Staying Separate and Apart – Together

To write this story or not – but I’m a writer and it’s what I have to offer. I’m isolated with part of my big family…

Since I was a kid in grade four I’ve found joy and solace by putting words to paper (screen). As we all hunker down in our homes I feel the need to write. I want to share the family humour, the lightness of humanity and the very tough bits too.

To catch you up – here’s a brief tale of our situation at our ‘camp’ away from the world, though at the same time as we’re away we are deeply engrossed in events unfolding everywhere. I was out of the country with my adult daughters for a special short trip. We knew to be cautious in our travels – handiwipes in our purses, hand washing everywhere, hanging together. Even on our return we weren’t worried. Social distancing wasn’t a thing that first day. It was more than 24 hours after that when our world started to be dumped upside down with the disturbing frightful realization of how Coronavirus had insidiously crept into our province.

It was recommended that my husband work away from home because of my having come from away. We decided he would head to our cottage and prepare it in case any of our adult kids wanted to isolate. (It was the beginning of the odd toilet paper hoarding – though honestly folks we legitimately needed some). He packed the truck up with supplies as if it was a family retreat over a summery long weekend but this time he had cleaning products instead of blow up beach toys and canned goods, not marshmallows.

Our youngest daughter was studying for an important graduate entrance exam and followed him. Her big sister is the mom of our two young granddaughters and her husband was out of the country not aware yet that he’d have to head home. So there I was with my husband telling me to follow him to the cottage on the lake to finish this isolation time, but I felt like a big mother hen and needed to take care of my eldest daughter and my granddaughters, at least until her husband was homeward bound. So we were hanging together at bit over meals, the girls doing art at my kitchen table, their mom and I trying to sort out what everyone everywhere was sorting.

It was March 12th and snowing, not that usual spring snow which is heavy and wet and perfect for snowmen, but instead light flakes blowing and drifting through the night and day. Normally another flipping snow storm would be enough to fill social media with chatter but I remember the weather wasn’t mentioned as we all caught up with the threat of the virus and were deep in social media attention mode.

Waiting for my son-in-laws return and the snow to stop making the roads treacherous – I started to pack. But hold on – what was I packing for? … the now recommended fourteen days after travel to be over? Or some long otherworldly escape for how long …? Would I want outfits to maybe go out locally in the early spring sunshine in another week? Or comfy clothes to be sick with some version of the virus? Was I taking a stack of books to read near the calm lake til it was all clear – or bleach, disposable gloves and lotion for hands we’d be scrubbing for who-knows- how long?

We have four ‘kids’ – two sons in another city, sharing a home with one of their girlfriends. More mother hen – I had to know what they were doing as the numbers of people being tested for the damn virus was slowly growing. I was worried about our boys and the girlfriend – all in the entertainment business whose jobs had closed up – but the boys were more concerned for us in this world of the Coronavirus where at our age we were annoyed at being counted among the older folks and in that broad demographic that was most at risk of serious trouble. The mind spins . Damn it I’m not near ‘elderly’. The guys worried that if they’d unknowingly been exposed they could pose a risk to us. I wanted them to leave the threat of the big city and be exactly where we were. We talked a lot. None of us had any knowledge that we’d been directly exposed. Had we in our travels? Had they in contact with a wide swath of folks at work? We changed our minds and changed them again and decided to come together and practise being apart together – however that would look.

Normally in my life I’m pulled tight into my own city by my dad whose in a senior’s residence and wants our company desperately. But I couldn’t visit him. I was ‘free’ to go. (That’s a whole other story to be gently told).

My mom passed last year – oh Mommy, you never ever could have imagined all this. The whole world is so far off kilter, nervous and stunned, watching numbers go up, and now our government is calling Canadians home. When does that happen?

I drove down the highway alone, trying not to stop – so aware that I was isolating from others but feeling the separation of people from me. There were some cars but mostly it was the truckers and me . It took me so long to pack extra who- knows- what for a trip of indeterminate length and purpose that I was amused at my own indecision. Tucked in with a box of chocolates I couldn’t resist in the car were weights for exercising, and my sewing machine ??? I had high boots for deep snow and sandals for hot weather. Should I bring the hair dye from the back of the cupboard though it’s not my current fav colour’? Those young women can go falsely grey but I’m still fighting the good fight.

I passed the biggest herd of elk I’d ever seen standing in a tight group beside the road in the moonlight. No social isolating for them. When I arrived at our cottage my husband was asleep and my daughter headed to bed. It was calm. The lake was still. A slip of moon shone over it. But beyond the mountains I’d driven over, the world was changing, changing, changing.

Text Me, Love Mom – the book is coming!

better nestI’m so excited to tell you that Text Me, Love Mom – Navigating (Not Stalking) First Flights From the Nest – the book, will be available this summer of 2014 from Iguana Books. I can hardly wait. The painting on the cover will be the art work of my daughter, Shea Proulx.

Our four kids left home in quick succession. Not enough time passed between Zoë, the oldest, moving away to attend art school and Lily, the baby, running off to another city at just seventeen to test her independence.
In this age of bubble wrapping our kids, letting go of them isn’t easy. Text Me, Love Mom – Navigating (Not Stalking) First Flights From The Nest is the story of four artistic characters who queue up to leave the family home at a rapid pace. The media would have us believe that we have overindulged, overprotected and generally, now that parent is a verb, over-parented our kids. I was able to stay connected and endure their flights from home with the aid of satellite communications, during this anxious time of back and forth texting, calling, consoling, and applauding that goes on as everyone in our family got their bearings again. Text Me, Love Mom – Navigating (Not Stalking) First Flights From The Nest offers an opportunity to contemplate and laugh over the perpetual trial and error of another stage of parenting.
So excited to share.

Look Up – and Love the Ones You’re With

It’s spring, the weather is warming, the trees are budding a fresh happy green, and I want to start a campaign. It doesn’t have to be on every bus bench, or t-shirt, or go viral on the internet.  It’s made up of two simple words, ‘Look Up’.  Look Up.  Look Up.  Look Up. Though, my campaign has a subtitle – ‘Love the One You’re With‘.  So right now, stop staring at your screen for a minute and smile at someone nearby.  Smile at your partner.  Smile at the person at the next table.  The one right beside you at the transit station.

Didn’t you go out to a coffee shop to escape the loneliness of working at home?    So let your eyes, and your humanity, drift away from focusing on your iPad.  Take a break from texting on your cell phone. Look Up from the work, or play, that is keeping your attention on your laptop.  Engage a stranger, if only with just a smile.

I am guilty, too.  I have to wait to meet a friend at a restaurant, and I immediately reach for my phone.  I hear that twinkly sound of  ‘you’ve got a text’ and I’m immediately eager to see who is reaching out to me.  “No, just Look Up”, I tell myself. The greeting will wait for me, if I just resist the urge to look down – away from the world unfolding around me, the toddler impressing his parents at the next booth, the waitress who might linger at my table, or I could gaze out the big window –  see the golden setting sun, the small birds on the horizon, the row of purple tulips.

Perhaps I’m alone having a pick-me-up in a favourite coffee shop –  what do I do? Voila, I reach for the comfort of my phone, to check my text messages, my email messages and maybe even Google the weather.  Instead, I could resist the temptation to touch my cool perfectly weighted phone (thanks Steve) and smile at a stranger, or pause to connect with a silly comment about the weather, the way people used to – in the old days – sharing a thought with someone new.  Worse is when we can’t resist the sneak a peak at the iphone when we’re not alone, but are with friends or family that we’ve sought out, or who have sought us out, to spend a few low-tech minutes of actual straight up human connection.  That’s where the subtitle comes in – the ‘Love the one (s) your with’.

On a recent wet and windy day I stepped into that warm coffee shop to view the customers in the line-up, and those hunkered down at the tables with their half-sweet-non-fat-extra-hot-vanilla-what ever’s all looking down, hiding with their many sized screens.  “Look Up,” was what I wanted to bravely call out.  “Look Up and Smile.” 

Ding Ding – You Have A Text

Texting has been a part of the way I communicate for so long I can’t remember doing without it.  The urban dictionary’s sassy and irreverent definition of text is “text messaging is the act of sending a typed message via cell phone; a very efficient and addicting way of communication,”  but their alternate definition is, “The dumbest thing in the world, why would you spend 15 minutes writing something on your phone, when you can call them up and tell them in a minute. F – ing waste of time and money.

I have to say, I agree with both definitions.  But if it is a waste of time, and I could talk instead of text, why did I glum onto to text and never let go?  Because with our boys it was their preferred way of communication – fast, efficient and when they were younger – one of them hanging with his snowboarding crew at Whistler, or the other during his first months at university, I imagined they could hear the little ding ding of a text and swiftly text me back.  I do think they wanted to communicate with home, and in the new world of texting that they were part of, they could whip off a message to me, just to let me know that everything was cool, and none of the guys around them with bent heads and tapping thumbs knew it was mom they were updating, it could just as easily be a girlfriend or someone getting directions to the next party they were off to.

My first feeble attempts to text back when Hudson, our youngest son, first started university away from home had him sending me a mocking text, Mom, lernt to text and spel. My keyboard was tiny, three letters to a key, and my thumbs inexperienced.  Plus I had autocorrect and my messages were constantly being autocorrected to autowrong. When my three youngest let me into their texting world they used abbreviations with me, but after too many texts saying, Hudson, I don’t know what rofl (rolling on the floor laughing), or Cole, I’m stymied. Did you really mean to type PMS?  And him explaining, Mom it’s P.M.S. meaning Pretty Much the Same.   I thought I was catching on to some of the lingo and at the end of a sentence to our youngest daughter, Lily, wrote Peace.  She had to text back, Mom, Peace is like Peace Out, when the conversation is over.  It DOESN’T mean its the other person’s turn to talk. 

I once texted Lily a funny story about her dad and I finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning when we didn’t have to play the parent role in a house empty of kids, and she sent me back this – “Oh Mom MSOOMN”.  I was finally onto the Urban Dictionary and looked that one up –  “An acronym for Milk Shooting Out Of My Nose. An alternative for ROFL or LMAO (laughing my ass off).” Wow, MSOOMN – I’ll use that one, I thought.  But the kids stopped using text abbreviations with their old school mom.  They spell it all out.  I spell it all out.

Our oldest, Zoё, would rather talk then text, maybe because her hands are busy creating art, and she can tuck a phone under her chin.  Cole is a fast efficient texter, and almost always responds to my text queries.  Hudson, like Zoё, is text stingy, but I can get his attention, and if asked a direct question he would sooner text me back then listen to my voice mail message.  In fact, he’s let me in on a youthful secret.  Don’t leave voice mails, Mom.  Nobody does that any more. If I see you’ve called.  I’ll call back.  But if you leave a voice mail, then I know what you want and I’m less curious.  I think I get it – it’s a lesson in technological manipulation.

During our years of texting I have been guilty of many infractions, as defined by my new resource – the often helpful, but occasionally annoying Urban Dictionary.  Cole, Lily and I might be text addicts, but not textaholics, though according to Urban Dictionary definitions during our text volleyball we have of course, engaged in text tiffins (arguing via text messaging), and even text tirades, which has of course, caused text anxiety defined in the Urban dictionary as- “when you are texting someone and they don’t answer creating anxiety of why they aren’t texting, are they mad, are they being arrested, or what is taking them so damn long?

I have been entertained by lively text-versation, have sent countless text-minders (“Grampa’s birthday tomorrow – call him, he doesn’t text”), and on days when I was busy with my own work, or trying to avoid it, I’ve sent all my family different text missives, having learned on my own to only ever ask one question at a time to receive an answer, and then waited for the little ding dings indicating one of them have answered me.  I have sent far too many text pas, usually involving sending a text to the last person that texted me, instead of the intended recipient – yikes!  Hudson has frustrated us all with his many textascapes  – an escape from all texting or other text based communications. Commonly occurring due to losing ones phone, and realizing shortly there after just how relaxing the break from technology is. 

    I’ve witnessed my kid’s blossoming text romances right from the text mackaginga message sent with the purpose of ‘macking’ or ‘hitting’ on a person of desire. Flirtatious in nature, usually cryptic or ambiguous in hope for a response. And then seen them go on to engage in back and forth text flirting.  And let me tell you, any text sex better have taken place behind closed doors.  If I have butt into their text business it was to warn them against ever being so pathetic as to commit the text relationship dump.

Myself, I have tried not to be a text stalking mother, or to suffer text blindnessA person afflicted with text blindness is so absorbed by walking and texting that they have lost the ability to see oncoming danger. I have caused textafusion with unchecked typos.   I know I have used the text stretch or even the text embargo to try to illicit a response (usually to no avail – it was probably in my first enthusiastic days of texting and some quiet from my cell phone was what they wanted)

On the other side of that I have been the recipient of the text that said simply, “Mom, I’m lonelyOr the more practical, “How much milk do you use to scramble two eggs? I’ve gotten a photo with a text that said, Does this raw beef look edible or like it’s gone bad?”  And of course the, “Please help, I’ve got 58 cents in the bank and my phone bill is overdue.”  There has also been the late night text, “Mom, you awake?” before a long conversation in the dark living room. Best of all I have felt the thrill of the text surge on a quiet day at home, missing all the chaos and noise of a house full of our family, when I’ve heard the repeated ding-ding of a new text, and then – oh joy – another and another.

Bridesmaids, Popcorn and Babies

Now here is something that didn’t exist when I was home with babies –  Stars and Strollers, the afternoon matinees just for parents ( and grandmas, and eager aunties, and friends) and – get this – babies.  My daughter,  Zoe, and my oh so adorable one-year-old granddaughter came to visit and we decided we had to give this a try.   We picked a movie that we really wanted to see (maybe that was a mistake), which unfortunately was only playing way, way across the city (perhaps our second boo-boo) and headed off to meet a friend of Zoe’s and her one-year-old little guy, and to observe the darling chaos of it all.

The movie was Bridesmaids and for a Wednesday afternoon there appeared to be a pretty big turn out of mostly new mommies and teeny weeny babies. I noticed a few grandmothers in the crowd, amongst the stroller pushers.  My youngest daughter, Lily, wanted to see the movie, but not as much as she wanted to hang with her out-of-town tiny niece at the theater, so she was with our group, as well.

The lobby was a stroller-a-thon though the  two women purchasing tickets ahead of me were being charged regular price for not having a under two-year-old with them (which is what the fine print on the Cineplex web site says would happen), but they successfully argued they should be entitled to the same discount the rest of us were getting for the inconvenience of being surrounded by all those babies.  Now I have to say right off, if they really came to enjoy the movie, the constant interruption wasn’t worth the discount, but if they came to take in the sight of forty plus moms trying to take pleasure in a movie while nursing and changing and soothing and bouncing forty plus babies – now that was worth the price of admission.

Our driving across town had given grand-baby the chance for a solid nap so after a short period of calmly taking in the dimly lit room full of her baby peers, and then staring at the larger than life characters of Annie and Lillian on screen,  she was ready to sit on mommy’s head, or travel from mommy’s lap to grandma’s lap to auntie’s lap and back again, while experiencing the new sensation of being fed little iddy bits of popcorn. None of the babies cried for very long, rather they all took turns at crying for short periods of time.  Zoe and her friend were critical of the character development in the zany comedy, but who the hec knows how they could have possibly have followed the plot lines while keeping their babies entertained – though they and their movie going peers were all learning to be the mothers-of-all multi-taskers.

I figured twenty-one-year-old Lily would say that sitting amongst a roomful of wah-wah-wah-ing babies was a stupid way to watch a flick, but she loved her niece’s visiting her seat-side to press crumbs of sticky popcorn into her mouth, and insisted she was able to tune out the babies bawling over top of  clever lines such as the bride, Lillian, asking her messed-up bridesmaid, Annie, “Why can’t you be happy for me and then go home and talk about me behind my back like a normal person?”

At the  front of the theater was a changing table, a slightly lit-up spot where you would not miss a second of the soundtrack, but the audience had a clear view of you tending to your infants soiled diaper needs.  We noticed only one man in the entire theatre, and when he was the one to come stand in that light and expertly change his baby, I know most the moms were watching this macho figure in his baseball cap rather than Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph and wondering if their own baby-daddy would be so bold?

Stars and Strollers was an event, a gathering, shared camaraderie amongst a group of pretty new moms, allowing themselves – despite the squawking and wiggling of their infants – a  bit of entertainment on a weekday afternoon.  But I think I’ll go see Bridesmaids again – because I don’t feel like I’ve seen it yet.

Love the One You’re With

Okay, we’ve all read those articles that say the younger generation is losing the ability to communicate face to face.  Now, I imagine that those issuing the scary news are from some ‘far older generation’ – the same writers that speak of the perils of Facebook but have never been on it – not even to ‘creep’ on their kids.  But could there be some frightening truth to their suspicious warnings?

If my kids are texting under the table when they are out with their friends, I could be the one their sending their message to, and vice versa (though I try to be more discerning).  I’ll be going about my day, taking care of business and my mind will drift to thoughts of one of them.  It’s no secret that I miss them.  I mean, I write this blog for whoever to read about how – after having  spend twenty-four years in a crazy whirl wind of raising four kids and having all four move out and away – it is now impossibly hard to not be part of all that.  So I am a efficient, speedy text-er.  But a fifty-one-year-old text-er.  I use punctuation and capitals and my iphone spells for me.

My kids and husband came to texting before I did, and back in the day when they did it while at the same time pretending (poorly) to be conversing with me, I would reprimand them and plead, “Love the one your with.”  I imagined it to be what Miss Manners would suggest.  But what would a young Miss Manners with an iphone say in 2011?

I found this gem on an texting etiquette sight – Reading and sending texts when with someone else (while on a date, for example) tells the one you are with they are less important than the one you are texting.  This doesn’t apply when just hanging out with others. WHAT??  I guess my kids and their friends are absolutely always just hanging out.

So having admitted my texting habit I still wonder what all this texting is about?  Could it possibly be that we don’t want to bug our friends and family with a phone call that might demand their time and attention so decide that a text would be preferable – ie. la de da – respond as you can.  Or, worse –  I can’t be bothered with your chat so if I send this text and you send yours we can still occupy ourselves with our more crucial tasks – like texting someone else and waiting for the little ding-ding of them clicking an answer back.

I’ll admit, too, that I’ve wandered around with my hand in my pocket holding my smooth shiny iphone, comforted stupidly that someone I love can send me a little message or a request for some mom advice.  Is it possible then that we are starting to prefer texting to talking?  Am I?

Just last week I was in Vancouver visiting my kids and lovely grandbaby.  My daughter and I decided we were curious to come see the apartment my son had moved into with his girlfriend.  I texted said son our request, along with an offer of a bottle of wine before I took them all out for dinner.

I texted him, “What time works for dinner?”

He texted me, “7:30.  N has a midterm tomorrow.”

I texted him, “Do you have a restaurant in mind?  Chinese?  Indian?”

He texted me, “How about German expressionism?”  (Sassy guy.)  “Or there is a neighbourhood bar called Malones.”

I texted him, “Remember we have the baby.”  And then I thought, this is silly, and picked up the phone.  We chatted.  We sorted out our evening plans – in less time than all our fingers could tap tap tap out the words.  The texting has the satisfying ding ding – here I am responding again – but talking, with more than 140 character answers, involved my son’s voice and eager laugh and did so, so much more to brighten my day.

 

Talk – Don’t Text, Love Mom

Okay, we’ve all read those articles that say the younger generation is losing the ability to communicate face to face.  Now, I imagine that those issuing the scary news are from some ‘far older generation’ – the same writers that speak of the perils of Facebook but have never been on it – not even to ‘creep’ on their kids.  But could there be some frightening truth to their suspicious warnings?

If my kids are texting under the table when they are out with their friends, I could be the one their sending their message to, and vice versa (though I try to be more discerning).  I’ll be going about my day, taking care of business and my mind will drift to thoughts of one of them.  It’s no secret that I miss them.  I mean, I write this blog for whoever to read about how – after having  spend twenty-four years in a crazy whirl wind of raising four kids and having all four move out and away – it is now impossibly hard to not be part of all that.  So I am a efficient, speedy text-er.  But a fifty-one-year-old text-er.  I use punctuation and capitals and my iphone spells for me.

My kids and husband came to texting before I did, and back in the day when they did it while at the same time pretending (poorly) to be conversing with me, I would reprimand them and plead, “Love the one your with.”  I imagined it to be what Miss Manners would suggest.  But what would a young Miss Manners with an iphone say in 2011?

I found this gem on an texting etiquette sight – Reading and sending texts when with someone else (while on a date, for example) tells the one you are with they are less important than the one you are texting.  This doesn’t apply when just hanging out with others. WHAT??  I guess my kids and their friends are absolutely always just hanging out.

So having admitted my texting habit I still wonder what all this texting is about?  Could it possibly be that we don’t want to bug our friends and family with a phone call that might demand their time and attention so decide that a text would be preferable – ie. la de da – respond as you can.  Or, worse –  I can’t be bothered with your chat so if I send this text and you send yours we can still occupy ourselves with our more crucial tasks – like texting someone else and waiting for the little ding-ding of them clicking an answer back.

I’ll admit, too, that I’ve wandered around with my hand in my pocket holding my smooth shiny iphone, comforted stupidly that someone I love can send me a little message or a request for some mom advice.  Is it possible then that we are starting to prefer texting to talking?  Am I?

Just last week I was in Vancouver visiting my kids and lovely grandbaby.  My daughter and I decided we were curious to come see the apartment my son had moved into with his girlfriend.  I texted said son our request, along with an offer of a bottle of wine before I took them all out for dinner.

I texted him, “What time works for dinner?”

He texted me, “7:30.  N has a midterm tomorrow.”

I texted him, “Do you have a restaurant in mind?  Chinese?  Indian?”

He texted me, “How about German expressionism?”  (Sassy guy.)  “Or there is a neighbourhood bar called Malones.”

I texted him, “Remember we have the baby.”  And then I thought, this is silly, and picked up the phone.  We chatted.  We sorted out our evening plans – in less time than all our fingers could tap tap tap out the words.  The texting has the satisfying ding ding – here I am responding again – but talking, with more than 140 character answers, involved my son’s voice and eager laugh and did so, so much more to brighten my day.