Whenever I Want You, All I Have To Do Is Dream

– Everly Brothers, 1958

For years I’ve harbored a dream that I recently imagined I was unbelievably close to executing. Not a word had been posted on my facebook (didn’t want to jinx it) until hours before I was to relish the experience.  When I was a little kid, probably about four years old, my mom, busy with five children, had my older brother and sister take me to the local outdoor rink – back in the good old days when kids could take kids someplace fun. Big Sis got my skates on me, tugged me onto the ice, and directing my brother to take my other hand, they coached me, “One, two, three, glide. One, two, three, glide.” It’s all brilliantly sharp in my memory because I loved it. I mean, I really loved it.

Living in a land where winter snow and cold stretches on and on, I made absolutely certain that my own four kids, Zoë, Cole, Hudson and Lily could skate, so that swishing around a rink with red cheeks and cold toes was a joyful part of the long season. They’ve  left home now, but I’ve continued to lace up and pleasure skate, sometimes with family, sometimes with a good friend, other days just as happily alone, delighting in that push, push, glide across the ice on a crisp winter’s day. And I had a skating dream – the nation’s capital, in Ottawa, Ontario, attempts each winter to maintain the Rideau Canal that runs through the city as ‘the world’s longest skateway’ – how amazing – skating almost eight kilometers through the heart of a metropolitan center.

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It was late in the skating season, but I’d travelled east to assist my sister after she had surgery on her knee, the same sister who had helped teach me to skate. Opting for another traveling ‘first’ I took the train from her home in Toronto, and journeyed four and a half hours north to Ottawa. When I arrived it was cold and dark, but still the weekends possibilities stretched out before me. My husband had flown in to meet me, and sharing a meal in the hotel lounge, where guest’s chatter blended with nostalgic tunes from the piano bar was first on our agenda. I only briefly considered slurping down a bowl of soup, dawning my warm clothes, casting off my sleepiness and hitting my stride with my man – who’d reported seeing hardier skaters gliding over the ice beneath a flurry of new snow.

Waking the next morning so ready to pursue this ice skating dream, I recall feeling sort of jittery. Looking out the window and seeing that snow had turned to rain didn’t squash my anticipation. Even as my husband and I ate our quick breakfast we both imagined that, though it would be less comfortable for us to skate wet, a little water on ‘frozen water’ couldn’t squash our skating trip down the winding canal. We’d been informed that to add to our skating comfort there were warm-up shacks every two kilometers and booths selling hot chocolate and warm Beavertails (squashed cinnamon-y doughnuts).

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It wasn’t until we walked, skates in hand, to the first entrance to this world’s largest skate way and saw the closed black iron gates and signs warning against going onto the canal did it dawn on us that the canal – open to skating the previous evening was now closed up. Below us the canal looked a sorry state with water puddling over the slushy surface, and piped-in music still playing from somewhere near the empty change shack and closed hot chocolate booth.  A helpful citizen directed us to something grandly called, The Rink of Dreams, a small outdoor rink, kept frozen in some mechanical way. We took a few slushy circles around it as a poor consolation along with a half dozen other disheartened skaters. It just wasn’t the same swoosh, swoosh, swoosh over a long distance of discovery that I’d dreamed of. My good husband stayed cheerful buoying my soggy spirits. “Don’t despair,” he said, buying me a warm Beavertail. The temperature is dropping to nineteen below tomorrow. You’ll get your skate in.”

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Let’s face it, you’d have to be in that situation to be holding your breath and hoping for the temperature to drop to freaking nineteen below – I mean, seriously. We shared a meal with charming friends that night and hey, I know what a lucky woman I was to just be so far from home with my supportive man and good people we care about. Still when we came outside again to icy sidewalks and had to tuck our hands deep into pockets I grinned at the cold night. By now we were well acquainted with the City of Ottawa’s website detailing the conditions of their famous canal.  I even got chatty with a staff member that told me, quite honestly, that it was touch and go at that time of the year, though he added, just the previous season the canal had been open a record long sixty consecutive days.

 

We explored the city in the deep chill, following our friends in out of the cold to browse international art collections in Ottawa’s stunning National Gallery. My husband, still eager for me to do this, encouraged me to stay another day while he went home to work obligations.  I kept my chilly fingers crossed, indulged in another sweet crusty Beavertail, thought about dreams and how we feed them, and with enough hours to skate before my flight the next day checked the city web site again – damn. I’d missed the season, the ice conditions had deteriorated too much to rectify it so late in the year.  My canal skating dream was dashed.  Before hailing my cab I texted my four kids with the big lesson I had learned, “When you have a dream that is weather dependent and you arrive in the place to pursue the dream, you should pursue it immediately.”  Such is life, I came home determined not to pout, and immediately bought a basket of bright spring flowers for the kitchen – blue, pink and yellow primulas.  Winter was ending. It was time to herald spring.

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To read Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest – Candace Allan’s book about the crazy and chaotic launching of her four artisticly inclined kids – Zoë, Cole, Hudson and Lily into the wide, wide world – click here  http://www.amazon.ca/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

Big, Big Text-Me-Day

For a number of years, I’ve been following a website which is especially for parents with kids leaving home called, Grown and Flown.  It’s been fun and informative to find the moms (some dads) talking about all the feelings surrounding kids jumping ship to paddle off to the wide, wide world. Of course, I was a captive audience  – I mean really, I wrote a book about that very topic – Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest. My kids matured while I wrote, and then published, my family’s experiences of our four young adults moving away from the nest through various winding paths of education, travel, and simply growing up.  Yet, at this time of year I’m still able to relate to the Grown and Flown parents talk of young adults coming home for the holidays and turning the house upside down with the chaotic energy my husband and I loved and (usually) miss.  Still, I told myself, I’m well passed that now.  I’ve adapted to the house filling with noise and hungry people and shoes and friends and laughter and shouting – for a busy week, and then going quiet again.

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But our youngest, Lily, recently came home for a much longer time – almost six months.  Lily house-sat for us in the summer while working here, and then stayed on, establishing roots again and managing contracts with her photography business. Lily has based herself from home now and again, but she is a traveler and not ready to stay put, yet every time that she returns – a little bit older and wiser – our sharing this house gets better and better.  (Lily is an organized and tidy offspring – she keeps me in-check when things get messy.) She does a great deal of photo editing in the quiet of an upstairs office, and being a twenty-something still keeps the midnight oil burning into the wee hours – so her presence has been charmingly easy, far past teenage parties and silly spats.

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Two days ago our Lily left again. I knew it was coming – another departure of a ‘kid’ from home.  I haven’t shed tears, but I have sought out friends, and talked aloud to myself, and sat alone in the living room for too long missing … just missing her. Her dad agrees that it’s funny how you get used to sharing the house, and being part of their life in a bigger way for a while. Lily drove to her Vancouver destination – six hundred miles away – on winter roads, and after her first nervous report of road conditions far worse than she was used to, I had her text me as she made her way through the mountains. She called the first evening feeling shattered by traveling through sleet, snow and speeding drivers on a moonless night.  She promised to complete the journey in daylight and the next day I went about my business slower than usual, in a bit of a distracted way, listening for the ding ding of her text as she traveled in and out of cell zones and even more miserable weather. I texted her instructions that she already knew, “Keep your wipers clear of ice, replenish the washer fluid, remember there’s no gas station or anything much from Merritt to Hope.” She wasn’t bothered by my nagging, rather seemed to need to keep connecting.  As for myself, I couldn’t concentrate on anything until finally she text to say, “It’s okay now, Mom, I’m here.”IMG_8927I sat again in the quiet living room, slowly let my breath out and sent the other three a message, “Just Text Me, Love Mom”.

 

To read Text Me, Love Mom – the book – go to:    http://www.amazon.com/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712/

 

 

 

 

 

A toast to American Thanksgiving and Kids Coming Home

In honour of American Thanksgiving and the tradition of young adults coming home for the first long weekend from college, I wanted to share a glimpse into our household during the Canadian November reading break and the first time my eldest returned to the noisy house of siblings she’d left behind.  So I give you this from Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest – only the nest wasn’t empty yet – just reeling from the departure of the eldest…

And so we had Zoë with us for her short fall reading break.  On the Friday and Saturday nights the house filled up with family and three or four of her best friends.  But Sunday, close to dusk, each of my four kids trickled back home from separate outings.   From upstairs I could hear them talking softly in the living room.  Coming down I found them in the dark – the boys showing their affection for their sisters in their odd boy way.  They had dog piled on Zoë and Lily.  It was reassuring to witness them that way, like a big pile of puppies heaped on top of each other.

One of my few friends with children older than mine had warned me that Zoë would have changed.  “I know it hasn’t been long,” she said, “but trust me, she’ll be different, more grown-up.  You’ll see.”  I had been nervous.  I didn’t want her to change, or even grow up particularly.  I would still rather spend a small part of my evenings driving her to piano lessons or to her girlfriends’ houses instead of e-mailing her in Vancouver or fighting for phone time with her long distance boyfriend.  But my friend was right.  My eldest daughter was different.  Oh, she didn’t have a total epiphany or anything.  She didn’t say, “Mommy I’ve realized how burdened you’ve been looking after us four kids.  Put your feet up and let me vacuum up the nacho crumbs before I massage your tired shoulders.”

But she was different.  I noticed that the first evening she was back as we lingered around the table after dinner, bombarding her with questions. It was a look on her face, a quality it was hard to put my finger on, except to say that she had drifted away a little bit.  I had gazed around the room at the others, Cole and Hudson and Lily, and imagined us all reuniting after future ventures.  Zoë swore that she would travel to the far north someday, being captivated by the notion of a trip to Yellowknife of even Inuvik, whereas Cole insisted he was going to snowboard in the southern hemisphere in Queenstown, New Zealand.  Hudson was harder to pin down –I think he aspired to travel back and forth in time, and back then I wrongly viewed Lily as a home body.

christmas bird-1In the upcoming Christmas season I would be happy to imagine them all staying put.  I was going to pretend for the three weeks that Zoë would be home that she had never left.  We would decorate a too tall, slightly lope-sided tree together and Will would insist once more on putting up the pissed-off looking angel Zoë made in kindergarten.  I wanted it to be a holiday season full of my kids dog piling on top of one another, and watching Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, all of us singing aloud to the Sisters’ song –

All kinds of weatherWe stick togetherThe same in the rain or sunTwo diff’rent facesBut in tight placesWe think and we act as one[1]

I intended to encourage Zoë to humor Lily and I, and come skating with us on the lake near their grandparent’s property, after which we three would go for steamers, before coming home to whip up a batch of date-filled butter tarts for Christmas Eve.  She’d be impatient to go hang with her friends, (who would happily devour the butter tarts), but I hoped I could convince her to indulge us with a skate around the lake first.  I’d ask, but I promised myself to be a grown-up about it and not harass her to join us – just to ask.  She needed time to reconnect with her same-age peers.  At ages eighteen and thirteen my daughters couldn’t really act as one, but I knew that on Christmas Eve they would raise their voices together and happily sing about it.wooden santa

You hear it both ways.  Some people say girls are easier than boys.  “Oh, no, no, no,” others will tell you, “boys are easier”.  I’m not sure what exactly easier encompasses.  Easier to get along with?  Easier to discipline?  Easier to lose your mind worrying over? I do know that when Zoë went off to study art at Emily Carr – I thought a mother must only feel this out of sorts once.  But a year later I had to launch, as they say in those swishy mother circles, her exuberant brother, Cole.  Kids being kids, no two alike, and all that, there was hardly an ounce of knowledge I could borrow from Zoë leaving our nest when Cole decided to follow suit…

Happy Thanksgiving from your Canadian friends and if you want to read more of Text Me, Love Mom and the rest of all that …please check out http://www.amazon.ca/Text-Me-Love-Mom-Girls/dp/1771800712

[1] Berlin, Irving. “Sisters.” Lyrics. White Christmas. The Movie. 1954

Our Dreamy Souls – Travels With My Young Adult Daughter

Staring out my office window a week ago, the last sweet peas still arched towards the sun, a late yellow rose had put out a new bloom, but now that is behind us for months to come.  The snow has arrived.

I tend to do more fall cleaning then spring cleaning – getting ready for time spent inside during the cold, and so came across a little journal I kept while my youngest daughter and I travelled together for a few weeks.  As much as parents like me, who managed busy households, dreaded all the kids moving out, this little journal reminds me of some of the best times with those young adult children.

My daughter Lily, was just eighteen and almost a year out of highschool.  It was her ‘gap year’. Lily had travelled solo back to Italy where she had done a language immersion program in high school. Her dad was nervous about her traveling on her own, so when she suggested maybe Mom could meet her over there for ten days or so, it was an easy sell. We both thought we should meet in Paris and then travel to the South of France.  Just the phrase, ‘the south of France’ stirred our dreamy souls. After a few exotic lazy days on the beaches near Antibes we took a train to see Milan, after which I was to return home and she was resuming her trip by meeting friends in Barcelona.

This was the journal entry I came across on the chilly November day, written on a warmer day several years ago in May –

“We’d arranged a taxi to pick Lily up at the hotel at 5:30 am this morning and bring her to the bus station. From there she will shuttle to the airport for her flight to rejoin her young friends in Barcelona. If she was anxious to get back to the freedom of being on her own, she never let on.

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It made me happy to buy her a pretty summer dress and she wore it in the street of Grasse and Antibes, but she put on her black jeans and a t-shirt to travel.  I watched her gather her things from the hotel room and thought about what a sweet time we had together, sitting above Paris on the steps of the Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Montmartre – Lily describing the type of man she might like to marry, or lying on the beach in Côte d’Azar, trying to pretend we belonged there.  We had joked that perhaps we would have a spiritual experience when we went to see Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper and then afterwards whispered in the sunny square of the basilica that of course, we had been moved by the majesty of the work.  That was just before a priest clucked his tongue at the hem of Lily’s dress, indicating it exposed too much of her legs – after we agreed that he had taken a long look at their God created beauty.”IMG_0865

I finished that journal entry by saying, “Lily and I have made memories to share to keep me happier when she goes off to university in September, and for other times, years from now. Lily knew she was running late this morning but let me go back for three more hugs and French ‘cheek kisses’.  I didn’t think I’d go back to sleep after climbing the stairs back to our small room but slid in between the sheets of the bed she’d occupied, where the balcony door was open to the breeze, and I fell into dreaming. When I have trouble sleeping with all of them gone off, I’ll try to remember the meals I shared with my youngest daughter, the sunsets that fell over our evenings, the fashions we clamored about in Milan, the late night conversations we whispered across our pillows – so that when the house is empty, with her and her siblings all living away, I’ll be able to bring it all back to mind.”

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Whimsical World of Grown-Up Coloring

Something wonderful is about to happen in my family.  It’s not a wedding or a baby or a career move – it’s a book. A year ago Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest was published – my story  about my four kids launch into the wide, wide world and my transition from a mom that ran a household –  to someone who was nervously helping her children get their bearings during this next stage of parenting. Now I’ve had the honour to work with my oldest daughter as she makes a dream of her’s a reality. Her truly lovely adult colouring book, Alice in the Womb, will be published this month.

_25A0448My daughter, Shea, (Zoë in Text Me, Love Mom) is an artist and mother or two little girls. She studied at Emily Carr and then received a MFA from the University of British Columbia.  When she learned she was pregnant with her first baby she found comfort and relaxation in creating fine pen and ink drawings of the transformation of that odyssey of egg to tiny baby.  These  are a series of accurately drawn images of the development and wonders of growing life, but are surrounded by a whimsical fantasy world of flora and fauna, birds and bees, and butterflies.  Shea always intended this wonderful palette of drawings to be published as a fine art book for women to discover page by page, and curiously suggested that some of her audience might like to colour them in with any variety of crayons, pencils or brushes adding brilliant or muted colour to this dreamlike collection.

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Neither of us imagined that thousands of people would have  discovered the calming and creative world of adult colouring as her first beautiful book is about to be released.  Her younger sister, Rose, (our Lily in Text Me, Love Mom) just did an elaborate photo shoot of the artist, her studio and her little daughters so that Shea can now invite an audience of colourists to sign up for preorders of Alice in the Womb._25A0132

If you would like to preorder copies of Alice in the Womb (it will be approximately $18 CAN and it is perfect for colourists, art book collectors, new mothers or shower gifts) private message Shea your email at https://www.facebook.com/sheaproulxartbooks .  All photos by Midnight Train Photography.

Them’s the Breaks – Re: Wall Street Texting Interview

“A good newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself.”
– Arthur Miller 

Well, I said that if Sue Shellenbarger didn’t cover all the tips I gave her about texting to your adult kids that I would post them here.  And it turns out that indeed, I must. Shellenbarger wrote me a very kind email apologizing because her editors at The Wall Street Journal decided that they wanted her ‘Work and Family’ column today to focus on parents texting to the teens that they live with, sometimes while they are together in the same house, in fact even the same room.  So, though she read my book Text Me, Love Mom; Two Girls, Two Boys, One Empty Nest (available on Amazon), she was unable to cover any of the advice and idiosyncrasies I discussed with her in a half hour interview that I prepared for by chatting with my four twenty-something children about texting with parents.  Zoë, Cole, Hudson and Lily gave me tips both practical and slightly challenging, but all sensible.

 My twenty-seven year-old son, Hudson, said that the ethnography of the millennials is such that texting has become its own language.  He says people will text yeah, or nope because yes, or no sound abrasive and formal in text. Growing up in the culture, it becomes second nature to understand the unwritten rules of text, but as boomers we sometimes behave like Jane Goodall.  He is right.  I still find some of us boomers texting as if we’re engaged in old-school letter writing, instead of going back and forth with messages like the younger set do. My oldest son, Cole, has often advised, “Mom, you can’t send too many texts and they can’t be too long, keep them direct and I’ll get back to you asap.”

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What I’ve realized myself though, is that texting is different for each gender.  My two daughters will engage in longer text messages quite happily, though both Zoë  and Lily agree that with texting being so prevalent phone calls are reserved for their closest friends or family members because calls now seem so intimate.

I’ve learned from communicating via text with my kids that being negative gets me nowhere.  As my kids (and I) mature that’s been a positive lesson, of course. Instead of starting with the demanding, Hey, how come blah, blah, blah?… I’ll turn my text around to a positive request.

When all four of our kids were still at home, ours was a noisy, active household, now when it’s quiet and I’m missing that, I’ll send out a text to each one and wait for those little ding-dings of communication back.  It lets me imagine them in their world for a minute. We all know that it can be annoying to be with a friend or family member who is texting away to someone else, and to them I think – love the ones you’re with, but with a few text lessons from millennials we can communicate better with the ones we love.IMG_0426

Interviewed by the Wall Street Journal On Texting My Kids!

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

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

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

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

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

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