Monday, February 20, 2012

Family (Dysfunction) Day

This "Family Day 2012" is nearly done and it has taken me and mine for a ride.  I can't help but think that we are not the only members of a family who have experienced this day in more ways than happy.

We have engaged in heated conversations, comings, goings, walks in the sun, shared hot chocolate, enjoying time spent with those that are home, missing those that aren't, dealing with life's administrivia for the kids that are home for "Reading Week", eating left-overs, watching down-loaded movies, and remembering again all of the things that we adults need to worry about on behalf of our children...who don't yet know what they don't know.

That said, we are healthy, we are functioning, we each have a reason to get up in the morning and tasks to fill our days.   We care deeply about each other, we continue to extract great joy from being with each other and our beloved dogs, and we have a deep sense of our family, to our extended families, and to our friendship families. 

It has not been a rosy day but we have managed to scrabble together the parts that are good - each in our own way.  Today's highs were high and the lows were low.  Life is good.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

March Broke

Today marks the first day in a week long 'break' for students and teachers in the school system in much of our province.  It goes by many names:  March Break, Winter Break, Spring Break.

Since becoming a parent, I have found that this week is a mixed blessing.  As both a parent and teacher, the change of routine is welcome.  However, this particular holiday is loaded with expectations that one will go somewhere or do something of consequence.  I have been on the receiving end of a great deal of pressure this year from my two youngest children to head down south.  In their minds, they are amongst the very few of their contemporaries not heading to a sunny southern clime.  Thus, I did the requisite searches, quickly coming to the conclusion that it would cost $6,000 - $8,000 for four of us to fly south and be housed and fed for this one prime travel week.  Unfortunately for all concerned, it is not in the budget.  The level of disappointment in our household remains high - which is decidedly unpleasant.  As a joint custodial parent, it is "my" March Break year.  This opportunity rolls round every second year and I am left feeling as if I have dropped the ball - especially since one child heads off to university in the fall.

This is one of those times when I do not enjoy being a mother.  Personally, I feel no compulsion to travel south.  It is not in my budget, it doesn't sit well with my global philosophy and environmental sensibilities, it opens up the issue and cost of pet care for my aging canines, I have skin that should be protected from the sun for the rest of my days and a body that is certainly not primed for parading in a bathing suit.  (Note to self:  stop eating corn chips every day!)  I could extend my list but it is clear that I have almost zero need to head south for a week.   However, the real issue is that I am the reason my children are not having the March Break that they so desire.  I actively avoid burdening myself with 'mother guilt' in my life and am usually quite successful.  Not so this time.  We have put a few local plans in place but will have a lot of free time and budget limitations before school resumes.

Beyond all of the pettiness of our modern middle class travel expectations and sense of entitlements, there are currently so many real 'breaks' in our world.  What about Libya, Egypt, Christchurch, Japan, Haiti, the warming trend of our northern hemisphere, the state of violence in our National Hockey League?  The daily stream of media coverage and commentary of events around the globe leaves one sensing that much is broken and is in urgent need of repair.  Any one of us can look beyond these macro world events and reflect upon the micro events of our personal lives and relationships.  There are broken relationships, loved ones coping with broken bodies that are diseased and injured, broken promises that have left a sorry trail in their wake, broken appliances, broken cell phones that need replacing, broken this, broken that.

And so, what to do?  How to be?  What to think?  This week presents many of us with challenges, rather than escapes.  As we sit one week away from the official arrival of spring, I do think that we can be elevated by taking the time to serve where we might, repair what we can, and appreciate all that is right and good.  Personally, the oft-quoted Marcel Proust is most helpful to me as I head into the week:

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

The challenge will be to impart some of this wisdom to my family members!

Enjoy the Break!

Wondering Woman

Sunday, February 27, 2011


The past four months have offered up a number of situations in my family members' relationships which have resulted in endings.  These include both deaths and break-ups.  The net effect is that people who were in our midst are now gone. 

Two of my children have lost dear friends since November.  The deaths were sudden and tragic.  I never met either young man or members of either family.  I find myself deeply saddened for their parents and sisters and for all of their friends, my own children included.  These young men are simply gone now, leaving nothing but echos of their lives and spirits in the hearts and minds of those who knew them - and those who did not.

Three long-standing romantic relationships have been terminated this month amongst our children and  friends.  Each relationship ended for the right reasons and each ending is justifiable at this point in time.  What the future holds remains uncertain.  Once again,  people who have shared our table, our celebrations, our stories, our hearts and our minds are gone.  There was no opportunity to say good-bye to these dear ones, to wish them well, to thank them for the time that we shared by extension.  Much like a sudden, unexpected death, people who matter are now simply gone.  What if I wanted them back?  My feelings and attachments are of no consequence; these were not my primary relationships.  I am simply to let go, to hand these people over to the land of 'gone'.

I am feeling an accumulated weight of sadness concerning these deaths and relationship endings.  I believe the large number of events over a relatively short period of time is a strong factor. It is so clear to me now that our lives send out innumerable ripples that touch the lives of others beyond our reckoning.  We take turns making the waves and being bounced by them.  It all happens in varying degrees and without ceasing.   We are left to hope in times of loss and sadness for the restoration of peace and happiness.  We are not permitted to turn back time and reclaim that which is gone.  Instead, we are charged with accepting these changes and getting back to the business of living.

"You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."  That's for sure!

Wondering Woman

Monday, January 10, 2011

Day 10

Happy New Year 2011!  If you are like me, the holiday festivities already seem like a distant memory.

I like January 10th.  In 1992, I welcomed a baby girl and was mightily surprised that her older brother had himself a new baby sister rather than the little brother that I had anticipated.  She arrived quickly, painfully and angrily - seven pounds of fury at having to start her life on the "outside".  I marvelled at the fact that the flowers and teddy bears coming our way would be pink!

My daughter attends the same university as her older brother.  He made a point of taking her out for her first 'legal' drink this afternoon (he is catching a bus home this evening and will be off to Spain in a couple of days). Their relationship has been interesting to observe over the years.  It has not been easy and they are fundamentally very different people by many measures.  Both of them had to cope with the subsequent births of two more sisters and the end of their parents' marriage.  They are quick to hurl insults and see faults in the other; however, I am convinced that they also have each other's backs.  From the earliest months, it was her job to make him laugh - never the reverse.  This aspect of their relationship provided me with many sweet parenting moments and memories.

Time marches on.  I am psyching up to say good-bye to first-born son for five months this week.  Although he is in his third year of university and I am used to his absences, this will certainly be an endurance test for my maternal sensibilities.  Similarly, how did my daughter become a 19-year-old adult without my noticing?  It is a potent week as viewed through my parent lenses!

We all have the first ten days of the year under our belts.  Changes, challenges, surprises and opportunities await us all.  The year is still new enough that there remains an air of expectancy.  My hope is that we can all ride the waves that come our way over the days, weeks and months ahead and have a continued sense that "the world is unfolding as it should".

May you enjoy your days and nights as you ride into this new year.

Wondering Woman

Monday, October 4, 2010

Outside Looking In

I had a great day.  Every now and again, we are in a position to state this and really mean it. 

What is the opposite of great?  Not great.  As I type, my day has managed to flip from great to not great...just like that.  Actually, all it took was a little visit to my home computer to check my email.  In five short minutes, a little black cloud got itself parked over my head where the sun used to be and I felt the now familiar feeling of being on the 'outside looking in' on my own family - kids, step-kids, parent, siblings, husband.  There are plans being made and e-conversations bouncing that I feel I should be part of or be included in, as a mother, step-mother, sister, daughter.  Instead, I am feeling omitted, ignored, forgotten, and left outside of a few 'loops'. 

I am reminded again that there are those close to me who are happy to have the company of my children, the financial fruits of my labour, the services of my home-making, the company of my canines, and whatever my refigerator might offer up; however, they are not really interested in being with me.

If life offers up a steady stream of lessons, the lesson in this for me is to develop an awareness that I, too, am capable of actions that could have this same effect on people I am called to care about.  We all have people in our lives that actively enjoy our company.  It is important that we define ourselves by their acts of inclusion, rather than the passive acts of omission that occasionally sting us.

There is an oft-quoted line, "If you can't be with the ones you love, love the ones you're with".  I have given it my own little spin:  "If the ones you love can't be bothered being with you, love the ones who do".

Who have you inadvertantly skipped over?  Technology makes it easier than ever.  Let us all try to develop the mindfulness required in an age of face-to-face conversations, phone calls, email and text messages that it is now very easy to circumvent people - with or without intention.

We all need to take care - of ourselves, our communication practices and of others - always.

Monday, September 6, 2010

What I Learned This Summer

It is Labour Day and I am afforded a break from a steady, busy summer to relax, reflect and regret going to bed at 2:30 am...

In bullet form and in no particular order, these are some of the things that I learned during this summer of 2010:

•  Ontario is a fantastic place to live and if I never flew on another plane, this province could keep me occupied and amazed until my dying days (thank you to Oliphant, Kingston, Camp Lake, Sauble Beach, Fisherville, Wiarton, Thornbury, Toronto's Harbourfront, Southhampton, etc.)  So very much more to see - so little time!

•  In my 50th year, my heat tolerance is almost nil - like my reading vision.

•  Engaging in Craigslist efforts is very fun!

•  Blended families don't always blend - and that has to be okay.

•  Truth and honesty are my life-blood.

•  Some people are sociopathic and we all need to guard ourselves accordingly.

•  I really dislike playing host to parasites - of the insect and human variety.

•  We should all heed the warnings of raising teen-agers.  They are truly humans in transition.

•  Learning to text has its advantages.

•  Mothers need the emotional support of other mothers.  They are truly the only ones who 'get it'.

•  Good books and good movies make the world a better place.

•  Facebook is fun.  Connecting with friends and associates from other life stages has so many unexpected rewards.  It is a tool to be used only as one sees fit and connects us with little energy strands to the people that enhance our lives.

•  Bringing a new baby hamster into a home filled with teens and adults is a delightful thing to do!!

•  Kahlil Gibran is right:  our children are not our children...they simply pass through us on their way to the future and we have a duty to guide them, not own them.  But guide them we must - even if they have no interest whatsoever in our hard-won wisdom and experience.

•  Being a teacher on summer vacation loses something when everyone else in the family is heading to work every morning, often leaving me wishing that I could just head off to work too - especially since I am fortunate enough to really enjoy my job.

•  Even at age 78, my mother has shown incredible resilience and adaptability in recent months as she has been buffeted by the physical and emotional ups and downs of so many people that she cares about!

•  The lives of others have reminded me this summer that I am really thankful not to have had an expensive car accident, not to have been broken into and had all of my valuables stolen, not to have a parent in a care facility recovering from knee surgery, not to have parents and siblings struggling with cancer, not to find myself existing in a loveless marriage, not to be unemployed, and not to be chronically worrying about my children.  This perspective is of great importance.

•  I don't have to be "nice" to everyone.  Neutral is okay if there is no reciprocal relationship.  I have only so much energy and I need to budget it wisely so that the needs of all I have a duty to are met. 

•  busy, self-absorbed, distracted teen-agers still love their pets - even if they don't show it.

•  Summer is wonderful but it's really nice to anticipate fall!

Wondering what you learned this summer - would love to read some comments from any and all who have thoughts to share.

Happy 'New' Year!

Wondering Woman (who can't wait to meet her new little kindergarten students this week!!)


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

craigslist magic

One upside of having the summer "off" is that it affords one with time to explore things that require some time and energy.  I have been curious about craigslist for a number of months now, based on the experiences of some people that I know.  Thus, I gave up close to four hours yesterday, setting up an account, taking photos of items I am ready to part with, posting ads in the appropriate categories and then dealing with the responses that began to arrive in my gmail account.  While time consuming, I decided that it was my 'learning curve' day and made peace with the fact that today- one day later - I am $10 richer and two items lighter.

I stated in an earlier blog entry that there are other currencies besides money.  This was in great evidence today as I executed my two transactions with my first two 'customers'.  The first woman arrived by public transit, expressed deep gratitude for the bike that I was selling 'as is' for $10, and shared her story with me of being a single parent immigrant with a young child making a life in our city.  I felt like I should be the one thanking her instead for taking the bike off my hands and presenting such kindness and thankfulness on a hot, humid morning.  My time spent with her truly lifted my spirit.

One hour later, I arrived at the local subway station at the appointed hour to hand over a 'free' cat carrier bag.  This was the real prize...I received at least twenty emails from people hoping to obtain it from me.  I second-guessed posting it for free after I discovered that it retailed for at least $60.  The real goal was to get it into the hands of a cat owner who could use it, however.  The young woman who met me at the station was lovely, appreciative and gracious.  The cat carrier would be of use during a future move as she had two cats and only one carrier.  Just when I thought that this exchange was perfect enough, she pulled a book out of her bag and asked me if I would be interested in it.  Yes,  I definitely would be!  And so beyond exchanging items and pleasantries, we shared a  mutual sense of happiness as we parted. 

Yes, I have given this exercise a lot of time and energy in the past twenty-four hours.  No, it will not be my path to future riches (although I plan to take myself to a movie this afternoon using my monetary proceeds).  I now have two items out of my household, and the knowledge that two kind, grateful women made the effort on city transit to invite these items into their lives and put them back to good use.  I also have a few hours of delicious summer reading awaiting me, thanks to the thoughtfulness of the new owner of the cat carrier.

Most of all, while on-line endeavours of this type have the potential to go very wrong, I have instead experienced two encounters with all that is good about humanity.  I have been gently reminded that I have so much and that sharing with others blesses both the one that receives and the one that gives.

Wondering what to post for sale next and who might benefit along with me...

Wondering Woman