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.

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.

 

Ah – Summertime – Sweet, Sweet Summertime.

It’s June 23rd. The days are long but we’ve past the very longest day of the year – which might make me melancholy – accept I’m forever mindful of that schools out schedule, and so feel that summer stretches before us still, in all it’s short sweet Canadian glory.  apple blossoms

The apple blossoms have faded but the peonies are still blossoming and hanging their lovely heavy heads. yellow peony

It’s disheartening to know they will droop and scatter their generous petals soon but in a few days the garden vegetables will be ready and my favorite – the raspberries – will follow.

 

One of my earliest memories is of picking raspberries beside my grandmother in a magical patch of juicy red sweetness that absolutely enveloped me.

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And there will be days and nights at the lake – kayak and canoe trips sliding over the still water, swims at sunset and campfires after dusk. rose swims

 

 

Evenings with family or friends gathered around an outside table slurping up the sweetness of peaches and cream listening for the call of a loon on the lake and seeing flashes of fireworks on another shore. girls play

So the longest day has come and gone but summer is only just begun …

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

The Baby Would Be Alice, and the Book Alice In The Womb – So Hygge

Candle light, bundled-up babies, knit sweaters, warm coffee with close friends. I’ve just been learning about  ‘hygge’ – a Danish term for the art of accepting the long dark days of winter and taking a gentle respite with them, the concept of restorative coziness and making ordinary moments more meaningful. While making cranberry sauce and watching The Gilmore Girls revival on a snowy evening (very hygge) I heard the most delightful quote – ‘I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.’ – Ralph Waldo Emerson.lucy nap

Oh, so true. How books make us. And too, how we make books. When my eldest daughter, an artist and lover of science, was pregnant – she sat quietly with winter storms outside, and sketched the embryonic happenings going on inside her womb. Her soft sensual drawings of egg to babe are scientifically accurate but are surrounded by imagined creatures, flora and fauna.  The baby would be named Alice, and the book, Alice in the Womb.

Alice in the Womb, is so hygge. It’s visual narrative engenders a feeling of well being andshea-drawing-by-rose thus it’s an unique and soothing  colouring book, and a beautiful learning tool (the drawings are numbered for referral in the glossary), but most of it details the rich inner life of nine months in the womb.

blocks-by-roseMy daughter now has a second daughter – and has created a second book – the wild and unusual ABC Monstrosity and 123 – for kids and grownups to colour or read. With two small children and an eclectic art practice, her days of hygge are fewer, but she couldn’t be more content then on her trips to the nearby post office with a cozy little one’s mittened hand in hers, and copies of Alice in the Womb or ABC Monstrosity to deliver to destinations far and wide. alice-in-sleighOrder now from Shea Proulx through Etsy or Amazon and you’ll receive them in time for the holiday season – packaged with lots of love.

Click here for  Alice in the Womb from Amazon and ABC and 123 Monstrosity from Amazon.

Click here for   Both books from Etsy

 

 

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.

Grown-up Coloring Time!

Just hanging out at the lake and rather than cleaning up last night’s BQ mess or encouraging the wasps to back off, I updated my Goodreads. I love Goodreads until I see all the books I marked ‘want to read’ and have to take a deep breath and know that it’s just wishful thinking. So there I was cooling off from the summer heat with a glass of lemonade, filling the hummingbird feeder, then cruising Goodreads when surprise – I found a review of my artistic daughter, Shea Proulx’s, ABC Monstrosity. The reviewer was exclaiming over how fun and original and different than all the other kids ABC’s it is.  It’s a recto verso book, which means you turn it around (and upside down) and there is another book at the back. That one is a Counting 1-2-3 made up of a compilation of pictures of items that parent’s days are full of – one sippy cup, two rubber duckies, three soft spoons, four plug protectors … you get the picture.

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The ABC side is a clever visual narrative that tells a story for kids, while it teaches them with crazy made-up words and real science. Oh, did I mention that it is an adult colouring book to boot.  You can colour the fun objects as they build up on the pages and when you’ve made it all lovely give it as a gift to someone you love. She’s a smart kid, that daughter of mine, and I love the story time treat she’s created. This is her second adult coloring book – the first is Alice in the Womb a whimsical picture story of a human baby’s growth in utero, surrounded by a “creature filled dreamland”.

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If you find comfort, relaxation or creativity with adult colouring I don’t mind telling you how to get hold of your own copies of ABC Monstrosity and Alice in the Womb. They are both available on  Amazon.com  and  Etsy.com . The artist is one of the Text Me, Love Mom kids all grown-up.  http://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712 

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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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