Hello, My Friends

It’s been a long time since I have written – since May, I believe. We have a lot to catch up on! I hope the spring and summer months brought many moments of joy and happiness to you and that those moments have turned into treasured memories now!

Hubby and I had a summer to remember as well, although ours was bittersweet. We spent our moments taking care of his Mom who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s last fall. The disease progressed quickly, and by late spring, she needed someone with her every moment. She moved in with us while hubby searched for a nice senior’s residence for her that included memory care. One was found, and she has been there for just over a week. The months spent caring for my Mother in Law were precious, though overwhelming. I would compare it to the first few months of caring for one’s first baby – exhausting, life changing, and definitely a sacrifice made only out of love. I ended up referring to her as “my little girl”, as she reminded me very much of a toddler who is very sweet but also needs constant coddling and attention. I feel for families dealing with a loved one diagnosed with this disease which alters the life of not just the patient, but the surrounding loved ones.

I learned a few things during this journey that I would like to share with you.

  1. You never know how much time you have left to do the things you are dreaming of, so do not put these things off! What comes to mind for me is my plan to take writing more seriously. When I am retired. In 10 years. But, what if I can’t? What if, within those 10 years, something unexpected happens that renders me unable to write? I’m thinking that if we have a dream, we should live it to the best of our ability. Right Now! The future is not promised.
  2. It really is true! Joy IS found in the small things that occur naturally each day. I will never ever take these little things for granted again. One example is how much the hubby and I love to share a series on Netflix together. We find one that interests us and spend evenings watching 1 or 2 episodes together. I never realized how important this little ritual was until Mother in Law moved in and (I say this with love) took over the television. Other little things include: spontaneously going for dinner and movie together, having friends over, going on motorcycle rides … There are so many little things that we missed this summer and I have realized how important they actually are. I mean, it would be great to do something really big like travel around Europe together! But, in the end, it’s the small routines that serve to bond us together and ground us.
  3. It’s not selfish to put yourself first sometimes and, in fact, self care is necessary. As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty bucket! Again, I’m saying this with love, but the Mother in Law required a lot of care and attention. This summer there was a point where hubby and I ended up absolutely exhausted! I had to step back and say “no” to a few things in order to tend to my own needs. And I have emerged from this with even more respect for my own self care. I am an introvert that needs time alone. I replenish my spirit when I spend time laughing and goofing around with some close female friends. I require quiet times to read and ponder. I am out of sorts without my daily brisk walk and yoga routine. My body is nurtured through simple whole foods prepared at home. The life changing thing that I have realized is that if I don’t set time aside to put myself first and tend to my own needs, then I will get lost in all the other pressing needs of the world. I will disappear. I have a friend with a schedule so busy he has to use a daily planner. He told me years ago that he pens in the times reserved for himself each day. In his own words: If I don’t schedule time for me, then nobody will.

There is so much more I have in mind to share with you. But I will leave these for future blog entries. After all, I have made a commitment to myself to stop by here more frequently!

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There is No Pity Party Here

Yesterday evening I received a message from a well-meaning friend. She went on quite a bit about the latest antics of my Wild Child (my youngest who I blogged about Here.)

How I must be “suffering”, my friend lamented, at the “odd” behaviour of my free spirited hippie baby girl. How “horrible” for her to not attend the latest family event. Then the whole diatribe was summed up with the not so subtle accusatory statement on my “silence” regarding this episode, which I suppose was odd as well. Why ever would I have not yet contacted her to discuss all the sordid details of my latest apparently very public and extremely strange family drama!

My reply to her was short. We are doing fine as a family. We are no more nor less disfunctional than any other family out there, truth be told. In fact, I believe we put the proverbial “fun” in disfunctional!

And now I am taking to blogging over this, because I know in my heart this issue is simply an advanced form of the same old “Mommy bashing “ I and others experienced with our toddler and preschooler delights tantruming in grocery stores, at schools, and appearing in line-ups everywhere, to a rapt audience of “perfect “ on-lookers who have never seen the likes of such a scene. (Ya, right! You know you are secretly thanking god it’s not you this time and, in fact, you know it probably WILL be you next time!) But I digress. My point is as follows.

First of all, no one member of this family holds the key to control the ENTIRE emotional temperature of the rest of us. Yes, we care about and love each other. But we are healthy enough to know we are each separate individuals and we don’t judge ourself on the other member’s behaviour. We accept our differences. We may not like and support the other person’s actions, so we are quite willing to hand over the consequences of unacceptable behaviour to the person at fault. Hey, maybe we even need to distance ourselves for a while. But make no mistake, when the chips are down, each member returns to their roots. My hubby and I just received a call from said wild child alerting us to the fact that her sister needed us and was trying unsuccessfully to get in touch with us. And then she gave us a curt “good bye” hanging up promptly. Perfect, we are not, but family we will always be.

Secondly, to my concerned friend (and anyone else who feels beyond reproach enough to offer an opinion), please give me the courtesy and space to figure out and experience my OWN feelings. Maybe I am reserving judgment on my Wild Child because I want to wait and see how things progress over time. As my beloved late Father in Law used to say, “You don’t know if something is a good thing, or a bad thing. In the end, only time will tell”.

And, you know what else? This instance of a family member missing an event is only ONE THING in a plethora of happenings occurring in our life. Many events are actually very wonderful. For instance, my eldest daughter is marrying this May and she just achieved her Masters in Education. Not to mention the fact she has held a full time job for the last 8 years. I would describe this as a successful launch into adulthood! Something to rejoice and be happy about! Let me also mention, that at this up-coming wedding, I have my own very special friends and former bridesmaids in attendance! How blessed am I to have kept connections throughout a lifetime with these wonderful women! Oh, and this July? My hubby and I celebrate 30 years of marriage – for better and for worse, we honoured that, all of that, and we are still together. Something to be proud of, I would say.

I could go on and on about happy blessings, but I won’t. At the end of the day, my life is as beautiful as it is difficult. And may I suggest, if we were all honest, this is true of everyone. So let us all suspend judgement on each other’s families and the situations that arise within them, and instead let’s just replace all this with grace. Let’s call each other, of course. But let us simply say hello and ask how the other is doing.

Let us give each person the grace and space to narrate their own story.

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My Quirky Fun Little Family of Bloggers

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My eldest daughter has become a blogger! I could not be more proud. And, now, her latest entry has gotten so many views (If you would like, you can view it here!)

How I love the perspective my daughter’s words bring. Her writing emphasizes our connection, yet from differing vantage points – the view of a baby boomer and that of a millennial.

Her latest blog discusses milestones so many of the 20-somethings are facing. And I have to say, I am so proud of her strong and courageous perspective! She remains true to herself as she navigates the sometimes stormy waters of age-mates getting married and settling down, when this is something she is not yet ready for.

I recall myself, at the tender age of 23, and the social group I was involved with as a result of my then-boyfriend (and now husband!) They were all getting engaged, married, buying houses and having babies. I was still so excited about my job as a legal secretary for a “Bay Street” law firm, and my lovely little apartment at Yonge and Eglinton in Toronto (coined “Young and Eligible” at the time!) Eventually, their constant domestic conversations overwhelmed me. After all, we were still so young! I asked myself, was this all there was to life now? All the anticipation of growing up culminates in this?

I recall one New Year’s Eve in particular, where we were all together. In keeping with what had become customary, the boys were in one group talking and the girls in another. The female conversation quickly turned to the usual – who is getting married next? Who is preggers now? What is the best choice – breast feeding or formula? Ugggg! I finally reached my limit! With a large dose of frustration, and a wee bit of liquid courage, I dared to say the unsayable: “Is this all we are going to talk about from now on? Is this the only thing we have in our life now? Marriage and babies? That’s it?”

Well, let me tell you, the silence dropped like a bomb. It was like a brick descending on me with such force to knock me out. Multiple saucered eyes turned my way and stared wordlessly. And finally the silence was broken with this icey-toned comment: “You have a problem with marriage and babies??? You don’t want that?????” A quick exchange of horrified looks, then more curious silence followed, eyes still fixed on me – the aberration of nature apparently. Suffice it to say, what a damper that was to the evening. I was left feeling that there was something seriously wrong with me. And I vowed to keep my mouth shut moving forward. After awhile, the ladies resumed their conversation, this time subtly excluding me.

I am so glad my daughter is in a better place than I was so many years ago!

Flash forward to 2017, and I actually did become a married lady (29 years in the next few weeks!) and I did manage to have the standard two kids, with the beautiful home – and even a lovely grandchild thrown into the mix!

But, I am thrilled to announce, that was not all there was to it!!!

Though raising my children turned out to be the most enjoyable job of my life – there were other careers!!!! And each has enriched my life so much in so many different ways! I have grown and met new people and learned new lessons and enjoyed all of my years, including those parts that had nothing at all to do with my husband and marriage and children! How very blessed I am!

So, I was so thrilled to read that my daughter is looking forward to a future that includes, yes, marriage and children, but also SO MUCH MORE! And the huge thing for me is, she feels quite free and confident to voice this! How incredible! What a leap from my night so many years ago.

I am so incredibly proud and grateful.

Please check out her blog!

Breathe Past it

Once upon a time in yoga class, we were laying in savasana and the instructor guided us to breathe into each part of our body. She advised that, should we have an injury, no matter how old, to breathe past it. Breathe past it to a time before the injury, when there was no pain.

Today I paid a visit to my home of nearly 30 years ago – the place where I came of age. I walked the surrounding familiar streets, stood outside my former apartment building, and sat in the green space behind it. And I breathed. I breathed past it all. Past 29 years.

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I breathed past disappointments in myself and others;

I breathed past “what ifs”;

I breathed past struggles, hurt, anger and all the other baggage-injuries that 29 years can hold.

I sat as I did as a 20 year old. Full of youthful confidence, strength and hope for the future.

I was just quietly myself.

How lovely. I found the essence of me.

Such peace.

Such healing.

I decided right then and there –  I am taking this me back as I leave.

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Carpe Diem

If I knew (really knew) there was an expiry date on my life, would I go inside now and finish my ironing? Or would I polish off this exquisite bottle of 2015 Shiraz, sitting here in my gazebo, surrounded by tall so-typically-Canadian evergreens, backgrounded by the steady rumble of crickets?

Would I worry about the size of my thighs, my slightly too soft “mummy tummy”, how many steps I walked today, and whether or not that small cluster of spider veins will turn varicose? Or would I breathe in this early-night air, feel the August breeze on my skin, flex my toes, and exhale “ahhhh” contemplating how incredibly beautiful it is that I got to be ALIVE on this wonderful summer day?

If I knew my days were numbered, would I let minor annoyances grow into mountainous misunderstandings? Would I fight with my loved ones? Or would I simply whisper: “I love you”and leave the rest to sort itself?

Would I worry about who did me wrong? The time someone hurt my feelings? Would I even have time to think about who dislikes me and why they feel that way? Or would I celebrate the miracle of being completely, totally MYSELF?

The truth is, we are all mortal. Not one of us will be around forever. Some are awakened to this fact. Others still sleep.

As for me? I want to embrace and enjoy every single minute of this One Precious Life.

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Lesson Learned from my Wild Child

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It has occurred to me lately that I have spent a lot of time making myself suffer over the choices of other people. It is almost like I never realized that I have no control over such things; that my control lies solely in my own choices and my responses to others.

Yet, still, I believed that one of my best qualities was being non-judgemental. Though this may have been true in how I presented myself, I now know it was never completely true in my heart.

My youngest daughter has taught me so much about this. My Wild Child. She makes a lot of choices that I would never make. And, yes, as a consequence, she does find herself in her fair share of pickles. This breaks my heart, which I suppose is natural. I am her Mom. But there is more. It also makes me incredibly angry (probably because I am so scared of the idea that any ill could befall my precious daughter). I must admit, the phrases: “What was she thinking?” and “Why does she do these things” have passed through my mind on several occasions. Lately, though, I am realizing how utterly judgmental and unkind these thoughts really are. I am starting to see that this mindset (this heart-set) is not valuing my daughter for who she is.

My Wild Child is a risk taker. She is confident to try new things. She will not be chained to a life of “should and should not”.

Yes, her father and I raised her to be strong!

My Wild Child also owns the consequences of her actions. She learns from them. She copes in her own way. She is living her own life, and relishing in every single moment of her youth.

So, who am I to say her way is wrong. Actually, my way would most likely not fit at all for her. After all, this is her life to live.

All this gets me pondering. How many times have I secretly, quietly, in my heart, judged other people. How many times have I thought “If only he or she did things this way, they wouldn’t have this issue!”

God forgive me for my judgemental heart; forgive me for my lack of love and grace!

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The Dreaded “Shake Up” Call

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By this age I have discovered that change is the only constant thing about life.

Our bodies alone are always morphing into something new; over a 24 hour period we loose almost a million skin cells. We were born a  baby, grew to toddlerhood, then childhood, then teenhood, and finally on to adulthood.

These changes are reflected in our lives. Our priorities shift and alter as we pass through the various ages and stages.

And then, of course, there are the changes that are individual to our own personal lives. People come and go. Things that were once so important, become a distant memory. Busy houses filled with children’s laughter become a little quieter and a little more adult.

Sometimes life will take us down paths we would never have chosen for ourselves. We may become

unsettled,

disjointed,

uncomfortable,

confused.

We have experienced a “shake up” call. We become acutely aware that control is an illusion; that certain aspects of life are beyond our command.

What we do have control over, though, is our response to the various happenings life tosses our way.

I have found that when I let go of what I think my life should be, and I accept life as it really is, a tremendous space opens. I now have room to replant and revamp. I have room to enjoy what I previously did not envision.

I know that life sometimes brings suffering. I have suffered myself in the past.

But I have discovered something that has helped; a little shift in perspective that has added insight to what previously may have looked dismal.

I have learned that when I focus on “should be’s”, my life becomes a closed box. But when I open my eyes to the truth of what “really is”, I become free to enjoy and to create new things. And, yes, I also become free to cry things out, to grieve, to be sad. All feelings are normal and natural. I believe in accepting and embracing all emotions before they can be laid down and let go of. Only then are we prepared to truly move forward in peace and confidence. And we are always moving forward. We have no other choice. Time ticks by and propels us into the future whether we are digging our heels in, kicking and screaming or whether we are gently accepting the change.

By all means, I believe in holding on to my dreams. I fight for the future I want.

But I also know that it’s important for me to find ways to love the here and now. And I allow the here and now to assist me in shaping the future.

It’s in the choices I make right now,

It’s the way I endeavour to find beauty and lessons in the present moment,

It’s in those silent prayers of gratitude for what is, what was, and what will become,

It’s in letting go of the preconceived plans of how life should go and embracing the life journey that really exists for me.

By this point in life, I have faith in two things:

The first being my track record for successfully navigating any challenge (or joy, or crisis, or loss) that life has offered so far, is One Hundred Percent. That’s pretty good odds. Please remember that we are all working with these odds;

The second would be, I have complete trust in our Beautiful Creator*. I know that I may have one thing in mind that I believe is good and I believe I want. However, when I let go of what I think I want/need (and I let go of any residual bitterness, anger or resentment at not getting my way), I find I am led to a future that is beautiful beyond anything I could envision for myself. Please understand that I am not saying this facetiously. Some of the paths I have walked have been extremely hard. Yet pressing on has paid off.

At the end of the day, Life itself is gift enough.

In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity – Albert Einstein

*I respect every person’s interpretation of what “Beautiful Creator” would mean. To some, this may be “The Universe”, to other’s “God”, or “Nature”, et cetera.