Saturday, May 7, 2016

Happy 19th!

I know, I know. Last year I said that I likely wouldn’t write another birthday post, but as your birthday draws near, I feel like there is another post to be written. These annual reflections allow me to briefly pause and get off my gerbil wheel so I can reflect and appreciate all that has transpired during the past 12 months. 

Last year I thought that because you would be moving, not only out of the house but to places far, far away, that I wouldn’t have much to write about. It turns out that while I don’t have my fingers on the pulse of your daily rhythms, I still have plenty to say. Imagine that. 

So if I can sum up this last year in a word it would be “whirl-wind.” From the craziness of getting Logan ready to move abroad and all the paperwork and little details involved with setting up a life overseas and in a different language, to moving Quinn to Toronto, which by comparison was much easier, yet no less emotionally tough—this past year has been a blur.  

Part of the blur is due to not yet having the luxury of time to sit and ponder and let the reality of you two being old enough to move out sink in. Our crazy, demanding schedules were still there staring us in the face, and we are obliged to carry out our commitments with work and life. And yet no matter how busy we are there is a space in my heart that occasionally reminds me of your absence in our daily lives and the ache is as real as any physical pain. But I would have it no other way. I wouldn’t want you closer for my comfort because it’s always been about preparing you for your adult lives and being ready to walk into the world on your own two feet, even if your feet take you 10,000 miles away.  

Your past two years of high school were intense so it’s not like I had much day-to-day interaction with you two, but what I miss are all the little things that went with living under the same roof.  I miss your music, I miss your banter, I miss your humor, I miss your wonder, I miss your bitching about how I never cook with enough salt or butter, I miss your friends, I miss seeing you snuggled up with Ernie, I miss your squabbles. I can’t believe I just wrote that I miss your squabbles because it drove me nuts when I had to listen to you argue about the most ridiculous things. On second thought, maybe I don’t miss your squabbles as much as I miss you two together. 

You two continue to enhance our lives in ways we wouldn’t know possible without having the good fortune of being your parents. Your future is as much a question mark as any, but your foundation is strong. There is no question that you are both whip-smart, but as you’ve heard us say a thousand times before, smarts without a moral compass and compassionate heart is hollow. What we continue to admire most about you both are your qualities that truly matter in the end: your kindness, empathy for others, quick smiles, sense of justice and fairness, passion, and ability to love and be loved.
I know you roll your eyes every time we get all gushy and tell you how much we love and admire you, but I’ll say it again, we love and admire you and our lives are infinitely richer because of you two.  Thank you for allowing us to experience a love that is beyond words.  Happy, happy 19th birthday my sweet boychicks.  

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Happy 18th birthday!

Dearest Logan and Quinn,
I missed writing you a birthday post last year and since you are turning 18 this year and moving on, this will most likely be my last birthday post. Aren’t you relieved?! After this year we will no longer be under the same roof where I can track your daily rhythms. As much as this thought makes me break out in a cold sweat, it is also what dad and I have been preparing you, and us, for these past 18 years. Giving you roots and wings has been our goal, and I am totally taking this moment right now to pat ourselves on the back because HOLY SHIT, you guys are ready to soar!
Dad and I were talking about all the moments and decision points these past few years that have allowed you the opportunities you now enjoy. Who knew that when we first stepped foot on French soil that Logan would end up returning to France to study at Science Po! Who knew that years of internalizing the traditions presented in Harry Potter that Quinn would go on to study science at University of Toronto and be part of the collegiate structure similar to Oxford University!  It turns out that seemingly inconsequential moments and pursuits can actually shape the course of one’s life.
If we rewind the tape to just five years ago it was because we first vacationed in Paris before visiting family in England that planted the seed to return to Paris the following year for an extended stay. It was because we hit the pause button on our life while in Paris that allowed us to think beyond our borders and consider moving to Canada. It was because we had the good fortune of dad’s Canadian citizenship that allowed us to actually move to Canada. It was because you two were always industrious and curious students that you were able to test into the IB program in Vancouver. It was because you were nurtured and educated in such a quality manner that you were able to apply and be accepted into some of the most rigorous post-secondary institutions in the world. Wow.
What has been really interesting to me is to see you settle into your young-adult selves. Some of your patterns and behaviours are such clear reflections of me and dad that I am often dumbstruck. When people talk about reincarnation, I think it has to do with seeing versions of yourself in your offspring. Seeing ourselves reflected in you has given us the opportunity to provide guidance and perspective so that you can take our thorny parts and soften their edges. Amazingly, you’ve both been open to hearing what we have to say. What you ultimately do with the information is entirely up to you, but you can’t say we didn’t warn you!
What comforts us, as you are about to embark on the next exciting phase of your lives, is that you have a variety of tools at your ready to cope with whatever the world decides to throw at you.  The hardest part as a parent is no longer being able to stand in between you and the stings and bitter disappointments of life.  I now understand the Homeric metaphor of lashing oneself to the mast to avoid being seduced by the siren’s song. As your mum I sometimes felt as if I had to be lashed to a pole so as to not interfere with you experiencing some of the painful realities of life. Part of growing up and learning how to cope is to feel life’s arrows being directed your way. Let me just say right now that this part of parenting SUCKS, but it is necessary if you are to develop into autonomous individuals.  In all honesty, you’ve only sipped at the cup of disappointment. Perhaps you’ll be fortunate and be spared too much hurt and pain, but remember that beauty is found in contrasts and without the shadows you wouldn’t see the light. I think every parent’s wish is for their children to be safeguarded from the jabs and pokes, but it would be unfair to you to try and protect you from the ugly truths of walking as a human in this world. Sometimes there is no explanation for the ugly sides of our species. You can do all the right things and it doesn’t matter at all if your security is jeopardized. We are truly privileged and blessed to not know the horrors of living in a war-torn country or to be an oppressed people. May you always remember your privilege and work to better the position of others.  Remember that you don’t have to look far.  While your work with your charity helping school girls in India is commendable there are plenty of people who live close by who suffer institutional injustices.  I know you know this, but I am cramming in every last bit of advice while I still have you near!
Being a parent is the surest way to better understand your own parents.  Most parents will find themselves repeating things their own parents said and this will either make you smile or cringe, or both. I’d have to say that as you get ready to move out on your own I now totally get why my parents are always so keen on bringing the family back together.  I already feel this way with you two and you haven’t even moved out yet! Please just indulge us as the years tick by and we beg you to come home for the holidays. I’ll do my best not to embarrass you!
The bottom line is that dad and I couldn’t be prouder of who you two are. While it’s easy to boast about all your academic accomplishments and extracurricular pursuits, what we are most proud of is your integrity and kind-hearted spirits. You are principled, kind, honest, giving, open, caring, loving, and good-natured. These are the qualities that truly matter. While it’s great to be well-educated and have connections, if you’re a jerk, you’ll end up lonely and bitter.  What ultimately matters in the end is the quality of your relationships as these will see you through the hard times. It sounds so cliché and it really does take a long while to truly understand, but in the end it isn’t about money or fame or titles, but about our connections with others and the ability to love.
Happy, happy, happy, happy 18th birthday my darlings. You have been given roots and wings, it’s time to fly. We love you more than is possible to measure and remain your biggest fans.
With Love,

Friday, December 6, 2013

Making My Mother Proud!

My mother will always be the trophy holder for domestic primping, plumping and beautifying. I have no illusions that I'm even in the same ballpark, but at least I'm swinging. As promised, here is photo evidence of me going "overboard" in regards to holiday decorating.

Last year, all I could muster was this:
This year we are enjoying this:

Yep. It's like living inside a gingerbread house. Christmas wonderland. Ho Ho Ho. Winter Wonderland. Candy Canes.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Flaming Christmas Wreath

Goodbye Festivus, hello holiday overdose. 

Despite the fact that I lack a DIY gene, I’ve decided that with only two winters left before the boys move away for university, I’d finally put some effort toward the holidays and “dress up” our home. This may be a total no-brainer for most, but for me the idea of succumbing to the holiday madness makes me break out in a cold sweat. Maybe it’s because my mother transformed our home into a Christmas fantasy every year and when I moved out on my own the idea of recreating it seemed not only impossible, but somewhat ridiculous. I didn’t mean to forgo the holiday pomp and circumstance for so long, but somewhere in between leaving my parents’ home and having kids of my own, whatever joy I may have found in the holiday season hardened into a lump of bah-humbug coal. My inner cynic got the best of me and rather than find pleasure in the festivities of the season, all I could see was the callous over consumption and bad holiday music that assaulted me by late October. I always felt holiday burn-out long before the holidays ever arrived. It was easier to be a Christmas grump rather than carve out traditions of our own.  Even after the boys were old enough to enjoy the holidays, I just couldn’t muster the energy or desire to do much. If anything I was the holiday Grinch, holding out for as long as possible before getting a tree (did you know you can get a tree for $5 if you wait until Dec. 24th!) or doing anything more than duct taping stockings somewhere near the fireplace.

This is now our second winter season in Canada and maybe because Thanksgiving here is celebrated in early October, there is no energy around the traditional Black Friday that always brings headlines of people being crushed in the stampede to buy that new HD television marked down at Wal-Mart. It seems like there is a slower lead-up to Christmas here. I have yet to hear any holiday music being played in any store, and only now am I starting to see Christmas decorations being put out in earnest. Don’t get me wrong, the consumption machine is slowly eating its way beyond the 49th parallel, but it has yet to arrive here in full-force. Mostly you read about the Canadians who are masochistic enough to travel across the border to be able to take part in all the Black Friday sales. Have these people put no value on their time? I mean, enduring the grinding crawl to cross the border so that they can then endure longer queues once they arrive at their big-box destination, can hardly pencil out!

Quinn and Logan have often felt short-changed when it comes to holiday decorating. Hell, they’ve often felt short-changed when it comes to anything related to the holidays. Probably in direct response to my foot-dragging over the years, they seem to favor my mother’s enthusiasm for this time of year. So I'm giving in and giving them the Christmas bonanza they’ve desired for so long.
I’m going from this: 

To this:

I have no agenda other than excess. A million blinking lights strung throughout the house? Sure. Reindeer cutouts hung on our windows? Sounds good.  A flaming wreath around my neck? Why not. If it’s holiday related, it’s fair game. And how am I doing with all this you ask? Surprisingly chill. In fact, I’m sort of excited. Maybe it’s because my friend Karen has a batch of boozed-up eggnog aging in her fridge, or maybe I’m finally relaxing about the whole holiday stupidity and am just succumbing to the madness. I figure I can do this for the boys for two years and then it’s back to Festivus for the Rest of us!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Sweet Sixteen!

My sweetest boychicks,

Oh wait, you’re probably too old for me to still use terms of endearment, now that you are SIXTEEN! Let me pause for just a moment to catch my breath. Watching you grow so quickly has sucked the air out of the room and I am gasping. With no younger children to distract me from your soon-to-be release into the wild, I have no choice but to confront full-on the reality of being an “empty nester” in two short years. I suppose I could swan dive directly into that pool of denial, that up to now I’ve only been wading in, and get pregnant. Hah, got your attention there. How freaky would that be?! Don’t worry, I’m not that desperate.  No, I wouldn’t want anything to distract me from fully enjoying your next few years before you fully take flight. 
It’s a funny thing, this parenting. You see, there’s loads of information on the going-ons of the toddler years all the way up through about age 10, and then all the books related to parenting turn to shit. No wonder teenagers get such a bad rap, most books out there are for dealing with tyrannical teens. You two have been anything but and so we’re left to our own devices to muddle through and bumble along in our parenting roles with mostly-awesome kids. I guess it’s much harder to sell a book that deals with totally adjusted, interested, curious, inquisitive, takes-the-initiative type of kids.  So dad and I haven’t had much to go on other than our hunches these past few years, and seeing how you two continue to blossom into such responsible, fun, loving, caring, intelligent young men, I guess we’re doing okay, even if there is no book to validate us.  Not that we relied much on books anyway, but there were times when it came handy to grab a book and know that what you were doing was age appropriate, like eating your boogers, that sort of thing. Perhaps there is a book out there that would shame us into believing that everything we’ve done this past year will mess you up indefinitely, and we’d feel guilty and second guess ourselves rather than pay attention to the actual outcome of you two being pretty darn incredible, especially considering the life changes that you’ve experienced this past year.

We’ve moved to a new country. You enrolled in a new school (obviously.) You’ve had to make a whole new set of friends. You have learned how to maintain friendships from afar. You’ve had to adjust to us being a family of four (24*7)*4.2, to being a family of four (24*3)*1.25. This last sloppy mathematical equation is probably the suckiest part for me and dad, and yet it also the essence of parenting because as a parent you find yourself willing to sacrifice for your kids in a way that must seem lunatic to people without them. Maybe we have some precedent with your grandfather, whom you never had the privilege of meeting, giving up his precious time with your dad and uncle so that they could escape the city and learn from their extended Canadian family and life on the farm as teens. Or maybe we just knew you and were present enough to read your cues that what you desired was possible only by making a bold move. So we all held hands and leapt, and here we now are. I think it’s safe to say that we not only landed safely, but you two have hit the ground running and are starting to take flight. I feel like a mother bird watching you two teeter on the edge of a nest a million feet above the ground.  My heart is both in my throat and bursting out of my chest with pride at your accomplishments.  I can only assess where you’re at through the lens of where I was at when I was 16. I think it’s pretty safe to say that it’s like comparing apples to brussels sprouts.  You are light years ahead of where I was emotionally, intellectually and most important, confidently.  There was no way I could have endured the changes you’ve gone through. I was a classic tormented teen, full of angst and so inward looking that my head was pretty much glued to my belly-button until I turned 17 or 18 (or possibly later, depending on whom you ask.) In fact, I was the type of teen all those books are written about.  Now, I know I’m your mum and all, but I think I can safely say that the world is a better place with you in it. Your sense of care, concern, justice and compassion has already touched the lives of others in positive ways.  Dad and I are pretty much done with the heavy lifting of parenting and here’s a wicked little secret that no one tells you, but your Job as a parent is pretty much over by now. We are truly in the supportive roles now. Sure, we remind you to get to bed on time and turn down the volume of your music every now and again, but the day-to-day moral teaching of parenting is over. We’ve pontificated, hollered, spoke until blue-in-the-face, cajoled, rambled, muttered, and spewed all we can. You’ve pretty much heard it all and now it’s up to you to take the bits you like and the parts you don’t and craft those teachings into a shape that fits the essence of you. While it is sometimes really hard not to tinker and want to reach up and pat your out-of-place hair down, we do our best to restrain and give you the space to run and fall and get up again and learn from your life’s terrain.
I’d have to say reaching your sixteenth birthday leaves me both sad and ecstatic. And maybe this is the other oxymoron of parenting that gets little mention, but it’s true. At times I feel paralyzed with sadness that our day-to-day journey together is nearly over and in the very next moment I can feel such joy and anticipation for your soon-to-be flight that I can hardly contain myself.
Once again, I want to say thank you. Thank you for ballooning our hearts to such capacities that I feel like a helium orb bopping along the tree-tops. Thank you for allowing us to probe and meddle and inquire about your lives without shutting down or shutting us out. Thank you for your acts of kindness to others. Thank you for your generosity. Thank you for making these past sixteen years the loveliest, enriching and sometimes most grueling I’ve ever known. Thank you for casting shadows that make noticing the light possible. Thank you for being you.

With more love than I think possible to feel, Mummy

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dear Diary

My friend Karen turned me on to this group, Trifecta, which comes up with writing challenges. Having some extra time on my hands, I figured I'd give it a go. It's a good way to jump start those writing gears, which have sat rusty for a while now...

This week's word is:

1 archaic : unfavorable, unlucky
2 archaic : fraudulent
3: singularly evil or productive of evil

Please remember:
  • Your response must be between 33 and 333 words.
  • You must use the 3rd definition of the given word in your post.
  • The word itself needs to be included in your response.
  • You may not use a variation of the word; it needs to be exactly as stated above. 
  • Only one entry per writer.

Margie was typical of her time. She followed the same arc as most of her peers: School, marriage, kids, and boredom.  Few in her town veered much from the trajectory they all seemed to be on, although a lucky few inserted “teaching” between school and marriage. Often these women eventually had kids, and found themselves being pulled back into the same orbit they thought they’d untethered from.   
Margie was never one to rock the boat. A tamed, domestic future was fine by her.  She led what she considered a happy life in bucolic California. Nothing adrenaline-spiking happened to her or anyone she knew, unless you consider that one time when she snuck Edgar Allan Poe’s, The Murders in the Rue Morgue from the library because she was afraid of other’s reactions to her reading about something so macabre as death.  Upon finishing the book she often wondered if she was capable of a dark side. She tried to conjure up images of her playing the part of villain, but she was incapable of thinking of anything more extreme than dressing in black and slinking through dark alleyways.  When one lives a mediocre life, even its shadows are tame.  She eventually let go of such fantasies and settled into the life she knew awaited her. She married her high-school sweetheart, had three kids in quick succession and settled into afternoons of obligations to acronyms: PTA, YWCA, SI.
When she was delivered to her path’s final destination of boredom at age 33, she felt despair.  She reconsidered whether she was capable of a dark side. The next morning she awoke from a dream that startled her. She distractedly completed her morning obligations and once her children left for school she hesitantly approached her husband's study, put paper in the Underwood, and clicked out, Dear Diary, Apparently I am capable of sinister thoughts. I can't say I'm displeased...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Boots & Umbrellas

Living in Vancouver makes me realize that I have two massive holes in my wardrobe: a decent pair of rain boots and a functional umbrella. Even though I've called the Pacific Northwest home for more than 20 years, I've managed to somehow get through the wet months without these items. Suddenly both seem equally essential. I'm not sure if it's because I walk a lot more and spend scant amount of time in a car going from point A to point B, or if the rain here is different than the rain in Oregon, somehow making me more wet. Whatever the reason, as soon as these rain clouds pass I am hurrying out and going on the hunt for aforementioned items. Your recommendations on rubber boots that are worth a darn, are most welcome. Ditto for umbrellas that actually keep one dry and don't keep showing their undersides the moment a slight breeze pops up!