Friday, April 30, 2010

Could I Be a Farmer?

It's raining this morning. A nice, steady, soaking in kind of rain. We need it.

As I looked out the window and saw this dreary morning, my first thought was "The farmers will be happy."

I could never be a farmer. To have your income dictated by the whims of the weather. Rain - either too much, too little or at the wrong time. Hail, early frost, late springs, grasshoppers ... the list goes on.

Then there is all of the rest. The price that you are paid for your crop ... whether it is a grain crop or livestock. I thought that I learned in my mutual fund course, that diversity is the key to lowering your overall risk. I look at our farmers today and I don't see that.

I couldn't live like that. This is not a new thought for me.

I like stability. I like to know what my pay cheque is going to be and when I am going to get it. I like the perks of a steady income. Paid holidays and sick days. Health benefits and a pension plan. A guaranteed lunch hour and coffee breaks.

I can't believe that almost 12 years ago, I traded that stability for a career in babysitting. A job where nothing is guaranteed. The phone rings and your day &/or budget is changed in that instant.

People called and cancelled &/or needed me at the last moment. Kids might come early; they might stay late; or they might not come at all. Parents got jobs; lost jobs; took time off from jobs with little or no notice.

Health benefits ... what are those? I would have settled for the ability to run to a doctor, dentist, or eye appointment at some time other than evenings, weekends or holidays. Let alone have my company chip in and pay for a portion of the cost.

Pension? RRSP's? Financial security? None.

I may as well have been a farmer!

I couldn't believe that I traded a life of security for a life where ... I was a mom. It was the best decision I made in my life.

I was present in every way. For my baby, who has grown into an almost 12 year old. For my up and coming teen, who is now a full grown adult. And eventually, for my oldest ... who has come 'home' to me after a long, hard road. I am a mom.

The long term benefits to that job title? Long term satisfaction. Retirement goals? To be an active member of my family. Health benefits? In an emergency, I am told "Don't worry about a thing ..." And I don't.

Throughout 11 years of my unpredictable daycare world, I had a back up plan. I kept my foot in the door of the employer who allowed me to continue to work one day a week. I always had the option of applying for a full time position if the need came up.

Six months ago, I walked away from that safety net. I am in school. I am working (very) part time as a bookkeeper. I am working (even more) part time as a before and after school daycare provider. I have jumped back into the 'dance world' with the enthusiasm I had for it a decade ago (spending money that I probably shouldn't be spending). And I'm not scared.

I'm working without a net, but I feel safe.

Maybe I am a farmer's daughter after all.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

New Friends

I went out for lunch with a new friend yesterday. It was wonderful.

It is incredible to sit back and listen to the story of someone else's life. As I heard about the roads this friend has travelled throughout her life, I could find parallels and similarities to others that I know. It felt like we had been friends forever ...

This world feels like a very small place when you sit down and get to know the people who pass through your life.

I've always been timid about forging out and making new friends. In the craziness of the busy lives people lead, it seems who has time any more. But ... a person has to eat, don't they? Take time to ask a friend for lunch. You'll never regret it. I sure don't.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

And This Too, Shall Pass Away

Within days of thinking that I had stumbled across a miracle cure for my crickety shoulder (which only worked in its entirety, when I gently negotiated it into the place it was comfortable), I developed something new and improved. A sore neck with spasms of pain that stopped me in my tracks. Buckled my knees and brought me to the ground. Pain that I could only close my eyes, breathe through and endure ... until it subsided.

I took two pain killers at the onset of this new symptom. Nothing. I iced my achy neck muscles. Less than nothing. Eventually I discovered that heat resulted in short term relief. Heat was my friend. I stood in the shower and let the warm water pulsate on my aching muscles. The sound of the water, the heat and the massaging action of the water washed my pain away. For the moment.

What did I appreciate about this pain that stopped me in my tracks each time I moved my head too much? It was temporary. Somewhat like labor, because I knew the pain was only temporarily subsiding. But I had pain free breaks in between the spasms that stopped my world.

What if ... that pain was unending? Not only for the day ... but for weeks, months or years? I cannot even fathom it.

My neck spasm saga ended at the end of one day. I'm one of the fortunate ones. I know that and I'm grateful beyond words.

This whole little mini drama in my world reminded me of 'life'. The times in our lives when circumstances stop us in our tracks, brings us to our knees and causes unbearable pain. Emotional pain.

Nothing numbs it. The 'pain killers' of choice don't touch what is real within. There may be temporary relief, but when the numbness wears off, there is reality.

But, like my muscle spasms and eventual (almost) recovery ... the intensity of the pain starts to fade. Real life seeps in to distract you. It isn't the solution, but it helps to divert your attention. Kind of like stubbing your toe diverts your attention from a chronic head ache.

As I write this, I think of the countless lives that are affected by the loss of a child, a spouse, a sibling, a brain injury, a stroke ... and I know that what I have lived and breathed through is nothing compared to this. But the survivors of even these tragedies must find a way to work past the pain.

The intensity of life varies for each of us. If we are fortunate, we know that even when our time of sorrow is rooted very deep and will affect our lives forever ... that this (the intensity of our hurt) too, shall pass away.

When we lose someone we love, there is an emptiness that words can't begin to describe. When your world is turned upside down and you must start from scratch, you can get lost as you mourn 'what used to be'.

Your world may stop and bring you to the ground. There may be nothing that you can do to numb the pain but just close your eyes and breathe through the intensity of it. You must look beyond that moment and know ... that even when life hurts 'this much' ... the pain doesn't remain this intense.

Just as the moments of glory are only fleeting, so are those of great sorrow. There may still be that dull ache that remains ... but the more you allow life to fill you up and propel forward, the intensity subsides.

Stand in a shower ... treat your pain kindly ... find relief ... and let it wash away. And know that it won't always feel this way. Let life's rain upon you, knowing that after the rain often comes a rainbow.

And this too, shall pass away.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

On Being Eleven

One of the things about being involved with what is happening with my children ... is feeling a part of the ebbs and flows of their lives. I try not to absorb what is going on with my family, and take their worries as my own. But I can't help wanting to celebrate the good times and to just be there for the less than perfect moments.

That said, my vote goes to being ''11''.

Not that being 11 years old isn't without its pitfalls. Your bedtimes are still governed by your parent. Your days off are dictated by the school system (which believe me, it never gets better than that ... it's just that you don't appreciate that when you are 11). Life is full of rules and restrictions. But compared to what's coming up in life, honestly ... it's not that bad.

Your heart hasn't been broken. You are full of hopes, dreams and aspirations of what your life will be. You have learned what life is all about by being part of your family and taking in the information the TV feeds you. If your pre-teen years have been filled with a strong sense of security and the feeling that you are loved, you believe that is what your future will bring.

Chances are, that you are living within your means. Your spending money is dictated by the amount of your allowance, your ability to earn a little on the side and your masterful ways of convincing a parent to buy something for you. Debt doesn't rule your life. It is a wonderful place to be.

You are dreaming of what you will be when you grow up. You still have many years before you are chasing that dream. You believe anything is possible. You could be a doctor, a movie star, an astronaut or a famous sports figure. Or ... you could just be 'you' and be content that you are making your own way, following your own path and just happy where you are at the moment.

Family is your base, friends are for fun, pets are for everything in between ... and life is in the moment. Even though there are still worries and stresses at the tender age of 11, a lot of your worries will be lessened by a good nights sleep and the dawn of a new day. A new chance.

May you wake up and face this day as an 11 year old.

Life the day in the present. Love like your heart has never been broken. Spend your days and your money wisely. Always have a dream ... when you lose your ability to dream, you lose a part of who you can be.

Anything is possible. Remember your youthful enthusiasm. Embrace it. And chase those dreams.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Best Laid Plans

This past weekend had been mapped out ahead of me. I knew what was going to happen and when. I knew when I had to work in my bookkeeping, my shopping, my preparations for company. It was neatly mapped out in my head.

Then life happened.

Within 15 minutes early Friday morning, the sequence of events was shifted. I was thrilled that my new life afforded me the luxury of changing plans on a moments notice. When all that had been so carefully planned started to fall apart, there wasn't one instant when I didn't believe whole heartedly that it wasn't going to work. I trusted that there was a 'bigger reason' behind the minor upheaval to our plans. And I was right.

I met up with the family of Dad's oldest brother. Our plan was to collect memories, stories and information about their dad to add to the Book of Memories I am compiling for Dad's family. The ultimate purpose of our gathering was to 'Remember George'.

What happened without design or forethought, was the fact that we happened to gather on the anniversary of the day my uncle died. 30 years ago. Four of his children and his first wife sat at a table and remembered their dad and their lives. We paid tribute to their dad on a date that had a history. A memorial to his life. It was beyond special ...

I ended up staying much later than planned. I am not a night traveller, let alone comfortable with the idea of driving on an isolated secondary highway riddled with pot holes and the possibility of deer darting out of the ditches unexpectedly. But knowing that my aunt and uncle would be following that same road home, as well as having a cell phone (and cell phone coverage out in that area) I bravely set out on my journey home.

What I didn't expect was the cloak of protection that I felt all around me as I turned onto that highway. This happened once before ...

I moved my family to a new city shortly after my dad died. Throughout that time, I felt dad's presence around me. But it was on that final leg of the journey ... as I drove my children and my sister's oldest son on that five hour trip to our new home, that it was most prevalent. I nodded off to sleep as I drove. Thankfully, I woke up to find myself between the yellow lines on the highway. It was then ... that I truly felt that Dad was with me. Gently guiding me, keeping me and my family safe, keeping the car on the road and nudging me awake. It was so real.

Friday night, I turned out onto that pitch black highway and I felt enveloped in safety. It was so real that I felt like I could reach out and touch it. I still took every precaution to ensure I made it to my destination safely. But at no point, did I feel uneasy. I felt my dad and my uncle along with me every step of the way. Just like when I was a little girl and I knew that I was safe with them as we travelled that very same road.

It was a day that I'll remember forever. But most of all ... that presence of my dad and my uncle on that trek home was a gift beyond words.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Don't Wait Until Tomorrow ...

If you have something you need to tell someone … tell them. You are guaranteed nothing but the moment you are living.

If you work too much … slow down. You only have one life. Spend that lifetime making memories … not money. Money comes and goes. Memories are your greatest legacy. Make them … and cherish the memories you carry within yourself.

If you have children … count your blessings. And let your children know that they count. There is no greater gift that a child can receive … than the praise and love of their parent. Don’t hold back.

If you have regrets … learn from them, fix what you can, mend fences if possible, say “I’m sorry” … and mean it. Look back only to learn, savor a cherished memory and be grateful. Look ahead with the promise to pay those lessons learned forward.

If you have your health … appreciate it. Take care of what is good, maintain what works and repair what can be fixed. Plan to live a long, healthy life and make every endeavor to make that your reality.

Life as we know it can change in a fraction of a second. We can’t live every moment in fear of that possibility … but we can live a life that we can look back on and feel that it was ‘a life well lived’.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Good Vibrations

I'm feeling full of good vibes today. Let me count the ways!

I woke up and my first conscious thought was that my shoulder pain (which has flared up over the course of the past few months) was substantially less this morning. I have exchanged a full body work out in the mornings, for the onerous task of convincing my shoulder to co-operate with me so that I can hit the snooze button on the alarm clock. It is at that moment (every single morning), that I am aware of the increasing discomfort in that shoulder. So the calisthenics begin ... I hit the snooze button and awaken my stiff shoulder muscles for three to six reps, (depending on the morning).

Yesterday, I went and saw a physical therapist about this persistent condition. Number one, she assured me that it isn't in my head (it is in my shoulder); number two, she gave me some exercises to help with the situation (muscles that are not intended to be used are compensating for a muscle that I may have damaged ... and this affects all other connective muscles in a myriad of ways in which it shouldn't ... blah, blah, blah); number three, she massaged some of the muscles and it felt oh-so-good (in a minor-ly painful way); number four, all of this exertion on my tender shoulder muscles escalated the pain level to a different level so ...; number five, I took two pain killers before I went to my dance lesson last night.

I don't know if it is a combination of all of the above or the simple fact that the pain killers helped to relax my muscles enough for them to recover a bit while I slept. But I woke up feeling like a hundred dollars this morning (not quite a million ... but I'm definitely on the 'plus' side of the dollar equation).

Then ... I sat down and worked with the stats of my present-day-financial-situation. Number one, I am thrilled to say that at this late date in the month it appears that there will be money left at the end of the month! This hasn't happened since The Great Dance Adventure became a part of my reality. This feels awesome!! Number two, I looked at the money that borrowed so that I could afford the above mentioned Adventure ... and these are the stats that I have arrived at: I have repaid one fifth of the total-amount-borrowed (this debt covers not only The Great Dance Adventure's over spending, but a new ball gown, a shortfall that I needed to cover to pay off the last part of my school fees and living expenses after The Adventure gobbled up more of my budget than it should have). Number three, I foresee a few work-related windfalls that may or may not come my way and there is a possibility that I may soon have up to three fifths of that debt repaid. Maybe.

It is a combination of many, many things (most of which I wrote about yesterday), but I can quite easily put a dollar value on the way that I feel about my financial state at the moment. I shall be evasive about that amount ... but suffice to say, I feel like oh ... maybe $400 (less groceries, gas and maybe a four-pack of coolers).

And ... I managed to squeeze in my required 20 hours at school within the first four days of this week (and that is even after I quit early one day for an afternoon dance lesson; went to a physical therapy appointment; took our cat to the vet; and went out for lunch within the hours of 9:00 - 3:00). So today is mine!

Granted, I have approximately 10 (or more) hours of bookkeeping to fit into a six hour time frame. But where there is a will, there is a way (or at least there is a Friday night and a Saturday). I have a bookkeeping mystery to solve as I forge into the beginning stages of trying to figure out how to deal with my Middle Son's new business. I have a family history story book to compile. I have more ways to fill this day, than there are hours in the week (let alone day). But I am motivated and excited to forge on.

Plus ... I have many good things that I am anticipating. A gathering of some cousins here on Sunday. My sister is coming to the city within the next few days and I hope that we have the chance for a visit. I am going out for lunch with a new friend next week. I may go out with a group from the dance studio next weekend. I have calls to make to arrange more visits and touch base with good friends.

I'm just full of good vibrations. Are the vibes making it to my fingertips as I post? I can feel them!! It is a most wonderful sensation. I'm in love with my life!!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Little Bonuses

It never fails. It seems that (almost) every time I become realistic with my spending/budgeting, a small bonus comes my way.

I believe that I simply appreciate a small amount of money because I have respected my financial limits. A cheque that would have been quickly consumed in a Time of Great Spending ... becomes a bonus.

This epiphany about my frivolous spending has come to light a few times lately. Both times, it was because I was spending cash ... not credit.

I had just received one bonus cheque when the motor on my (quite ancient) dryer died. If I had simply gone out and bought a brand new dryer, I would have used my credit card and dealt with the repercussions later. Instead, I made an SOS call to an appliance repairman. It didn't take him more than three minutes to make his prognosis. It was fatal. The motor had died.

I sat down and did the math. I had to pay the serviceman for his house call anyway. That would have been money down the drain if I didn't replace the motor. I considered myself lucky, because they don't make motors for my dryer any more and he did have a used one on hand.

So, I used half of my windfall to cover the dryer repair and put the other half towards paying down my mortgage (paying off The Great Dance Adventure of 2010 overspending).

Then ... I got my income tax refund. The government has been demanding that I pay them money at this time each year for the past decade. In all actuality, I should have had the money that I usually owe them saved up (it is worked into my budget), plus the income tax refund to equal a tidy little sum. Once again, The Great Dance Adventure gobbled up the excess. But ... I still had Revenue Canada's cash on hand.

Initially, I thought that I would use that little cache to indulge myself in my frivolous spending (eyelashes, nails, hair and maybe some clothes). Then ... (once again), I did the math. When I added up the cost of these items that are truly unnecessary and subtracted them from a finite amount of dollars, it equalled stupidity. What was I thinking?! Yet again, if I had simply used my credit card I would have spent first and worried later.

Again, I put (a little more than) half of Revenue Canada's gift towards my mortgage. I still have my (less than) half of that amount sitting in my account. I get to update my spring/summer wardrobe in lieu of fake lashes and nails. A much better investment.

I was sitting here, feeling quite happy with my new found grip on reality. Spending cash verses credit is an eye opening experience. I have lived a little too long in my fantasy world. I can still hear Wilma and Betty (on the Flintstones) saying "CHARGE it!!!", as they raced out on a great spending spree. Yes, blame the Flintstones. My parents certainly never taught me to be this way.

I retrieved yesterday's mail and saw an envelope with my name on it. I thought to myself "That looks like a cheque." A cheque from a company that normally bills me? What's with that? It took a few minutes for it to sink in. It was a health insurance benefit where I had recently realized that I could make a claim. I spent the money last summer and didn't realize that I had (a small amount) of insurance coverage for the cost. I had forgotten that I had even sent off the claim. And voila! A portion of the money that I spent almost a year ago found its way back to me.

I had an appointment with my eyelash lady this afternoon. My insurance claim would have covered the cost. But since I cancelled that appointment, that money is mine. To spend as I wish!! My budget is stretched a little thin this month so that amount will go towards groceries. Groceries that I want on hand to host a small gathering this weekend. Eyelashes verses a family gathering? Family wins!

Our credit society is dangerous thing. One can get in over their heads far too easily. As my Middle Son quoted a comedian in saying, "I need (insert dollar amount here) to pay off my debts. I need (same amount of money) to be broke!!"

Isn't that crazy? If all we do, is work hard to bring ourselves back up to ''zero'' ... to be broke, where is the incentive? As Wilma and Betty may say (in their frustration of living beyond their means), "CHARGE it!!" And our habit of overspending is perpetuated.

I believe that is why I can get so excited about my small boons when they come after a time of realizing my financial limits. All of a sudden, that money is real. It doesn't disappear into the abyss of debt. I don't need it, to become (less) broke.

It is nice to be in a place where even finding a five dollar bill is truly a gift. Cash verses credit? Wilma and Betty ... you steered me wrong! "CASH it!!!"

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Change of Pace

My daycare days have become very quiet. I have one child that comes before and after school every day. The others? Not so much. One family needs me before school, from Tuesday to Friday. Another family only needs me after school, and they give me their schedule at the onset of the month. The last family? I have no idea when they need me. It's truly hit and miss. Even when they do have a schedule, half of the time it is changed. Such is my life.

My child that comes regularly, actually comes every day. Rain or shine. There are very rare occasions when something changes that routine. But they are far and few between.

His arrival times vary but nine times out of ten, I am racing around frantically after his mom leaves to get myself out the door at the same time as the kids. My start-time at school is flexible. There is no need for my frenzy. But I do it anyway. I have a schedule in my mind that I want to follow.

His departure times are late. He stays about two hours longer than everyone else. Two hours to play outside by yourself isn't very fun. So we stay inside and I am often restricted as to what I can do because of what he may be doing. Book keeping may wait; errands may have to be frantically run after he's gone; I hate making supper at the best of times but it doesn't help when I don't know when he will be picked up. Many, many small little things. It basically boils down to the fact that I can't relax, work or pick up my own life until he is gone for the day. I get paid for that. That is okay. But it is nice when I get a little break in the routine.

He is on holidays for the rest of this week.

I am revelling in the idea of these free hours before supper. I could run errands. I could go back to school for a few more hours. I could work at my book keeping. I could cook supper and eat when we want to eat.

I have three days to savor these two bonus hours. It's a small thing, but it's a change of pace. A welcome little reprieve tossed into a regularly scheduled day. It's nice to have routines. That way you can really appreciate life's little bonuses.

Six hours. I hope I make the most of them!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Start Up Costs

As Second Son steps boldly where he has never gone before (with his new business venture), he sat down and had a frank discussion with me about the financial aspect of all of this. That old phrase "it takes money to make money" rings very true. Word is out, work is starting to come his way, excellent prospects are on the horizon ... then there is the part where he has to pay the bills before the pay cheques start rolling in. Reality.

Then there is my Oldest who is restarting in life. Certainly, there are financial costs as details of his Old Life must be tended to. But what 'costs' the most, is the emotional aspect. The old phrase 'money can't buy happiness' is fitting. I'm sure he would pay any amount of money to buy back his old life so that he could try again, knowing what he knows now. If only it was that easy.

Personally, I seem to be dealing with maintenance costs. Replacing tires on the car. Getting a new motor for the dryer. Buying eyelashes, finger/toe nails and hair color. Whoa!! Stop the bus. Reality check time.

I thought that of the financial drain of my frivolous girly-girl fetishes of late. I added them up and realized where that money could be better spent. Yikes! What was I thinking?? Time to become real again. In every sense of the word. Good-bye artificial beauty. Hello ... me. Money can't buy beauty ... or youth either.

My Youngest has very few financial demands. His greatest desire is to have more hours in the day. A later bed time. Our evening ritual has become a debate about what is an appropriate bed time for someone his age. I say that it is not negotiable until he finishes this school year. The end. He doesn't understand the term non-negotiable. He continues to barter for more time at the end of each school day. You just can't 'buy' more hours in a day (or a mother who is willing to change the rules at this stage of the school year).

When it comes right down to it, if money can buy what you need ... you are lucky. If you are looking for happiness, love, youth, beauty or time no amount of money will suffice. It all comes from within. The investment starts with you.

So even though he may not realize it, maybe my Middle Son is the lucky one. He has inner drive, perseverance, determination, faith and an excellent work ethic. All he needs is money. Money can't buy the qualities that he has (though he did try to market his soul when he was younger). He's known it all along. What is within, is the most priceless gift of all.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Viennese Waltz

I have a bonus dance lesson this afternoon (to make up for the lesson I missed a few weeks ago). My instructor gave me a mission. To bring my favorite Viennese waltz music along with me today.

He asked if I had a favorite song for the Viennese waltz we are starting to work on. I stood there, speechless (this is very rare). Every new song that I hear that has the quick 123 timing of the Viennese waltz is my newest favorite. He seemed a little surprised that I didn't have a favorite at the tip of my tongue. Probably because I brought in some music a short while ago and among other songs, my newest favorite Viennese waltz music was on the CD. I swoon when I hear this song. And this one ... and this one.

Then I got researching the proper speed of the Viennese waltz because this one and this are my mom's favorites, but they seemed a little too fast. Well! Researching the number of beats per minute of the Viennese waltz sent me to a website where it listed even more Viennese waltz music. I lost an afternoon of my life listening to all of my new favorite songs.

I heard this song and I was breathless. Until I found this one. I thought I was done ... but then I heard this oldie and I was swept away once more.

I made up a CD with all of these favorites. I played them. All weekend. Every single time I heard one of the songs, I would think "Definitely! This is the one. This is my most favorite." Until I heard the next song ... and so went hours of my weekend.

It was magical. This music gets into my soul and makes my heart sing. How can a person not want to dance when you hear music like this??

I have started to wonder if I love the Viennese waltz because of the music ... or if I love the music because you can dance the Viennese waltz to it. It's kind of like the mystery of which came first - the chicken or the egg? It's a mystery that I will ponder each time I dance or each time I hear the hauntingly beautiful music of the 123 tempo of my favorite waltz.

Then I began to ponder when this passionate love of this music/dance began. I have started to wonder if my mom danced, sang and listened to this music while she was pregnant with me. To feel this music as such a part of my soul, it feels like it has been within me longer than I have existed. It is intoxicating.

What a wonderful way to lose yourself. Music that touches your soul. A dance that captures the essence of what you are feeling. And I must thank my dance instructor for giving me this mission. I cannot decide which is my favorite. But I've had fun amassing a collection of my favorites.

It was a weekend lost in music. I highly recommend it!

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Is it a miracle when something wonderful and unexpected comes from something devastating and heartbreaking? Is it faith? Is it the power of positive thinking? A strong will and determination? Or is it just love ...

I just reread the post of one of the (many) blogs that I follow (click here). This post was written on Friday. This (click here) ... is where 'Anissa' was on Nov 17th after she suffered a stroke (actually two strokes). Five months. Five months to go from 'there' to 'here'. The struggle, challenges, determination and the belief that Anissa could come through this are all chronicled in the Hope4Peyton blog.

This (click here) is another blog that I have recently stumbled across. It is the story of another family's struggle with TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). This young girl went for a ride on her bike. She was wearing a helmet. Despite 'doing all of the right things', this family is faced with the challenge of working through the aftermath of a brain injury. They find miracles in every day ...

I know another family personally. They don't blog ... they are my friends. Their dad/grandpa/husband (I know each of the family members well) suffered a massive heart attack right after Christmas, three years ago. The doctors didn't think he would survive. But his wife knew that he would. She knew the way her husband healed. She knew he needed time to rest after the initial shock to his body. She believed in him. She fought for him. She stayed at his side and walked with him through those initial days. And she was right.

He lived more than three years after a heart attack that statistics predicted that he should not have survived. There was brain injury. His short term memory was affected. He had many physical ailments that prevented him from living at home. But the way his family rallied around him, supported him, believed in him and cared for them made those last years the best that they could be ... for everyone.

All of these stories hit home with me. My dad suffered a massive heart attack on March 10, 1983. He stopped living that day, but he didn't stop breathing until December 7, 1987.

I wish that I had journalled our family's story through that time. I believe that we were no more or no less heroic than these other families. I remember quietly praying "We need you, Dad ... we need you ..." over and over, throughout the endless drive from my place to my parent's home that fateful night. I remember thinking, feeling and needing my dad to know that. When the doctors told us that it was due to his sheer will to live (that got him through that first night), I thought my prayer was answered ...

I was young and naive. I was 22 years old. I had no idea what the definition of ''brain damage'' was, until our family lived it. These words that define the indescribable are simply words ... until they touch you personally. I believed in miracles.

Days rolled into weeks; the weeks into months and the months into years. Throughout the 1733 days (4 years, 8 months, 27 days) that followed, reality settled in. Hope died. I lost hope before I lost my dad.

I remember that Mom arranged for me to talk to a counsellor at the long term care facility that Dad was eventually moved to. I remember talking about the 'right' way to act, feel and care about the circumstances that surrounded Dad's health. She told me to make my decisions based on 'what I would feel okay with, after Dad was gone'.

I'm not proud of the fact that the visits to see Dad dwindled over the course of those years. I am disappointed that I couldn't do and be more for him. I did what felt right at the time.

My sympathies started shifting towards my mom. She was living a life in a suspended state. She was a wife without a husband. Mom survived those years. Looking back, I am amazed at the courage that it must have taken for her to put on such a brave front. There have been very few times in my life where I have seen my mom crumble. And that was not one of them. She got mad and upset at the circumstances surrounding my marriage at the time (perhaps redirecting her emotions?). She broke down for a moment after we got home from Dad's funeral. But other than that? She was strong. She did what she had to do. I modelled her behaviour. Maybe I wasn't who Dad needed me to be ... but it is my hope that I was who Mom needed.

I thought that I had successfully followed that counsellor's advice. I accepted the decisions I made about how I dealt with Dad's illness after he died. I didn't feel guilty. It is in the two decades that have passed since he died, that this is hitting home.

Other people's stories make me rethink our family's circumstances. I wonder. I look back and reflect. For the most part, I think that we did what was good and right for both Mom and Dad. I am okay with that.

But what has recently hit home the most? A nephew recently wrote these words about Dad: "Although he could not talk back to me, I remember feeling a connection when our eyes met and I felt that he truly was talking to me, just not verbally." At that very moment ... I remembered what I had buried throughout the 1733 days that followed that moment that changed our lives forever. I had felt exactly the same way.

Dad, I hope that you felt the same connection when our eyes met. Sometimes communication goes beyond words ...

Are there miracles? Or is it just a strong will, positive thinking and determination that gets us through the tough spots in life? Maybe it is a little bit of everything. But most of all, I believe it is faith mixed in with a lot of love ...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Inner Sunshine

I'm basking in 'happy'.

I believe the happiness seeped into my inner being with my first step into the dance studio Thursday night. I am transformed within the walls of that magical place. Everywhere I look, I see people smiling and enjoying themselves. Moods are contagious. And I love what I catch every time I walk through those doors.

I was at school yesterday when I consciously realized that I was brimming with joy. Joy over nothing. Another regularly scheduled school day. Actually an extra day because I had to make up for the hours that I missed last week. But the day passed easily.

I'm working on a course called 'Job Search and Resume Writing'. The first chapter guides you through the process of writing about yourself. It focuses on your positive qualities. I believe it is the first step to writing a resume. To focus on what you know, do well and enjoy. When you start zeroing in on those qualities, you sit a little taller and smile a little brighter. I believe a person should focus on the positives in life. Yourself included.

I came home to find my Middle Son celebrating a most wonderful day. All the pieces of his new business venture are falling into place and it sounds like things are revving up. He's got work lined up and is ready to go full speed ahead. I wanted to sit and revel in his joy and celebrate right along with him. But I had work to do ... a child to tend ... and he was with his friend.

He's faced some challenges these past weeks, but he's coming out on top. His positive attitude and willingness to work through the tough spots (literally ... he has been spending all of his energy working at his farm) is prevailing. I find myself wanting to be around him, absorbing his energy. It's contagious.

I sped through my after-school chores and cleaned the house with ease. The next thing I knew ... the house was clean, my daycare child was picked up and I was sitting quietly in the living room reading a book as My Youngest was diligently conquering his newest computer game challenge.

We basked in the simple nothingness of that moment for quite some time. Eventually, we headed off to Walmart and picked up a few needed items, a cheap movie and supper. I can't remember the last time we spent such a simple, quiet, enjoyable evening together like that. I felt happy, happy, happy!

I woke up with so many thoughts that I had a hard time pinning down a theme for this post. It was only a few short days ago that I felt low and gloomy. It is like I'm basking in the glory of the rainbow after a storm. The simple things are so much brighter because I have the contrast of a spring storm to compare it to.

We wouldn't appreciate the sun without the clouds. The cycles of life. Day follows night ... spring follows a long winter ... and when we are lucky, there is a rainbow after a storm.

No matter where you are in life, remember: "And this too, shall pass away ..."

P.S. Yet one more coincidence??? Here's my post from one year ago today (click here)

Friday, April 16, 2010

The High Cost of Faking It

I had my own private 'tacky party' last night. The theme of our studio dance this month was Flower Power and as I assembled my bright and flowery outfit, I couldn't help but notice the many ways in which my fakeness is failing me.

My fake finger nails are growing out. Granted, at a distance you don't really notice. But up close and personal (thankfully no one gets too close to me), they are tacky. A ridge where the fakeness begins and the real nail has grown out. I tried nail polish. I only succeeded in drawing attention to my tacky, grown out nails ...

Then there are the gel toe nails. Oh, I loved the way they perfectly matched my fingers and looked so well tended. Unfortunately it has been winter and I haven't been able to expose my beautiful toe nails (ugly feet; pretty toes). The only disadvantage of fake toe nails? An almost fatal loss of a toenail when my toe got in the way of my dance partners feet. And now ... it has been 2 months. It is time to tend to them. Cutting fake nails is like setting off a missile launch. They go the distance (I never did find all 10 clippings when I clipped the excessive length off of my finger nails after the dance competition). I thought I'd wait until spring so that I could do that little chore outside. In the meantime, the thought of someone catching their shoe on my longer toenails makes me cringe in fear.

Oh. And I never did write about my completely frivolous indulgence. Eyelash extensions. I had never heard of them before. They are so cool. I wake up in the mornings and I have eyes. Between my hair cut that looks the same in the morning as it did the day before (not always a good thing, but it beats bed-head), I wake up in the morning and I'm ready! No excessive primping required. I wrote of wanting to wake up, looking like the 'Noxema Girl' a while ago. Granted, I am more like the 30 year old Noxema girl's mother ... but I wake up looking 'as good as it gets'. Another dream fulfilled.

The downfall of those fake eyelashes? Maintenance.

I've been busy the past two weeks and couldn't book an appointment for an 'eyelash fill' (who would have ever guessed that worry would be taking up space in my brain?). Anyway ... I looked in the mirror yesterday and only found one and a half eyes. Half of the lashes from my left eye have fallen off. Last night, I tried desperately to fill the vacancy with mascara to cover up my naked (but very real) lashes.

Between my grown out, tacky, painted fingernails ... to my toenails that had me wishing to dance with steel toes ... to my half 'bald' left eye ... I felt very ill at ease walking into a social setting. Add to that, a vibrant orange tie-dyed dress to my ankles (if you dare call it a dress - it was two flaps of material sewn together at the shoulders, with a hole for my head to go through. I was tied together (and safety pinned and double knotted, with a full dress worn underneath so as to not take any chances if any of my safety precautions failed and I was fully exposed) and flowers in my hair.

I had to make a quick stop at the ATM and mailbox before the dance and I tried to avert my eyes from anyone who may notice me. Heaven forbid that anyone should think that I was under the dillusion that I looked good. Youngest Son looked at me in my tacky, flower-power get up and asked if I really had to go out in public looking like ... that!?

But you know what? I walked into the dance studio and forgot everything. I danced, I wafted, I laughed, I visited and had fun, fun, fun. I forgot about my tackiness and the ill conceived costume that I was wearing.

Then I got home.

I looked in the mirror and wondered "I really looked like this? All night?" Reality. Fakeness and tackiness revealed.

My Eyelash Girl takes credit cards. My next appointment is booked. I shall have eyes for another month.

My Nail Lady takes cash. That takes a little more forethought. But I get a month-end pay cheque today, which would cover the cost.

There is a price to be paid for all of this. The high cost of looking like the (aged) Noxema Girl's plain looking mother. Where does it end??

P.S. Another one year ago today post that echos this one (click here)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Year Ago Today ...

I was going to title this blog post "Garbage In, Garbage Out". But before I did so, I thought I'd search those words on my site and this post (click here) came up. Not surprising, because I thought that I had used that theme before. What did surprise me, is that I wrote that blog one year ago today.

I wrote of a blog that I had started to follow. That blog led me to another blog. In today's post on that blog, the author made reference to a something that she had written one year ago yesterday (click here).

As I aimlessly walked through the days this week, I wondered if this was just another cycle of life. It crossed my mind, to go back through my blogs to see if I could unearth a pattern. But I didn't do it. Then I stumbled onto my year-old blog that mirrors what I've been thinking recently.

It seems coincidental yet somehow eerie how my thoughts today are almost identical to that which I was thinking about one year ago. My eating habits have recently spiralled out of control (feeding a hunger which has nothing to do with food). I'm feeling lackadaisical and unmotivated. And once again, I am feeling very touched by the 'Life of Maddie' (see above).

The seasons of life. Times of growth and renewal. Times of hunkering and surviving the winter. Stormy seasons, seasons full of joy, seasons that are wet and dreary.

There are seasons to celebrate, seasons to appreciate, seasons to just quietly absorb all that life has brought your way.

The sun is shining today. I think I'm going to absorb some of its goodness and enjoy the change of seasons.

P.S. I just reread the ''Garbage In ... Garbage Out" post. What's even spookier? I have chicken thawing for supper tonight (which is a rarity in this house). Just like one year ago today ...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Short on Dancing

It has been 13 days since my last dance lesson. The arm styling/technique group classes are on a hiatus. The community group classes ended last week. I'm not myself. Is it because I haven't danced enough lately?

I was getting a tad overwhelmed with the three-day-dance-schedule the past month. Going out three days in a row is just a little excessive for this little home body. I'm actually looking forward to the return of my regularly scheduled life. A life that embraces dancing.

I talked to my dance instructor last night and we rescheduled the lesson that I missed last week. I get to dance twice next week. It be reminiscent of the twice-a-week lesson schedule that I had when I was preparing to go to the dance competition. It will be good.

I need to put a little bounce back into my step. Dancing will be a step in the right direction.

A life without dancing ... is like a life without sunshine. I'm ready for a little sun.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sometimes I Write a Little ... Sometimes I Write a Lot

This morning, I'm short on words.

It is a cool, dreary and rainy day outside. I'm can't find my 'inner sunshine' this morning.

I wish that I was preparing for something exciting. I love having something to anticipate.

Instead, I woke up thinking of my itinerary at school. I'm finishing up another course and the next few school days will be spent preparing for the exam. Yay.

I miss the days of anticipating The Great Dance Adventure of 2010. I've drifted off of my cloud and I'm walking here on earth again. It's okay ... but I miss the view from my cloud.

As I struggle to find words this morning, I dug out the quotes that I thought that I'd write about one day. The one that is speaking to me this morning is:

"Choose your love and love your choice"

I'm not basking in sunshine today, I am content. It's a day to revel in the life that I'm living. I know that I've chose this 'life' ... and I love my choice.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Who I Want to Be When I Grow Up

Yesterday, I met a someone who inspires me.

She is 84 years old and lives independently on their family farm. She has built a home full of memories. To quote her: "What good are pictures if they are all stuck in a box?"

Her eyes twinkled and sparkled as she talked about family, friends and old memories. Names, incidents and details came to her mind with ease.

She gave us a guided tour of her home, lovingly decorated with photographs and memories. Everything has a story in her home ... and she vividly recalled many of them as we walked down memory lane yesterday.

Family comes first and there was a special glow that washed over her whenever she spoke of her children, grand children or greats. But there was also a special bond for friends and neighbors.

We were welcomed into her home with a hearty dinner (otherwise known as ''lunch'' to us city-folk ... but this meal was a full 5 course dinner). We spent the afternoon reminiscing. We gazed out her kitchen window and admired the chickadees and talked of the many birds who come to call.

We admired her yard - a yard that you can picture full of people. It is set up to accommodate many. A fire pit surrounded with permanent seating; a few sheds that house all that she needs to entertain, "Everything we need is out there; we don't even have to go into the house!"; a mini golf area. It is a yard that is lovingly tended and meticulously groomed.

Her coffee pot was full upon our arrival and empty when we left. At the onset of our visit she told us that she always makes a pot of coffee and more often than not, someone will drop by and help her drink it.

This is 'who' I want to be when I grow up (yes ... I'm still growing). A person who has filled her heart and home with happy memories. I want to be someone who draws people into my life. I want to build a home to accommodate guests and gatherings. I want to put on a pot of coffee each morning and believe "If I make it, they will come ..."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

It's All in the Details

It irks me when I can't remember the exact phrasing of something. When I retell a story, it loses something in the translation because I can't recall the exact words that I heard.

In collecting our family's memories, I have tape recorded (with permission) each person that I have talked to. When I transcribe these conversations, they come to life on the page because the voice is not mine. It is important to me, to keep the voices true.

I am not writing a book about our family ... I am simply researching and assembling the voices of many. I want to try and preserve some of those precious memories between two covers. This isn't my story, but the story of our family.

When I collected stories from Mom's family, it was with one goal. Mom has been a 'story teller' all of my life. I've heard her view on life as she saw it. She grew up during the depression and World War II. She was a feisty young girl (and remains to be a pretty feisty 82 year old). My Oldest Sister once commented, "Someone should write this down ..." and so I did.

It was a huge step out of my comfort zone. I called on each of my mom's sisters and got to know them. A piece of their younger selves and a piece of the person they have become. Mom often told me that even if 'The Book' didn't become a reality, it was already a success. Just because I got to step out of my younger, quieter self and get to know my family.

I am restarting my research for my dad's family's story today.

I am driven by something completely different this time around. To me, this book will not be the same as Mom's. With Mom, I wanted to capture the stories that I had heard all of my life (and continue to hear). But Dad? He's not here to tell me his story (and he would probably not be comfortable with the idea if he was), so I have to do a little digging.

I feel like the 10 year old version of myself as I step into this role. I am going to people that I hardly know and asking them to tell me about my dad and his family. I could be a little biased, but I think my dad was a pretty special man. I can hear it in the tone of voice that people use when they talk about him. It is not only their words that are gentle ... it is their whole demeanor.

Dad's older brother died before Dad. I can't help but feel for my uncle's family. They too, lost their dad much too soon. There are too many things that remain unsaid when we lose someone before their time. It is my goal to unearth some of those feelings and gift them to his family. If I put enough pieces of the puzzle together, it is my hope that his children will find a piece of their dad that they didn't know.

Dad has five younger brothers. I have had the opportunity to talk to each of them. They are able to tell their own stories ... but being such a modest bunch, they don't say a lot. So even for them, I will have to do some digging.

Today, I'm heading out to 'The Hills' with a friend and neighbor from my childhood. We are going to go out and talk to her aunt, who grew up in 'The Hills' neighboring my dad's family. Her enthusiastic response to this request for her time and memories has me anticipating the day ahead. It sounds like she's full of stories. She still lives in the house that my grandparents once lived in. Another piece of the past ...

I trust that today will be the launching pad that I need to get myself motivated to make this 'Book' become a reality. I have been dragging my heels on this for too long.

I don't want to rush this process. I went too fast with Mom's story. It was necessary to start and complete the project that I had set out before me. This time ... it's different.

It's all in the details. The pieces of the past that many hold onto. I hope to capture the essence of the life of my dad's family. The past becomes our future and it is my goal to preserve and honor the family that came before me ...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Retaining Information

I absorb words and stories on a need-to-know basis. If it's important to me, I have some kind of written back up to prompt my memory skills. If it doesn't affect me on a personal level, I simply don't retain excess information (but I know where to find it if I need it).

Lately, Second Son has been calling me on my lack of memory skills. Oddly, I will subconsciously remember something that he has said and then reword it and reiterate it back to him at a later date. He shakes his head (sometimes in jest, other times ... not) and tells me that he was the one who told me that in the first place. To be fair, I have also given him credit to an idea or words that were originally mine. His honesty and bluntness keeps me on my toes.

As I am (somewhat) assisting Second Son with some of his start-up tasks, as he forges into his new business venture, my memory is continually being tested.

All of a sudden, it is important for me to remember the name of the guy who he has been talking to lately (about upcoming work). I could (almost) swear that I wasn't told a name at the onset of this meeting of the minds. Finally, I remembered the name that correlated with this business matter and then Second Son goes and throws this guy's business name at me. He expects me to remember something I've never heard (or have I?).

Then there is the lingo of his work. I have listened to him talk of the logistics of what it is that he does, but I have never been expected to translate that into business correspondence and cover letters. All of a sudden, my motherly interest isn't enough. He 'hired' me as his book keeper. I didn't know that understanding, communicating and writing the language of his work was a requirement (though I'm sure it wouldn't hurt).

Second Son is an observant one. While my mom was here last weekend, he commented on the fact that my mom often looks at me to fill in the word that is on the tip of her tongue. I have a fairly good success rate at that. I'm a wordsmith. All those years of doing crosswords have done wonders for my ability to pull words out of my mind. But actual memory work? Not so much.

I play word games to keep my mind supple. I ballroom dance, which has been noted as an excellent exercise in keeping the mind active and fit. I am a relatively organized person - my house and brain are in pretty good sync with each other (which is one of the many reasons that I'm worried about my closets and drawers that need to be emptied and sorted). I'm going to school and increasing my knowledge base. My brain is busy.

I was once told (and I vividly remember) that it is impossible to be expected to remember everything. It is just as (or more) important to know where to find the answers.

That piece of wisdom has served me well over the course of the past few decades of my life. My brain is a filing cabinet. Even if the file is empty, I know where to find the contents that I need to carry out my duties (isn't Google a wonderful thing??).

As I step out on a brand new ledge with Second Son in this business venture, I will do my best to fill the file folders within my mind with the information that I need to know. But in the mean time, I do believe that I must go and write down that name and business name that I keep forgetting. I'll tell My Son that we should start an address book (memory aid). That will fool him into giving me the information one more time ...

Friday, April 9, 2010

So Much Time ... So Little To Do

I was awake at the crack of dawn today.

I was out the door and en route to pick up milk, new jeans and ink for the printer by 7 a.m. - I thought that it would be the only opportunity that I would have to pick up those much-needed items today.

I was expecting a load of book-work to be dropped off this morning. Work that would not only keep me busy all day and weekend ... but most likely for the duration of the week ahead.

I wondered when I'd have time to clean the house and have a shower. But I knew that I'd need the break from the endless hours at the computer. I would fit it in.

Then it happened. The work didn't come.

The momentum for my day stopped in that instant. All of a sudden I went from highly inspired and energetic to ... nothing.

I did absolutely nothing but follow where comments on some of the blogs that I read, led me. I found yet another interesting life to follow. I did nothing else. For hours.

Then, I sat and had coffee with Second Son when he came home from his early morning meeting, (with coffee in hand). We chatted. And visited some more. The minutes and hours ticked by.

The less I did, the less I felt capable of doing. Suddenly, the mere idea of cleaning the house exhausted me. Let alone having a shower.

Eventually I moved. Once heading myself in a forward direction, I managed to tackle both items on today's abbreviated to-do list. Whew!

Then I had to make supper ...

Will this day never end?!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Loose Ends

I've spent the past few days dealing with loose ends.

I've had a good deal of things-to-do in an almost-done state. The act of completing a task and swiping the table clean (literally, since I usually keep that-which-is-unfinished in a pile in plain view, to remind me that I still have to do it) is liberating.

Instead of feeling like I have the energy draining out of me, I am energized. That energy spent on not doing things has been wasting a lot of my resources lately.

I continually remind myself that I have to ''Just Do It!" ... yet I don't follow my own advise. Why don't I remember how great it feels to wipe the slate clean?! But I do remember. I just get lost in the fine art of procrastinating and it drains me.

Today ... I am energized. The table has been cleared of those pesky to-do piles of work.

I have another pile that I've hidden for a while. It's time to spend some of that energy on my dad's family history. Not doing that has been exhausting.

It is time to deal with a few more loose ends.

Maybe tomorrow (here we go again) ...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

No News is Boring News

It's been a quiet news-week at our house. The only breaking news-story is:

  • Our dryer died late Saturday night.
  • Ever hopeful that it could be revived one more time, I called an appliance repairman early Monday morning. Only to discover that is terminal. It needs a new motor. They stopped making motors for this dryer. This news flash cost $65.95.
  • I don't enjoy life without a dryer. Youngest Son had a friend sleep over two nights ago. I have yet to put away the air mattress and bedding. Why? Because I always wash (and dry) the sheets and 'fluff' the comforter. The hamper is full. I am paralyzed.
  • I don't remember to clean the cat litter when I am not drawn to the laundry room to remind me of this daily chore. Our cat is thinking about moving out.
  • New dryer verses used dryer verses repairing the old dryer with a used motor. Oh, the dilemma.
  • Repairing the old dryer with a second hand motor has won. Primarily, so that I can put my $65.95 service call charge towards the final bill. Secondly, because it will be half of the cost. Thirdly, I am still in financial disrepair since the Great Dance Adventure. So frugality must prevail.
  • I am awaiting the return call of my appliance repairman. The clock ticks. The dirty laundry piles up. The cat litter is forgotten.
  • I am grateful that there is no school this week. My Youngest wears shorts and muscle shirts when he is indoors. Winter or summer. He has one week's worth of these outfits. Long pants? Two pairs.
  • I am hoping, wishing and praying that we get our dryer fixed today. I'm in laundry withdrawal. I need to catch up!
  • So much for saving up for Great Dance Adventures, a new (used) car and an Alaskan Cruise. I need to start up a Dryer Fund.

That's it for news. Hopefully tomorrow I'll have some other topic stuck in my brain.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


As the real world descended upon me yesterday, I started looking at the events of the weekend past from a different perspective.

I started rewinding the tape.

I took a most excellent day and I dissected it until I brought myself down to the person that I'm trying not to be. I was second guessing, reexamining and wishing I could 'redo' parts of the day.

But I can't.

All I can do, is 'pay it forward'. I'll take those things that I wish I had done differently and do them better the next time. Because there will be a next time.

In the mean time, it is back to the real world. At least until I start collecting more memories from my dad's family and friends. Then I will have the pleasure of immersing myself in the past.

It's nice to have some diversions from the daily grind. April is full of them for me. It's a good way to live. Reality grounds me. Plans, hopes and dreams keep me alive.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Making Memories

It was a fantastic Easter weekend. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, a lot of fun, surrounded by family and a little time to absorb it all at the end.

It is our Easter tradition, to get together with my mom so that I can do her income tax. Sometimes she comes to me ... other times, I go to her. But Easter always comes in the spring and before April 30th. A combination that makes 'Easter' a time for Mom.

This year, her birthday conveniently landed on the same weekend. And luckily, I heard of a few family members who hadn't made Easter plans. So I took a chance and invited 'the family' for an Easter/Birthday gathering.

It felt right, from the moment the thought came to my mind.

I can't begin to count the number of times that I have had that instinctual thought, that I have talked myself out of doing. "I can't"... "I'm scared" ... "What if no one accepts?" ... "It's too much work" ... It's out of my comfort zone is what it all boiled down to.

The last few years have taught me one valuable lesson. "If you think it, then say it. And do it!" I have come up with a few wild ideas (wild to me, anyway) throughout these past years. I have followed up on so many of them, that I can't think of the ones that I have shied away from. I have absolutely no regrets.

This weekend was a perfect example of why you must follow through on those 'great ideas'. Sister #1 immediately responded "What a great idea! I'll ask my family" (and just over half of her family was able to attend). Sister #2 did not respond. She was afraid that her family would accept the invitation. And they did! I have earned the nick name "Crazy Lady" ... but if this was a crazy idea, I wish I had earned the title long ago. My Only Brother had already made other plans, but he knew that it would be a success. And it was.

Our family is a mixture of personalities. Everyone has something special and unique to add to the pot. You put all of that together on a sunny Saturday afternoon, and the result is ... perfection.

If I let the day 'blur' in my mind, what I hear, see and feel is 'happiness'. The kids played together, met some second cousins and made new friends. I don't recall any crying or fighting or discord of any sort. That could be because their parents kept a distant, but watchful eye over things and nothing ever got out of hand. But also, I think it's because they were just a bunch of kids having fun.

My sisters are an extension of my mind and appendages. I didn't even have to think a thought and it was done. Food came and went. The kitchen was under control at all times. Possibly it was because they took on more of the worrying than I did. I'm not sure what I was doing as all of this was happening, but the load was definitely shared by many.

My adult sons took on the role of co-hosts. I often worry about the men, when these gatherings take place at my house. I don't have much entertainment for the guys. For the most part, I have lived my life 'solo', so I don't have a live-in male co-conspirator at my side. But I forgot. Boys grow into men. And my sons stepped up to the plate with ease. My Youngest has a ways to go ... but I have no doubt, with his Older Brothers as role models, he will follow in their footsteps one day.

I had no idea what the weather would have in store for us, so I didn't set up the tables in advance (not knowing if supper would be an indoor meal or outside). But that wasn't a problem. The men set up and dismantled the tables and chairs and I didn't lift a finger.

It was a day where I didn't even have to think. It unfolded on its own (with a great deal of assistance by my family). I had a chance to talk to many. I relaxed. I enjoyed every moment.

But the best gift of all, is that perhaps my mom enjoyed it as well. She found a quieter, warmer spot in the house (the weather co-operated and we were able to spend the day outside) and had the opportunity to have a more up close and personal visit with her family. It was her birthday. She was the unknowing guest of honor. She was the reason that so many wanted to come. Noise and crowds have never been her cup of tea, but in the relative quietness of the kitchen, she was able to take in the part of these gatherings that she enjoys. One-on-one time with her kith and kin.

My own little family had the entirety of Friday, to entertain Mom. We had an 'unwritten' agenda that we had in the back of our minds. Once again, the day unfolded easily. We visited, we laughed and we dreamed. We spoke of the past but focused on the future. It was a day filled with humor and joy.

I had a quiet day to absorb the events of the weekend. It was a day where I reflected on the weekend-past and a few emails that I wanted to send. I didn't have any public declarations to make. I shared my words with a hand picked 'audience'. I let myself simply absorb and savor the memories.

I look at my family - my siblings and our 'extensions of ourselves' ... our children. I marvel at the connections that we have and that we are nurturing. Looking beyond my immediate family and getting to know my own aunts and uncles has helped me to appreciate every little memory that we are making along life's way. The small stuff is big. Belonging to a family that feels so connected is a gift. I marvel at my parents for their role in guiding us into the people we became.

Then I wonder. Am I giving that same gift to my own children? I hope so ...

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Piece of Magic

It worked. Much to my mom's amazement ... she felt a piece of the magic that I feel at the dance studio last night.

I had my fears. I thought that I had pushed too far. I was afraid that the gift of a dance lesson was taking Mom too far out of her comfort zone. Her words were not entirely frivolous as she spoke of her discomfort about taking advantage of the gift I had offered. My gift of hoping she would experience the magic I feel during my dance lesson.

We walked into the dance studio and my dance instructor took over with ease. He treated my mom the way that I knew that he would. He made her feel comfortable. He did what I was unable to do with words. The magic of dancing ... the magic of knowing exactly what to say and make her feel comfortable.

I have had a hard time coming to terms with my invincible mom slowing down. She's been a vibrant source of energy throughout every memory that I have. She often talks about herself as a child ... as a young girl ... and as she grew up and into the spunky mom that I know and love. I've seen her stand up and face whatever life throws at her. She has been an unending source of encouragement and support. She has an inner fire and spirit that has melted the years away.

I wanted her to feel what I feel, as I have let myself be enveloped by the magic of the dance studio. I feel ageless when I waft about in the company that I keep when I dance. I believe that dancing has given that to me.

I knew the years would melt away when she got wrapped up in the spirit. I pushed this 'gift' at her. But I was becoming uncomfortable with her discomfort. We agreed that we would just go with the flow once we got there.

And she danced. She warmed up to the music that was being played at the time. She got to dance to one of the songs that has a special place in her heart. She danced some more ... and then it was my turn. We danced to another one of her favorites ...

As she was being introduced to the other instructors at the studio, I was reminded (in jest, but also with sincerity), that I was reneging on the gift that I had wanted to give my mom. Although my instructor brought me back to reality and asked my mom to dance another dance ... I infringed on the gift that I had so wanted to give. I danced too.

Mom insisted that watching my lesson in progress was a gift in itself, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I should have insisted that the lesson end with her having the last dance. How could I get so caught up my own enjoyment that I missed that moment??

We got home and she told me that she was very glad that she went. Yes, she could see how I feel the way I feel about dancing. The feeling within the studio, the entire staff and students and my instructor.

My instructor. I will never forget my first dance lesson. I had to sit down and have a chat with myself afterwards and remind myself that it is his job to make people feel the way that I felt before, during and after that magical lesson. I have watched him over the years and he treats everyone the same way. An intuitiveness that can't be taught. A gentlemen of all gentlemen. You can't help but feel good when you are around him.

There is more ... learning, laughing, enjoying the spirit within the walls of the studio. Getting to know the students, feeling part of a group and losing yourself in the moment. I feel ageless when I dance. And I got to give my mom a small piece of that magic. I just wish that I had given her more ...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Tonight's Gonna Be a Good Night

These are the words that came to mind this morning as I thought about tonight. I hope my mom is feeling the same way. Because tonight? We are going out dancing!

It's my mom's birthday in a few days. She's a hard one to buy for. Often, I just come up with some imaginative idea that costs nothing but time. But after about 20 years or so, my creative juices are running dry. Then it came to me ...

As the date and time of her arrival fluctuated in and around my dance lesson, each time I was told of the change in plans I immediately wondered how I'd work in my dance lesson.

First of all, her bus was going to arrive a half hour after my private lesson ended. I'd just miss the group classes and still attend my half hour class. Plans changed and then she was coming the next day. I thought "I'll get to go to stay for those group classes after all." Lastly (and so far, I haven't heard of any change in plans) ... she was arriving tonight. Hmmm ... my dance lesson. How would I squeeze that in?

My list of things-to-do this past Sunday consisted of: fixing my flat tire; reading a book; making supper for my family and ... wondering what to give Mom for her birthday. As I was sitting at the supper table with My Boys, it came to me!! I could give Mom my dance lesson as her birthday gift.

I am sure that I inherited my love of dancing from my mom. It is well known that she loves to dance. Her whole demeanor changes when she speaks of dancing.

I would have given her dance lessons as a gift, soon after I started dancing if I could have located a dance studio within her driving comfort zone. I investigated the possibilities but crossed the idea off my list since the dance studios were not convenient.

Throughout my years of dancing, I have thought (many, many times) of how much Mom would enjoy this. I find dancing intoxicates me and fills me with a joy like no other. I couldn't help but wish 'this feeling' upon my mom - the person who filled my head with these grand notions about how wonderful it is to dance ...

I called Mom Sunday night to forewarn her of my intentions. The last time we surprised her, her immediate reaction was "Well, I would have worn different shoes if I had known!" ... so I knew enough to give her the opportunity to pack the right shoes.

Her reaction was one of surprise, pleasure, unease and embarrassment as she thought of this reality. The longer she thought, the more uncomfortable the idea became. I tried to 'talk her down' and try to accustom her to the idea of just relaxing with it and having fun. In the end, we compromised. She will dance as long as she is comfortable. If it's ten minutes, it's ten minutes. If it's the entirety of the half hour? Perfect!

This gift is one of great sacrifice to me. I'm giving the most precious half hour of my week to my mom.

And that ... is how I know that it is the best gift that I have to offer. Tonight IS going to be a good night!