It’ll Be Okay, Mom – Fingers Crossed

It’s a different sort of summer. For months (years) we’ve been encouraging (harassing) my parents to change their living situation. I sugar coat all the words to make the struggle easier. And I can’t stop myself from thinking about myself and my husband, and our same age peers – what living situation will we choose in our ‘golden years’?

Without doubt we will all want to stay in the houses that we’ve renovated and refitted with carefully chosen granite and then more fashionable quartz , where we’ve taken down walls making great rooms as great rooms became the fashion. But when the time comes, as it has for my mom and dad, when that big yard, the staircases, even the meal preparation and bringing in food, has just become too much – where will we land?

It’s taken a while for my four siblings and I to all be on the same page agreeing that, as proud as we may be that these people that raised us have managed to keep their own household going for all these years, (65 years in fact) but now it’s time for them to have an easier life. My dad has various health issues now and simply put – they need a supported living situation.

I could write a book on the journey involved in searching out the right – what I call – ‘retirement residence’. I call it that because it sounds nice and (fingers crossed) hopefully it will be. My parents will have their own apartment- we are not talking about a nursing home or the dreaded ‘long-term care facility’ that one might need some day. They’ll have a bedroom, living room ‘kitchen area’ and the oversized bathroom these places feature.

It was that tiny kitchen that we all wished was something more. They’ll have room to bring the dining room table we’ve told our stories around, but there are just a very few cupboards. Where to put the platter that’s held the turkey for decades of Christmas’s , or the collection of vases from years of bouquets, what about the big bowl for popcorn with a movie on tv, or the big lemonade pitcher for drinks when family arrive with thirsty little ones?

Because of that tiny kitchen ‘spot’ we took my mom and dad to view a higher end retirement residence this week. No question that it was attractive and, despite it not being necessary – with three meals provided in the first floor dining room- it featured an actual kitchen, complete with full fridge and dishwasher. This brand new building, with residents moving in for the very first time was lovely, but when we returned to the place more comfortably within their budget we saw folks already friendly with each other chatting on a Sunday afternoon outside, and in the dining room an elderly woman was playing the piano loudly and with spirit, for whoever cared to listen.

We went up to take measurements to see if perhaps the china cabinet might fit, to hold special treasures and more practical items (it will) and I stared down the mini fridge.

I know my parents will only need to keep a quart of milk, or a few refreshments for when they don’t want to walk down the hall to the ‘bistro room’ that is always open, but it is the idea, that after a lifetime of taking care of themselves they don’t need their own butter or mayonnaise or a dozen eggs, that is bothering me.

That will be okay, mom, I think. We’ll go out to shop for what makes you happy in that puny fridge. In the next few weeks we’ll get busy choosing how to make this home. We’re putting our trust in the good we see here – the supportive kind staff we’ve met, the opportunities to socialize with your peers around new tables, and that wonderful woman playing the piano.


……To read about another sort of leaving home click here for My book Text Me, Love Mom on Amazon

A Different Sort Of Summer

It’s been a different sort of summer. I’ve been living the dream, as they say, staying four long weeks at our lake place in the North Shuswaps. We’re on the shore on a stretch of water that carves up this forested place with arms that go off for miles in a multitude of directions.

My kids, and granddaughters, and my younger brother, a niece and a nephew, a dear cousin, and good friends have circled round this stretch of lake this summer, through little villages that burst with seasonal energy – to swim and boat and break bread with me. Odd to say me, not us. But I’ve had to host alone this year as my husband’s had a strange summer too – an extremely arduous aspect of his work has unfortunately landed smack in the middle of normal holiday time.

And the summers had another weight to it – my elderly parents have had a lovely family member as the live-in caregiver they require, but she needs to move on now. My siblings and I have all spent time trying (oh man, we’re trying) to convince both our mom and dad that moving into the nice, comfortable, sociable, well managed … seniors residence we helped my mom find will be a better choice then the house they can’t manage any more. Honest dad, it will be.

So I’ll bring up the beach chairs, tie the kayak high on the shore, wash one more load of towels, close the blinds, pack the hanging planters into the car with my suitcase and big box of BC peaches and wind my way around this giant lake towards home.

It’s been a different time as times go. And I’ll surely blog about the time to come.

Looking for another read by Candace Allan – check out the book Text Me, Love Mom, Two Girls, Two Boy’s, One Empty Nest.

Being An ‘Adult’ Kid

65964B6E-5AF3-42FC-AD33-9FFECA4E560F.jpegI want to lean into this stretch of time I have here at the lake. Not to think of the days counting down – but instead of the days adding up. Today was as full as a day at any lake day could be.

I had company, my niece and a girlfriend were sleeping when I wound my way down to the beach and slid the kayak into the lake before climbing in. It was the years first kayak ride with the lake still and even, just ripples in the hot sun. I paddled out to watch neighbors following kids out for an early swim or setting out on deck chairs with coffee. 

   Afterwards I  came home to see my niece and her freind off –  hugging and taking last photos into the bright sun. 

Invigorated by the kayaking I  decided to bike but it was already so hot that I turned back at the first hill, and spent my energy instead with a swim. After towelling off and deadheading the geraniums  I read my book with the guilty pleasure of chips and dip, stopping to text with a friend and my sister. img_4375

The deck rocked with the rolling water from all the ski boats enthusiasts yelping as they rode the waves. It was noisy and a bit wild, but I liked that seeing as there is such a short time for us Canadians to be raukus sun-worshippers before winter will drive us inside again. 

  I called my brother and continued the family talk about helping our parents through a move from their home to a seniors residence- such tricky times to be an adult ‘kid’.  I thought about how, if my own four children need to keep their dad and I ‘safe’ someday this will be the first place they try to discourage us from coming to – worried about ‘an elderly version of us’ on the dock, or climbing the rocky slope from the lake, or even making our tired way to our upstairs bedroom. I tried not to think too hard about that while I brought the day to a close watering plants and picking deep purple basil to eat with a plate of tomatoes and soft cheese.  I couldn’t help my mind going there though on this summer’s day, with its mix of summertime action and tranquility. img_4373

(looking for more by Candace Allan – see . Text Me, Love Mom – a summer read. )

Summer After Summer After Summer of Love

Hey – now this is exciting – I’m a guest blogger.  Calgary author, Leanne Shirtliffe, is launching her new book this week – ‘Don’t Lick The Mini Van – and Other Things I Never Thought I’d Say To My Kids’. She has asked me to do a guest spot on her blog about something I never thought I’d say to my own four darlings.  Now there were quite a few of those insane, spur of the stressed-outmoment gems, but read the one I  shared at  http://ironicmom.com/2013/05/23/summer-love/

Santa – please come take back ‘walking doll’

doll lights

When I was a little girl, four or five, I asked Santa for a ‘walking doll’. I don’t remember sitting on the old guy’s lap – maybe my mom had written a letter for me, but clearly a request had been made. I woke with a start on Christmas Eve, and thinking it was already morning, I ran down the hall in my pajamas, stopping short at the entrance to the living room and peeking around the corner. Nothing can erase that moment, even now all these years since, for what I saw was my dad arranging presents under the tree and there front and center – was the unwrapped wonderful ‘walking doll’. I slid back into bed unnoticed, but absolutely delighted – not at all traumatized that Santa had blown his cover. Surely it was the jolly old elf who left the doll for my parents to display, and now I would be able to play with her in the morning, and all the mornings after that.
My mom wanted us kids to use our imaginations so she didn’t want us to have any of those crazy high-tech battery operated toys. The beauty of the tall hard plastic ‘walking doll’ was that her arm bones were connected to her leg bones by some mysterious inner wires, and so when you lifted an arm and moved it, her lovely flat footed leg took a step – no batteries involved.
‘Walking doll’ hasn’t fared too well over the years – at the hands of my two brothers and umpteenth male cousins she’s somehow suffered damage my sisters and girl cousins wouldn’t have inflicted. A blinking eye has been pushed into its socket ,and some horrible boy shot her right foot with a BB gun (back in the day when boys shot BB guns).
Since my own kids left home I’ve kept a few cuddly baby dolls for visiting little ones to play with and even a soft plastic one that never loses its sweet soft- plastic smell. And of course, I’ve kept ‘walking doll’ on a shelf in the basement  – beside my own grown daughter’s fancy porcelain faced Anne of Green Gables doll.
Recently, seeking order before the house fills with family for Christmas, I did another  overhaul of great magnitude of the junk stored in the basement and vowed ‘walking doll’ needed to go. It was rule #1 in the decluttering handbook – if you are not going to use it or display it, let it go.  Those anti-clutter gurus dictate that I’m supposed to accept that even special gifts have played their role and to be content to hang onto the memories, but not the item taking up space and gathering dust.   So I was determined to give ‘walking doll’ up, to tuck her into a bag of used kid’s clothing and take it all to a local charity. (Now I don’t actually believe a charity will want to pass along low tech walking doll with her matted hair and busted eye and foot, but I could never pitch her into the garbage myself.) Somehow the bag of clothes went and walking doll is still here.

doll treeDusted off, with her hair fluffed up, she sits bleary- eyed on a bench in the front hall. I have a fuzzy plan to let her sit under the Christmas tree one more time amongst the glitter and lights.  It must be the magic of the holiday season, that makes me hope that maybe Santa will hop out of the chimney (if we had one), pop her into his sack and take her back to where they take the broken toys, and I won’t have to play a guilty hand in letting dear  ‘walking doll’ go.


															

Phone-less in San Francisco

In response to reading melancholy blogs from parents experiencing  withdrawal from kids gone away to college and university, I promised to re-post a couple of those learning curves of my own.   So here is PHONE-LESS IN SAN FRANCISCO

Seven P.M. on a Sunday night my twenty-year-old daughter calls,  obviously near tears.  “Someone stole my phone,” she cries.  “I feel so cut off without it.”

But she is on a phone, one the cell company she’s been dealing with, has given to her.  Born in 1959 myself, it takes me a minute to catch up.  It’s not the phone, it’s the information in the phone.  “I feel like I have to start over meeting people, making contacts.  I feel so alone again, Mom.”

“Honey, honey, I get that you’re upset.  But those people will call you.  You’ll get your numbers again.”

“Mom, it doesn’t work like that.  I’ve done this enough to know lots of those people were never going to call me.”  What she’s done enough, is move around, this daughter of mine.  This is the third time in her young life that she has by choice surrounded herself with absolute strangers – situations where she had to work to have even a single friend.  From our home in Calgary, at age sixteen, she bravely did a high school exchange in Rome, Italy – isolating herself further by having to learn Italian.  Her siblings went to school on the west coast, but she headed east to Concordia University in Montreal.  Now, trading another cold Canadian winter for a foggy one, she was taking part in Concordia’s school abroad program by doing a year at SFSU in San Francisco.  “People here have their own friends.  I’m the new one.  I have to call them,” she explained further.

I was alone in our renovated, too big house, when she’d called.  Her dad had taken two of our nephews to an early hockey game.  The weather outside was shifting, from a Indian summer to light flurries.  Earlier I’d been in the yard pulling down sweet pea vines and raking leaves, and wishing I was cooking a Sunday dinner like some of my friends would be, for kids who stayed in the city for jobs and school.

“What are you doing right now, Mom?” she asked quietly.

“Missing you guys.  Dad’s gone to a hockey game.  I was going to make toast but the breads gone moldy.

“Mine too,” she said.  “My bread’s gone bad, too.”

“I guess we need each other to finish a loaf of bread,” I said, from where I watched the sky turn dark outside the living room.

“Yeah, we do.  I miss you guys so much.”

“You’ll get your numbers back, Lily.  You’ll run into people.  And some friends will call.  It just seems bad now.  I’ll email you Zoe’s and Hudson’s and Cole’s and your cousin’s numbers.”

“Will you do it now?”

Of course, I told her, yes, I’d do it right away.  And I would add a note to her email, about how brave she was, and how I knew the next time we talked she would be okay again, having found her friends.

I DO, I DO – Wedding Do’s and a few Do Not’s from a Recent M.O.B

T’is the season of summer engagements and mid summer weddings.  All four of my twenty-something kids have been invited to witness and celebrate friend’s nuptials on hot afternoons and long summer nights.  Because love is clearly in the air I’m re-posting the bit I so eagerly wrote after my eldest daughter’s sweet, romantic – but not entirely perfect wedding.

…The rose petals have settled.  The five hundred photos have been printed.  The gorgeous dress awaits the cleaners with bits of grass and twigs in its elegant bustle. Though we never thought of it as a destination wedding per say – our eldest daughter and her groom choosing to be wed on a coastal island three and a half hours from their Vancouver home involved some degree of strategic planning. Let’s say “it was an adventure” and I do love an adventure. though there who didn’t quite see the ‘fun’ in not being able to get off the island the day after the nuptials because of a  unseasonal storm that kept the ferries from traveling the rocking seas.

I started out a bit lonely in my stretch as a mother-of-the bride. ie. a MOB, but by the time I hung up my MOB dress –  (elegant, classy and reserved and not sexy, loud or scene stealing ) –a few friends had joined my ranks as MOB’s themselves and were asking if I could jot down a few bits of advice.   Of course, every journey is unique, and the journey involved in helping someone else plan a wedding, will be as distinct from this as apples and oranges, or rather as a six layer marzipan topped fruit filled cake extravaganza compared to a tray of fanciful butter-cream topped floral cupcakes.

The first step is finding the venue.  To do that you need to determine your number of guests.  Everything follows suit after that step has been taken.  Zoë and her guy’s wedding was on a weekend in late Sept. because of booking issues, though a wedding during the summer or on a long weekend would make it easier for guests to attend.

Zoё printed the guest’s addresses on clear labels with a lovely cursive script.  She researched the etiquette on handwritten  vs. printed envelopes and found both are considered acceptable.  She had the foresight to print up copies of the sheets of labels for shower thank-yous, wedding invites and wedding thank-yous and had them on hand over the months. 

Oh, we’re big fans of all those glossy wedding magazines – a friend coined the term ‘wedding porn’ for them – for their addictive, seductive qualities causing an  – I need to see more and more of those over the top dresses, those exotic veils, the juicy center pieces, the stunning bouquets – reaction to them.  My daughter definitely borrowed ideas from them – an example being purchasing ballet flats in her wedding colours to peek out from under her dress. It lent a surprising and sweet pop of colour to catch glimpses of her fanciful magenta flats .

One of the easiest additions to the fun was little bottles of bubbles we ordered from a Canadian company (weddingfavours.ca) that came with optional labels with the couple’s names on them.  Guests of all ages (seriously) loved blowing the bubbles after the ceremony and during the couple’s first dances – they gave the celebration a joyful quality (the photos, too).  I surprised the bride and groom with inexpensive retro match books with their names and wedding date printed on them – from the same company.

About registering.  Guests really do like to shop from a registry BUT Zoё found that they didn’t do it until quite close to the wedding date.  The bride and groom registered early and then found many of the items were seasonal and not available when their guests went to purchase them.  They registered at a large department store and a popular more modern kitchen and bath shop.  Young people shopped at the first, and older people at the second.  I’d recommend registering or updating the registry closer to the wedding date.

Here’s an annoying point – people of all ages (who should know better) don’t RSVP!  We had to chase down responses.  I think older people (relatives) thought we knew they were attending – true- but maybe what they aren’t accustomed  to because this wasn’t the case ‘back in my day’ is that we gave them a choice between a meat entree, a fish entree and a vegetarian (which I was surprised to learn is the common practice these days) and had a space for guests to indicate special diet requirements (again not done in my wedding era) so we wanted to get the card back.  Accept the idea that you will have to hound people for responses.

Zoё created a  seating plan which involved her own art all over the large chart – (as did the invites and thank-yous.)  She was attempting to arrange where guests would sit early on, but now she recommends leaving  a space of time five days before the wedding to make the seating plan.  Once older guests said they were coming, they were committed, but young people canceled right up to the last week putting the seating plan out of whack.

Aside from the weather and incredible scenery– an entire day of gorgeous sun during a week of rain and coastal storms – the most talked about ambiance of the wedding was the musical selections of the DJs.  They played the crowd like a book.  It was 80’s and 90’s tunes that had everyone, young and old, on their feet dancing the warm autumn night away.

We were advised to not let people wait too long for the cutting of the cake or the garter and bouquet toss – lots of older people are waiting for those events to happen so that they can retire for the evening.  Speaking of cake – another little endorsement –Zoё ordered stunning and life-like sugar paper butterflies and had the resort’s chef decorate the  wedding cake with those, from a company called SugarRobot – off the etsy.com web site.

We all agreed that we were glad we never pre-determined when to close the bar.  We decided to close it when it appeared that people had enough to drink.  A few complained half-halfheartedly, but they were the ones we were cutting off and the rest were happy on the dance floor.

My final bit of advice, I’ve always thought this – I think that the bride and groom should go away on a honeymoon for a least a few days RIGHT after the wedding.  It is so chaotic and stressful in the days leading up to the big event and so nice for them to go just be calm and happy together – even if they are planning something else in the future.

My daughter and I both like to entertain and looked forward with delight to the chance to plan and carry out a wedding.  I advised her that she had to enjoy the process because the day itself would pass in a surreal blur.  A dear friend who runs a wedding planning business  preeminent tip was this nugget – the purpose of the day is to celebrate the ceremony. The reception, dance, and dinner are important, but don’t overlook the fact that everyone is there to witness your wedding ceremony, so put thought and time into it – making it unique and special to the two of you with personal music and readings or poetry.

The most sage piece of advice from another young bride was simply – ‘remember to have fun’You’ve been planning and thinking about this magical day for so long, stop worrying (leave that to all the people you’ve hired or friends you’ve delegated, or your mom) and really enjoy your day with your groom and everyone that came to celebrate this exhilarating occasion with you.   Brilliant advice – that.

To read the book about all four of my kid’s with their rock star mentalities and the chaos of family life as they hop from one adventure to the next go to http://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

* photos by Chris Stash