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.

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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.

Do You Remember the Feel of Bike Pedals On Bare Feet?

Remember long July afternoons  when you were maybe, say ten? I do.  I can sit on the front steps with the sun on my face today and recall sucking on homemade orange Tang popsicle while I plotted the rest of my day. Or sharing secrets with a friend in the park, both of us perched on big wooden swings, our feet scuffing in the groove in the earth below us. Or how about being sent off walking to swimming lessons with my siblings, with our underwear rolled in a towel and a quarter for the locker.  Or the jubilation of the hottest nights when my dad said yes, to the sound of the ice cream truck.

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For all of that late July is just the most languidly indulgent time of year. Schools long out, and summers in full swing. The never ending winter is almost forgotten – not like in the crisp days of late August when you can hear it whispering again, “I’m coming, I’m coming.”

But now the afternoon sun heats the sidewalks and bee’s and cricket’s sounds make me lazy and nostalgic for days when I rode a bike in my bathing suit – helmet-less in the days before safety rules – and sometimes even barefoot. Do you remember the feel of bike petals on bare feet? You had to slow down your ride by bumping over the curb and onto the lawn. Or how about summer vacations and roasting a hot dog over a fire that someone else was managing – your bare bug bitten legs hot from the flame, your butt cold from the night temperatures. You couldn’t eat the hot dog fast enough cause after it came the marshmallows – gooey and likely burnt. And if you didn’t bother the grownups around you too much, you could run off after that into a sandy tent or cabin bunk and read Archie comics, or share some giggles with a friend or cousin before you were shouted at to go to bed.

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And so I promise myself on this hot July vacation morning that I’m going to just float in the lake and watch the blue sky, and not chastise myself for this weeks calorie ridden snacks by doing laps from the dock to a buoy and back. I’ll skip the Archie comics and barefoot biking, but I’ll bring out the new bag of soft fresh marshmallows and perch by the fire, immersing myself in a moment in time under the full moon. Which reminds me that the shooting stars of August are coming. Ah August and beach blankets spread over a grassy slope for falling star gazing. Okay – August then is very fine

…if you’d like to read more of my writing check out the book Text Me, Love Mom – available at http://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

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Teens Playing Dress-Up

I spot another skinny teenage boy in an ill-fitting rental suit standing with his date, who took a hundred and ten percent more time imagining, choosing, and adjusting her glamourous outfit for the evening. They are with a fancy dressed crew of their peers laughing and acting giddy after all the attention of the day. I feel happy even for the weather – for the warmth of the evening sun setting on these kids as I drive by them, but mostly I feel nostalgic for the fun we had at my own four kid’s high school graduations.

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It’s June.  And June makes me think about writing the book, Text Me, Love Mom, and how the tale started with my eldest getting that letter in the mail telling all of us that yes, she would be leaving home to go away to college six-hundred miles from home. As nervous as I was (was she more or less so?) it was hard to fathom.  I was still driving her to piano lessons once a week, reminding her to bring a jacket on cool nights, putting in my two cents about – well – most everything. And she was going to somehow go off and live in a faraway city, (never go to another piano lesson) and get up every day and be part of something else entirely separate from us?

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Yes, of course, she was. As excited as those kids are that I pass on June nights, getting out of limos, or milling in parks in their dress-up clothes, maybe even dishing out money in a restaurant before or after a graduation event – somewhere there are parents whose trepidation and worry matched that excitement. The clothes had been bought and the limos rented by moms and dads who didn’t see how that kid would manage without them – their managers. That gang of youths getting ready to party hard had parents who were losing their concentration at work when they thought about their household ticking along with their son or daughter absent from it. Of course, not all the recent grads will go away.  Some of them will get jobs or go to local colleges, but still life changes.  They’ll stake out used furniture and share apartments with friends, travel to countries their parents have never been too, or find their people in another city.  I know now that they do come home to perch now and again, but there is no denying that this dress-up ritual, and the cap and gown, and late late night parties are part of the threshold to a new sort of family life.

Back in my quiet kitchen, which used to be such a hub of activity, I stare out into the yard.  The peonies have bloomed and are dropping their wide luscious petals, and the dark blue delphiniums reach to the sky. I’m stepping out to water a basket of geraniums on the deck when I get a text from our daughter Lily, who also lives 600 miles away now, “Mom, we’re meeting at the lake on the long weekend, right?”

“I’ll be there with bells on,” I text back and then I send a love note to each of her siblings, “It’s me, just checking in…xoxo ”

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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.

 Honouring the Mother of A Good Man

How in this Mother’s Day week could I not mention the mother of my husband – the woman who raised him and his siblings and taught them to be the good, kind and strong people that they are. My mother-in-law has an ultra-adventurous spirit and unlike me, who has called the same city home for most of my life, she has followed her urges to shake things up and change – if not cities and provinces, at least houses. Yesterday I spoke of the gardening gene passed from soul to soul from my grandmother. My husband’s mom is a brilliant artist and this talent has come to life in my daughter and even my small granddaughters. From the three-year-old to the eighty-year-old you can’t hold them back from their creativity, bent over their canvases  all of them can fill an afternoon creating vibrant and wildly imaginative masterpieces, comfortable to focus completely on their muse. thumbnail_FullSizeRender (1)

 

So the question for the Text Me, Love Mom quiz today is:  Where has Zoë moved to when her nervous mom thinks, “What I feared, of course, is that she would move in with a shoddy bunch of eccentric artists who had gone far beyond body piercing, wouldn’t even have parents, and would hardly let me darken their doorstep.”

Answer in the comments section.  The person with the most correct answers this week will receive a signed copy of Text Me, Love Mom, Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest – available from Amazon and other online book sellers.

 

Gardening in the Dark

You know how it goes, you’re making a nice place in the soil for the Sweet Pea seeds you’re going to pick up tomorrow, while your husband plays the banjo on the deck (mine anyway), from there you decide to clean up the delphiniums shoots, imagining their bright blue flowers as you go, and then it’s on to placing the metal rings into the ground that will soon support the fancy big peonies.  A little bug has slipped into your tall glass of water where you left it beside a yellow tulip, and when you step into the house for your pruners to clear the old wood from the raspberries you glance out and see that dusk has fallen over this spring night. And now you are gardening in the dark just for the love of gardening.

It was Nanny, my Grandmother, who graced us with these gardening genes. Her offspring feel her presence with our desire to slip our hands into warm soil, and arrange fresh new shoots, to imagine the future of lacy blossoms, letting go of our worries and losing pieces of time creating green spaces and bright bursts of colour.  So it is that in this Mother’s Day week I’ll dedicate the second quiz about my book, Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys; One Empty Nest, to Nanny.

For you smarties that answered yesterday’s question so quickly I’m making this one a wee bit trickier.  The reader who gets the most questions correct this week gets a signed copy of Text Me, Love Mom sent to them.  So – can you tell me where teenage Lily was when her mom sent her this message, “I do it as much for the brief (in this country) results, as for the relaxing pleasure I get from the work.  It’s hard to explain …but playing in the garden does feel, in the same way that writing does, like a time away from time.”

If you haven’t read Text Me, Love Mom – it’s a great Mother’s Day read about that stage of life when kids leave home and families get their balance again – available from Amazon and other online booksellers. Happy Day. thumbnail_IMG_1227

For My Mom: She Said, He Said Mother’s Day Quote Quiz

Text Me, Love Mom – Mother’s Day Week:

This blog is dedicated to my mom, aka Gramma or GG. In her honour it’s high time for some fun, some merriment, some exuberance even. My wonderful 86-year-old Mom just settled back into her home after 4 weeks of rehabilitation from knee replacement surgery.  Along with all sorts of health care professionals my four siblings, my daughters, and I have been mothering the mother, and even more than that we’ve had all hands on deck taking care of our dad (Grandpa) whose whole world was rocked not having Mom in the house they still abide in.

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But hey, it’s the first week of May – Mother’s Day approaches and I’ve decided to have some fun with my book Text Me, Love Mom in celebration of Mama’s everywhere.  Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest is about that time in a family when the kids are leaving home and the folks are striking a new balance with them. But kids do come back, like my fifty-something siblings and I are doing, and the mom is always and forever the mom.  So let’s have some fun ….

If you answer all five quiz questions correctly (there will be one a day until Saturday) I’ll send you a signed copy of Text Me, Love Mom. So drumroll for Tuesday’s question:

Which of the book’s eccentric characters is the narrator referring to in this line in the opening chapter:

“He didn’t even like it when we got rid of an old couch, let alone his sister?”

And this one’s for GG, an avid gardener- Anyone know what type of pink blossoms Text Me, Love Mom is nestled up against in this photo?

You can answer both questions in the comments section.  Happy Mother’s Day Week!!

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Text Me, Love Mom is available at all your favourite on-line book sellers and right here print or on-line:

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

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