Being a kid

All my vacation days this summer, were spent doing stuff I’ve always done. Visiting family and friends. Hanging out in familiar locations. Even the pace of time away was short and sweet, a few days here and few days there. My cognitive abilities were not being challenged, tested and pushed to the limit, (which my everyday life can often seem like). And so, of course I loved my vacation days this Summer.

If it seems right to reach back to the May long weekend, then Summer 2015 starts there. Unfortunate circumstances, brought my family from Alberta to stay with me. We united with local, extended family for a celebration of life. (See Angel). And even though one amazing life had ended, we felt a boost of energy by being together and playing out our family rituals. This is when I first realized how much my childhood and my family hold the keys to the kind of person I once was. Maybe even more so, the kind of person I want to migrate back to. Who wouldn’t want to experience some of the “great fun” which comes with being a kid again?

In early July we made the pilgrimage back to Portland for WDS. This time my husband joined the fun. In a big group venue, with part inspiration, part education, I am reminded of being in a school auditorium for some kind of special event. The energy in the room is a buzz with great expectations. You leave an experience like that changed, but grounded. At least for me it was an even stronger reminder of what brings me extreme joy. Inspiration is queen. Always has been.

In late July, Calgary was calling. My own children had been in that area for almost a month by that point. While we missed them, we reconnected as a couple. A little scary to start. What happens when we strip away all the busyness of our kids lives and turn to each other solely? Will we have enough to talk about? Turns out yes, yes and yes. Ideas we tossed around in those weeks are some of my most productive, supportive and loving times of the year. Seems we not only have a lot to talk about, we still really like hanging out with each other!

A side trip from Calgary, took us to a very small town in Alberta called Bassano. (Not to be confused with the town of the same name in Italy). In this tiny place, my children can be. They come and go. They swim in the local pool. They eat when they are hungry. They are free to be their own people. The restrictions of modern life, living in a city, bound by endless rules, regulations and customs, have no place in a place where life flows at a simpler pace. This was the story of my formative years. It is only now, looking back, I realize how good I had it. Hindsight. It is also a place where you can feel nourished in a way. Because there are moments of deep reflection, there are also moments of deeper connections with other people. My Aunt made a book recommendation which was absolutely perfect. She listened to me talk, and then the book was placed in my hands. (See Work Life Balance).

3 Girls London

Then I was off on my own, the long haul flight to London, England. There I met up with 2 dear friends and we talked, walked, laughed, enjoyed food and drink and generally acted like the women we really are. Our truly authentic selves. Not the ones that have to be placed in a specific box by those around us. When you have the opportunity to roam like this, you are free. It is a fantastically wonderful feeling. One that I highly recommend to anyone. And it can be done in your own city. It can be done for a few hours at a time. I would think the benefits are greater is this habit can be practiced far more often than once per year. I just take what I can get.

My trip to London was a tiny add-on, to a business trip. I don’t want to give the impression that I jet off to Europe at moments notice for a few days! I do about 6 long haul trips per year and I have added these weekends, only 4 times in about 12 years. Even though the airfare is already paid, the extra hotel and eating out and having fun, can get a little spendy. So I am careful on this type of travel expense. The same amount of money goes a long way towards a Mexico vacation for the whole family.

Whaletown shore Aug

Speaking of family, once I got back from Europe, the very next day we were off to Cortes Island. Maybe it is because I grew up in Alberta, but BC Ferries meant fun ahead, summer, adventure and did I mention fun? Getting to Cortes requires 3 ferry rides. I was so excited, even for this first day of travel. (After the previous day of inter-Europe + long haul, being strapped into a seat for way too many hours, give me some space to roam!) The pace of life slowed with each ferry ride. The busyness of people, the stress, the appointments, everything faded away. As we sailed into Whaletown, I felt like we were finally home.

Whaletown sign

We spent a week on Cortes Island. We tried to do everything, in the hopes of packing it all in. But as the days progressed, we realized that was not going to happen. We had to come back. We started to speak of next summer, of doubling the time. But that seemed so far off. It also seemed like, “not enough”. Would we be able to experience this place for such short periods of time, so infrequently? Cortes was too magical for that. We had fallen under her spell.

For my part, the book “Tidal Passages” by Jeanette Taylor was an eye-opening view of what life was once like on Cortes.

What emerges from Taylor’s colourful pageant is a view of pioneer life that is quintessentially coastal: of potlatches, longhouses, stumpranchers, handloggers, beachcombers, seagoing missionaries, isolation that brought out the worst in some people and the best in others, and through it all the watery element of dugouts, steamships, ferries and tides that pulsed through islander life like a heartbeat.

Combined with our week of discovery on the island, my imagination was overflowing with modern life on Cortes. What would it be like to spend countless hours here? Experience different days, maybe an Easter holiday, Canada Day, even stretch out to a Thanksgiving or a Christmas break?

Canada flag

As we packed up to leave Cortes, I felt a profound sadness. I have arrived, enjoyed and left so many places in my life. Even within the past few months, why should this be so different? Where is the pull on my heart-strings coming from? How did this happen?

I’ve been discussing these questions with my sister. She arrived with her 2 boys, (kind of young men now), a few days ago. Her stay marks the end of our Summer vacation days. Tomorrow when she boards her flight back to Calgary, I’ll turn my attention back to work. The big Fall push that drives my company to hit the year-end goals. It is always with some melancholy that I look at the start of Autumn. As the days shorten and we brace for cool and then cold weather, the Northern hemisphere’s environment is moving into a cycle of dormancy, while we ramp up our industry.

Maybe what I miss most about being a kid was the innocence. The end of Summer was the start of school. Depending on the year, that was mostly a good experience for me. Fresh supplies, friends, learning, the return of the schedule. Nothing ever interrupted this certainty in my life. It was with a measure of dismay when I realized upon starting your working life that your Summer vacation would be reduced to a paltry 2 weeks. And that was only if you were allowed to take that whole thing at once, which might take decades to achieve. There was some fine print for you.

So I’ve learned an important lesson this Summer. I’ve practiced how to be a kid again. And I like it. Now, how can I incorporate this mindset into all my days? This is a question I feel compelled to understand and explore further. For me, it is a lock which I am determined to find the key for.

Call Your Girlfriend

I’m not sure how I found them, but I’m sure glad I did. The reference is to a podcast, “Call Your Girlfriend“, for long distance besties everywhere. If you are a girlfriend to someone and/or have girlfriends, I don’t need to explain the appeal of this any further. But maybe you are a little out of touch, as I was. So let me fill you in.

A long, long time ago, I was in school and I had some besties. Then, I left school and embarked on my journey in the workforce. What I realize now is, at the moment I started that first job, I kind of left my girlfriend world behind and fully entered into the world of men. Because, let’s face it, that’s how it was then, (arguably still is). And I felt this overwhelming desire to “fit into” this world of men. So I made the switch willingly.

At the same time, I met my husband. So I had a lot to learn about being in a couple. My girlfriend relationships began to morph into couple relationships. And then the moves. My career started to build into something above minimum wage pay and I was offered promotions/moves to another country, etc. My husband went along with all that chaos. And in the midst of all that, we grew extremely close. My very best friend became my husband. But, he was/is a man.

I developed some close friendships along the way, but it was so very difficult with all the moving. People who don’t live that kind of life, do not understand a nomadic spirit. And couples understand it even less. We were a rare breed. Then came our children.

Somehow, we managed to stay put at that point. For the last 13 years we have not left the neighbourhood, we even live in the same house. Our children have known a joy of home and connection to one place. They have been attending the same school for all of the elementary grades. But somehow I’ve held my breath.

And in this time, the world has changed. I’ve discovered there are people just like me. Those travelling sisters. We have a wandering past, we’ve done things. We’ve been places. And we want more. Just because we are middle aged, doesn’t mean we are finished anything. We are just getting going.

So it comes full circle. I’m at the point now where I want to go home to my girl-power. I want to connect to the strong and wonderful women around me. I seek them out. Some of these friends turn into besties and others build an amazing network. I draw strength and courage from them everyday in every way. I’ve arrived at the next phase of my life. And it is wonderful.

The lottery

Over the past couple of months, my family has discussed what we would do differently if we won the lottery. This is not passive dreaming, we had purchased tickets.

First one was my Dad. He had a ticket for a grand prize of $50 million. Since we were discussing how to spend his money, we didn’t get too greedy. My sister and I suggested a luxury family vacation. We started with what we knew.

My sister has been to Maui and has no great urge to go anywhere else, so Maui it was. I said it had to be at least a month. We agreed that private accommodations for parents, separate from children was a must. On the beach. Then, I really wanted to fly business class. My Dad busted out a private jet. So generous! It actually felt, for a few minutes, as if we were going to Maui on a private jet!

My Dad did not win that lottery. But my husband got into the spirit and bought a ticket for the BC Children’s Hospital Dream Lottery. The proceeds from this support a great cause and a hospital which we have used several times for our own children. It really feels like a donation, with a possible upside.

The prizes are quite lavish, with the early bird draw yesterday of a brand new Tesla Model S. I have not checked our answering service, so it is not 100% confirmed, but probably we did not win the car. However the final draw is November 5. While the homes and cars and furniture are all nice, we have our eye on the cash. $2 million would allow us to set up our future more quickly and easily than our current path.

As we discussed this lottery it quickly became apparent that we have a pretty great life already. In fact, I would not change a thing for the rest of this year. That is a pretty satisfying thought. Money would not improve the things in my life which I hold with the highest value. My family, our health. Friends and the great relationships they bring. Experiences, learning. These things money can’t buy.

So we sleep soundly knowing that whether we win the lottery or not, we already have the life of our dreams. I know how that sounds and my younger self would have scoffed at hearing me say it. Maybe this kind of perspective comes with age. But I have finally realized, acquiring more stuff, traveling to far off places, these things alone do not bring me true happiness. It is how I feel with the people I cherish most, these are moments of bliss.

Fast friends

There was an 11 year old girl in grade 5 who met my daughter on our ski vacation this past week. It was an instant connection. All they shared was tied up into numbers and gender. These criteria are virtually meaningless when it comes to adults becoming friends, but to a child on vacation we are talking fast friends.

It makes me wonder, why can’t adults accept each other as easily as children can? What have we lost in our ability to find similarities to spin a conversation around? The instant communication turns to shared activities, (a.k.a. play), and then a friendship is formed. Just like that.

There is no need for further investigation, what kind of job do you have, where do you live, who are your other friends, do we think alike in most ways. Children take things at face value. 5 minutes ago I had no friends, now I have one. Simple. Easy. Great day!

My daughter skied with her new friend and treated her with a gentle kindness you would expect from old friends. That is a good thing, the ability to live in the moment. Be present, be happy with what is happening now, be open to new experiences.

I’m not sure if this new friend will be in my daughters life for a long time, but my daughter will always remember meeting her and enjoying her company on this family ski trip. This is a special gift unto itself.

Third instalment

My husband does not like books that are part of a series. He has very little time to read one book, let alone get trapped up in an ongoing plot line. Particularly if the next books have not been written yet. But I don’t mind.

Some books are so good that the next instalment is like welcoming an old friend home for a visit. The known parts mixing together with the spicy new bits, creating an intoxicating brew. I have a few friends like that. No matter how hard you try to guess, they surprise you with exciting new adventures they have taken. But their essence is unchanged, those qualities that attracted you in the first place.

Kind of like Vianne Rocher. For Joanne Harris fans, I don’t need to say anymore, you know what I mean. The promise of more adventures with the lady that blows with the North wind and makes wonderful chocolates.

This third instalment, seems to be the last in the series. A little less distressing than the second. Drawing you back to the little French town of Lansquenet. Just when you think, nothing ever changes in a place like that, you will be surprised.

But, I have become a little like my husband these days. My stack of started and unfinished books at my bedside is a foot tall. And that does not include the digital copies on my iPad. So, when I saw, “Peaches for Father Francis”, by Joanne Harris on MP3, I knew it was meant to be. I have no time to read, but I have plenty of time to kill, trapped in my car.

Kind of interesting that for this trilogy, I saw the movie for #1 “Chocolate”, read the book for #2 “The Lollipop Shoes”, and now the audio version for #3 “Peaches for Father Francis”. A different form of entertainment for each. Luckily, Johnny Depp is fully fixed as Roux and Juliette Binoche as Vianne.

As always with Joanne Harris, I come away a little bit changed. She has the power to make you think deeply about relationships and your outlook on life. Very few authors can do that.

Talking to a friend

A friendship can weather most things and thrive in thin soil; but it needs a little mulch of letters and phone calls and small, silly presents every so often – just to save it from drying out completely.    ~Pam Brown

I really needed a friend tonight. I didn’t realize it until the phone call was ending. My spirits were completely lifted. Life didn’t seem so gloomy. My soul felt all patched up again.

Looking after children while your husband is away is very trying and tiring work. I don’t know how single parents do it, especially with 2 children or more.

The week was going pretty OK until this afternoon. Then a whole bunch of things unraveled at once. My daughter was in full crying mode because she didn’t get her way. My son was late for his sporting event and according to them, it was all my fault. Dinner was eaten in silence. And even though it was delicious, it didn’t taste so good.

Then I got a call from half way around the world. It was tomorrow morning for her. I imagined her drinking coffee and already fully into T.G.I.F. mode.

We chatted for long enough, that I started to relax. All the troubles of this week, that I had not been able to resolve myself to, we laughed away. Nothing is so bad, when a dear friend is by your side.

Kowloon, Hong Kong

Old friends

It is what I like most about social networking. Finding, (or them finding you), old friends.

It was not that long ago, that the effort required in keeping up a long distance friendship involved quite a bit more effort. For those who are my age, you remember the time it took to painstakingly write the letter, post it and wait for the response.

Now we are keeping up so instantly, that when I get my sister’s emails that summarize a week of her life, it is almost “old news“. Except that she doesn’t social network, so there is no way of knowing what is going on with her unless I get her email updates. Darn, she has me there. She will not join in and play with us, not matter how hard we try. My husband even started a FB page dedicated to the people who wanted her to join. No amount of pressure can make that woman change her mind!

But I digress…

What I like about all the different avenues of interaction over the web, is the opportunity to connect and communicate on so many different levels, at your own discretion. With a few words you can let someone know you are thinking about them. That can really make my day.

So for me, technology has made it far easier to revive and enrich my friendships, and that is some pretty good stuff.