A Dance in The Hurricane

The following is a reblog of a post I wrote two years ago. It reminds us to take a breath and appreciate our connections and relationships; to value each day and each person we encounter along the way. Stay connected, my friends.

KJ

The other day I was cleaning out our closet.  It was time to do some much needed purging.   I decided to gut out everything and go from there.  I ended up finding some old cards from a few years ago when my mother passed away.  I opened each one and read them again, this time with five years behind me.  They were sweet and sympathetic.  My Aunt had sent one reminiscing about when she and my mother were teens and very close.  Some I kept and others I didn’t.  So much for the big purge.    In amongst the cards I found a letter that was written by a childhood friend of the family.  Her kids were friends with us when we lived in the old neighbourhood.  She and her husband were friends with my parents.  We used to visit them after they moved away into a new house.  She wrote to say how dismayed she was of my mother’s passing and that she hadn’t realized my mother continued to reside in Chatham.  She assumed she had moved in either my brother or myself.  She was disappointed she had not made the effort to reconnect.  I think she was disappointed neither had my mother.  I don’t think it was anyone’s fault that they got disconnected.  It was just life.

 Kids grow up, graduate, move on to university or not, tragic events unfold, weddings and new houses, new babies, new lives.  It’s everything that happens over a lifetime. We get disconnected. We get disjointed and enmeshed in the everyday.  We forget the connections that were made years ago on a summer’s day when the children were small, who later walked to the bus stop hand-in-hand on frosty fall mornings, caught “all things squirmy and squishy” (her words) and played basketball until nightfall.   

Those days get lost in band practices, packed lunches, hockey games and baseball tryouts.  People get older, move to other streets or to other towns.  They work, they make new friends, they move on to other hobbies, other occupations and other past times without the old acquaintances that have become a part of their past.  The present is different.  Its fluid and changes with the seasons and the ever-speeding passage of time.  We don’t notice the children becoming adults until they are there.  We don’t notice our hair changing colour until our hairstylist points it out (while saying loudly WHY ARE YOU NOT COMING HERE MORE OFTEN?!  )  we don’t notice the deeper cracks in the sidewalks outside the house,  how the maple tree has grown exponentially or how few little children are out playing street hockey these days, until all of that suddenly seeps into our consciousness and we take a look around with clearer eyes.  And older eyes.  How did this happen?  When did we get HERE? 

I understand her disappointment and dismay.  It seems like a sudden about-face of one minute she’s there, the next she’s gone, but really it wasn’t like that.  It was a lifetime of being, of living and of surviving.  The disconnection of relationships is unfortunately, an everyday occurrence that can be prevented if we take the time.  Aye there’s the rub.  TIME.  We never have enough. It flies away so fleetingly.  If only we had more time to connect, to say ‘hey’, to reminisce, to support, to actually stop and watch everything grow and change without having to be awoken to its transformation.  It’s a difficult dance.  Maybe we don’t want to watch because if we do, then we’ll have to admit that we are getting older, life is flying by without us even moving or flinching in this hurricane.   Maybe we don’t really want to see the children getting older or the sidewalk cracking or the maple tree growing so big we can’t see across the street, anymore.  We’d rather hold on to today, to live in the present, just let me have one more day!

Connections are our lifelines.  We crave them, we seek them out and some we hold dear.  Our intentions are for connections to last as long as we take a breath, to be eternal and constant, but sometimes those bonds get weaker and grow more distant, then they are suddenly lost in the gale force wind.  It’s not wrong.  It’s life.  

I’m thinking after all of this time, to send her a reply.  To let her know I did receive her letter and I did read it and I still have it.  That I remember everything she said was true. 

 Maybe, that could be one little dance in the hurricane.

Conquering ‘Hoods

I don’t know when it happened.  When the kids grew up and I am now faced with retirement ads that I actually watch.  When we look at the house and say ‘we need to fix this before we move’ or when we look around at the now adults who we once carted and snuggled and fed and loved; who needed bed times and naps; who needed rocking to sleep and lessons in ‘appropriate songs to sing in public’; who were once my babies but somehow morphed into adults, and I hear myself say ‘when y’all fixin’ to move out?’  like I’m suddenly southern and drink lemonade in a rocker on the front porch.  I’ve been so busy raising kids and cleaning houses and buying groceries and making dinners and trekking kids to this and that, then driving lessons and graduations and convocations and first jobs and first dates and first car accidents and first hangovers and generally, just living, that  I missed when I grew up.  I missed my journey into full-fledged adulthood, motherhood and womanhood.  Generally, all of the ‘hoods.  How did that happen?

I don’t think I’m alone in that sentiment of ‘missing’ my growth.  It happened when I wasn’t looking.  When I was distracted by a ten pound baby careening out of my vagina.  And by ‘careening’ I mean taking his sweet ass time because who doesn’t love being in labour for fifteen ungodly hours followed by hearing the words “You’ll feel a little discomfort” (HAHAHAHA)   and then seeing a wall of onlookers oohing and ahhing.  Ahh, childbirth.  And that was the last time I did THAT.

I wouldn’t change it.  The three labours.  The three births.  The three babies that are now trying to find their ways into the world and stumbling every now and then.  I’m not missing their journeys into their ‘hoods…I’m paying attention to theirs.  I’ve just been absent in consciousness for mine. 

I look at the pictures and see the outward changes.  The weight gain, then loss, then gain.  The progression of one baby, then another baby and then the last chunky kid who threw Cheerios on the floor in great bunches.  The relocations.  The new friends.  The old friends.  The new neighbourhood.  The hair gets lighter, then lighter then *gasp* grey!  The glory of discovering ‘the perfect shade of red’….

Maybe I haven’t missed my growing up, but have simply participated in less mindful way.  That’s a new term I’m learning.  Mindfulness.  Maybe I haven’t been so much AWARE of my growth, as I have actually grown.  That could be it.  I must have matured and grown emotionally after all of these twenty five years of being Mommy, Mom, Maaaaaammmmmm!!!   It isn’t possible to stay stagnant without some semblance of inward enlightenment from all of the nights of illness, worry, fights, battles and dolls thrown down the hall in outward defiance of ‘get to your room’.  (That was D1 in all of her 7 year old will) There has to be some sage, some wisdom from raising three children while working and staying married.  There has to be something other than grey hair and osteoarthritis awarded for all of this middle-agedness.  For all of this Motherdom.  Wifedom.  Womandom. 

Please tell me, there is.  

There must be some spec of intelligent advice, some all-out magical power that is awarded to us moms, dads and upbringersof the generations that carries us to that moment in our lives when we fold our hands on our laps and say ‘we did it’.  

What if I’m at that moment?  What if I’m there now and I don’t know it?  What if I’m missing it? That would be a tragedy.  

I don’t think I am.  There yet, I mean.  I’m hoping in a new mindful way, I can acknowledge when I’ve reached the point where I can say I truly feel grown up enough.  Grown up enough to say that I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do.  Grown up enough to let go of those babies and watch them move on without the dramatic doll-throwing.  Grown up enough to take ma damn lemonade and sit on the porch in my rocking chair, saying ‘have a nice day, y’all.’    

Until then, I’ll just be over here while you conquer your ‘hoods.  I’m not quite finished conquering mine.  I’m still growing up.  

 

Dinner With February

Christmas is over and packed away.  January is winding down and the dreaded month of February is rearing its ugly head.  NO ONE likes February.  There is nothing magical or lovely about it.  Oh sure, there’s Valentine’s Day but that’s brief and fleeting and overly annoying.  February is fraught with unpredictable weather (at least here) and blue moods, and muddy porches and dirty windows and bone chilling cold.  What exactly is there to like?  Even the dog can’t stand February.  It’s too cold to go outside to pee, she is cranky that she can’t get in her walks and she gives me that sidelong look when I try to get her to play.  At all.  It’s like she’s too tired to even lift her head from a pillow and why would I even suggest she chase that stupid ball?!  

DON’T YOU KNOW IT’S ALMOST FEBRUARY?!  

It’s like I’m being ridiculous for even mentioning life goes on and it’s worth trying to make the best of it, isn’t it?  

NO. NO IT ISN’T.  IT’S FEBRUARY.

The least favourite of the more popular months, February is like the annoying relative that nobody likes and dreads him arriving to any family gathering.  It’s like the other 11 months are sitting around the dinner table all reveling in their own positive energy, and then HE walks in. 

 There’s December holidaying it up and drinking eggnog.  January is still recovering from ringing in a new year with December who steadily hands him water and Ibuprofen, not to mention January trying to keep up with all the resolutions he said he was going to make, but didn’t bother because there was just. Too. Much. Wine.  March is sitting stoicly playing with his grean beans because he is both feared and loved.  The older generation is adhering to the “Beware the Ides of March” bullshit and the younger ones are readying the beer kegs for March break.  Duuudddde.   Then April is laughing hysterically at the other end of the table about the first day for all the foolish pranks, the rain that will undoubtedly ensue and the whole Easter Bunny charade that brings CHOCOLATE.  Then he turns to May and starts talking smack about how one affects the other.  “There would be no flowers without my showers, you idiotic twat!”   May sits and laughs because there’s Queen Victoria’s birthday and the traditional May 2-4 weekend which brings yetanother camping extravaganza.  Duuuude.  June is warming up to July and August who all sit glowing in their inner warmth and bestowing happiness and rainbows to September, who has hit menopause.  Her hot flashes give way to cold snaps.  One minute she’s too hot and the next she needs a sweater.  October is chillin’ it and scaring the crap out of November with a Jack-o’-lantern he just carved and November resumes her knitting of a beautifully multi-coloured blanket of red, gold and orange.   There they are, all sitting waiting for HIM to walk in.  Finally, the door swings open and in strides February, soaked with freezing icicles dripping from his nose, his face blue with depression and a random red cinnamon heart stuck to his chest.  He takes a seat and his hands shake from the cold.  

Everyone stops what they are doing and stares.  “Oh.  You’re here” they say.  “Yeah.  What’s for dinner?” says February.  And then he starts, “Hey, January are you STILL hungover?!  HAHAHA!!   Pass the beans, March, don’t hog them.  Hey, October that’s one ugly whattya-callit?  Geezuz, JuneJulyAugust, can’t you three stop all the happiness and sunshine and rainbows bullshit?!   IT’S A BIT MUCH DON’T YOU THINK?”  

They all roll their eyes and continue with their dinner.  When it comes right down to it, as annoying as he is, he’s family.  “Gaawwwdd, did you guys SEE the amount of ICE I brought to the partay??!!  It’s EPIC!”  

All I Need For Christmas Is A Goblet of Wine and A Comfy Pillow

 

Christmas is around the corner and the anxiety and stress has hit full frontal without even the tiniest iota of grace.  All the joy and heavenly peace of the season flies out the window when shopping and baking and cleaning and wrapping takes precedence.  I’ve decided to not give two fucks and buy stuff that they ‘better absolutely love with the totality of their beings’ and not hear ‘any itty bitty words of shit’ on Christmas Day, or my life as a parent and woman of quiet dignity and strength would be shattered along with my mimosa glass.   Be warned, adults of mine.  

I think the more-than-fifty-year-old me, has taken the whole meaning of peace and love at Christmas to mean it better be peaceful and lovely around ME.  All of the damned time.  Mags has even gotten fed up with humanity and taken to growling at the air. I hear ya, girl.  She’s middle-aged, too so I’m thinking we are now miserable together.  Nice to have company.  Growling at the air has its merits.  The adults decide you have had enough stress for one day and pat you on the head and put you on a comfy pillow. They wrap you in a cozy blanket by the fire and sit silently beside you while you close your eyes.  Or, they back away and leave you to yourself.  If it was me, wrap me up, pour the wine and walk away.    Next time I’m feeling overwhelmed, I’ll be more like Mags and growl at the air.  I’m thinking an ambulance would be called and people will be asking if I need any medication.  Yes.  Yes please.  Or maybe, just some chocolate?  Wine?   A little Aretha Franklin singing Natural Woman?  Any and all of these things.

Clearly, a little breather during this hectic time of year is warranted. Hence, I have exercise classes where Coach dances and demands we bow to her will during fast feet (ugh).  Then there’s binge drinking Saturday nights and I-Don’t-Give-A-Shit-Fridays which entitles one to eat chips and chocolate chip cookies simultaneously, whilst binge watching crappy Christmas movies on the W channel. I do believe these are actual days on the calendar during this time of year.  Look it up.    I FUCKING LOVE CHRISTMAS!!

So, for all of you pre-stressed and already stressed anxiety-ridden folks who just want A LITTLE PEACE AND QUIET IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?!  I give you a celebratory toast from my goblet of wine and happily share my chips and cookies with you.  May you go forward with kindness in your hearts, wine in your glass and crappy Christmas movies on the TV to numb the nerves.   Oh, and try intermittently growling, if for nothing else but to make them all think twice about asking to be driven downtown or looking for dinner.    

ITS CHRISTMAS DAMMIT!  ENJOY! 

*GRRRRR…*

Strength Through Adversity

Our knee jerk reaction as parents is to rescue our struggling children.  It’s hard to take a breath and a step back and lay witness to the battles, all the while feeling helpless and useless.  That’s not what we are conditioned to do.  We are the parents and as such, are responsible for the well-being and care of those innocent little beings that we brought here. The urge to protect, shield them from harm and difficulty is innate in all mothers and fathers.   We’re not supposed to throw them to the wolves knowing full well they’ll be hounded and forced to fight back; made to stand up and withstand the baring teeth and the all out assaults of those that wish them harm.   It’s hard to listen to them cry and shout in frustration, fear and anguish.  Fear of failure, fear of hurt, fear of losing.  All valid and all the more reason for us to retreat into the shadows and wave our flag of support.  

The adults in this world are nodding their heads, knowing the struggles are real and totally worth it in the end.  It’s enduring the struggles and watching them unfold that’s hard.  It’s the knowledge that ‘this too shall pass’ and fighting one’s way to theend is the only way to finish, that holds us back from donning our Superman capes and flying to their aid.  “Sorry, kid it’s in the wash” I said in an email to D2.  The email to inspire her to move onwards and upwards despite the late night crying and homesickness and the “I hate I can’t…”   Me too.  But, it’s your attitude through this difficult patch that will make or break you.  It’s your positive keep-that-chin-up and soldiering-ondespitewearingthatbootonyourleg-that-youhate; despite not being able to do what you innately feel you must do.  Be the bad-ass I know you can.  Lead the damn parade anyways.  March in drill class like you own it.  Remember, hard work and dedication gets you winning regattas and your name in a history book.  That same hard work will get you through this, too.  

I can do nothing but sit here, several provinces away, and hope you hear us cheering you on.  I hope you know you have the guts to do it.  You are strong enough, brave enough and smart enough.  Feeling sorry for your current predicament does nothing but waste precious time.  

Parents are put in the unique position of witnessing progression, triumphs and failures simultaneously.  Struggle is a part of being alive.  It’s through adversity that we truly learn how strong we are.  Taking away that struggle, or trying to diminish it in any way from our children, leaves them with nothing to gain; upon which nothing to build character.  I hate being a spectator to battles and I hate being here, not taking on my Sheldon-like traitof patting her back with a sympathetic ‘there, there’ and offering her a hot beverage.  Of course, I want to hold her hand and tell her it’ll be fine and to just come home.  But what purpose would that serve, if only to make myself feel better?  None.  She learns nothing.  

Struggle on, little bird and kick some ass.  Show your character by fighting through this with your wit, sarcasm and smarts.  If that doesn’t work, march, yell and lift the heavy weights.  Do all the push-ups, do all the chin-ups and do all the rowing.  This whole battle can be won or lost depending solely on how you respond.  This has nothing to do with me or your father; this is your war.  Your struggle.  Your life.  So win it.  

I’ll be over here in the shadows intently watching, laying out my Superman cape to dry knowing we’ve done everything we can, waving my flag of support and cheering you on.  Now, it’s your turn to fight for what you want.   Struggle on, my darling.  

Good luck parents.  Staying in the shadows is the hardest part, but will make the successes that much sweeter.  Let me know if you need a fellow spectator, I have LOTS of coffee….

Easy to watch when they are winning…

Fall Feels

September winds are on the way.  Summer weather is hanging around like a bad house guest who refuses to leave.  Pretty soon we’ll be packing the suitcases and hastily pushing them onto the front porch, the awkward goodbyes impetuously tossed around like a kid’s unfinished homework.  It was good while it lasted, but for Fallies like me, it’s time to move on to the chilliness, pumpkins and spooks; AKA, THE BEST TIME OF YEAR EVAH.

I love autumn like Mags loves her donuts; fallen onto my lap and gobbled up with feverish joy.  The leaves turning colour, the frosty mornings and chilly afternoon sunshine.  Early fires and warm coffee with a good book.  Warm socks, cozy sweaters and candles lit with vanilla or cinnamon scent.  This is the time of year I start the bread making, D1’s birthday, a new school year with challenges and the preparation for Christmas ( I know, I hear you groan).  This year, D2 will be coming home after 4 months away and only 2 months left to go in her training.  IT’S GOING TO BE AN EPIC CHRISTMAS.  She’ll be squished so much, she’ll be begging to go back to the -40 degree temps and desolation of Regina.

The family unit is changing with thoughts of both daughters moving onwards and upwards and the boy starting his second year of Uni peering down the tunnel of med school, career and ultimate move to parts unknown.   We’re holding on to the last of the full nest, pondering the future of where they’ll be and where we will end up.  It’s a bit daunting, but the natural progression is unstoppable.  That train left the station once that new pink fat baby was placed in our arms and we dedicated ourselves to securing her future.

Now, three fat babies later, we have to let them all go.  We would rather it be a progression of one at a time, but like a sticky bandage, maybe its better it be ripped off all at once.  Maybe it’ll be less painful if all three decided to leave home en masse instead of one at a time.

Or not.

The boy will be home for the duration of Uni, so that guarantees me another three years.  Yay!  D1 has one foot out the door with the collecting of “things I’ll need when I move out”.  Huh.  Am I supposed to help her with that?  I think I’ve been suggesting dishes and pots and pans, instead of the marble coaster set and random pink throw she bought, but she looks at me like I have three heads.  I’ve clearly failed her as a mother.  “I CAN’T COOK”  Ugh.  My reply:  “LEARN. RACHEL RAY IS ON TV FOR A REASON”    “Okay, Mom.”  Of course then I regrettably say things like “Maybe you’ll get a nice boyfriend who can cook for you, then you’ll NEED nice pots and pans.”     She looks at me like this:

Ain’t parenting grand?!

As I hungrily await the first fallen leaf, the first bite of air, and the first murmur of “I’M NEVER COOKING MEAT.  EVER.”, I remain ever steadfast in my belief that I am one of the lucky ones.  The parent that GETS to see her children grow up and move on; I am one of the privileged ones that is allowed to see my fat pink babies have careers and be employed and be secure in their development.  I am ever aware of the unique honour it is to have the opportunity to be here for our children as they become adults, help them move out, and say things like “Gee, that handsome Cardiologist is single…”

And I am eternally grateful for it all…

Draw Like Da Jesus!

My conversations with the ever-absent D2 are infrequent and fraught with awkward silences.   We no longer have that day-to-day mundane interaction to share or joke about, so we get lost in the abundance of stuff and so little time within to tell it.  She’s monstrously busy and I’m monstrously trying to fill her absence.  D1 and Son give me sideward glances when I beg them to talk to me or sit with me outside and tell me about their day, or come with me to Walmart JUST ONE MORE TIME.   I may have to borrow a neighbor kid with whom I could drive around and tell sarcastic bad-driver stories.

The questions that I invent for D2 are different than Hubby’s, but then again they should be.  He was in her exact spot a mere 29 years ago, so of course he wants to know what it looks like, have you done this course yet, who is your drill Corporal, blah, blah, blah.  My questions are far more important and revolve on actual survival skills that only moms understand: have you made any nice friends?  Are you eating enough?  How’s the food?  Are you getting enough rest?  How’s that cleaning, ironing and washing going?  Need another bed-making tutorial?  (Yes, I actually sent her a tutorial on hospital corners that she shared with her troop mates, since I clearly failed her as a mother and neglected to demonstrate this in person during her ENTIRE LIFE AS MY CHILD) Don’t get sick.  Wash your hands all of the time, STAY AWAY FROM THE WEAPONS FIRING AREA.  You know, SURVIVAL.  I’m thinking for Christmas, I’ll give her a throw pillow that reads: JUMP LIKE DA JESUS.   It’s a bit kitschy.  She won’t be able to have it on her bed at Depot, since obviously, EVERYONE WILL WANT ONE.  I needed a short and catchy phrase, since my embroidery skills are as lacking as my motherly teaching skills.  Ugh.

Hubby is entering a new decade today.  Fifty is the new I-made-it-this-far-so-may-as-well-get-shitfaced, so there’s that to look forward to.  Not that he’s going to drink himself to all out oblivion, but I may be tempted.  This new age of being older-than-dirt in the eyes of the youngsters, quite frankly, sucks.  I get eye-rolls and the ‘oh, mom’ when I ask about something Millennials with their hipster jeans and Birkenstocks can only decipher.  By the way, WHEN DID BIRKENSTOCKS COME BACK AS COOL?!  They’re ugly as shit and I don’t understand the appeal.  They’re like wearing hard rubberized sole-deforming casts on your feet and if you were TOLD you HAD to wear them as punishment, one would rail against the establishment as being cruel and unusual and anti-freedom-of-feet!  I see you shaking your head and holding up your rubberized-foot sling as something I should try and that I’d ‘surely love them as soon as I wear them awhile’  NO.  UGLY. AS. SHIT.

I’ve also decided that being over fifty is life’s way of getting back at you for all the crap you said about EVERY ADULT YOU KNEW when you were in your teens. All your eye-rolling, oh-mom comments, ripped jeans, non-sensical friends….STOP DRAWING THAT CIRCLE.  I see it.

Your body decides to play games, your now adult kids make fun of you and you finally understand everything your parents ever said to you throughout your entire life and feel the need to spout same to YOUR children/adults.  Their time will come when they will say the same thing.

WHO BROUGHT FUGLY

BIRKENSTOCKS BACK?!

See?   Okay, you can draw now.

Cue the Lion King theme song.  I’m done.