Pop. Pop. Pop. Went the Bubble Wrap.

Let me think? Was I a bubble wrapper? When our eldest daughter, Zoë, was first accepted into university, I was still focused on running around raising four kids – from tweens to this very young adult. I had only just begun to worry about Zoë leaving home, and was surprised to feel so jittery, and off balanced. That summer before we drove her a thousand kilometers away, I thought about her room being empty or her friends not hanging around our family room and I’d try to hide my teary eyes. Hec, when I imagined our Zoë roaming along Vancouver’s Commercial or Main Street, discovering Wreck Beach (the infamous nude beach) or just searching for eccentric, like-minded friends, I felt like I nervously needed to speed write an ‘independence manual’. It made me think about dropping her off the first day of kindergarten, and walking home across the playground with her two little brothers, four-year-old Cole, trotting along beside the stroller with not quite two-year-old Hudson in it (five months pregnant with her sister, Lily – I know, I know -it seems impossible to me now, too.) and I remember thinking, “That’s that. Zoë is part of another world of influence now. She’s not just ours anymore.”

rose's bubblewrap

Did I become a hovering helicopter mom in response to those emotions? Back then we were all ‘bubble wrapping’ if we compared ourselves to the moms that brought us up. My kids were lucky to grow up in a calm residential area with a few kids in almost every other house. Even still as parents we tracked them with rules and landline calls from house to house. When I was a kid growing up in the same area, we ran out during the day and were allowed to roam free until the street lights came on or dinner time approached. My own mother was a very good mom, more devoted to hardy meals, and cleanliness then I ever was, but the boundaries around ‘watching out for your kids’ were so wide and free and quite literally liberating. At age say, ten or eleven, I could report that I was going on a bike ride and go off, limited mostly by my own sense of adventure. We were truly free range children. When my mom did express concern for my late arrival I used the lame excuse that my watch quit or I wasn’t near a pay phone .
But as Zoë, Cole, Hudson and Lily approached their late teens we bought them cell phones (our household cell bill could almost pay a college kid’s cheap rent back then) and voila – I could call them home, or check on the late night party, or simply request that they – “Text me, love Mom”.
Maybe I hovered closer to the others after I had to think about Zoë out of our grasp in a far, far away city, especially if she was ignoring my annoying texts. And as the three kids talked about travels around the freaking world and got into the vices that kids get into, I was forced to listen to the pop, pop, pop of all my bubble wrapping love.
As much as they might have caused me to ‘come undone’ during the stories in Text Me, Love Mom, my four artistic kids are all helping me out in this new era of on-line everything. The boys wanted to (okay – I pestered them a bit) make short-short YouTube bits from the book – which were a blast to do and are coming soon. My eldest daughter painted the beautiful cover of the book and now here is my youngest, through her Midnight Train Photography – http://www.midnighttrain.ca offering a playful look at this journey. Love you kids.

Please click on the following links to order Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest – about the ‘next stage of parenting’, when the kids leave home, come of age, and the family gets its bearings again.

Amazon.comhttp://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

Amazon.ca http://www.amazon.ca/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

Indigo/Chapters http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/text-me-love-mom/9781771800716-item.html

In the UK at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

shea_allan@hotmail.com

contact via twitter @SheaProulx

Bringing A Student Home – Goodness and Light

Can you believe it?  It’s almost over.  Your kid has been away to university for a whole school year and now it seems that the time flew by – except there were those long November or January nights when she didn’t return a text or answer her phone and you sat up in the living room, with the wind blowing outside in the dark.  And you knew it was wrong to be so worried.  That the dark she was in was probably a noisy club with friends laughing and pulling her onto a dance floor.  And when you woke again to the ding ding of her reassuring text – that’s what it was exactly.

My youngest, Lily, went to university in Montreal, all the way across the country, and I could say that the reason that I managed to visit her there a few times  was because I love  that French Canadian city, but it was hard having the last of four kids away, and so I went for that reason also.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A very short time ago I wrote about helping that youngest daughter move to Montreal.  But maybe I was sleeping under a tree like Rumpelstiltskin because it appears that years have gone by since I first left her standing on the corner of St. Catherines and Rue Guy in front of Concordia University. At this time of year when parents are contemplating how it will go doing something similar with a son or daughter, I thought I would tell you about moving Lily home.

Lily spent two years in one teeny studio apartment on De Maisonneuve Boulevard, then did a year’s exchange at foggy San Francisco State University discovering that American’s are not, as she naively thought, just like Canadians but different in a myriad of interesting ways. Lily returned to Montreal, to an even smaller apartment on Cote de Neiges, with a view far across to the Pont Champlain Bridge. (Along with her studies she did two internships at popular youth culture magazines  – the shamefully popular completely unpaid for internship).

I flew to Montreal with the whispers of approaching summer, to help her pack up and return to the west.  Waking up in her studio on Cote de Neiges, with the sun deceptively warming the apartment through the window, I contemplated the basics of setting up and dismantling the belongings to support a happy, satisfied life.  This subject had been on my mind because of my own efforts at (here’s that tired old word again) – ‘decluttering’.  It was a cold last bit of April, while we closed off that part of the life my daughter had in Quebec – during which she obtained her degree and blossomed from an eighteen-year-old girl, who I warned about street dangers and trusting strangers, to a twenty-two-year-old woman, who warned me as she left to say goodbye to friends, that she would return late and to just lock the door behind her.IMG_4320

When we first set up Lilly’s apartment I took notes, out of curiosity, to see just what purchases were required to get a young person going, We had arrivived on a red-eye flight from Calgary and drove a rental car directly to the Ikea in the suburbs for the purchase of twelve dollar lamps and the twenty-nine dollar desk, and the one hundred and twenty-nine dollar bed frame, along with two equally cheap stools to sit at the tiny counter in the galley kitchen-ish area.  And every summer and Christmas break we warned Lily about bringing too much back to Montreal from home, but still she accumulated a series of coats and footwear trying to deal with the Quebec cold, along with electric fans for the oppressive heat in the beginning and sometimes end of the term, and a small library of books from her classes, and portfolios full of edgy photographs from her Fine Art photography degree.

In the process of dismantling her home we packed and delivered to Greyhound Express three large plastic containers of the heavy items – books and boots and some dishes she was fond of, as well as her record player and records. Did I mention she had convinced us to purchase an actual record player as a birthday gift and I could never dissuade her from adding to her load of Montreal possessions by carting Led Zeplin, Fleetwood Mac and Three Dog Night records from our basement collection every trip she took home to Alberta.  A little table and one chair had been sold on Craigslist, two second hand book stands were given away to an apartment neighbour, and friends had come to claim some of the most intriguing prints, along with the utilitarian warm clothes Lily was ready to part with. The guy she found to sublet for the remaining of the lease, got a steal of a deal on her bed and mattress and Lily directed me to leave him the never used cake pans and muffin tins, saying, “See Mom, I told you four years ago I wasn’t going to become a baker.” IMG_3987 We ate our meals at my favourite creperie the last day – having done a far better job of diminishing the contents of her refrigerator than the contents of her apartment, so that we would still have to show up at the airline counter and have no choice but to pay for extra suitcases, and still have purses cleverly tucked into overstuffed backpacks, and carry-on computer cases, probably with the last used towels falling out of them.

Still I had to contemplate this: if Lily had lived comfortably with the total accumulation of  goods she had when I arrived -what was it that I had filled my  home with for several decades?  What are the precious goods, the necessary tools, the carriers of memory, and even the flotsam and jetsam, that surrounds me that couldn’t be sold to a few anxious buyers on Craigslist, tossed off to neighbours, packed into three small boxes on Greyhound and carried on a flight?

Preparing to call the last Montreal taxi driver that I would converse with in a long while, I realized that as minimalist as we’d been, we still had a fair load for flying purposes.  So, I decided that Lily and I must work at giving the appearance of lightness, of effortlessness –  at that airline counter where they would weigh things up.  “Here we are, it is just her and me, and a few bags, nothing to get worried about, or charge us ridiculous amounts of money to bring.  It is just us,” my attitude would say. “See – we are ethereal.  We are light. So just us – along with a good part of the accumulations of life during four years of growing up.  That’s all.  Just that.”

To read more about Lily and I – along with the chaos of four kids being launched into the wide, wide world – during that next stage of parenting, click on the following links:

Link to Amazon.ca  http://www.amazon.ca/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

Link to Amazon.com  http://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

I Must Go Down To The Seas Again – Come With Me

        I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
        Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied
– John Masefield 1902

When I was just a kid – just nineteen years old, my parents helped me pack their car with a very big red suitcase, a stack of books and a few containers of my mom’s homemade baking, and drove me (and my boyfriend – who was just along for the ride) over a mountain range, through one and a half provinces, to board a ferry across the Georgia Strait to Vancouver Island, and the city of Victoria B.C, so that I could start my university years. My folks and boyfriend stayed long enough to help me search the newspaper’s ‘Apartment For Rent’ ads and to get me set up in a small furnished suite in what I so happily called a character house.

photo - Copy

Wow. Life happened. Let me tick off the details for you – turned out moving away from my family of seven people, and boyfriend of two years, made me unbearably homesick. Rather than moving into university residence (my mom’s smart idea, which I ignored) I moved across the country with said boyfriend and tried an eastern Canadian university the next year. For lots of reasons – probably the strongest being that we were two young to work out our difficulties cohabiting – we left the east, zig-zagged a little bit, and found ourselves ocean side again – back at The University of Victoria. With one and a half degrees between us (I had a head start), we got married, he finished his degree, we moved home to Calgary and had a baby girl. Galloping along, we packed up a beat-up truck this time, which only broke down once when we crossed over the mountains again so that boyfriend – now husband – could get a law degree, and while he did so we had two baby boys in Victoria. A few more beat up cars and one law degree later, we returned to Calgary with – the now three-year-old daughter, two-year-old boy and new baby boy. The forth baby (girl) was born back in Calgary shortly before her daddy was called to the bar. It wasn’t religious – we just liked having all those babies. Time passed. Babies grew and grew and grew.

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Now this little tale is about the good parents who drove me to Victoria to begin those cross province journeys to the ocean, back before the time of my crazy childbearing days. My parents were both raised as true Albertans, people who love a Sunday drive through the foothills and admire fields of golden grain shimmering in a Chinook wind. Yet, when they retired they chose to treat themselves to a month or two in Victoria as a late winter destination, while they waited for the season to lose its grip on Calgary. Yesterday my mom calculated this is the seventeenth year that they have spent a part of spring in this ocean side city, whose ambiance has been part of our lives’ journeys. They’ve come to take pleasure in the daffodils, tulips and frothy fruit tree blossoms, long weeks before they’ll decorate the streets of home. They trade the blue skies of Alberta for quiet treks along the shores of the deep blue ocean.

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For the last several years my siblings and I have joined them at different times during their coastal reprieves. When the drive itself became too much of a chore, I’ve driven their car out, packed up with all the trappings of home to make their stay comfortable – including those tins of mom’s homemade baking. My brothers and sisters, and grand-kids and nieces have come out too, all pleased to spend time fueling their desire to see green foliage, and basking in sunny strolls (or foggy ones) along Victoria’s long breezy breakwater.

photo (11) My four kids (the subjects of Text Me, Love Mom) text to see how we’re all making out, the girls from where they currently reside in Calgary, the boys from their homes in coastal Vancouver. (Is it silly to wonder if their ocean side birthplace influenced the makeup of their wee baby bones so they now choose to reside on the coast?) I text my kids back from a tea house, or a long leisurely stroll, “Grampa and Grandma say hello. We just ate the best lemon blueberry scones ever. You doing okay?” Every year my dear mom says they won’t make the trip again, too tiring getting ready, too much has changed health wise. But always we convince them to make the journey one more time – their walks are shorter, the breaks for tea time longer. For the last several years I’ve joined my parents here for the better part of a week of their month long stay. Today I’ll head home from this place where I began my truly growing up years of raising kids. Mom and Dad will stay behind for a few more weeks to revel sunny days watching the ocean roll over the rocks, and the pilot boats head out to guide ships to shore. Ah, the journeys we take for ‘the call of the running tide.’

Please click on the following links to order Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest – about the ‘next stage of parenting’, when the kids leave home, come of age, and the family gets its bearings again.

Amazon.comhttp://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

Amazon.ca http://www.amazon.ca/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

Indigo/Chapters http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/text-me-love-mom/9781771800716-item.html

In the UK at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

photo (9)

Was There More Daydreaming?

real letters

Do you remember that time?  The time before ‘this time’ when we were somehow more free to be alone?  If you are a young reader here – you won’t recall it, as it never really existed for you.  Let’s see – do you recall calmly sitting at a bus stop after school waiting for your ride, and just staring out, maybe thinking about needing to call a friend from home so the two of you could pick a spot to meet at the mall, say the frozen yogurt stand at the food court or the bench beside the phone booths in the middle?  And if your friend wasn’t there when you arrived you would take out that letter to your cousin that you started in math class, and finish telling her about the new guy you liked, but you couldn’t tell her to look up his grinning mug on facebook,  or send her a selfie of you waiting for your bus home – still glowing with your crush on.

I’m not being holier than thou.  I love, love, love my phone and all the way it connects me to the world. I tell myself to leave it behind on occasion, but then I quickly think– “Oh no Self, what if I need to take a photo, something that I immediately have to post to my friends or tweet to strangers?  Come on. Really?  I could send them one of the 628 photos currently in my magical phone?   I wrote my book, Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest when I realized with my kids going off into the wide, wide world I was feeling more than a little jittery.  And then ca-pow, I managed, as parents do now, to be connected  to them in a way that I was never connected to my mom. When I flew away to university and was terribly homesick for my big family, she splurged on pricey long distance encouraging phone calls, and we wrote letters that involved pen, and paper and stamps – and hey, if we could have texted each other (for free), I know we would have. So it isn’t that desire for connection that I am being slightly forlorn about today.

No, I’m reading a  captivating book called – The End of Absence – Reclaiming What We’ve Lost In A World Of Constant Connection, by Michael Harris, a writer from Vancouver, Canada.  Harris says, that “the difference that future generations will find hardest to grasp is the end of absence – the loss of lack. The daydreaming silences in our lives are filled; the burning solitudes are extinguished.”

rope swing

He makes me aware that I am part of the last few generations who will remember that other time, a time when it was easier to hang out with yourself, to be alone and okay.  Do you remember those days when if you walked to the corner store or the library it was just you, without a phone in your hand – or maybe you might have run ahead to catch up to a neighbor you spotted to talk to, because that’s how you ‘shared’, not by posting share?  (Though of course, the irony is that I’ll soon finish this post and share it.) Will my four kids, who launched themselves in the world and at times ignored the tether of my cell phone – probably because I was bugging them like crazy, or they were up to deeds I wouldn’t approve of – will they recall the time when there was no little beep, beep and ding, ding in their purse or pocket, and how if they were out with a person, say me or their dad or each other, they were really just with them.  Was there more daydreaming back then?  Do they daydream between texting, and checking facebook posts and watching YouTube videos?  Do I?

To read Text Me, Love Mom – the book – go to http://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712 or http://www.amazon.ca/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

Seventeen Year Olds Do Stupid Shit

Mid-January and I’d be so happy to steal away to my favourite latte shop, bring a hot one home to my little office, stare out at the winter white and brown back yard and get back to that novel I started way (seriously way) too long ago.  But this wise guy that I’m married to insists that, having taken a good chunk of the last seven years writing and publishing Text Me, Love Mom – I should put some of my restless energy into sharing it (okay, promoting it) to all those folks out in the wide, wide world that I was writing it for.  Readers are telling me that Text Me, love Mom is funny – funnier than I thought, as I was caught up in the drama of those four darn kids freaking me out with the insanity of ‘twenty-four being the new eighteen’ as they made their way in the world. Read Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest and you’ll find the funny bits, but I decided this January morning to offer up a more dramatic ‘teaser’.  The chapter is called ‘Teenage Runaway’ and begins with this great quote from my sassy youngest kid –

“You and dad are really the wrecking ball of all of our outlaw, runaway fantasies. Why couldn’t you jerks go and be crack addicts or religious fanatics so we could have excuses to live on the wide open road?”

– Lily

 

This is a story of all the ways and times my kids left home, but there is a chapter I thought best to leave out until Lily granted me her permission to put it in. “It’s okay, Mom,” she said. “It will add drama. I’m happy to supply some drama. Just as long as you remember in the telling of it, that was then. This is now.”

lily poster seventeen year olds

This is the story of Lily running away — only she, of course, never calls it that. Much to her chagrin, the rest of the family does. I try not to think about it too often, the way you do with times in your life when you are so terribly off balance. In fact, those sixty odd, uneasy days when Lily ran away were the first time we had a completely empty nest.

For twenty-three years, one month and twenty-nine days, I was a mom with children living at home. In the early autumn of her seventeenth year, Lily was going to be the last kid still residing with her dad and me. After a summer of living with us and doing lucrative summer jobs in Calgary, both Cole and Hudson had returned to the coast. Hudson had moved in with a bunch of guys in Victoria, and Cole, elated to be starting a film production program in Vancouver, was renting a room in the house Zoë and her boyfriend lived in. As I look back on it all, there had been some foreshadowing of Lily’s departure before she left home in the middle of the night without saying goodbye.

To be fair, Lily would tell it differently. She woke me up at two a.m., putting her face up close to mine to whisper that she couldn’t find her social security card and needed it for a new job she was applying for early the next morning. She went on to explain to me in my groggy haze that she was going to stay over at a girlfriend’s near the job’s location. I stumbled out of bed, despite her telling me not to. Standing in the light of the hallway, Lily told me she loved me and gave me a long hug, apologizing for disturbing my sleep. You are not a mother for twenty-three years, one month and twenty-nine days (Zoë’s age) without knowing something is bloody well up when that sequence of events takes place, but somehow I fell back into bed and had the last restful sleep I would have for weeks…

– poster by Shea Proulx and Creativision.

 

A Spoonful of Christmas Sugar

I have to stop, take a break and realize ….I’m stressed – but I’m happy. Happy that I have almost all of my family home.  We’ve marked another year – Christmas to Christmas.  I sprung out of bed in the dim morning light– with visions of butter tarts, not sugar plums, in my spinning Christmas Eve head.

The house was peaceful and silent while I whipped egg whites and chopped dates for the buttery tarts, everyone else still dreaming of a white Christmas – but the household is hopping now.  My husband just rushed out for some mysterious last minute shopping.  Cole, our eldest son has had to make his morning green smoothie amongst my cooking mess, and then he flew off to replace a left-behind cord for his camera to enable him to record all aspects of the planned Christmas Eve merry, merry merry-making.  His brother, Hudson, slept later, not at all panicked about gifts he still has to find with so many males of the same ilk, who will flock to the malls.

Lily, our youngest daughter has found the two of us the Mary Poppins movie on the kitchen television and is going to wrap, tape and festoon her carefully selected gifts with bows, while I try to focus on the next special dessert – and we both sing along to Chim Chim Cherrie and A Spoonful of Sugar.

mary poppins  I’m scattered, getting out the fancy dishes one minute, mashing potatoes for the Romanoff the next, only to be interrupted by a call for more tape, and then seeing the tree needs to be watered, before locating the chocolate mint pie recipe and texting hubby to remember the whip cream.

For only the second time ever in thirty years our kids will not all be present – but our eldest, Zoe, is bound to have a jolly holly time with her husband and sweet small daughters – who will share their excitement for the Big Guy in the red suit’s arrival with their other grandparents in a cozy cottage in the mountains.  So I tell my other grown kids, who feel a little blue about missing their big sister – we need to share her, and we’re sharing her with good people. All truly is fine.

I am the mom.  And I do ‘manage’ Christmas in the house like so, so many moms.  And I see that the clock is ticking and the iconic wife saver (egg strata) for tomorrow’s breakfast isn’t made, the crackers for tonight’s oysters must be crushed, the salmon dressed, and the cream whipped and the stockings found and the punch stirred, and the chaos tidied, and on and on and on.

But I’ll slow my thoughts, concentrate on the melting butter on the stove and my daughter humming along to ‘A Spoon Full of Sugar’ with Mary Poppins and having my big family in the same house (almost) and let peace and joy settle over me. And I wish that for you, too – in this holiday season and throughout the year. xo

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.

christmas bird-1

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

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

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?

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.