paper angel

May Your Hearts Be Merry and Light

Two of our four children were born at Christmas time.  Despite the deep fatigue and life changing chaos, those were extra special holidays – with sweet teeny babes in floppy elf sleepers, snuggled in a grandparent’s eager arms while tree lights twinkled in the background. Eighteen years after those births, when our first ‘child’ had been away for the first time to university for three long months of not-enough-communication, those holidays times were extra special again.

elf baby

I remember so clearly the anticipation of Zoë coming home to sleep in her bed again at the close of first term and how giddy that made the rest of the household as we searched for the tree stand and the rice krispee roll recipe. I wrote about that in my book Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest – and I’d like to share a snippet of that here in a holiday blog.

“Zoë was different after being at university.  I noticed that the first evening she was back as we lingered around the table after dinner, bombarding her with questions. It was a look on her face, a quality it was hard to put my finger on, except to say that she had drifted away a little bit.  I had gazed around the room at her siblings, her brothers Cole and Hudson, and her little sister Lily, and imagined us all reuniting after future ventures.  Zoë swore that she would travel to the far north someday, being captivated by the notion of a trip to Yellowknife or even Inuvik.  Cole insisted he was going to snowboard in the southern hemisphere.  Hudson was harder to pin down –I think he aspired to travel back and forth in time, and back then I wrongly viewed our youngest,  Lily, as a home body.

paper angel

During the holiday season I would be happy to imagine them all simply staying put.  I was going to pretend for the three weeks that Zoë would be home that she had never left.  We would decorate a too tall, slightly lope-sided tree together and my husband would insist once more on putting up the goofy looking angel Zoë made in kindergarten.  I wanted it to be a holiday season full of my kids dog piling on top of one another, and watching Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, all of us singing aloud to the Sisters’ song –

All kinds of weather

We stick together 

The same in the rain or sun 

Two diff’rent faces

 But in tight places

 We think and we act as one[1]

I intended to encourage Zoë to humor Lily and I, and come skating with us on the lake near their grandparent’s property, after which we three would go for lattés, before coming home to whip up a batch of butter tarts for Christmas Eve.  I knew Zoë would be impatient to go hang with her friends, but I hoped to convince her to indulge us with a skate around the lake first.  I’d ask, but I promised to be a grown-up about it myself and not harass her to join us – just to ask.

shea skating

She needed time to reconnect with her same-age peers.  At ages eighteen and thirteen my daughters couldn’t really act as one, but I knew that on Christmas Eve they would raise their voices with Bing Crosby’s and happily sing about it.”

New babies and growing up children – both added loveliness to the holidays.  May this season bring tranquility to you and yours.

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[1] Berlin, Irving. “Sisters.” Lyrics. White Christmas. The Movie. 1954

Shea's art

Hey, come make a laughing, oohing and awhhhing crowd around me…

Never done this before – a little bit nervous about being that person that no one wants to make eye contact with standing behind a table full of crisp new books in Chapters.  If you’re my friend I know you’ve read Text Me, Love Mom, but do you want one for your mom, sister, wife, dad, sobbing woman across the hall, … you know, that person who can’t quite get a handle on the kids booking it from home? OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAbook cover

Readers keep telling me the book’s funny – some of my family’s sketchy adventures are humorous – in hindsight, others required an extra strand of worry beads.

I’ve been lucky to be able to launch my book in my hometown, Calgary, then east to Toronto and Rye, New York, then zig zag west again to Victoria and finally Vancouver – where my most humorous offspring did a comedy gig to introduce me. Biggest lesson learned – North American favourite book launch fare – chocolates.  But tomorrow – Thursday Nov. 27th from 1 to 6 pm. I’ll be signing books at Chapters Chinook Centre, a mall that holiday shoppers have already descended on. I’ve come upon those authors at their stations and tried to guess with quick sideways glances whether I might want their cherished tomes, before stepping up to their table. chocolates at signing Planning my stint behind my own stack of books, I feel differently – don’t be afraid of me, just come visit so I don’t  feel lonely. Let’s just chat – about anything, the predicted crazy snow storm, our endless holiday shopping lists, and okay – maybe this stage of parenting where the kids have taken off and now you’re excited for the noise and chaos of them coming home for Christmas. Just saying.IMG_1575

lame pumpkin

Because Really – Who Travels Home For Halloween?

door pumpkinOur kids all come home at Christmas – except that one time when our eldest son, Cole, had a job at a ski resort which set us all to crying at the perfectly fine early Christmas he attended, just thinking about the real Christmas without him.  And we usually have most of them for Easter, and even Thanksgiving – but no one arranges for the kids to come home for Halloween.  That would be crazy – nuts even.  So October 31st approaches and I stock up on the bitty chocolate bars that I like to eat too many of, and sometime that week I string a few orange lights around the deck, and I always buy a pumpkin or two to set on the front stoop. halloween lights I’m okay with all that.  Then the ghoulish day arrives.  Store clerks and service station attendants are decked out like Batman and sexy witches and of course, zombies. I deal with all that okay, and come home and fill a big bowl at the door with more candy then the neighbourhood kids could possibly come calling for.  Mid-afternoon I start reminiscing over the Halloween’s of the past; the overwrought kids already hyped from school parties and anticipatory anxiety, the phone calls arranging whose trick or treating with whom, and in what direction, even the camaraderie on those flipping freezing cold ones with snow and lost mittens, and neighbors offering a bit of something to warm the parents who are following the masquerading pint-sized troops.

Up till then I believe that I can just have that big old pumpkin sitting there, because who wants to carve it alone, but around about dusk it just won’t do.  That’s when I miss my kids – the whole lot of them.  We were a pretty well oiled jack o’lantern  team. The eldest, Zoey, was the artist who drew the creepy face, but patiently let Lily, the youngest, add some freaky details. Hudson, our youngest son, liked to carve the gourd along with me or his dad. Zoey, the tactile one, loved to dig into that soggy, seedy mess to scoop out the pulp. pumplin muckCole, our eldest son, the one that left that Christmas, was part of the ritual, but more because he liked to see it all going on, but didn’t care if he took part.  Last December I decorated the tree before his arrival in town, because of his assumed indifference, and had to apologize for my haste.  I guess he is like one of those United Nations observers – he likes to see it all happen.

lame pumpkinDarn it, I miss my kids at Halloween.  I miss the October 31st chaos, the rushed dinner and costume meltdowns, the sugar highs and neighbourhood solidarity. But I really miss the pumpkin carving ritual. So once again I can’t leave that faceless pumpkin on the stoop –  I haul it in, do a quick scoop out, and carve out a lame hardly-scary expression – cause it’s just begging me to do it for old-time sake.  It’s quiet in here, with me and their dad offering up handfuls of goodies to the next generation of neighbourhood trick or treaters, because really – who travels home for Halloween?

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It’s A Small, Familiar World for Text Me, Love Mom

It’s a small, familiar world.  I’ve been fortunate to be able to launch my book Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest in my hometown Calgary, Alberta for my crew of family and friends, and in Toronto for the eastern folk, AND even in Rye, New York – a little apple just down the road from the big apple.  One of my BFF’s, Michelle Christopher, was instrumental in  arranging an exciting ‘premier’ launch at Calgary’s Glencoe Club.  My nerves were a bit on edge as the room filled up with familiar faces.  But the most familiar, my two daughters, Zoë and Lily, were there to read from Text Me, Love Mom with me – the audience giggled and grinned in just the right places, as we did a mother-daughter volley of their leaving home adventures and my hovering mom reactions.

lily and zoe at reading

A week later Lily flew to Toronto with me – just a two hour time difference, but we woke each other up at five am and whispered about our Eastern insomnia, which left us a bit punchy during our sight seeing.  We were looking for that ‘big lake’. We could feel the breeze off it, but darn it, sight seeing close by we couldn’t find Lake Ontario until we almost fell in. The team at my publishers, Iguana Books, and Aunt Bonita and my big sister, Gail, surpassed my expectations in bringing in a crowd for Lily and I to entertain with the comical emails from the ‘my baby goes to Rome chapter’.

I was over-the-moon when Suzanna Keith, my husband’s cousin’s wife, and market and media sales person extraordinaire agreed to launch Text Me, Love Mom in her home to an audience of her talented friends and co-workers.  (Read her blog at  http://techandtravelmom.com/) Fifty woman from all walks of life; journalists, lawyers, yoga instructors, bankers, and lots of moms, mingled in her living room for an evening of wine, cheese and chocolates (big hit) – and then applauded Kristina Bicher’s (http://www.kristinabicher.com/about) vivid and moving poetry from her book, Just Now Alive, and laughed and gasped at the exploits of my son Cole’s first sketchy trip traveling around the U S of A …and my attempts to track him via texts.

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Three launches down – two to go – I’ll take the book to Canada’s west coast and launch it in Victoria and Vancouver in November. (Can I keep saying launch?) I’m still shaky before I read, but I don’t have to be.  Us moms seem to ‘get’ each other. We’ve hovered and helicoptered – at least the media says we have – but the experience of letting them go off to grow up when you really want to hold on tight, is universal.  Home in Calgary, down east, or in Rye, New York – everyone knows a sister, a friend, or the colleague across the way – who is eager to be comforted, and I hope entertained by reading about getting through this next stage of parenting.

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Text Me, Love Mom is available at Chapters Indigo online, http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/text-me-love-mom/9781771800716-item.html ,Iguana online – http://iguanabooks.com/books/text-me-love-mom-kindle-edition/ , and in the UK at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712 or any of your favourite on-line book sellers as well as Pages, Shelf Life Books and Owls Nest Books locally.

Closing Summer – Text Me, Love Mom

At the end of summer, I’m asked, often enough to make it remarkable, did you close up the cottage? I imagine myself dressed as if from another era, maybe a kerchief on my head, pulling heavy canvas sheets over the furniture, putting up storm windows, whatever that entails, and boarding up the doors. So the question amuses me. Still, though we don’t ‘close’ our retreat, we do close something when September rolls around all too quickly. IMG_4558

Septembers are different then in years gone by. Our kids are scattered now.  The boys are in Vancouver, one making the September trek back to school to study film production, and using his midnight hours to work with his brother producing an inquisitive documentary about youth culture. boys dive

Our daughters are here in the city, the youngest launching Midnight Train Photography (http://www.midnighttrain.ca/) and the eldest did buy the new September backpack – for her small daughter to bounce around in circle time, and learn the ‘clean up’ song with Miss Jenny at playschool. All six of us manage to reunite at Christmas, but it’s at the lake in the summer where we jubilantly celebrate family time – with campfires, and lazy hot days on the boat, and mixing it up with the tiny ones with buckets and pebbles on the shore.

girls in sheba
We still try to make it to the cottage on the B.C lake for a respite from city life, on a few winter long weekends. So while we don’t close the cottage in early September – there’s no denying that we close ‘summer’. The dock is hauled up to the beach, where the stretch of pebbles will only get longer as the lake creeps back, the red canoe is tied up high in the trees, the fire pit covered from winter rain, the lawn chairs that had been circled around it on super- moon nights, hauled inside – along with a bundle of wiener and marshmallow roasting sticks.

Making the long drive out late in the year, we arrive in the dark and use the still ‘open’ cottage, huddling around the fireplace, stamping our feet until the place warms up to provide a cozy refuge from winter, but outside – we will have closed up the season of summer. I’ll miss the kids and send them that message, Text Me, Love Mom. If this blog resonates with you during these shortening September days, you will enjoy my recently released book – Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest – available at Pages Books, Owls Nest Books, and Shelf Life Books in Calgary or your favorite online book seller. Welcome to Autumn.

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September Takes My Breath Away

The leaves start to drop. The air is fresh. A school playground fills with shouting kids, and pick-up soccer games – and I feel melancholy, but on the edge of excitement, too. More than January, isn’t September the time of new beginnings? New grade school? College and university? Parents and kids fill backpacks with crisp notebooks and coloured pencils, then head to the malls looking for squeaky new runners? There are anticipatory trips to Ikea to deck out tiny dorm rooms or studio apartments full of furniture with funny Swedish names.
But there’s boo hooing all across the country too, for all those kids heading out the door with hockey duffles converted to super suitcases, and back packs hiding that favourite worn out stuffie, or that last  pair of sandals hopeful for another month of warm weather?  

I have four young adult children who are just now getting used to my having written a book about this next stage of parenting, about all those Septembers – those goodbyes until Thanksgiving.  When Zoë, the eldest, left home, her copies of Love In the Time of Cholera, Harry Potter, and Dragonquest gone from the shelves, her colorful collection of shoes gathered from the closets, and her vanilla-scented products stripped from the bathroom, I searched the self-help sections for a manual on how to let go. Now that I’m a true empty nest-er, it seems a bit odd. After all, I still had three hyped-up teens in the house. One of them leaving home should have given me a little more room to breathe. But it didn’t. It took my breath away. photo

     I was able to relive it all, writing Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two boys, One Empty Nest.  (Hey kids – I gave you pseudonyms – relax.  Nobody knows who this Zoë, Cole, Hudson and Lily that I write about are.) If you’ve been following my erratic blog, I’d love it if you check out my book.  It’s been one hec of a ride. And if one of yours has packed up and will be spending winter and spring in another part of the country, or maybe another country – it’ll be okay.  Really.   

 

Dog Days of Summer Whispering …Fall

So there comes that time when the dog days of August begin to whisper quiet hints of fall, and it’s then that I begin to question whether I got to the bottom of the ice cream cone that is summer in this country we live in. rope swing Did I lick the very last, hard to reach drop of the sweet treat of a Canadian summer.  I’ve been fortunate to spend some time on a British Columbia lake – did I tread bare foot often enough down the wooded path?sunset  Did I swim at every delicious opportunity?  Were enough fresh peaches consumed, and raspberries covered with cream? farm standAnd even when tired from early sunrises did I push off in the kayak at sunset?  Did I fill enough buckets with pebbles for my granddaughters to toss into the lapping waters?girls on beach Did I snip fresh garden blooms to decorate the table – and simply put – did I stop to smell them? Ah, the fleeting season we cherish.chairs jasper