IntrepidWoman's Journey

Posts Tagged ‘family

As soon as we leave our parents’ home we begin gathering goods. We desire these ‘things’ for identification and verification. As we mark our territory and increase our belongings and put it out there that we own this, this and this, we feel authenticated. Keeping up with our peers, especially our close friends, is huge. It is a matter of success and keeping score. Some say they are not going to fall into that, so they plan a trip to Europe while friends buy their first house, thus expressing their free spirits as their identity, but once back home, it begins.

There is the right sofa and bedroom suite, the cuisinart and surround-sound. The size of the TV grows with the size of the bed and the mortgage. There is a higher-paid job with more credit available to buy more things to validate one’s life. The family grows and children add to the mix with their bikes and hockey equipment and trumpet lessons and digital necessities. On and on it goes. If you move, it is up. If you shop, it is more expensive. One television becomes several. Gone are the days when one pair of shoes with a back-up pair was sufficient. (Was there ever such a day?)

The journey continues as you raise a family, get a ‘better’ house and car, a trailer and vacation home. The payments keep you on the hamster wheel of life and years whiz by at dizzying speeds. Success is measured by the number of toys and the prices of the vices.

The generation of making do with what you have, saving until you can afford to buy it and taking care of it for a life time is all but gone. It was followed by the ‘why wait’, ‘I want it now’, and ‘it defines me’ generation. The mentality of ‘I want my kids to have more than I had’ continues through generations.  Instant gratification becomes the name of the game.

I am not condemning this. I am just stating this as my perspective. It is neither good nor bad, but it may really be a combination of both. I whole-heartedly bought into instant gratification, and my life has been exciting and a great personal adventure with few regrets.

Undeniably though, it does come to an end. It might be age or a drastic change due to health or income that brings it to a halt. It might be a forced ending due to an economic downturn. When it does come, it is hard at first. It feels like failure and loss of identity. It feels like a wasted life and a sudden, panicky search begins for new validation. It might be an end-of-life realization that you take with you what you brought into this life – absolutely nothing.

Sometimes when it happens unexpectantly, and you try to rationalize your entire life with a positive spin, it is a gut-wrenching experience. Some people who tried so hard to have as many ‘points’ as their peers and who forever failed, continually battled with the ‘not good enough’ image. To them it might be a relief when the count does not matter anymore.

Either way, when it ends, either with a mile-high pile or a scraped together small yard full, it can be a tough passage. Oh, but what a liberating passage it becomes! When the day comes that you must give it all up, the race to have the most toys or the realization that the few toys you have now mean very little, it is an awesome day indeed.

The process is downsizing and consists of getting rid of every single thing you do not use on a regular basis. It can include giving up a mortgage which includes giving up property taxes, insurance, repairs, utilities and regular maintenance. If this passage is a result of the kids having grown and gone, it might mean moving from 2500 square feet to 700 square feet. This could include reducing to one television, no bonus room or need for more than one sofa, music system or vehicle.

I downsized from housing three sons, then upsized to create a cafe with all the furniture and kitchen requirements with a final shift to a tiny condo for one. Everything I have now is for one. If I don’t use it regularly, it is out the door. The small storage room contains art supplies that I hope to use soon. I hang on to these as my hope for retirement pleasures in just under two years. My desires are simple.

The freedom of this is awesome. My job that pays well but is quite stressful is balanced by a serene life after office hours. In my nearly senior years, I do not have teenagers to usher to sports and music lessons after a long day or a fist full of payments to juggle every month. I pay the rent, phone, one utility, buy groceries and spring for a new universal remote for a very old television that faithfully continues to work. A new, expensive TV will not make the shows I watch more entertaining. The fact that I don’t have a credit card on which I am paying for a new TV makes the shows I watch most enjoyable.

If we keep score with ‘things’, I have totally lost the race. All through life, I never could compete because I was a single parent who never quite caught up to the double income families around me.

By my measurements after this recent right of passage (downsizing), I am immensely wealthy. I have the most incredible, complex, loving and intelligent 3 sons. My daughters-in-law are kind and caring and great mothers. My 3 grandchildren are beyond words and fill my heart to overflowing. My car runs and AMA has my back.  The rent is paid, and my job, although stressful, is the most rewarding work I have ever done other than teaching. I work with school groups and create programs for all ages, including seniors, related to art and history. I plan fun birthday parties and take part in town special events and work with a small core of the nicest people. We have each others’ backs in all things work-related.

I go home exhausted at the end of the day and sometimes have to just rest for a full day to recupe. But I go home to a tidy little condo that contains exactly what I need to live a comfortable life. I don’t have games systems, but I do have a library card. I have bookshelves full of books and photos of family and friends. I have a few remembrances of my trip with family to China in 2004 and a second trip with family to France in 2010. I have a horse blanket as a remembrance of Freckles, who fulfilled my childhood dream of one day having a horse. I was able to get him when I was 42 years old and taught myself how to saddle up and ride him from reading books. There were wondrous trips into the forestry and those years were some of my best. My memories of teaching and so many special students and then running a cafe, cooking for Meals On Wheels and then packing up after 31 years to move to my current job – what a great series of adventures.

My markers are my sons and their families. Simple. Nothing else matters when looking back on my life’s accomplishments. And of course, it is not over yet. Each day is welcomed with joy and humble thanksgiving. Each day now is a gift; now that I am thisclose to becoming a senior citizen.

My most important work this week was creating a picture with Miss Laura, age 3 1/2. At her direction, I free-cut an ice cream cone, star, santa hat, pumpkin and cat for her to glue down on paper. Then she added embellishments and put it on the fridge. We also made scarecrows from lunch bags to hang in the window. Afterwards, Michael played the piano ( he is awesome at age 5 10/12) and I clapped with enthusiasm. I came home thinking it could not get better than this and then the phone rang with a reminder that Jack is coming to stay next week. Would I trade all this for a porsche or a summer home in Italy?  Silly question.


Michael and Laura are a set. He looks out for her and she looks up to him. You do not take one without the other, so we recently had a sleepover for 2 nights at Nana’s.

They arrived at the end of a work week when Nana is exhausted but still creative. It is decided that the drive-thru at MacDonald’s followed by a picnic on a blanket in the living room while watching ‘Tree House’ is just the thing for supper. Success!

All goes well until Nana suggests a bubble bath. She has been to their house numerous times when mom has prepared the nightly bath and stayed afterwards for ‘good-byes’ from damp and sweet-smelling grandkids before they head off to bed.

But what is this? They are in the tub with bubbles and lots of bath toys that Nana keeps in the sea chest, but there are squabbles with “Michael, don’t…,” “Laura wont….,” until finally they are whisked out and dried off and led to the bed to a pile of books in hopes of quiet.

The reading goes well and two little tykes are finally tucked into Nana’s bed. She settles on the couch and as she closes her eyes. . . “Laura is….” followed by wails and “Michael took..”

This continues for some time; then one is removed until the other is asleep.

Nana is a slow learner. The second night is a repeat in the bath tub, but sleeping arrangements have been altered. Michael chooses to sleep on the couch and a comfy bed is made for Laura on the rug. They fall asleep within minutes. Nana falls into her own bed. Success!

Early morning brings Monkey and Fritzy, accompanied by Michael and Laura into the bed for giggles and jumping and morning joy.

During both days all goes well as we pan for minnows in the Sheep River, run around at the water park, have a picnic and share our food with a wasp, buy new toys at WalMart, and go to Playtopia where instant friendships are made.

By the time mom and dad come for pick-up with big smiles and eyes glazed over after two nights and days alone in their house, there has been a THIRD bubble bath with arguments and copious amounts of water on the floor and Nana mentally reminiscing about her own 3 sons with their constant spats when they were little.

When she relates the tub tales, dad looks at her and calmly says, “That is why they shower at night now. We don’t put them in the bathtub together anymore.”
Oops. Guess I should have asked.

~ ~ ~

And then there is the dad who takes his son to the doctor to have 6 stitches removed from his nose. He had fallen a week earlier and the handlebar from a scooter had torn through his nostril. At ER they gave him a shot in the bum and when he was suitably unaware of his surroundings, proceeded to stitch him up.

This time it was a trip to the doctor’s office where there was no sedation and so much fear that the doctor was unable to remove the stitches.

The father of this boy who had been brave all week but was suddenly scared, took him home and because his child said he would let him instead of the doctor, cut and removed those six stitches.

All things are possible with love. I expect both father and son are sleeping soundly tonight.

6 + 3 = 9. Today I had a perfect ninth birthday.

Combine a gentle, blue-eyed, blond almost five year old with an exuberant, 5 and a half year old whose hair and eyes are the color of dark chocolate, and sit them side by side in a worse-for-wear 2004 Cavalier to drive across Calgary to Tommy Ks, and everyone knows what you get – bathroom talk in the back seat. It starts with farts and goes downhill from there with giggles and ‘I can do better than that’ comments swinging back and forth.

The birthday girl in the front has the fleeting thought, “What WAS I thinking?” as she misses the turn off Deerfoot and has to backtrack to 130 Ave. (Jack is staying with her for a few days and she has picked up Michael so the boys can spend the afternoon together.)

Upon arrival, the who-can-ever-tell-them-apart cousins make a dash into a world of fun, and Nana makes a bee line for the soft chairs in the front row where parents and grandparents sit and keep a watchful eye on their youngsters as they work their way through the maze of kid-happy things to do.

‘It’s my birthday and I’ll do what I want to’, so Nana checks FB messages on her Ipod, checks her phone for text messages, pulls out a new book on ‘how to write a book’ by Janet Evanovich (Stephanie Plum series – awesome), locates her lime-green Ipod Shuffle containing a zillion songs from a generation ago, plugs in and zones out.

Occasionally, she glance around to see where the ‘twins’ are before jotting down some notes, adjusting music volume and heading into the next chapter. The boys return periodically for cold drinks and snacks, then breathlessly run off again.

Nearly four hours later, the boys are sweat-soaked, worn out, and ready to go home. Again, Nana thinks, as she madly adjusts the air conditioning in the car, “What WAS I thinking?”

Bathroom talk picks up where it left off with the addition of a tickle or two and we head to Michael’s house to be greeted by three year old Laura. She runs up the steps, singing “Happy Birthday Nana!” and “It’s a secret. I can’t tell you! It is a ladybug cake!” as she gives Nana’s legs a bear hug. “Nice,” says mom, Carmen.

Dinner is a delight and the crowning glory is the ladybug cake with three candles, one representing each grandchild. The little ones sing in unison and with enthusiasm, and Nana tries hard to stop time forever at that moment when her throat closes up and she feels the swell of gratitude in her heart for such a blessed life.

Three grand puffs of air extinguish the candles and requests are made for “an eye”, “the icing side”, “a second piece”, etc.

Because cake is just an excuse to eat icing, it disappears within minutes and the kids are off to play for a while.

When it is time to go, Laura jumps behind Nana on the couch and wrapping herself around her neck, says, “I am a backpack!” as she hangs on for dear life.

Jack’s birthday is in 13 days so he gets presents from his cousins and we head back to Okotoks, kids blowing kisses and Nana honking the horn and annoying the neighbors. (You don’t turn 9 that often. Well, after 50 I guess you do, once every 10 years.)

Every year a birthday is different. Each unique celebration of another notch on the belt of life is a present to be unwrapped and savored.

Sometimes a birthday arrives during a fine time in life when all is well with nary a worry and other times, well, let’s just say ‘challenging’ is a polite description of those other times.

Either place is okay to be if it includes the gift of children. Michael, Jack and Laura are Nana’s gifts that ‘keep on giving’. They give joy and laughter and love beyond description.

To sum it up, when Jack asked for toast this morning and Nana said, “What should you say, Jack?” he replied, “Can I have toast PLEASE, Nana Banana?” He grinned from ear to ear and Nana laughed. Happy 9th birthday, if I do say so myself…

Children’s books are a delight. I especially enjoy the older ones from one and two generations ago.

I was reading a craft blog on-line this morning that started with tips on dyeing ugly colored wool with Easter egg dyes, then progressed to wearing each others’ socks in a family, to losing one sock in the washer and holding neighborhood sock exchanges to . . .

It brought to mind a book that Jack and I picked up at the local library during his last visit. I believe it was called “Socks for Dinner.” It tells the delightful story of a farm couple who are tired of eating only turnips for dinner. She decides to knit socks and take them to the neighbors down the road to see if they will trade for milk and cheese. Being poor and having no wool, she has unravelled the hem of her husband’s sweater to make the socks. The neighbor gladly trades and a feast is enjoyed. When the desire comes their way again, she unravels more of hubby’s sweater and knits another pair of socks so they can enjoy more milk and cheese. This continues until the sweater is almost gone. Finally, she has enough wool left to knit one sock, but is not sure if the neighbor will trade for only one. Surprisingly, she does.

“I need just that amount of wool to finish the sweater I am knitting for my husband!” the neighbor exclaims.

The giggle is at this point in the story, and you expect it to be the end, but not so. The sweater does not fit her husband so she pops over to the first farm and gives the sweater to the first husband. (He has been walking around in the illustrations in a continually shrinking sweater.)

Best part of that day with Jack – we read the rules of the library out loud, by the children’s section. He quietly and carefully picked out his books and as we exited the building, he stopped, turned and asked, “So, how did I do?”  He is 4 and a half. Maybe I will teach him to knit on our next visit.


January 31, 2012 – I have edited this blog by correcting the title from ‘Socks for Dinner.’ I found the original book, titled “Socks for Supper” by Jack Kent and googled it for availability. Because it is out of print, people are selling it for $60 thru Amazon. I may have a gold mine in out of print children’s books!

Today I turned 8. When you pass fifty, you get to add the two numbers together. Eight has a nice sound, especially since my actual birth year was before the invention of colored televisions.

Best birthdays. Hmmm. How do you rate them? Most gifts? Best party? Longest celebration? Maybe. But really, which ones leave you with the warm fuzzies and stories to tell of love and laughter?

Today I turned 8. Michael, age 4 and Laura age 2, picked out a princess cake for me and it was chocolate with chocolate icing. They sang to me and Laura blew out the candles before the song was over. We all laughed. Michael blew out the candles on the second lighting.

The day started with my youngest son Dean phoning from Hong Kong and talking for over half an hour. He had to stay up very late (time change) to make this call.  Then son David called to wish me a great day. I had an appointment to see a specialist about my thyroid condition so had to take the day off work. (It is nice to not work on your 8th birthday.) After a two-hour appointment, I met son Jim for sushi. Later we picked up the kids from day care and Laura came running to greet me with a hug and a birthday card she had made for me. It had a photo of her on the front from when she fell asleep in the high chair at Eva’s house. Eva, her caregiver, is a lovely lady who thought this would be a nice thing to do today for Nana. For supper we had hot dogs on the grill, chocolate birthday cake and strawberries, white wine and Nana got gift cards from Itunes. Woo hoo!

Little ones excited about my birthday, sushi and a grilled hot dog, a princess on a chocolate cake – what more could an eight year old want on her birthday?  Lots and lots of birthday greetings from friends on Facebook. Perfect.

Absolutely the most perfect birthday, thank you.

Intrepid woman is not a princess and wears crocs instead of glass slippers (according to Michael) but feels like a princess today. Proof that you do not have to kiss a frog to become a princess.

In twelve hours I will get ready for my first day back at work. My down time in the Pass has been peaceful and restful, but is now over. Tomorrow is Day One of my new Life Challenge – Keeping My Authentic Self.

I have been drawing and listening to music and looking at my France photos this afternoon. “Here’s to you Mrs. Robinson” just started playing on the stereo – a glass of French wine to toast that, please!

Highlights of France for me:

* Eiffel Tower – a splendid monument to man’s creativity; it stands proudly above all others in the city of Paris.

* Musée d’Orsay  – where I bowed to the dancers of Degas. His work humbled me and quieted my spirit while it caused my heart to race. My best meal in France was in the restaurant at this museum with Lyndsey.

*Agde – a historical city of charm and gypsies and doors; a city of cafes, plays, music, art and markets.

* Three weeks with David, Lyndsey and wee Jack – irreplaceable and forever in my heart!

I woke up to thunderous applause in the wee hours, and now it is raining and getting cooler in our apartment, a nice reprieve from the extreme heat of the last few days. Jack and Lyndsey are still sleeping; David and I are having coffee and enjoying the view as he sits with his iPad and I with my Mac.

This is a most charming apartment. There is a very complete little kitchen, separate toilet, separate shower room with a washer/dryer, a large bedroom and a living room with a table and chairs by the window overlooking the intersecting streets below. Upstairs is a tiny bedroom with a skylight and it is only big enough for a bed, nice! I sleep on the pull-out couch which is very comfortable and Jack has a trundle mattress next to my bed in the living room as he wants to sleep with Nana.

We have seen no others in the building but there is a plaque for an orthodontist on one of the doors. Our walk-up is circular and winding to the third floor which was not so charming when we first arrived with all our luggage.  I am not looking forward to dragging it back down, but will be physically able to do it better after all our exercise this week!

The train tracks run across the way, up in the air, but there is not much noise from trains. The sounds come from the people. They are loud and animated and delightful. There is an energy and a positive vibe here that is unmistakable. I remember it was very crowded in China when we travelled there and the people were aggressive and non-smiling as they pushed their way through the streets, fighting for personal space, but here, they seem to have a purpose but are enjoying the moment.

Everyone is drawn to Jack as he radiates such an inquiring innocence. Yesterday he was sitting and playing outside a shop with a little toy, and a shop worker came out to talk to him. He looked up at her quizzically as she poured out questions in French. When she looked at me and said, “English?” I confirmed and then she spoke in some halting sentences to him. He is quite shy with people. Most people here have some English and it is not hard to communicate with them. Lyndsey has learned an impressive amount of French while planning this trip and is leading us through many conversations!

I could not be here with 3 more sweet people! This is a holiday that I will often reminisce about when I am back to the hamster wheel of life in a few weeks. I have such wonderful memories of Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong with Carmen, Jim, Dean and Kaoru in 2004. How lucky to be able to add France with David, Lyndsey and Jack to my memories!

Twenty five hours from now I will be heading to the airport with family for our flight to Paris. At this moment, I want to freeze time. There is joy in anticipation. At this exact moment, there is a sense of wonder as to what will be and how will it change me. I like this frozen moment of sweet anticipation. I am trying to disconnect mentally from work and just be.

For a few moments, I am just me, with a long past that just stops right here, now. I do not want to anticipate or wish for or plan or envision right at this moment. I just want to be me, sitting here with my history and my battered heart full of love and loss, and the ‘lumpies’ in my thyroid . . . just breathing in and out. All is good.

Okay. That is done! Time to finish the coffee and get those jobs crossed off my list and clean the apartment and get an oil change before I go and. . . .

Just one more moment.  Ahhh.  Life is good.

Long, busy day working at my list of things to finish while new things just kept popping up and making the list longer. Passing the torch to others now. I am done. Finished. Over. I have a life that does not include work. It includes Jack, my little heart-song. Tonight on the phone he said, “Two sleeps” and “I love you Nana”. Sigh!

Good story: contacted the two winners of our photo show, young people who get a week at Red Deer College in an art program in August. One said she wanted to give her week to another girl because she was a good artist and really would love it. Tried to talk her out of it , explaining you did not have to be a ‘good’ artist to go and enjoy the week. She was adamant, in front of her mom, so I accepted that she wanted to do this for her good friend. Turned out they barely know each other! She just really admires the other girl’s talent. I went to the Arts Council tonight (who are paying for the scholarships to this camp) and told them the story of this unselfish girl. They decided to send her too, as well as the other winners. Nice way to end the very busy and somewhat frustrating day today.

I hope these two girls enjoy the week-long art programs together and especially hope they become fast friends by the end of it! That would be a lovely ending.

And that sound you hear is applause. My hat is off to the Arts Council for their spontaneous generosity. Passing forward is contagious.

Historically Speaking

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 46 other subscribers
%d bloggers like this: