And This Is A Good Omen?

We had this freaky issue at our cottage by the lake this summer. A skinny, slithering, sneaky problem that had me unnerved. At our lakeside place, one might occasionally see wildlife we are unaccustomed to at home – though I have say that our urban city life actually contains a plethora of bunnies, and deer – and recently a bobcat or two. I’ll attempt yo chase away the deer (good Luck), rarely get to see the bobcat and well bunnies are … bunnies. I’ll take any of those critters over the ones we were almost tripping over lakeside – because what we had hanging out at our cottage in the early summer were – snakes! Garter snakes and non venomous, but slithering and unnerving and creepy all the same.  You can’t talk me out of my views here – I’ve been told of their merits – that they eat mice – I’ll take mice. And yeah there is that they were here before I was argument – give me a break. Even Disney’s Mowgli couldn’t be trusted.

snake word

The previous summer I accidentally stepped on one and the devil bit me. I hardly felt it at the time and was more upset by the two creepy snake-teeth marks visible on my ankle. After ‘that attack’ things changed. Previously we might occasionally have a snake sighting – a flicker across the rocks and then nothing. But a couple of them settled in, sunning themselves on the rock ledge with impunity.

 

Don’t try to make me like them. Don’t try to even make me appreciate them. My husband and I lay in bed the morning after the bite and googled snakes and how to get rid of them. The googling was frightening!  We read of snake invasions and basements filled with writhing snakes and snake nests.  Hec we’d seen Raiders of the Lost Arc’s snake pit – we didn’t need all the damn photos – thank you very much. FYI – Did you know that mother snakes never meet their babies? Mama lays her eggs and checks out. They are that cold-hearted.

snake photo

I always viewed my dad as a big strong protective guy. When I was frightened of bears as a little kid on a camping holiday – he told me not to worry, he would keep me safe from bears. But even as I kid I knew he wouldn’t make the same promise with snakes – because my strong tough dad has a snake phobia. I don’t have that. I can look at them, but I can’t stare too long into their beady little eyes. Google says you have to get rid of their habitat. But it’s our rock retaining wall that holds the mountain hillside away from our place. One fine June day my daughter saw five of them hanging out at once – she spent an afternoon photographing them while I read about snakes (one snake can have 40 eggs) and snake deterrents – sulfur and clove oil and garlic. I planned to somehow plaster the huge wall with vats of all three. I phoned a local pest exterminator and was told, “You have to take them away in a bucket with the use of snake tongs.  And,” he said rather gruffly, “we don’t do snakes.”

My next move was to put an ad up on Kijiji for an authentic Pied Piper to magically pipe them away. If you were planning to visit us with your own snake fears – don’t worry – I was on this.

And then presto… as if they could hear my snake tongs clacking the snakes seemed to disappear. They haven’t been seen since they modeled for my brave daughter. Though all summer before I picked the raspberries below the rock wall I banged on the rocks (snakes don’t have ears but they do sense sound) and I fiercely called out, “Go away snakes. Go away.”  And one more FYI – it’s supposed to be a good omen to be bitten by a snake. I dare you to seek that out.

raspberries in bowl

 

 

I don’t usually write about snakes leaving home, but if you enjoyed this you may want to read this ….  Text Me, Love Mom: Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest

Being An Adult Kid

I 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 a deck 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 then my sister.

The deck rocked with the rolling water from all the ski boat 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 senior’s 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 place of ours 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.

(If you’d like to read more by Candace Allan – see Text Me, Love Mom – the book.

I’ll Be Home For Christmas

As I hustle and bustle and get ready for three of my grown and flown kids to return for Christmas,  and dream of a little bit of snow, I thought I’d post my reader’s favorite holiday blog.

“I’ll be home for Christmas; you can count on me” … such simple words, but where is home? – I suppose my immediate answer is where my mom and dad are.  I did spend all my Christmas’s with my folks until I became a parent myself – I recall the bustle of Christmas Eve, so pleasurably and wildly chaotic with five siblings and later  girlfriends and boyfriends and always so much to do, the early dusk arriving and still wrapping perfume sets, or walkie talkies  and macramé plant hangers, someone calling out for tape, or shouting for their turn in the shower, or sneaking into the once-a-year-special marshmallow peanut butter squares, too sugary delicious to wait for, then curling our hair for church and marching through snow drifts to get to the car.

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“Please have snow and mistletoe And presents under the tree” … And suddenly there was a transition.  I was married with our first little baby and though my parent’s house was just a ten minute drive away – home had shifted.  I wanted to leave the jumble of family at my parents and wake up with my tiny girl and husband to share something sweet together around our first tippy decorated tree.  Since all those years ago we’ve usually managed a crazy mix of several homes, my parent’s, mine and my in-law’s  -except the two years that we brought home our wee baby boys, both born weeks before the holiday.  Those years we stayed put on the coast where my husband was in law school, more for the baby’s sake and mine.  On each of those home came to us – our parents or siblings arriving with tiny outfits and trinkets to fill the stockings of bright new Christmas babies.

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“Christmas Eve will find me, Where the love light gleams”…   My four kids are grown and have almost always come home for Christmas.  I’ve felt the exhilaration of them returning from university with plane loads of students, most thrilled to be away leaving independent lives, but back in parents arms at the airport you can hear the audible sigh of home. The first year that one of our four didn’t join us for the big unwrap fest and Christmas morning wife saver egg strata with o.j and champaign, all three of the females in the family hid our weepy tears. Our eldest son was gainfully employed working through the holiday season as a liftie on the slopes of Whistler resort, and the rest of us couldn’t have been more conscious of the miles and miles between him and home as we steamed the Christmas pudding, carved turkey and settled in around the table.

“I’ll be home for Christmas….” Of course, home is here now in this house where I raised my kids. I’m cooking today for Christmas Eve. In the wee hours I searched through recipes for something new, thinking that perhaps I’d switch it up, try a fish pie or seafood casserole, but sometimes you just want the same in this life.  Like the year I finally got too embarrassed of the poorly stitched oddly shaped stockings I’d made when the kids were small.  I bought lovely, bright, too big felt ones – who knew that my four darlings were quite attached to my sloppy efforts from years past?  I imagine they’ll be looking for the same old-same old Christmas Eve fare – cracker crumb fried oysters, rice pilaf and rich butter tarts.

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It’s quiet in the house this morning. Snow is falling in the backyard, covering the urban rabbit tracks.  The peace will change soon with adult kids home for the holidays, coming and going, calling out to each other. Tape will be missing again and showers coveted.  But that same son, who left us for Whistler years back, had a rare chance to go travelling.  We’ll try to be more grown up about it.  He’s in Thailand where I imagine on the eve of the 24th in a quiet moment it’ll be odd for him, too.  He’ll imagine us gathered around the tree or the table and maybe, despite his exotic location, he’ll close his eyes and for a few moments – our boy be home for Christmas, if only in his dreams…

You can still purchase Text Me, Love Mom tales for a mom on your list (or a feel-good gift for yourself) online and in print at  http://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712 

September Takes My Breath Away

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

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

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

 

A Magical Backyard Garden – My Inherited Mom’s Day Gift

Mother’s Day and the Gift of the Backyard Garden

Vibrant little green peas, the smell of carrots with specks of soil still clinging to them, earth with the aroma of green onions – the promise of the backyard feeds my soul. Every May the calendar days around Mother’s Day and my internal genetic calendar push me to turn over my tiny plot of soil, buy a handful of pretty seed packages, and tuck their contents into rows ready to water.  It’s a tradition passed on to me from my mom and her mother, like colouring Easter eggs around Good Friday, and picnics on a blanket on a warm summer day.

nanny's yard picnic

On Mother’s Day when my four kids were little and excited to make me a tray in bed with the most delicious passion-filled luke warm pancakes, overcooked eggs, and bowl of Captain Crunch, I would elicit their dad to help me sneak pass them because always at that time of year the empty garden spots among the blossoming trees were just begging me to prance around on the dewy lawn and be lifted up by the best work I know. I’d run back to bed for my tray of child-love when it was ready.

My mom taught me the simple beauty and deep satisfaction of the vegetable garden. It was her favorite work too. She has five children and I have four. Raising a family is chaotic and chore-filled, and raising a garden takes you into another space for a short reprieve from groceries and laundry, meals and cleaning, ferrying little ones from here to there. Somehow in the garden you find time to dream a little dream while kneeling in the soft grass with seeds in hand, pushing aside an earth worm, thinking about how the summer might go, of people standing barefoot picking peas, or biting into the strawberries the squirrels don’t steal. It’s time away from time.

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I joke with my family that, “It’s all going to be okay. I’ve got the fall harvest in,” when in reality my eight by six foot bed of vegetables only supplies a few colourful meals and delightful raw snacks, not like my grandmother’s farm garden that was needed for survival ‘in the early days’. Still after retiring to the luxuries of town, my Nanny, an image of independence, planted a back yard garden; hills of potatoes and squash, rows of beans and peas, carrots and beets, circled by cornflowers and raspberries, and she did that until she was ninety-four-years old.  It’s my inherited Mother’s Day gift, from my mom, and her mom to be drawn outdoors with a reverence for the sun and the soil and the magic ability that nurturing the earth has to calm and sooth us, to take us to a sweet spot every May of hope and inspiration.  (Discover more at Amazon.com )

seeds in garden

Can I Say It Again -‘Look Up’

mom-and-dad-anniversaryIt’s February today – the month of love. We need more love – not just now, always. During a previous late winter I wrote about wanting to start a campaign. Let me say it all again: It doesn’t have to be on every bus bench or t-shirt or go viral on the internet.  It is 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 a stranger.  Smile at your partner.  Smile at the person at the next table.  The one right beside you at the transit station.IMG_0865

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 table, and I immediately reach for my phone – the phone that connects me with all the people I love.  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 be waiting 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 lovely setting sun, the small birds on the horizon, the row of frosty trees.  best-rainbow

Or I’m alone having a pick-me-up in a favourite coffee shop – so 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’.  mike-and-i-on-patio-summer

On a recent wet and windy day I stepped into that warm coffee spot to view the customers in the line-up, and those hunkered down at the tables with their half-sweet-non-fat-extra- hot-vanilla-whatever’s all looking down, hiding with their many sized screens.  “Look Up,” was what I wanted to bravely call out.  “Look Up. Look Up. Look Up.”phone-booth I have a new idea on this first day of February – go out without your phone. I know it’s scary. But try it. Just try it. Just think your thoughts. XO

Hey! Stop Spying On Me!

What I wanted for my birthday was an Itbit , you know – that sleek looking device you wear on your wrist that tells you if you’d walked like 10,000 steps in a single day.  Ten thousand is a lot of steps.   But that’s not the aspect of Itbit that is freaking me out right now. It also monitors my sleep. Cool, I thought, I’ll wear it 24/7 and let it tell me about my dreams (almost).  The first time after a so-so night’s slumber, when I looked at my iPhone screen where Itbit gives its report, I got all feisty and argumentative. There’s no way, I haven’t slept nine hours in years. Oh, but I was restless twenty-two times and one of those lasted for two hours and seventeen minutes.  I took it up with my still sleeping husband, “This stupid gadget thought I went to bed when I had that two hour nap on the couch during our rewatching of The Sopranos for five hours last night.”

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“So don’t wear it,” he said, all gruff and practical and Tony Soprano like.  “It doesn’t just track your breathing and heart rate, does it? Some of those restless recordings could be me moving, all the more reason we should get a king size bed.” He is all over the king bed idea these days. Tony and Carmella have a king size bed.

But I had to wear it that morning.  I had my going to the gym clothes on – the outfit that makes people think that I’m the kinda woman that eats granola and yogurt and goes to the gym. And now on the mornings that I do drag my sorry ass to the gym what would be the point if I wasn’t wearing this damn exercise tracker. The first time I wore it and checked my iPhone to see what my Itbit and tattled about my ‘workout’ I decided that the damn thing had a broken chip.  But it turns out that you have to do more than a fifteen minute whirlwind of ‘I came in, I lifted some things, I left for Starbucks’ for the gadget to care.

sopranos

Speaking of which, my Itbit wants me to tell it how much water I drink each day and what I eat. I’m not telling it everything.  Somethings are going to stay my business.  I want to ask it “Who wants to know?”, because the other night I was sitting in the kitchen at my old-school PC tower computer exploring hotel options for a mother/daughter get away to taste wine in Napa Valley. I was drawn away from my hotel sleuthing by the Soprano soundtrack and joined my hubby downstairs to watch Tony checking out colleges with Meadow and then murder a guy. Itbit interrupted with a beep to show me a text from my daughter, but my arm isn’t long enough for how puny its font is so I took up my phone.  The text said she thought one of her brothers had posted a photo on Facebook that showed his possible new girlfriend in the background. (It wasn’t WikiLeaks but it was intriguing espionage.) So there I was sitting on the couch on Facebook on my cell – onto something else completely different than I had been upstairs at the ancient computer, and up pops ads on my phone encouraging me to consider a whole whack of alternate  Napa Valley hotels and adjacent wineries.

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Okay kids – I can figure out how that happened in your freaking new world.  I get it. But stop spying on me everyone.  It’s too much.  I’ll sleep when I sleep and eat what I want and go to the gym for fifteen minutes if I feel like it. Itbit is going to take a long nap in a drawer. Except for tomorrow….when I keep a date for a long walk with my girlfriend, because what’s the point of a long walk if this dumb gadget doesn’t congratulate me for it.