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. )

We Shot the Messenger and Seat 11E

 

The whole thing started with a red-haired guy being in 11- E – which was my seat – on a flight to Vancouver. This dude had a friendly face and told me to take the seat beside him, because someone was in his and the attendants would work it all out. Ergg, I was already frustrated because I had just left the book I was immersed in, about staying in your creative zone (news flash: turn off your cell), at an airport coffee shop.  As the plane lifted into the early winter sky I heard the guy tell the woman to his left that he had a company called Creativision.  What? Creative what? My ‘a synchronistic thing is about to happen instinct’ was tingling.  His name was Shawn MacDonell and he gave me details about his company @_creativision sparking my curiosity. Shawn has the gift for releasing your story from you in a simple manner and soon it was me telling this stranger in 11 E enough about my family of six for him to catch-up to me in the luggage area and say, you and your kids should have a web site. People like stories like yours.

We all thought it was a fun concept but who would have thought that wrestling everyone into agreeing to a name would be such a huge biggest hurdle. That alone made us realize that  www.weshotthemessenger.com would require a whole lot of familia give and take, and devine amounts of patience.

Life is funny, right? The people that we seem destined to meet come to us in novel ways.  I must have told Shawn in 11-E about Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest – my book about that stage of life when you switch from taking care of a kids-me-on-boatbunch of rambunctious, hungry, lovelorn teenagers in your home – to instead longing for their attention, or guiding their insane mishaps as they stretch out into the world alone.  But over that pack of teeny pretzels and a peppermint tea I yakked more about how those four kids were now all in some way or the other involved in the arts, which led him to suggest the web site for our “genetically intertwined media group”.

Rose, my youngest daughter, had a childhood dream to be a singer, her brother, Levi, aspired to be the person at the drive-through window who gets all your money, her brother, Kyle, imagined being a stuntman as a kid, and my eldest daughter, Shea, was an artist from the moment she picked up her first purple crayon. 4-kids-rose-baby Click, click, click into the present and the would-be singer is a photographer; the McDonald’s window guy performs stand-up comedy and writes for film, the stuntman became the guy filming the stunts, and is now a filmmaker, and the eldest, well, she never really changed. They all thought the web site was a compelling idea, (er – I think they did – nothings easy-peasy with five bosses) but in the mean time we hired Shawn and Creativision to push us to define our goals and to create fun promotional tools on earlier projects.zoecolehudsonlily icons

Fast forward three years and finally the web site exists. My kids are an independent lot and work solo or with artists in their chosen fields, but remarkably they do come together – even across long distances to share ideas, applaud new creations, boost each other’s brave artistic egos and have been able to collaborate occasionally – the best of these was a daring comedic film, Disabled and Dangerous, written by both Levi and our funny friend, Barry Varga, to raise funds for ALS, which Barry has since fallen victim to. Kyle and his company filmed the short comic movie, Shea did storyboards and Rose, Levi, and I mobilized a community of stunning volunteers. Their dad acted in it (quite valiantly) and was an executive producer.D and D leaving bank with cops

The kids (aside for supplying me with two-hundred pages of ‘Oh my God, she’s/he’s where? Doing what?’ in Text Me, Love Mom, also made hilarious promo videos for the book. Shea painted the wistful cover and Rose flattered me with her photograph for the back. Rose takes photos for all of us when asked, Levi writes scripts for Kyle, Shea storyboards for the guys, we must all be part of Levi’s stand-up muse.  Babysitting Shea’s little girls so that she can make art, also results in a lot of art, though the little girls and I do not have dramatically different levels of raw talent. It all goes round and round in a whirl of cooperative artistic nepotism. Shea says, that even when we’re busy on our own projects, We Shot the Messenger’s purpose is so that they can cross-pollinate.  Need a photographer?  Check out my sister. Want to see Vancouver’s funniest comic – you gotta see my brother?  Looking for a film maker? Turns out I have this other brother. Need a mural? A painting? Or the most unique grownup colouring book? I have an older sister. And our mom – she wrote a book about the bunch of us.  4-kids-on-driveway-best You have to see the ABOUT page and the BIOS.  We’ve each independently worked out how to assemble a website over the years, but this one was put together by Shea because she’s the easiest of my children to bribe into doing things. I just dangle a night without her darling daughters under her nose, and bam, look who shows up in my kitchen ready to work.easter 2012-ish-22

It took forever and a day to come up with the name –  www.weshotthemessenger.com  Click on CONVERSATIONS in the menu to read that wild funny ride.  It will give you a feel for the stubborn, comedic, annoying, love we bounce around. The site will grow, it’ll change, we’ll argue some more, I’ll post dumb mom things and risk being booted out. Like us on the www.facebook.com/weshotthemessengermediagroup/   and follow us on Instagram @weshotthemessenger and twitter @weshotmessenger. It’s been a delicate operation, encouraging my kids to create all this, because actively endorsing something taints it with uncoolness. But they’re not afraid to shoot the messenger. As long as I’ll let them mock me every step of the way, they’ll take an idea, and run with it.

*a gazillion thanks to the guy I married, who stands behind us all.

This Mom – my daughter.

This Mom.

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Mother’s Day is supposed to honour our moms but I also want to thank my eldest daughter – the mom that has brought so much delight to my life and filled my arms with first sweet babies, and now little girls.

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I have so much respect for my daughter’s calm, quiet way with her children. Sometimes I can’t keep my grandmother/mother mouth shut about “do this or try that”, but really and truly my first child to have children is such a graceful, smart, giving mother, evidenced by her two adventurous, creative, caring small daughters. And I thank her for sharing them with me, always the best part of my week.

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So the last Text Me, Love Mom Mother’s Day quiz question – what message does the mother in the book text to her children at the close of the final chapter?  Thanks to all those who have had fun with my quiz, I’ll send a signed copy to the reader with the most correct answers in the comments section.  And to you all – Happy Mother’s Day.

Interviewed by the Wall Street Journal On Texting My Kids!

Texting, text, text, text. Text, text, text. Texting. It’s what we see all around us.  We are all staring down at our phones. Aliens spying from the heavens would believe it is the way us humans choose to communicate.  Sitting in a restaurant recently, gabbing away with a big group of family, we observed two young women sitting opposite each other in a booth waiting for their meals, but not looking at each other, just  texting, texting, texting.  One of the teens in our party suggested that they might be texting each other.

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I titled my book about the years my kids were departing home and all the transitions and escapades and sometimes strange and frightening times – Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest (available from Amazon).  It’s doubtful as I first started typing  away in my little office –  looking out over a snowy back yard, and then fresh buds of spring turning to leafy summer foliage, followed by autumn leaves scattering across the yard, and so it went round and round the years – that I could possibly have imagined how much even I would text.  Text, text, text. Text, text.

My pace was slow walking along Vancouver’ False Creek Seawall while texting my eldest daughter back in my home city. Walking and texting – one of those things you say you won’t do, but you do. The ding of an old-school style email interrupted the trill of another text.  The email was from Sue Shellenbarger, a journalist for the Wall Street Journal and the author of their ‘Work & Family’ column. Shellenburger was asking if she could interview me about how parents and children communicate via text.  Wow, could she ever.  It’s a hot topic that I am known to go on about a bit too much, even as I continue to evolve my texting style with my twenty-something kids.  I’d tell her how the guys text differently than the girls, how my peers text differently than young people and that my sons have actually given me direction on how to illicit responses from them.

Nervous about being interviewed, in the next forty-eight hours I met up with or called, and yes texted, Zoë, Cole, Hudson and Lily. It was fun, and again educational to chat purposefully with my kids about texting.  I took copious notes and referred back to my own book. Shellenbarger was a calm and reassuring interviewer.  We had a long and engaging conversation.  I don’t know how that will translate to what appears in her Sept. 9th column in The Wall Street Journal.  It’s always curious to see how an interview is interpreted into a column.  I’ll share a link to it in a blog post next week, and if she doesn’t cover all my tips on texting with adult kids I’ll share those, too.tmlm with backpack

Vancouver, Canada’s most splendid west coast city has had a dry, hot summer. We were there to see our son Hudson’s film, Faith, win the  Audience Choice Award in a student film festival.  The weather turned the next day and the rains beat down as I drove to our cottage in B.C’s interior on the shore of Shuswap lake. Yesterday the clouds hung low, with rays of sun dappling the still green leaves only intermittently.  There was a melancholy mood to the day as I prepared for my upcoming departure to our Calgary home, stacking lawn chairs, scooping water out of the paddle boat before covering it for winter, bringing in a geranium too beautiful to be ravished by fall storms.  Yet, during all that I was involved in text conversations with all four of my kids. That isn’t a common occurrence anymore.  Days and days can go by without me communicating with some of them.  (The boys anyways.) They all had something novel come up and were sharing it with me; exciting, frustrating, a new challenge.  Each kid’s texting was representative of their personality, from fervent and fast-paced to calm and sporadic. kayak with feet

Today is different.  They’ve all gone back to their other tasks. It’s my sister and a friend whose texts trill to me this morning. The lake is calm. The sun is out. I vow to leave my phone in the house and go out in the kayak to paddle and wonder what Sue Shellenbarger will make of our conversation about text, text, texting in her ‘Work and Family’ column in The Wall Street Journal next week.  Stay tuned.