Work, family, basketball

Work, family, basketball

Seems like a lot of the posts I end up writing these days are either about work, family, or basketball. That makes a lot of sense because that is basically my life and I’m happy with all of it.

There is a really nice balance with everything right now that hasn’t always been present. I’ve written about this elusive balance a few times over the years and I believe it’s helped me get to this point. Starting back in the summer of 2014 when I really started looking for and going after what I wanted. Then in the fall of that year when I was in the heat of it, essentially working two jobs in an attempt to get there. Then the summer after I started my new job, life and work seemed to occupy the most time still. 

For a while I had running. That was my dedicated time for myself where I was spending hours every week with just my thoughts and the trails, but as I fell out of that habit any free time I had, I filled up with less productive things. I still need to make time for my health and make that a habit again, but I’m so happy with the overall aspects of life right now.

My job is fantastic, family life is busy but full of love and happiness, and I have found a hobby that I enjoy, is fulfilling, and I can share with my family, basketball. It’s funny Jen wrote a bit about it this morning as I was thinking over the ideas for this post. Noah’s love for playing basketball has really gotten us all into it. For me it is back into it, but everyone else truly enjoys it now as well.

For many years I stopped following basketball but as Noah got more and more into it, and I started helping coach the two teams he plays for, we started watching more. We go to live games at the local University watching the Axemen and Axewomen play. We follow the Raptors pretty closely, but even if they aren’t playing most nights I find some game to watch. 

It’s entertainment yes, but working with Noah and his team and helping them develop it is also very fulfilling. I played a lot of basketball when I was growing up, but never in a real team environment. So being involved in a team sport and seeing the importance of everyone working together, even at their young age, really helps me see connections to this and work.

Having a strong team means helping everyone develop their individual skills, but also having them work together as a team to make each other stronger. Each team member has a role to play and it will likely change over time and situations. As a coach or team lead you help the members develop their skills and to find their role in the team.

Noah plays on two teams and his role is different on each team right now. On our club team, seeing this is his second year at the U10 level, he has more experience than others, a strong drive, and can score. In yesterdays game we were a couple people short and needed someone to score. Noah ended up scoring 27 points out of teams 48 for the game to help the win. On his other team, everyone is pretty much at the same level. Lots of people can score and others have more advanced ball handling skills, but Noah with his speed and determination can play darn good man to man defence. So in those games he may not always score as many points but instead prevent the other team from scoring while his teammates get the baskets. 

With my recent role change at work, and the team changes that happened in conjunction with it, I’m still trying to see where my role is with my team. We have a solid group where everyone has areas they are really strong in. We work together and help each other with problems which helps everyone learn and get stronger. Some people are really great with domain names, some with CSS, and some do a great job at staying up to date with new products or changes and help everyone else learn about them. I’m one of the more experienced on the team because I’ve been with the company longer than most. My recent experience leading a team and the skills and knowledge I learned there can be a strength. Maybe my role is that of a player coach, where I’m doing the same work as everyone else and using my experience to help others on the team continue to grow and develop.

For now, I’m really happy with all aspects of my life and seem to have found the balance I was chasing after for a long time. Life has a way of changing things up and causing things to rearrange but like always we’ll roll with those changes keep making things better. 

Fourteen Years

Fourteen Years

To my best friend Jen,

There isn’t a day which goes by where I don’t want to spend it with you. For the past fourteen years you’ve stuck with me through many ups and downs. The whole time you’ve been my rock that I lean on, encouraging me to take risks, and holding me up when times get low.

You are one of the smartest, most courageous, hardworking, and kindest people I know.

A tiny list of the things we’ve been through together:

  • 8 moves
  • 9 vehicles
  • 12 of my jobs
  • 4 years of University
  • 4 children
  • Some immense heartache
  • Near death experience
  • Awesome vacations
  • Countless memories

Topping that list however is the endless love and happiness we share. I’m so thankful that we’ve had this time together, getting to know you better and better, and watching our family grow. It makes me extremely proud to tell people you are my wife and I’m looking forward to creating many more memories together for the rest of our lives.

 

And then there was one

Just to pile things on I guess, today I got to play grave digger. One of our rabbits passed away. That makes two out of three. I feel bad for the last one. I’m sure it will be lonely by itself.

This morning my oldest went to feed them and was worried one wasn’t looking well. By the time she was home from school it turns out she was right  🙁

Two of our Three Bunnies

To My Biological Father

Recently it was brought to my attention that you are looking for me. The term look is used loosely because http://lmgtfy.com/?q=Sandy+McFadden

There were a number of years early on when yes in fact we were hiding from you, but that hasn’t been the case for some time. But just as my above Let Me Google That For You link makes it very easy to find me, let me make this easy for you as well. Don’t bother trying to make contact. Unless your desired outcome is just to be able to tell people, or yourself, that you tried to make contact but they wanted nothing to do with you, than this is not going to be a happy outcome for you.

Let me be clear, I’m not mad, and I also very much can understand that maybe over the past 30 some years you’ve wanted to try to make contact. That isn’t an easy thing to do though. If the roles were reversed I don’t know if I would be able to make the step. You’re not missing anything though. Had I wanted contact I’ve had a pretty good idea where you live for some time and could have easily reached out. Note that I didn’t on purpose.

It’s easy for me to understand why you would desire to try and make contact now as well. You’re getting older, likely reflecting on life and family. Chances are you’ve lost some loved ones or people you’ve cared for. Maybe your own health isn’t that great. All those things could be great motivation for you to try now. It still won’t change the outcome.

There is nothing I want from you, and I have no desire to give you anything that you might need, regardless if that is even just piece of mind. Even if you won the lottery and wanted to share it with me I would not accept. Over the years I’ve grown into my own man and am doing just fine without you. I will continue to do so. Not to say I made it here by myself, because of course I have had much help along the way. It’s my good fortune to have surrounded myself with an amazing network of family, friends, and co-workers. All of whom have helped get me to this point in my life where I am very much happy.

In closing, if you happen to look a bit harder and come across this post it is not an invitation. Please do not call, comment, email, or in anyway try to make contact. It is unwanted and will end with no one involved being happy or in a better spot in their lives.

Truly I hope you are well and that your life has drastically changed since I last knew you when I was five years old. Live your life and I’ll live mine, happily.

Choosing Nova Scotia For Now

There has been much written about the state of things in Nova Scotia, and studies showing that things need to change now before it is too late for the Province. The topic has been on my mind for some time but reading the article this morning Rural Reckoning: Being young and looking for a future finally prompted me to write something my self.

The article is not ground breaking it’s a story we’ve heard over and over again, young people over and over again getting educated here and then having to leave to put that education to work. This article from a couple years ago Saying farewell to Nova Scotia for a reason has stuck with me, and this one looking at the Maritimes in general: How the Maritimes became Canada’s incredible shrinking region.

Luckily there are people who choose to to live here in Nova Scotia and come to make it work regardless if it is easy to do so or not. The Bluenosers by choice initiative showcases some of these stories. While I wasn’t born here in Nova Scotia I am from the Maritimes and have lived here most of my life. While I do love it really the one main thing that keeps me here is Family. Both my wife’s and my parents are both here and we both have siblings here. My kids are all in school and have made friends so to move them would be challenging, although each of them said they would move without much hesitation.

While we are fine here it is mainly because my wife is self employed and I have looked beyond the traditional employment options in the area and now work remotely with the distributed company Automattic. When I think of my kids and their future here I do get a little worried. While I do believe there will be more and more opportunities as technology advances and more companies begin to embrace the opportunity to have a remote workforce it still isn’t there for everyone by any means. Books like Remote by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson of Basecamp and Scott Berkuns The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work both illustrate two companies who are great examples of how this can work.

My honest belief is that for this Province to be sustainable it is going to take more remote type work and local entrepreneurs to create businesses here. The downfall for remote work here is that because of the shrinking tax base there has to be a different reason for you to want to live here. It’s not attractive for new entrepreneurs or remote workers to specifically set out to move here. We are one of the highest taxed Provinces in Canada and the level of services we receive for it don’t match that of elsewhere.

Nova Scotia has long wait times for health care. Our roads and infrastructure are deteriorating. Recently I went for a drive out past my old family home while taking my daughter to work at a well known large retail store. It started out in this rural location but has since grown to many locations elsewhere. The drive out there was appalling and I don’t know how the business owner hasn’t lost their minds. Each road, no matter the direction you take, leading to their place of business, where they employ a number of people and must bring revenue to the local area, are reverting back to dirt. Apparently the roads were so bad they were dug up, but instead of repaving them, the laid gravel down instead. So now you are driving along and hit dirt/gravel roads all of a sudden.

On my drive out there I immediately thought of this article by Nova Scotia’s previous finance Minister. In it explains basically that we don’t have the population to support paying for all the roads we have paved over the years. So especially our rural roads are going to end up falling a part and go back to dirt. For major highways we are going to have to move to a toll and pay per use system in order to afford to have them.

Then there is our health care system. There are still many families in rural areas here where they don’t have a family doctor. Wait times are long for procedures and people end up going to emergency rooms for things that they could regularly see a family physician for. So with a system already strained it is causing Doctors who are here to leave. They can go elsewhere, likely make more money, with less stress.

With the high taxes and the services we do have going down hill it is going to be hard to attract people to want to move here. Those of us who do stay are going to have to pay a premium for living here. At some point even families like mine who does love it here and values being close to family are going to have to make the decision. Is the benefits of living here worth the cost? For now at least they are. But as my kids get even older and get to the point where they are going to start their own lives and careers it might not be here. Maybe we’ll want to get them settled into an area where I can see an easier road to success for them before they reach that point.

It’s my honest hope that this doesn’t happen. But if my kids grow up and feel the need to move away from their home Province, my main reason of being here for family won’t be as valid anymore.

Life’s Crossroads

Life’s Crossroads

Throughout life there are always moments and decisions that can have drastic impact on where we end up depending on the choices that are made at that time. Everyone can think of examples of these: What if I had gone backpacking across Europe instead of going to College? What if I never took that job where I ended up meeting my future wife?

For me the crossroad that has had the most impact on my life didn’t involve a decision by me. When I was five years old my mother chose to run away from my father with me and my two younger sisters. While I’m eternally grateful to her for making this brave decision, I still find it interesting to think of how life might have played out had we not left.

A bit of background

My mother was very young when she married my father. In fact I have a daughter who is almost the same age, looking at her, and thinking back to me at that age, it’s hard to imagine being prepared to make that kind of commitment. She was rebellious though and in my mind was likely using this marriage to run away from other problems.

He was an older bad boy type which I’m sure seemed very attractive to a teenager looking to get away. Right from the beginning though it wasn’t a healthy relationship, but soon they were married and she was pregnant with me. It’s hard to go crawling back to your family after turning your back on them. This man she married was jealous and abusive. He would fill her head with the notion that she was nothing, worthless, and that no one would want her. At the same time he didn’t want her to have any friends, especially other men. This kind of treatment was only magnified when he was drunk, which was often the case. The abuse didn’t stop with the psychological, he made sure to prove how unimportant she was by physically beating her as well. Depending on the crowd he would even brag about how you have to keep women in their place.

He was the only one married in the motorcycle club/gang and most of his friends liked my mother and treated her well. They would enjoy coming to their home to conduct business and have a home cooked meal at the same time. They would sit around the kitchen table talking socially but also writing notes on paper, passing them around, and then burning them in the ash tray full of butts on the table. This wasn’t so she or me a little boy playing in the other room wouldn’t know what was going on, but so the police in the parking lot with listening devices wouldn’t be able to hear.

Talking with my mother all these years later it was well known that the groups clubhouse and our family apartment were under surveillance. These aren’t things I can remember, the same as I can’t recall going on the back of his bike on drug delivery runs, but this was apparently the case.

Like many abusive drunks he would apologize and promise to change especially when he could sense she was close to the breaking point. He would even try sometimes and things would be happy for a short while. However it wouldn’t be too long before he was drunk again and instead of working to make her want to stay, threatening her with her life if she ever tried to leave. Usually this would be accompanied with physical reminders, and at least once with a loaded gun to her head.

One of scenes I can remember is screaming through tears at him to leave my mother alone. For a while I didn’t know if this ever really happened or if it was something I made up in my own mind. Reading through court document testimonials seemed to show that it did occur at least once. She was trying to leave with me before he arrived back from the bar. They didn’t make it away in time and he tried to physically pull her out of the car and back into the apartment, I screamed and cried for him to leave her alone.

What could have been

When I think about these stories I can’t help but picture life looking like a less glamorous Son’s of Anarchy. That would be if I wasn’t in jail or worse dead. Almost certainly my life wouldn’t look anything like it does today.

Chances are being exposed to that type of male influence for my whole life would have me involved with drugs, alcohol, and possibly all sorts of illegal things. My relationship with woman would certainly be different. If married, I doubt it would be the loving marriage I have now. Obviously not everyone ends up being like their father and many people are strong enough to purposely become the opposite. My worry, is would I have known, or seen, alternative options to follow?

As much as I sometimes let myself imagine what could have been, I don’t get very far before I don’t want to think about it anymore.

What did happen

Being a young single mother of three wasn’t easy and it didn’t make for the most luxurious childhood. We always had the things we needed but not much more than that.

Especially in the beginning a lot of time was spent being scared that he would find us. There was once in school at a young age that I remember breaking down crying because I had let my guard down a bit. A reporter for a local newspaper came and took my picture and story for the paper. I don’t recall if it was for being a member of the band or a science fair project. At first I was proud I would be in the paper, but then fear swept over me as I didn’t want him or someone he knew to come across it and find us. Still not sure he ever even had one of these for sure, but there was a certain style pick up truck that every time I saw one for years I was so scared it was him driving it.

Sometimes growing up I had wished I had a father figure to do father son things with me and felt like I was missing something. We always had good family friends who I would sometimes go do some things like that with them, but it wasn’t the same.

After the fear left for many years I had a strong hatred for him. As I’ve grown that has gone as well. There is absolutely no desire to meet him again, or even talk to him, but I’ve let go of the harsh feelings. For all I know he could be completely changed and a great guy. My hope is that’s the case. Not everyone changes, but if I was always judged on how I acted and the things I did in my later teen years it wouldn’t be a positive.

Again, I’m very thankful for the path my mother chose. It wasn’t the easiest thing in the world, and I know it was a hard brave thing for her to do. Everything that happened has has led me to where I am, and who I am today. There are few things that I would change with life today but they aren’t major and really have nothing to do with that crossroad. They are also things that can be changed and I’m working on them.

A Proud and Grateful Son

A Proud and Grateful Son

From a very young age my Mother and I were good friends. We had four years where I was the only child and we grew a strong bond. Even though she was really almost a child herself she spent time with me, read to me, played with me, and talked with me. I’m convinced that anything good in me has come from my Mother. Watching how she handled and sacrificed herself through many trials she never gave up. She always did what she saw as best for her family even if I didn’t always see it at the time.

Being young and a bit rebellious, as many teenagers can be, she found herself in a relationship and married to an abusive alcoholic. Having moved across the Country with no friends or family I can only imagine how stuck and helpless she felt. This whole part of her life could easily be a best selling novel. Thankfully she found a great support system within a Church. Despite the abuse and very real threats on her life if she were ever to leave, and with the Churches help, she found the courage and the strength to take us three kids and get away.

It took lots of planning and one day while he was away at work we packed up what we could and flew away. The actual leaving was only the first part though. We were essentially in hiding. We couldn’t move close to family for fear of being found, so we moved close to friends she had made within her Church community. I’m still amazed at the strength this had to take. It’s not hard to understand that after an experience like that, and the support received, she would then become deeply involved with the Church.

We spent most of my child hood living on social assistance with my mother doing what ever she could to make ends meet. Knowing how much money we lived on blows me away. How she ever kept us all fed and housed let alone with the extras we managed to scrounge is almost unbelievable. Although I didn’t always see it this way. There were many times I was angry at her when we couldn’t do things like other families, or I couldn’t get something I wanted because there wasn’t the money for it. The way my mother handled this though taught me how to work hard and how to manage money.

For the next seven years she raised three kids on her own. I get overwhelmed with my four kids and I have an amazing wife and the support of all my family around. Knowing that you weren’t going to have anyone show up to give you any sort of break had to be demoralizing at times. It’s no wonder that when she finally met a man who recently started at her Church she ended up rushing into marrying him.

Unfortunately he didn’t really share the values she was looking for, and he certainly didn’t want to be a family man. He was still a step up from her last husband as there wasn’t physically abuse. But things like lies, unfaithfulness and lots of fighting are certainly not the building blocks of a healthy marriage. The one good thing that came out of this short lived union is my youngest sister. He showed his true colours even more after she was born by not being a part of her life at all.

It was about this time that I started falling away from the beliefs of the Church I had been brought up in. Although I very much appreciate the people who supported my family I can separate the community side of things from the religious side. I love the community aspect just not everything else that came with it. This falling away partly caused me to rebel against my mother and the beliefs of the Church, this put a large strain on mine and my Mothers relationship.

A few years later she was introduced to a man who had been a long member of her Church but not from our local area. He was also divorced and they met at a single adult event the Church put on. This man truly held the same beliefs my mother had and is a kind a gentle man. He worked hard to to get to know all of us and was completely fine with the fact that my mother was a single parent of four children and that we were a package deal.

When he proposed I was happy for her and I knew he would treat her the way she deserved to be treated and be a faithful and loving husband. However I was not happy for myself. After moving around a lot in my early years and struggling to make good friends I was finally in a place where I was happy. Being only a couple years away from graduating from high school this would mean I would have to once again pack up and move away. By telling my mother that I was not going to move with her it almost caused her to call off the wedding. Thankfully I had the good sense to set aside my selfishness and told my mother to go ahead with the wedding and that I would move with her.

Once they were married, and the move was complete, it didn’t take me long to make my way back to my friends leaving my family behind. This put even more stain on our already rough relationship. In fact long periods of time would go by where I wouldn’t even talk to her. Although I feel ashamed at the worry and grief I must have caused her, almost throwing my life away by dropping out of school and not having a fixed address, I feel I learned a lot about myself and gained experiences that has helped me become who I am today.

Eventually I moved back with my family but I was still head strong to go my own way. I’m quite certain the birth of my oldest daughter is my what saved me, putting me back on a proper life path. No matter what I did or the pain I must have caused my Mother still was always there for me when ever I needed her. When my relationship with my oldest’s mother came to an end she welcomed me to move in until I got back on my feet again, no questions asked.

My mother has spent the last 18 years raising her kids and turning the 200+ year old house that she had moved into with her husband from, what my youngest sister described as a haunted house, into a warm and loving home. A few years ago though my youngest sister left home and this left just the two of them. Recently my mother has also fallen away from the Church. With no children left to worry about, and their diverging beliefs, it was just a matter of time before the marriage would come to an end.

Just like the rest of the Church community, I will always be grateful to her husband. He played a great role in all our lives over the years and helped raise my sisters. When ever I needed anything he was always there and happy to do what he could to help as well. During their lives together my Mother was able to grow from a single parent on social assistance to an even stronger and more brave woman than she already was. She actually works two jobs where she will be able to provide for herself and one of them is an absolute perfect fit. She works at a shelter for women and children. Her personal experience and her grace under pressure give her the ability to make a difference and help people the way she was once helped.

Yesterday I went and helped her move out of this home she had built. The whole time all I could think of is how proud I am of her. It has to be a scary thing to move out on her own and leave a home and a marriage she as put almost two decades into. Let alone away from the safety of a two income home and the Church community she has dedicated so much of her life to. It won’t be a popular decision with everyone and I’m sure there is going to be hurt feelings and eventually sides chosen. I hope that isn’t the case, however it seems inevitable in times like this.

I’m proud of my Mother, and I’m extremely grateful that we worked through our rough times so we are once again friends. She is finally going to have the opportunity to live her life for her. She has dedicated so much time sacrificing for other people she has earned the right to do what ever she wants to be happy. As her son, and friend, I will do what ever I can to help her achieve that.