Monthly Archives: July 2014

One Hundred Ninety Seven: Family Tree

“Blood relatives often have nothing to with family, and similarly, family is about who you choose to make your life with.” – Oliver Hudson

Wednesday, July 16th

Today was a day of visiting almost family members. I had planned for our road trip to backtrack in order to see my older brother’s son, and my half-brother’s mother. Theoretically, these are diluted relationships since I have no blood relation to my older step-brother or his son, and I was never raised with my half-brother nor had I had any sort of regular visits to their household growing up. Yet our paths cross and we are part of one another’s histories.

Unfortunately, the meet-up with my nephew didn’t happen. It was the first real let-down of this trip. I get lost in thoughts of whether he had a legitimate reason for canceling at the last minute, but it comes down to a big disappointment for me that we didn’t get to reunite on this trip. I have to keep several things in mind here. He has no memory of ever meeting me, and I am the sister of his absent father so there isn’t a lot of incentive there. He’s 17 and it’s summer. His Mom turned 40 the morning he was going to meet me. I try not to take it personally.

I also have to remember that a one hour visit isn’t going to make up for the years that my family hasn’t been in touch or supported this young man or his single mother. I’ve tried to keep the communication open because that’s what feels right, and I’m trying but that doesn’t mean they’re receptive. It takes more than good intentions. But here’s the thing…I can gauge where I am in my own personal development by knowing that I did the right thing in bending over backwards to make this visit happen. At this point in my life, I care deeply about those in my life and I am honest and authentic about my actions.

All in all, it opened up more time for me to spend with my half-brother and get to know his mom a bit more. She has always been shrouded in mystery and a whole lot of second-hand information. She had a strong interest in getting to visit with my kids, and when she greeted us at the door I saw just how important it was to her. It was obvious that she was desperate for grandchildren, and saw the youth of her own grown sons reflected in the eyes of my children. The visit was pleasant, and it showed me that the best way forward in relationships is to make my own conclusions based on my experiences with people rather than depend on what others say.

It was an intense day in its ways, and it was good to look ahead to a couple of days of house sitting and jet-setting around my old university town.

Do you get wrapped up in family gossip or do you try to step back from it?

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One Hundred Ninety Six: Beating the Heat

“Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.” – Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, July 15th

I put a lot of effort into planning this vacation. Endless emails were sent to request visits and in some cases a place to stay for the evening. In true Canadian style, I tried to do this delicately and politely so that I wasn’t backing anyone into a corner of obligation. But on Tuesday, we hit our first truly awkward moments of the trip.

We’d had a beautiful stay at a campground the night before, cooling off from a summer heat wave in river water and listening to owls hoot above our tent. Our next stop was back into the city at my younger brother’s home. His apartment is right on a main thoroughfare, so it felt like a 180 from where we’d been.

He had been extremely conscientious to look up options for us during our brief visit. This is the brother who has visited us annually for the last 7 years or so. I have taken him to every spot I can think of in my city, as I have completed every puzzle and board game in my possession with him when we’ve been snowed in together. It’s always about the time together, not what we’re going to see. But I understand his anxiousness to show us a fair and interesting side of his city. The only trouble is that it was glaringly hot. The walk “down the block” to the playground was more like 8 blocks, and the kids couldn’t take it….which is why I’d asked if it was better to drive. Upon returning, my brother’s girlfriend listed the reasons she thought their new puppy might have heat stroke from the walk without a thought of how our little people were doing.

We opted to keep things simple for the rest of the night. My husband and I have got it down to a science to minimize our impact on others; this includes cooking the meals, cleaning up after ourselves and striving to be as self-sufficient as possible. All that aside, it was apparent that our presence was disturbing my brother’s girlfriend, so we made our exit the next morning as uncomplicated as possible. We’d rendezvous with them in a neighboring town later that morning before driving south.

We learned a lesson today. Not everyone is open to hosting others, even if they offer it. It took me a long time to develop the ease to open my home to others, and as I’ve often mentioned I am still working on being more warm and welcoming to my guests. And I can only expect a limited amount of empathy when I take my family into a household with young childless occupants. Other families know how things roll in this grand parenting adventure, especially when you’re a fish out of water.

What do you do when you (feel you) are unwanted company somewhere?

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One Hundred Ninety Three: Moms and Dads

Saturday, July 12th

The epic family road trip continues, and today found us waking up in our tent to wish my son a very happy birthday. I love that little guy. Of course I do. He’s joyful and interesting and stubborn and tempermental. And now he’s four!

Vacations and birthdays are a mixed bag. There is the delight of experiencing change and a celebration in seeing things from a new perspective, but there is also a painful separation from the familiar. You’re on this journey and there’s no turning back….and that can be hard.

I am well aware that I have not transitioned (on this vacation and otherwise) into this enlightened mother who handles the stresses of parenting with ease and grace. So when my son crapped in his pants on the last night of being three, I lost it. When my daughter wouldn’t fall asleep that night, I lost it again. I have moments where I achieve that calm and metered tone with my kids, and day by day I strive to have more of them but sometimes I feel really selfish because I want my own moments without answering questions or solving disputes or pulling up zippers or combing out knots.

Saturday, we climbed into the car and headed from the campsite to my parents’ house. We heated up cinnamon buns and sang happy birthday. My Mom sat back in the Lazy Boy as her back acted up, and my Dad ate in the living room so my family could sit together at the table. My Dad would later take two hours to pick up my brother and bring him to a park where my kids were playing. It was an imperfect mess, but my parents did what they could to make my son feel special in the ways that they know how.

I know my son will one day look back on his childhood and have a list of reasons why he thinks I am batsh*t crazy, and I think I will be okay with that. Because at the end of the day, he will know that I love him and I forgive him and I will be there in my imperfect skin to accept him in his.

Can you accept your parents for who they are?

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One Hundred Ninety Five: Saying Goodbye

Monday, July 14th

Whenever I would board the ferry to return home from a visit to my parents, I would weep a good deal of tears for the first 15 minutes of the sailing. Saying goodbye to my parents, to my hometown, and all the nostalgic sentiments that go along with both was overwhelming. It tapped into the emotional awkwardness of leaving for college, leaving friends behind, leaving to move to the United States. Leaving.

Things are different now. My parents live in a new community, and it is the community that they are committed to staying in for the rest of their days. It is quiet and secluded, and they have a beautiful property. The family visit over the weekend was a process of discovery for me to answer the question of what this place was really like. It suits them, and they fit there. So when we said goodbyes and boarded the ferry for the next chapter of our journey, there were no tears. My Mom and Dad felt like they were where they were supposed to be. And I wasn’t leaving. I was moving on to the next step of my own journey to find out where I was meant to be.

Do you have difficulties saying goodbye to loved ones?

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One Hundred Ninety Eight: Out of Touch

“You never know beforehand what people are capable of, you have to wait, give it time, it’s time that rules, time is our gambling partner on the other side of the table and it holds all the cards of the deck in its hand, we have to guess the winning cards of life, our lives.” – José Saramago

Thursday, July 17th

We lose touch with people over time. You might think those people weren’t worth keeping in touch with, or maybe you simply lost touch. You got busy with work and your partner and your kids and trying to have fun in between, and you just lost touch.

Today the family and I walked downtown to one of my favorite cities – Victoria, British Columbia. I went to university here, and spent a good deal of my adult life figuring things out here. I have made it a habit to stop by the storefront I used to work at and visit the proprietor and one remaining co-worker. They were pivotal in helping me to feel confident enough to strike out of the city to try something new 14 years ago.

I coaxed the owner out of the back room where she was doing the books. It was a job that her husband had always managed. Somewhere in conversation she asked if I knew that he had suffered from a stroke two years back. No! It felt that it wasn’t possible that this had happened. Incongruent, to say the least. The last I had heard, he had been training with the Coast Guard to be a volunteer and had been captaining a whale watching tour boat. He is tall and good looking, and has always been the picture of lively and active living. Fortunately, he had been working through the physical challenges to get muscular control back and regain the confidence to speak in front of others. They are a strong couple with a loving partnership, so they have worked out the ways to best challenge and accommodate him and move on.

It has been a not-so-subtle reminder to sit down and be honest about who I want to keep in touch with. It isn’t enough to be friends on Facebook because there are things that people simply will not share online. I want to be someone who is there to support my loved ones near and far.

Are you in communication with the right people?

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One Hundred Ninety Four: Hospitality

Sunday, July 13th

One of the things I appreciate the most about aging is learning how to take care of others, and by “take care” I mean to create a place or mood that one wishes to be around. Being warm, welcoming, friendly, hospitable. I am incredibly insecure about failing in this department, so I am truly grateful when someone rolls out the red carpet for me. I learn firsthand what it takes to make others feel special.

Sunday, my Dad and brother took my family over to a small island for the day. This island (Savary Island) has fascinated my husband for years, and this was to be an adventure in uncharted territory. After a ride on what my son dubbed the “rocket boat” (water taxi) and a short walk, we reached the island bike shop. A golf cart with a trailer hitch pulled up and whisked us to the other side of the island – making sight-seeing stops along the way. The cart was driven by an old family friend (whom my Dad used to work for when I was in high school, and whom I found out has known my Dad most of his life) and he is one of the few that lives on this island year round. He made sure that we got to know some of what makes this island special. From the bike rental shop his daughter runs to the beaches to the waves you get from anyone and everyone you pass.

When you take away the movie theaters, the freeways, and the warehouse shopping you are left with community…and one whose residents rely on one another for companionship and assistance. Hospitality thrives here, and I was sure glad to visit it for a day.

What places feel the most welcoming and hospitable to you?

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One Hundred Ninety Two: Letting My Hair Down

Friday, July 11th

I have a daily ritual of pulling my hair back and away from my face. My hair doesn’t get in my way and it looks more “together”. Together takes on a different meaning when I’m on vacation, and especially when I’m camping.

Together is snuggling in the communal sleeping bag so the kids and I stay warm at night. Together means crouching down at the beach side by side so we can see if the hermit crab my son just found will come out of his shell. Together means passing on an activity from my trip master plan because it makes me wake a sleeping child or simply doesn’t feel right.

I feel together.

How does your physical self reflect your emotional self?

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One Hundred Ninety One: Home

Thursday, July 10th

There is something about standing on the ground that you grew up on. Touching the earth where you dug as a child, looking at the trees you kissed under as a teenager, and smelling the ocean that you swam in at nighttime as a young adult. This land holds all the memories of all that have passed here before.

I have brought my children and husband here hoping that maybe, in some small way, they see what it was like for me to grow up here. The thing is that we (the town and I both) have changed. We’ve grown older, met people who have loved us and scarred us, and started new lives apart from one another.

I woke up today, Friday, before anyone else and walked down to the inlet close to our campsite. I took off my sandals and put my feet to the earth. And I listened. Tiny birds joined me. A squirrel came over. The sun rose, and this place told me that it still remembered me. I brought that energy up from the earth, and brought it down into my body to hold onto it for as long as I can.

How do you feel when you return to your hometown?

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One Hundred Ninety: Spacetime Continuum

 “My my a body does move around.” – William Faulkner

Wednesday, July 9th

Today I was transported through space and time while visiting my best friend from university. She and I faced so many of life’s biggest challenges as twenty-somethings together, and here we were asking our children to hold hands across the street. Don’t you ever get that feeling that those 20 years were only a breath ago?

On top of that, we have been staying at a cottage belonging to an old friend. He has always been a free spirit, and now he has a beautiful wife and daughter along for the ride. It brings me peace to see friends doing so well.

We daydream of our kids heading out to a concert 15 years from now together, and there is a strong sense of comfort knowing that there is the interest and possibility of being connected to dear friends over that length of time. It makes me feel like my 40 years have been a light step on this Earth. Onwards, with love.

Who do you think you’ll still be friends with 20 years from now?

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One Hundred Eighty Nine: Travel

 “There are amazingly wonderful people in all walks of life; some familiar to us and others not. Stretch yourself and really get to know people. People are in many ways one of our greatest treasures.” – Bryant H. McGill

Tuesday, July 8th

The best laid foundation for travel is to visit people, not places. I have found that whether I have been to a place before or not, if I keep my focus on being open to people and enjoying the sights I come across along the way then I will have an enjoyable trip.

Tuesday was the first day of my family road trip. From the first morning moment in our cohousing community to getting on the road to settling in to a new international city, I have seen and met lovely people. People who are enjoying their day. What better way to inspire oneself and recharge the batteries!

What do you pay the most attention to while traveling?

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