One of my favorite times of day is the last hour or so before bed. For the past many years this has been the time that we read out loud. Hilary started the tradition by reading the entire Harry Potter series out loud to Liam. Actually, to both of us, because I would listen in too. It took just over 3 years to get through the whole series. Then I took over reading and we have made it through a variety of books. One of our favorite author’s is Kenneth Oppel who hooked us in with his Sunwing series. Last night we finished one of his newest book’s, Boundless, a wonderful tale about a train full of adventure. Liam especially loved all the Canadian references (the Boundless starts out from Halifax and works its way across Canada) and it allowed us to have some great discussions on the building of the Canadian rail system, the involvement and treatment of the Chinese workers (one dead Chinese for every mile of track), racism against Métis people and the story of the last spike.
The books we read out loud are sometimes books that Liam could easily read to himself, and some may even be slightly below his reading level. We are starting on the 3rd series of books from the 39 Clues set, which Scholastic lists as being a grade 3-5 reading level. While this series is an “easy” read, they include a lot of history, geography and facts about world treasures. It opens up discussions about Russian Monarchs, the Sedlec Ossuary, Egyptian mummies, famous paintings and so much more. We often stop reading to turn to the internet to do more research on the topic in question.
I never thought that we would still be reading out loud once Liam was a tween, but it is something that we all enjoy and he is disappointed on nights that our schedule doesn’t allow us the time. I always equated reading out loud to kids with “bedtime stories”, something that you did when your child was young, and that they (and you) would eventually outgrow it. This article lists 7 reasons why reading aloud to older kids is still very important. One of my favorite reasons is “life lessons”. So many times something has come up in a book that has allowed us to stop and have a great conversation about a topic we might not otherwise talk about.
The other out loud option that we love as a family is audio books. We listen to them in the car and at home. Liam has even been known to take his ipod and speakers into the bathroom while he has a bath so that he could keep listening to a story. We have the entire HP series on audio books and Liam (and I) will listen to them over and over, to the point that it feels like the reader Jim Dale, is member of our family.
We are getting ready for a weekly long trip for March break. We are going to be completely tech-free for 7 days, including no audio books. The dilemma is how many and which books to take with us? I’m envisioning us needing to dedicated an entire suitcase to our reading supply. This is not, however, a bad problem to be faced with, just a heavy one.
Do you read out loud to your kids? If you don’t anymore, what age were they when you stopped? If you do read out loud, what kind of books do you read?
Because society assumes that everyone is straight, those of us who are not end up having to “come out” and let people know that we are gay. I first started doing this when I was 19 and how I have come out has evolved fairly drastically over the years.
The first time I came out was a horrible experience. It was in the middle of the AIDS epidemic and around the time that the Ryan White story was first airing. Being out and gay was not considered a good thing and we were feared by many. The first person I told, in a letter because I couldn't bring myself to say it out loud, was my best friend. That was the last time I would speak to her for more than 20 years.*
Back then, coming out could also mean losing your job, which happened to me. You learned very quickly to read people, to sit back and wait before sharing personal details of your life.
Coming out got easier as society became more accepting. Luckily I live in one of the most accepting countries, as many LGBTQ people are not yet at a point where their coming out is easier. Many are still persecuted, or worse, if they do come out.
Coming out also got easier as I got older. I learned to fight for my rights, leading one company I worked for to include same-sex families in their new benefits packages that they were rolling out to employees. Before I spoke up it had never crossed their mind that they should.
Yet there were still difficult times. Canada may have passed anti-discrimination laws, made gay marriage legal and as a whole seems like a very inclusive country. That doesn’t make every individual suddenly open minded and ready to embrace us.
I’ve had problems booking a motel room for our family of 3, with the owner insisting that since there was only one bed (Liam was going to sleep on the couch) that Hilary and I would need 2 rooms. I’ve had people physically step away from me, not wanting to shake my hand and I’ve had people who were previously friendly, chatting around the water cooler, suddenly avoid casual chit-chat before work.
Having worked at my last job for more than 10 years, and with Liam now in his 9th year at the same school, my opportunities for meeting new people and having to come out to them were fairly limited. When they would come up, a new kid joined Liam’s class or a new hire at work, I was surrounded by friends to whom I was already out and who were supportive. It made for a very safe and comfortable environment and I rarely gave much thought to “coming out” and would more likely simply refer to Hilary as if the new person already knew that our family was made up of two women.
Then 5 weeks ago I started a new job. Suddenly the prospect of having to “come out” to a whole group of people, people that I didn’t know anything about, was before me. That was when I realized not only how much I have changed in the past 25 years, but how much society has changed too. Not a single person batted an eye when I mentioned Hilary. No one stepped back or even made it seem like it was worth mentioning. I was telling them about my family the same way they were telling me about theirs. Every single one of them, regardless of their age, background, strong religious belief or nationality simply took it in stride that I was gay. They were more interested in the fact that my hair was blue.
I’m glad that as a society we have come so far. There are still many problems in our world to overcome, but for me at least, it seems that the evolution has taken me to a place that I no longer need to "come out" and I can just be me.
*We reconnected briefly on Facebook a few years ago. She, now the mother of 4, apologized for how she handled things and realized that being around someone who was gay was not what she had once feared. She hoped that she had grown enough as a person to not pass that negativity on to her children and that should any of them come out to her, that she could be there for them.
After 8 months and who knows how many classes, I finally bit the bullet and signed up to do my Blue stripe TKD test. I spent the month of January focusing more on TKD and less on running to help ensure that I was ready. I had notes on my patterns pinned up in my cubicle at work, I watched YouTube videos whenever I could. I tried to get to classes early so that I could practice or ask one of the Black Belts for help with a particularly difficult area.
All that and I still didn’t feel ready.
The whole testing took just over 2 hours for all 14 of us. The little kids always go first. They are so cute, but watching them do their patterns – often messing up their lefts and rights – was making confused about my own upcoming testing moment. After the 5 year old crowd and the 2 adult White belts all passed their tests it was my group’s turn. There were 4 of us ranging from a Yellow Belt to my Green belt. I made it through the 6 patterns that I needed to know with a few minor issues, including stepping on the kid next to me! Every time I would try to move over before we started a pattern to give myself more room, he would move towards me again! Eventually the tester pointed out that I was moving to give us more space and that it might work better if he stopped following me.
Following patterns we had to demonstrate our techniques in both 3-step non-traditional sparring and fundamental movements. From there we moved on to 1-step and 2-step traditional sparring – usually the hardest area for me as we don’t often cover this in class and you are expected to learn it on your own from the book, or before/after class from a more senior belt.
I then had a breather while the last group went through their paces before I had to do a 2 minute round of contact sparring. Ooof. That was a long and hard 2 minutes! The woman I was sparring against is …. how should I put it…. Intense? Rough? Mean? Powerful? One of the parents even mentioned afterward that I had my hands full with that sparring match. I’ve been paired up with her in class before and I often end up covered in bruises from blocking her kicks or not blocking one of her punches. She is not malicious about it, but doesn’t always recognize her own strength, and never holds back, even when it’s a teaching/learning moment. I may invest in shin guards just because of her.
The last part of my test came as a surprise, as I didn’t realize that it was required for my Blue stripe. I had to break a 3/8” thick board with a front snap kick. Luckily I have done this break before, and it is one of the easiest breaks to do. You get 2 tries on your test – I broke it on my first kick.
The chapters of my working life can be measured in decades.
The first 10 years, starting when I was only 14, were spent in a variety of jobs from kitchen staff to nurse’s aide and bartender to shooter girl. Then, quite by accident, I landed what was supposed to be a throwaway job that turned into a 10 year career with that company. It is thanks to that job that Hilary and I ended up moving to Halifax. After 10 years though I was ready for a change. As luck would have it a new opportunity came along and I was able to move on – still on the same career path, doing the same type of work, just for a new company.
And now with my 10 year anniversary with this company just 2 months away, I am moving on again.
I start a new job Monday morning.
Once more I am on the same career path, doing that work that I do. Will I stay with this company for a full decade, keeping my working streak? Who knows. That timing would make things interesting, leaving me with just one more decade after that before I would be of age to retire. I think only having 4 major job changes over a lifetime of working would be a pretty good way to end things. But then again, maybe I’ll spend the next 20 years at this new job.
I chose the word BELIEVE for 2014 and set myself some goals around it.
I believe that I will be successful in 2014
I believe that I will be there as a friend and partner to Hilary
I believe that I will be the best parent I can be to Liam
I believe that I will continue to become a better runner
I believe that I will grow my Tae Kwon Do skills
I believe that I will achieve my health goals
The year started out strong and I really did BELIEVE that I could do all these things. I ran my first 10k race . I became a green belt in TaeKwon- Do and competed in an Eastern Canadian Championship tournament . My love and friendship with Hilary continued to grow and while parenting is one of the hardest roller coaster rides I’ve ever been on, I really do try my best. 2014 has also been a successful year in my professional life.
The area that I feel that I did not achieve in 2014 is my health goals. Somewhere around the end of summer I stopped BELIEVING in myself, and stopped trying. I stopped running, I missed more TKD classes then I attended and I stopped focusing on healthy eating. So it’s no surprise that I’m ending 2014 feeling a lot less healthy then I did when the year started.
That is part of the ups and downs of life though, so I’m not going to dwell on it and give up completely. I have started BELIEVING in myself again and I am moving on, ready to face a new year.
I’ll be picking my word for 2015 in the next few days as 2014 comes to a close. If you had to pick one word to help guide you through the new year, what would it be?