Play Hard for Humboldt

hockey sticks

I am a hockey Mom.  And today my heart is breaking for our hockey family touched by tragedy.    I am a hockey Mom to my own boys, yes, but not just to them. I am a hockey Mom to all of their teammates, to the kids they play, to hockey players everywhere. When I watch an NHL game, or a Junior team play, I still see someone’s kid out there, and think of how proud their parents must be. They are our boys.  Our girls. You see, we are a hockey family.  This game of hockey that requires so much time, travel, sacrifice and dedication ties us together.

Sure, we are fierce competitors on the ice, staring each other down before a game, but if one of our family falls, we are all on the same team. We feel each others pain,  we embrace each others’ losses and wins.  We are bound by this crazy hockey lifestyle, driving our players around on pitch-black mornings.  Freezing our butts off for hours in cold arenas.  Cashing in our life savings to pay for it all. We take others in, open our homes, feed billets, jam teammates into hotel rooms to save money.  Hockey family is always welcome.  We happily feed each others boys, tie their skates.  Everyone gets hugs and high-fives. There’s a respect, an understanding.  We get it.  We have each others’ backs.

Hockey Moms are tough, sometimes too tough, but today our hearts break, and our enthusiastic, loud cheers have turned to silence.  We quietly wonder, why? how?

This morning, we sit,  thinking of the times that we have complained about smelly gear, or another expensive weekend away, or that Mom who yells too loud at the rink. And we realize now, that right now, none of that matters and ALL of it is worth it.

So. worth. it.

Right now, there are members of our hockey family who desperately wish they could drive their son to the rink one more time.  They will go into the garage and instead of being angry when they trip over a hockey stick, they will bend down, and cling to that stick as if it were the most important thing in the world, because their son, now gone, once held that stick.  Their son celebrated life holding that stick, learned about hard work holding that stick, made best friends holding that stick, grew into a man holding that stick, and never wasted a moment of his life while holding that stick.

So hockey Mamas everywhere, for your sisters and brothers, for the families of our boys on the Humboldt Broncos, and for our hockey family everywhere,  pull your toques back on, keep cheering loud and be grateful that you still have smelly gear to wash.  Embrace your hockey family.  Don’t leave anyone behind. Support those kids.  Feed dreams and play hard for Humboldt.  It’s worth every penny, and every moment.

#PLAYHARDFOR HUMBOLDT #OHANA

ohana

Noun

(plural ohanas)

  1. An extended family unit.

OriginFrom Hawaiian ʻohana.

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Posted in coaches, family, hockey, parenting, sports parents | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 54 Comments

Morning Practice

4:30AM.  I swing my almost-45-year-old legs over the side of the bed.  Coffee.  It’s the only thought in my head.

Grind the beans.  Add water.  Press the “on” button.

I pull on my jeans, that are laying on the floor on route to my toothbrush.  Trusty jeans, they are still holding the knee dents from yesterday. I find a T-shirt…it feels like it shrunk.  Another layer, plaid flannel. A toque to cover the bed-head.  Wool socks.  A glance in the mirror. I think I look like Relic from the Beachcombers.  Some days I feel like I live in an episode of the Beachcombers.  This transplanted prairie girl from the city, living in a small town on Vancouver Island.  I am thankful it’s always fashionable to wear a toque at the rink.

Back to the coffee pot.  This is the best part of any day, but a necessity on hockey mornings.  I grab my favorite mug. It promises me in golden glitter print that “Today is going to be the BEST DAY EVER!”  That reassuring swoosh as dark, black liquid gurgles into my mug.

Now comes the hard part.  Somewhere under those lumps of stuffed animals and pillows are two sleeping hockey players.  A forward and a defense-man.

“Wake up guys!” I say in my gentle first-round voice.  “It’s time for practice”.

Cringing slightly, I reassure myself that they wouldn’t want to miss practice.

No movement.

I’m not worried. I sit down and stare into my coffee.  We know this dance. I return to their room, a few sips later, urging them on, a little louder this time. I am half-caffeinated now.

“Come on guys! You’re on the ice in less than an hour!”

That does the trick. Movement.  Heads poke out from under blankets.

Sometimes it takes three tries.  Sometimes I must remind them of “the deal”.  If there is no complaining about practices, Mom will always, always be there for their sports.

My two youngest boys, twin brothers, slowly, silently, make their way to the “hockey room”.  It’s really my office, but serves double-duty as “the hockey room” during hockey season.

The room has a familiar scent that perhaps only hockey families know and accept.  It’s the smell of excitement, of winter, of hopes, agony, friendships, of sweat, championships and memories.  It’s the smell of hockey socks, sock tape, stick wax, metal shavings from sharpened blades, stale water from last weekend’s game dripping slowly from a water-bottle, and today, freshly washed jerseys that I have remembered (thankfully) to grab from the dryer.

I don’t always remember…

The floor is scattered with skates, hockey pants, helmets, spare laces and jocks.  The jocks – they always seem to go missing.  I wonder to myself – do they go to the same place as socks and Tupperware lids?

The smooth rip of sock tape winding off the roll, and the scratch of Velcro hockey pads being fastened, mixes with the scent of fresh brewed coffee.

And now the kettle is squealing.  Hot water for oatmeal is ready.  One brother eats like he has been starved for days.  The other one, holding his spoonful of oatmeal mid-air, looks like he might do a face-plant into his peaches & cream.

Hockey morning.

The dog yawns loudly – he knows we will be out the front door in a fluster of wheeled bags, sticks and spilled coffee soon. Someone will forget a water bottle and run back in.  A trail of empty tape rolls and forgotten blade covers will be left behind.

We drag equipment bags through the rain out to the drive-way.  I brace against the cold.  Hear the fog-horn in the distance.

The wham! of a suddenly dropped tailgate wakes the neighborhood dogs, who’s muffled barks can be heard behind house walls. We get in to a crunchy-cold truck and then we all fall silent for the drive to the rink.  Into the darkness along the way, we are quiet, savoring the time together, the anticipation.  We know we are part of a special thing, this hockey team.  And this is our secret time.  Early in the morning, while the rest of the world sleeps, we are building memories and friendships and working on dreams.

We pull into the rink.  The parking lot is practically empty, except for a few familiar cars.

“Hurry Mom!”, the boys say, breaking the silence. “Coach is already here!”

We walk through the doors to the arena, from winter darkness, into bright arena lights, and a rush of familiar sounds and smells fill our senses.

Sticks on ice, laughter, the creak of the dressing room doors and the metal-on-metal slam of the rink door latch.  The smell of crisp ice.  A slight hint of propane from the old rink heater, rattling away.

I look around at the happy, yet still-sleepy faces of teammates as they greet each other.  I see Dave, the rink maintenance guy, who gets up earlier than all of us to flood the ice and to get the lights (and heaters!) fired up.  I look at the other Moms and Dads, swirls of steam coming from coffee cups, as they huddle in groups.  Conversations of the slippery drive in, or where the best place to sharpen skates is in town, are exchanged in quiet morning voices.

One Mom frantically searches for her daughter’s missing neck-guard, mumbling under her breath about “this being the third neck guard of the season”.  We all nod in mutual understanding.  We are dressed like frozen lumberjacks, wrapped in blankets against the bite of the arena air. No fashion statements are being made this morning!  I glance up at the pendants hanging around the arena, remembering teams who have come before us.  I think about the parents and grandparents who have been there for their kids, just like us, through all those hockey-seasons-past.

All of us part of this secret morning practice world.

Legacies.  Dreams.  Friendships. Memories etched into hearts.

Some of our friends and family think we are insane.  Three boys in hockey.  The commitment, the travel, the cost – the early morning practices. They might be a little right.  But they don’t know what we do. It’s our hockey-family secret.  It is the essence of the thing that keeps us going – the determination, the intricacies of the sport of hockey, of rising to the challenge.

Of growing, learning, digging deep.  Perseverance.

It is about opening a world where our kids can aspire.  We are committed to each other, a band of “Relics” in our plaid flannel. We know where all the best coffee shops are in every small town on Vancouver Island, and how early each one opens in the morning.  We have become friends with skate sharpening techs in each town we visit. We know that a toaster and a blender are all you need in your hotel room to feed breakfast to sixteen hungry boys.

We are very busy, slightly sleep-deprived, usually broke, and always at the gas station or the skate shop.

I warm with quiet pride as my boys walk through the dressing room door, sticks in hand. These little boys come pouring out of the dressing room changed, taller, bigger.  Fierce almost.  Then, as they take that first-of-the-morning “hop” onto the ice, and skate off to the bench, I imagine what they must feel.  This is their time. On freshly cleaned ice, razor-sharp skates, the snap of cold in their lungs, they glide away toward their dreams.

We are at morning practice.

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Just say thank-you

thank you

I should have just said thank-you.  But I didn’t.

It’s been a while now since I brought the roof down with my big mouth. I really messed up.  Nothing new, my mouth opens and things come out before I have a chance to edit. It happens all the time.  But this time, I really knocked it out of the park. I thought I had something important to say, but really, I didn’t. Not important enough for what it would ultimately cost.  Sure, it’s important to express our feelings and concerns as parents, and it’s definitely crucial to advocate for our children. But, when someone volunteers to coach our child’s sports team, when they give up free time with their own families, and donate that time to us, really the only thing we should ever say to them is thank-you.

But we can’t resist.  We all think we have something important to say don’t we? Here’s the thing, nobody wants to be the crazy sports parent.   And we never think we will be.

But it happens like this:

We listen to the whispers.  We start to believe the gossip. We wonder if our children are being overlooked in their sport.  We question the coaches’ decisions, their motivations, and their loyalties.  We create drama where there doesn’t have to be any.

Sure, there are politics in sports, and yes, our kids will get passed over for others at some point. But it really isn’t any of our business how the coach gets to that decision. And it isn’t the end of the world. And it certainly isn’t up to us as parents to change the outcome on behalf of our child. On that team, our kid’s team, the decisions about what happens on the ice, or the field, are entirely and unequivocally the coach’s decisions. Whatever decision he or she is making. It’s theirs. It always is.  Why?  Because they are the freaking coaches. They are out there. Not us.  Because they are the ones getting up at 5am to coach our kids a sport.  Because they are there for so many kids who’s parents can’t or won’t be there.

The coach is always there.

Hauling bags, raking pitching mounds, tying skates, staying up late to make practice plans, tournament plans, development plans.  They are there for ALL of our children; the wonky ones, the insecure ones, the lonely kids, the kids with no role models, the “crazy” kids, the snot-nosed kid (there’s ALWAYS the booger-nosed kid), the always-late kid, and the missing-one-elbow-pad kid…all of them.

At CRAZY a.m. (that’s a real time), in a freezing cold arena, our coach is willingly out there with that “un-coachable” kid, the “brat” that all the parents in the heated lounge shake their heads at.  And that coach will do everything he can to convince that player he can be a superstar by 7 am.

And that kid?  Well he will remember his coach’s early morning words  FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE.

It’s real.  A good coach can make a positive, indelible mark on a person’s life. And it may have NOTHING to do with the sport.

At your child’s next practice, watch closely, and whisper “thank-you” into the lid of your mocha latte. Watch what happens when the coach gathers a rag-tag group of sweaty, sleepy hockey players into a circle at the end of practice. The players’ sticks will bang the ice in unison…whipping up courage and strength for the day, strength for a lifetime. That ice banging ritual is a THANK-YOU and a show of respect…from teammates to each other, and to the coaches.

And those coaches, on those mornings, will have an immeasurable impact on our children.

What have I learned since last season?  To be humble.  To be reasonable. To ignore the chatter.  To be thankful. And most importantly, to keep my mouth shut when I want to question the coach. Now I just sip my coffee, watch the game and whisper thank-you.

 

Posted in baseball, coaches, family, hockey, parenting, sports parents | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

The Heart of the Matter

police hug It’s too complicated for me to tackle.

People are going to have their opinions no matter what happens.

It’s too big.

My words won’t make a difference.

I don’t know what really happened – maybe they are right to be angry…

All the thoughts that are going through my head week after week as I struggle with my emotions.

I am the frustrated wife of a cop.

I read a blog post the other day, posted by a friend of mine, that picked apart the incident in Ferguson.  One comment (among hundreds slamming policing in America, and police in general) stated that “ANY COP THAT SAYS HE’S AFRAID FOR HIS LIFE WHILE HOLDING A HANDGUN IS FULL OF SHIT”.

I could have screamed.  I know a cop who IS scared, even though he carries a gun.  A cop who is NOT a racist, but would shoot-to-kill anyone of any colour who was going to attack him or try to take his weapon (because he is a Dad and wants to come home at the end of his shift and isn’t going to let some cracked-out scumbag thief take all that away from him or anyone else.)  A cop who goes out every day to protect our streets from more danger than we could ever conceive. It makes me want to scream.  It makes me wish for just ONE DAY of “no response” from law enforcement, so that the people of our communities who have NO CLUE, but think they do, could get a better idea of what happens when there are no officers to respond.  I’m sick to my stomach when I think about some of the asinine crap I have read lately.

Those of you who understand – can you imagine the rats that would come crawling out of the sewers by the thousands if we declared just ONE DAY “no officers responding” day???

PEOPLE – you would be in danger.  I can guarantee that.

And you would get the chance to feel how it feels to be afraid when a criminal is chasing you down – even if you have a gun.

Want to know what I think?  Right at this moment,  I think I want my husband to change careers.  Why?  Because he is working in a thankless, dangerous career.   And it is only getting worse as time goes on.  I see him changing every day.   Partly because of what he deals with at his job – but PAY ATTENTION HERE – WORSENED by what he sees happening to police officers across the nation, mostly due to terrible journalism.

Hated.  Ostracized. Judged. Picked apart by the media. Attacked for doing their job.

It’s a job that on most days, they are happy to do.  So, this is how we support our officers? We should be ashamed of ourselves for having ANY opinion until we educate and equip ourselves with the truth.  And we should be careful what we do with that truth.

I think most people have no idea what our officers are dealing with every day.  I know I didn’t before my husband became an officer. If your town seems quiet and free of crime,  look again.  Check the crime statistics online.  Stay up for a few nights in a row and count how many times you hear sirens while the world sleeps.

I think that our police officers are in danger.  Yes, because they deal with dangerous criminals – but also because the rest of us don’t trust them to do their job. We don’t BACK THEM UP.   There is this pathetic crowd mentality that all police are power-hungry, fearless, armed, racists?, white-priviledged?, muscle-headed, adrenaline junkies, fighters, gun-happy…all words I have read in the media lately.  I see it on friends’ Facebook posts.  I hear it in the line-ups at the grocery store. IF what I read and hear is true, police are not thought of as people.  They are machines.  Not thinking, intelligent, conscientious members of society.  Machines with guns ,who, because they have guns, have all the power, no fear and can do anything they feel like doing to anyone.  And when they use their guns, they will have to defend why they used the gun that the people put in their hand in the first place. Because no one will want that mess on their hands.

Blame the machine.

The criminal becomes the protected.

The cop, becomes the criminal.

He is no longer one man, just doing the best that he can do that day.  He is the machine. He will be judged guilty before he goes to court.  He will be exonerated, but still punished. He will have to hide.  His family will need to move. He will have to step down or get fired.  He did his job.  But he shouldn’t have.

I wonder if he wished he had let the guy take his gun now? Should officers just let it come?  Come take my weapon, beat me up, ram my police car – if I die, maybe people will see that YOU are the criminal, and I was a cop doing my job.  Do cops have to die before people understand the sacrifice they make?  Seems like it is so.

My sincere and heartfelt thank-you to ALL first responders who read this.  And to your families too – who support you through this career.  Be brave.  Be safe.  You are not a machine.  You are important.  I, for one, know what you do is so very difficult.  It is my prayer that you will have a rewarding, as well as physically and mentally safe and healthy career.   Thank you! Bearmama

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Again, But We Can Be Brave

pooh quote

Today, something terrible happened to a man, his family, and our country.  A Canadian Reservist was shot to death at the foot of the National War Memorial on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.  It feels like we have seen so much loss lately. Loss of our heroes. And now, with this last tragic shooting, and one that was so violent and brazen, one that was obviously meant to send a message,  I wonder too, like so many, if this will change Canada forever.

I don’t need to talk about the details – we have all seen the news.  I don’t want to talk about it at all. Everyone is already talking about it, in that post-traumatic-event frenzied way. You know – when people sound almost too excited about the news, no matter how tragic? Even my seven-year-old came home from school and had heard about it. His teacher just couldn’t help herself and decided to enlighten the whole class of 2nd graders. Why?  I’m not sure.  Maybe she thought she had to, or maybe she just wanted to talk about it.  

Speculation, fears, understandable sadness, disgust, and dismay.  It’s all happening again, right now.

I have spent the day trying to pick some flowers out of the rubble.  

I am just so exhausted with the bad news, as I’m sure most of you are in the face of yet another violent shooting.  I can barely breath when I see photos of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, hugging his dog. And as I push back another tear for someone  I don’t know, I search for hope.  If you work at it,  it is possible to have hope and be brave, even when things are so, so scary.   But we have to choose to be brave.  We have to choose to turn away from the frenzy.  To not get angry, but instead get stronger. To not pass judgement, but to move forward with kindness and compassion…and grace.

I heard a reporter on the radio ask the question “What now?”

Col. Chris Hadfield posted a pretty good answer to this on Facebook today:

“The violence of the past three days sickens and angers me. I commend the bravery of those who faced the danger.

Please all console a neighbour, and look for ways to renew your efforts towards creating a strong and supportive community.”

Console a neighbour.  Renew your efforts towards creating community!  Wow.  What fantastic advise.  We shouldn’t spend our energy being angry, afraid or gossiping about what has happened.  Rather we need to go out, build community, and strengthen our nation at a grass-roots level.

Know your neighbours, show love, and most importantly shut out the darkness with light.   By your actions, tell those who think it’s okay to prey on our heroes that they are bullies who will never win.  Replace love where there is hate, and we have already won.  No matter what may come. Be a helper.  Comfort a neighbour.  Be brave.

fred-rogerss-quotes-2

I send my deepest condolences and prayers to the family, friends, and dog of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo. 

Posted in faith, family, parenting, police wife | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

I am “that” Mom

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I have become “that” Mom.  You know, the one who gives her friends with new babies unsolicited advice.

EGADS!  I am horrified.  I really am.  I literally cringed as I was washing the supper dishes,   thinking about my recent visit with one of my best friends.  I think all of my good friends are amazing, but this gal really knocks it out of the park. Not only does she run her own very successful business (that she built on her own, and kept it growing through a partner break-up, and the recession), but she also just gave birth to her first baby last Fall at the age of 41.  Three weeks after the birth of her child, she was at a trade show with her daughter, back at work, with a broken tailbone.  It’s now a year later, and she is still firing on all engines, raising a baby, travelling the world for work (with baby in tow) and working 13 hour days.  Oh, and she’s still breastfeeding.

This friend of mine is also my employer.  We were at a trade show together in Vegas this week, and after a long day at work, we were enjoying a meal together.  I was relishing in the chance to get to know her beautiful baby girl, who incidentally is also my God-daughter (so, naturally she is the most perfect, wonderful, and smart baby girl in the world).  What came out of my mouth that night at dinner makes me shudder…

She was talking about some of her sleep challenges, which are partially related to the fact that she is breastfeeding.  As I snarfed down a really awesome fish taco, I blabbed out something like this: “just because the lactation consultant says that 2 years is ideal, that doesn’t mean you need to push yourself.  If she is still waking you up at 3:30 am and feeding on and off for two hours, you need to ween her – or at least cut that time down so that you are getting some rest.”

WAIT.  WHAT?  I know.  I did it.  I told her how to raise her baby.  And she didn’t even ASK me for that advice. And it wasn’t even good advice.  You are all cringing along with me, I am sure.

How many articles have I written about leaving Moms the frick alone to make their own parenting decisions?  At least three.

UGH.

And the worst part, is that I didn’t realize that this 3:30 am feeding was already a bone of contention with her husband, who was also sitting at the table with us.  Suddenly, I was part of a team of unsolicited advice givers.  An expert team of breastfeeding and sleep specialists. *CRINGE*

And it really hurt her.  Later, she told me she felt like her husband and I had ganged up on her.  Her inner circle was breaking her down, instead of building her up.  I could have died right there.

I had done the one thing I hate the most. I gave unsolicited and irrelevant advice to another Mom, under the guise of really caring for her well-being.  In reality, all I did was knock her down and make her feel like she wasn’t doing a good job, right when all she really needed was a sympathetic ear.

I could have just listened.  I could have said: “I know, it’s really tough.  Night feedings are difficult, but you are doing such a fantastic job.  You must really love your daughter a lot.”

I am humbled.  And embarrassed.  It came out so fast, and it came from a place of genuine concern for her.   I ignored the fact that she is right – the longer a Mama can handle breast-feeding, the better it is for the baby.  I knew that.  And when I really took the time to remember, I felt like a bit of a quitter when I stopped feeding my first son right at 1 year.  I forgot that EVERYTHING makes you feel confused and a little apprehensive when you are a new Mom.   New Moms need validation, not a lecture.

New Moms don’t need people giving them advice (unless they ask for it, and even then it needs to be offered up with some grace and constraint).   Moms need us to tell them they are amazing (because they are).   Moms need us to tell them that they are beautiful (because they are, but it’s hard to feel beautiful when you are exhausted).  New Moms need us to just shut up and hold their babies so they can have a shower and a nap.

So, I am making a promise to myself and all my Mama friends.  I am just going to be quiet, hold your babies and open a bottle of wine.  You can go sleep, or have a shower.  And when you are ready, I will tell you how amazing I think you are!

With much love – Bearmama

mom quote

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