again that anything would change. Lynn was the most important person in my life.

Jump forward to the now and after two years of receiving very little parenting the sudden reemergence of Dad is not unwelcome but not entirely a smooth process either. Both our children are strong willed. It is a trait which they both come by honestly having inherited it from both parents. Our son has a keen sense of justice though is somewhat economical with the truth and could use a well honed internal censor that can work as fast as his mouth.  Our daughter on the other hand is very quiet, reluctant in the extreme to ask for help she prefers to keep her own counsel even if it is wrong, has an appreciation for the wide pallet of colours in the world including the many thousands of shades of grey and is curiously honest most of the time.  At the heart of it they are both good people they just have different approaches to the world. Both are secretly perfectionists to the point that they would rather not start a job that to do it incorrectly: it is a condition which needs to be corrected. I am a big believer in mistakes. Mistakes are what makes the world work. Nothing would happen without mistakes. Mistakes are the soul of innovation. Getting the kids to believe that is more difficult that you might imagine. Our entire educational system is designed around punishing mistakes.

At my core I am more of a free range parent than a hands on parent. While I understand parents who take their children by the hand and guide them through every step of early life and enforce almost military discipline in the household it is an approach that I am not comfortable with. My goal as a parent is simple: happiness. Is it possible for someone who has grown up in a disciplined environment to be happy? Perhaps. Structure and discipline give a sense of order and comfort. Out of order and comfort happiness of a kind known as contentment may grow. My own belief though is that in order for someone to be happy they must first know who they are and accept who they are. Happiness follows. If you are told who you are and what you will do and how you will be your entire life then if you do find happiness it is most likely in fulfilling the roles defined for you by others which ultimately is a hollow feeling.

Even when Lynn and I were actively parenting we locked horns with the hair cut and my mother-in-law who did not think we were doing a good job. We believed that children should fall. Children should get themselves into difficult situations and get themselves out of them. They should learn what their strengths are and how to rely on themselves. Did we ride them about homework? Yes, but we did not do it for them and we gave them room to ignore us and suffer the consequences in class. We did not go running to their rescue each time they had a problem with a teacher or another student. Work it out, suck it up, move forward. We supported them without enabling them if that makes any sense.

What it comes down to is that I am trying to be a father and despite giving it my very best efforts frequently have doubts and worries about what mistakes are being made and I have no doubt that mistakes are being made. This whole train of thought came about as our daughter was working on an English project on which she had fallen behind. We spent a few hours last night talking about it because for this phase of the three part project she is making a short film about her mother and what she went through for the last eight years. The story is about being a survivor and as much as it is touching that she wants to tell this story about her mother and how her mother was a survivor (and indeed she was) the story could just as easily be about our daughter and how she too is a survivor.

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