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