Call Your Mom

mom boat

Just before Christmas my dad called and said that he had taken my mom to the hospital. She was having trouble breathing so they were running some tests. She was on oxygen and feeling okay by the time he left to go home. He was really calm and matter of fact so I assumed there was no huge emergency. I had an appointment close to the hospital that morning so I stopped by with a couple of magazines for her to read. She was off the oxygen, sitting up in bed and looked normal. I left the hospital and called my dad to tell him that she wanted her cell phone. She went home later that day and we waited for the outcome of her tests. Congestive heart failure. Not great news, but manageable and we all enjoyed a happy holiday season. Small sigh of relief.

Now its February and she is back in the hospital. Her heart was the original concern but after some preliminary testing they are doing more tests on her digestive system and monitoring her heart. She also has Parkinson’s Disease. Just to complicate things. She’s been in the hospital for almost a week now and I’m kind of having a hard time with it. I feel confused and scared and I just want it all to stop. I want the doctors to figure out what’s wrong with her and fix it damn it. Okay, so maybe add angry to that list of things I’m feeling. What if the results are bad? What if she needs surgery? She’s 82 years old and surgery would put extra pressure on her heart. What if her heart can’t take it?

mom skiing

So I’m doing what I typically do when I’m avoiding something bad. I’m cleaning the house. Top to bottom, bathrooms, floors, kitchen. Anything to stop thinking about it. The hardest time is trying to get to sleep at night. As I lie in my cozy bed I can’t help but think about my mom lying in the hospital. Uncomfortable bed, noises from the hall and nurses station, monitors glowing above her and side effect from the medications she is on. She’s putting on a brave face but I know how miserable she is and I want to help her. She was the one who always made me comfortable when I was sick. She’s the one who brought down all those high fevers I suffered from. She’s always been the one to make me feel better. I have taken her cookies, a crossword puzzle book, some sushi but it all seems so futile. I want to make all the icky stuff go away like she used to do for me.

In a lot of ways all of this would be easier if I was a religious person. I would have an outlet for my feelings and somebody to pray to. Maybe I could resign myself to the fact that this was God’s plan. And if it was serious, and she did pass away, I would know that she was in heaven and at peace. But I’m not religious and I don’t really know how to handle it. I’m a black and white person. I like things in neat packages and I like having all my questions answered. And not with “we don’t know yet”. I don’t have anything to turn to and make this earlier. I don’t have answers and there really is very little that I can do. Now I know why some people drink.

So this is what it all boils down to. The fact that it’s totally out of not only my hands, but anybody’s hands. It’s just that I’m not ready for this. I know she’s not going to die today. Probably not even this week. But this is the first time I’ve thought that it could happen. I can’t help but feel like this is the beginning of the end. I don’t want to feel that way but I do. She could very well be around for another ten years. But even that’s just not long enough for me. I don’t want her to die. There I said it. She drives me crazy sometimes but I’m not ready for her not to be there to drive me crazy.

So in the words of recent Oscar winner J.K. Simmons…..call your mom. Go. Do it now.

Still Looking

It’s been almost a year since I first started this blog.  I thought that it might be a good time to look back at WHY.path

I recently left my job. I had worked for the same company for eleven years and while I liked the company and the people, I didn’t really like my job. Sales was never really some thing I was good at or aspired to get better at. My oldest child is graduating from high school this year and getting ready for college (fingers crossed), my youngest is navigating the grade one playground and exploring every activity we will allow her and my husband travels a lot. And I mean a lot. So when the opportunity presented itself I decided that this was just the right thing for me to do at this point in my life.

I had been thinking about what I would do with my time now that I am a lady of leisure. I’m almost fifty and with the kids in school I have a few hours every day to fill. While running and yoga will be high on my daily list of things to do, I feel that having another focus might be a good idea. So I thought that I would join the thousands of others out there and create a blog. Only problem is I wasn’t sure what to write about.

I don’t really have a “thing”. I’ve often wondered what my “passion” is. Never found my “niche”. Getting the picture?  I do, however, have an abundance of friends who do have a thing. From high school friends to mom friends to family acquaintance; I seem to know a lot of people who do really cool things. If ever I need advice, products or just a connection to another friend I know exactly where to go. The majority of these people have managed to create a business from their passions and are thriving in life. Whether creative or practical they are doing what they love with amazing dedication.

So where does that leave me? It leaves me with a wealth of stories and connections for great people and cool jobs, hobbies and passions. So here’s what I’m thinking. I’m going to spend the next few months (maybe years) exploring those connections and those people. This may involve lengthy conversations over coffee or on the running trails or may even involve some wine. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to find out how they knew what their thing was and where it’s taken them. Maybe they didn’t know right away and have some cool back story about the day they discovered it. Then I’m going to share it with you.

I’m also going to try and discover what my “thing” may be by exploring all that life has to offer.  New experiences with family and friends are definitely in my future and, of course, will be well documented right here.

Here’s to discovering what the best things in life are

P.S. I would love your feedback and comments.

Gung Hay Fat Choy

Gung-Hay-Fat-Choy-symbols

The West Coast is experiencing a magnificent February this year and with an empty calendar for today I decided to get out and make the most of it. I hadn’t been downtown in ages and with tomorrow being Chinese New Year I thought that Chinatown would make a great morning excursion. Vancouver’s Chinatown is one of the largest historic Chinatowns in North America and although over the years it has declined as members of Vancouver’s Cantonese Chinese community have dispersed to other areas, it still holds a lot of charm.

lantern

I love the hustle and bustle of Chinatown, particularly the day before a huge celebration. The ladies pulling their shopping carts behind them and haggling over the price of live fish. The crazy old lady at the produce stand yelling at passers-by to, I’m assuming, come and check out her fresh fruits and veggies. One day I will ask one of the little old ladies at the markets what the hell all those things are. Basket after basket of dehydrated somethings. Some are fish but others are, well I don’t know what they are, but they look so interesting and I can only imagine the flavor they would add to a stir fry. Chinatown is always loud for some reason. Everyone seems to know each other and yells across the street if they see a friend. Most shoppers are chattering away as they make their way from store to store.

Chinese candydried fish

My first stop was the Ten Ren tea store at the corner of Pender and Main. I love their ginger black tea. Everything you would need for a traditional tea ceremony you can buy in this store. It’s all I can do not to buy one of their fabulous black and red lacquer tea sets. Really the last thing I need is another tea-pot. Next up is the corner store for red lucky money envelopes. Traditionally lucky money is given at celebrations like weddings, births, funerals and Chinese New Years. Apparently you are supposed to give money that ends in an even digit and should not have the number four in it as that number is associated with death. The money should also be in the form of a bill so that the recipient can’t guess the amount in the envelope.

When I was little my family used to go to a restaurant in Chinatown called the Ho Inn. It was just off the corner of Pender and Columbia. Old style diner style dining. The booth tables had huge lazy Susan’s in the middle of the table for easy access to every dish. My dad and brother always ordered the garlic cod for the sole purpose of daring each other to eat the eye balls. Ewwww. Unfortunately the restaurant burnt down many years ago and a new fusion bistro stand in its place. The store next door was almost as big a part of the dining experience as the restaurant. A typical Chinatown trading market with incense, delicate China soup bowls and spoons, red and gold tasselled figurines and bags of brightly coloured candies. The white rabbit ones where my favorite. I loved going there after dinner to look at the curios while the lady behind the counter gave me the stink eye. I’m pretty sure she thought I was going to break something.

Chinatown street signs

I think that the Dollar Market still has the best barbecued pork and the line up of people waiting outside the store is significant. I was the only Caucasian person in the line up today. I would guess there were twenty people waiting patiently to buy cooked meat. The window is full of whole roasted chickens, barbecue pork loins and whole sides of pork that is sold by the rib. The men behind the counter wield huge sharp cleavers and chop the meat up so quickly I’m surprised they all still have ten fingers. Once I get to the front of the line I order a half a pound of barbecued pork. Chopped and wrapped in brown wax paper it is moist, fragrant and delicious. I rarely make it home without sneaking a bite or two. The meat store can be a bit off putting to some who are used the sterility of a Safeway meat department but that’s part of the charm for me.

dollar market

In the Chinese calendar the coming year is the year of the sheep. The Chinese regard sheep as an auspicious animal, so the Year of the Sheep should be a year of promise and prosperity. I myself am a dragon. Interestingly, all of the men in my life are rats. My dad, my ex-husband, my current husband and my son. Wonder if that means anything?  So as I head home with my tea, barbecued park and lucky money envelopes, I look forward to a great year and enjoying all The Best Things in Life.  Get out and enjoy somewhere you haven’t been in a while.  It’s worth it!

Finally Learning What Love Is

romance couple

Is it possible that after fifty years I have finally figured out what love really looks and feels like? I mean, really feels like. Deep in your heart and soul. It’s not that my life has been without love for that long but until recently I don’t think that I really understood love. How powerful it can be and how it can complete your life and bring you contentment and peace. I have been happily married for almost fourteen years but in the last couple of years I think that I have finally accepted how great love can be.

When I met my husband I had only been separated from my ex husband for 10 months. I had some trust issues you could say. I had pretty much sworn off men but my co-worker was convinced that I needed a date. She even went so far as to list all the single attractive men that worked for our company. I hate to say it but I said “no way” to her suggestion of the man who is now my husband. He was eight years younger than me and well, did I mention that I had sworn off men. As a new mom I just wanted to try to enjoy the few moments I had to myself outside of parenting and work. Yet somehow, on a company road trip to Seattle to see a basketball game, I found myself drawn to this man. And once the connection was made a couple of months later, there was no turning back. I knew right away that I would spend the rest of my life with him. So much for swearing off men.

heart

There was a moment very early in our relationship when I knew I could fall in love with my husband. It was just before Christmas. We had been trading emails and chatting a bit at work. I must have mentioned the fact that I had lost all of my Christmas tree ornaments in the divorce and had a tiny little Charlie Brown tree with only a couple of sad ornaments on it. I walked past his office one day and he called me in. On his desk was a gift wrapped box. Inside were four beautiful dark green glass ornaments and matching green and gold bowls. I was so touched that he not only remembered but had been so thoughtful. My divorce had left me in a fairly fragile state and this simple gesture restored my faith and put me on the road to learning about real love. Every year I take them out and tell my kids this story while we decorate the tree. My seven-year old thinks it’s romantic. My eighteen year old just rolls his eyes and sighs.

The journey from then until now has not always been an easy one. We have been separated for long periods of time due to work. We have had differences of opinions MANY times. We have co-parented with a sometimes difficult ex husband. We have made the decision to not have any more children and then changed our minds and embraced our little fireball. We have struggled through self employment and all that it entails. We have fallen down and learnt how to get back up. We (I) have given up trying to control the direction my life and the life of my family takes. We have cried and raised our voices and gone to bed angry. Yet somehow we are still married and in love.

The reality is that I love him more now than I did on the day we got married. I know him better. And he knows me better. He has taught me so many things. Because of him I am more open to love and kindness. A combination of the way I was raised and a bad first marriage left me closed up and afraid to get hurt. Did you know that you can be angry with somebody and then let it go and move on? I didn’t. I believed that if somebody did something to make you angry that you stayed angry at them. For a long time. Who knew that letting go of anger so quickly was so easy. I also didn’t know (or believe) that if I had done something to make somebody angry that they could forgive me and still love me. On the same day even. Again, I believed that forgiving and moving on took days. If it happened at all. But I now know that this is what love really looks like. The security of knowing that you can screw up and the sky won’t fall on your head. This is what my husband has taught me.

A perfect marriage is just two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other. The Best Thing in Life is that over the years he refused to give up on me and I refused to give up on him. So, don’t just look for love. Look for real inconvenient, ridiculous, can’t live without you love. Because that’s the love that you deserve. And don’t give up. It may take years to fully embrace, but it is most definitely worth it.

Breaking Habits

yoga drawing

I am a creature of habit. We all are really. We find something we like and we get into a groove. For some, it’s their morning coffee. Some have a regular exercise ritual. Others find a TV show and can’t get through the week without it. For the past ten months I have gone to yoga every Thursday morning at 9:30am. I love the class. It’s a great mix of relaxation, stretch and physicality. I know what to expect and it never fails to deliver. Yoga is a fairly new thing for me and my introduction was with mixed feelings.  But I have stuck with it and now look forward to my weekly fix of ohms.

My friend and I went for a relatively long and hilly trail run yesterday and my leg muscles were screaming for a good stretch. But it was now Friday. My usual class was yesterday. What to do, what to do? I really needed to stretch. “Suck it up sister and go to a class that is different and where you don’t know the instructor”. Was that really me talking? Me. The one that doesn’t always like to venture out before analyzing all options and thinking about it for a week or two? What the hell was going on in my head. Before I knew it I was logged in and registered for the class. I wondered what it would be like. Would I like it? Would it be close to what I was used to?

The class started and I settled in and closed my eyes. Sitting cross-legged isn’t very comfortable for me. It’s just not the way I roll. The instructor was quietly taking us out of our busy morning and into a quieter place. And then we kept going. And going. Breathing and breathing and breathing. My legs started to cramp and my mind started to wander. Why is she taking so long to get going, I wondered. Just as I got to the point where I was going to unravel (literally and figuratively) she asked us to open our eyes and change position. Thank god. But then she picked up a Hoberman Sphere. It’s a child toy that starts as a small ball and expands out into bigger ball. She was using it to demonstrate how to breathe through your practice. Cool, I thought. Well for the first 30 second it was cool. Three or four minutes later I was pretty sure I had the concept down. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great way to visualize how your lungs and rib cage expand and contract, but I wanted to move on. I was used to moving on.

Hoberman Sphere

Once we started to move things progressed slowly. I like a class that moves along at a pretty good pace. The instructor was good though and careful to show us each move and explain it. I learnt a new way to move into downward dog. All the time she reminded us to breathe and think about the ball. Oh my god, not the ball again. The class wasn’t as challenging as I am used to but I tried to remind myself that yoga is all about doing things at your own pace. I’m no expert yogi, but I enjoy pushing myself a little bit in practice and I like to end up with a feeling of not only stretching but exertion at the end of it all. I enjoy feeling me muscles work and challenging myself in new poses. I wasn’t really getting that today.

Shavasana is the best part of yoga class for me. The relaxation after the exertion. The word Shava is Sanskrit for corpse. Meaning, I get to lie on my back, like a corpse, and let all the stuff clogging up my head float away. So, as we settled in with the lights turned down I was happy to just be. I had noticed a guitar case when I came into the studio and now I heard quiet guitar music. Very cool I thought. Nice touch. But then……the instructor started to sing. Loudly. She had an amazing voice and it was a lovely French song but all I could think of was. “Hey, this is my nap time and, while your singing is lovely, it’s a tad loud.”

shavasna

Will I go back to the class I went to this morning? Probably not. I’m sure that some loved it and got exactly what they wanted out of the class. I just wasn’t one of them. I, as a creature of habit, will go back to my regular Thursday morning class. It’s what I’m used to. However, The Best Thing in Life is listening to that voice in your head and trying new things once in a while and seeing what is out there. Whether you like it or not is up to you.

No More Pity Parties For Me

No_Pity_Party

It was Sunday night and my husband was packing his bags for yet another week away. I felt a small pity party coming on. He has a job that requires him to travel a lot. Typically he is away for at least three weeks a month and often that involves being away for the weekends too. It’s hard on all of us. He practically lives in a hotel and misses out on so many little things that happen at home. Our seven-year old misses him like crazy and knows exactly how many minutes it takes for him to get home once his plane has landed. But, as he packed and I felt the typical Sunday evening disappointment of being alone again creeping in, I stopped for a moment. The night before we had enjoyed dinner with our friend Nicole and her son Jacob. Jacob is three weeks younger than my daughter. The love of Nicole’s life and Jacob’s father died four years ago. They are alone all the time.

Lucas was only 29 in late 2005 when he was first diagnosed with small cell lung cancer. It wasn’t found in his lungs though. The first tumor was found in his nasal passages. After a horrific surgery Lucas and Nicole thought they were in the clear. Wrong. During the appointment to have his surgical staples removed they were given some literature and an appointment date with the BC Cancer Agency. They asked why and were told “Oh, it’s cancer. You didn’t know that?”  They were shocked but still weren’t particularly worried though as the doctor didn’t seem to be. But after meeting with an oncologist and doing what every sick person does, googling his condition, Lucas and Nicole realized just how bad things were. The doctors were now saying “we will do all we can” but the odds were not in their favor. Somehow in that horrific, stress filled time of radiation and chemo and sickness there was a bright spot. Early in 2007 Nicole discovered that she was pregnant.

Jacob was born on September 26, 2007. Fortunately, the next eighteen months were free of treatment for Lucas. It was a welcome change from all they had been through so far. I remember those times well. My daughter and Jacob as babies. Lucas playing Lego with the two of them at one of Jacob’s birthday parties. Comparing milestones, as all new parents do. The joy that Lucas had for being a dad. It wouldn’t last though. Over the course of six years the cancer came back 7 times and Lucas had 5 rounds of radiation, 3 rounds of intense chemo, 2 brain surgeries, a hip replacement, and countless other appointments and tests. Sadly on January 30, 2011 Lucas passed away. Aside from losing her husband, Nicole was now the sole provider for her family and at the young age of 38, a widow. Your not supposed to be a widow at that age. But she was and despite the fact that she has an amazing family and support group, she and Jacob were now on their own.

Feb 25 Jacob and Olivia...aren't we cute!

It’s not a particularly fun thing to do, but try to imagine your life right now if your husband was gone. Not just for a week-long business trip, but forever. Think of all the things that you rely on when your spouse walks through the door at the end of the day. I know that I struggle with things when my husband is away. Typically it revolves around discipline. Was I too hard on her? Should I have let that one go? Maybe I should have been stricter? Not having your spouse there to bounce things off of can make you question yourself. It breaks my heart to hear Nicole say. “I would give anything to have him by my side to tell me I’m doing alright. Even if just for one minute”. She often finds herself wondering in those times “What would Lucas do? To Nicole’s credit, Jacob is the sweetest little boy. He does well in school, loves to swim, loves Lego and can keep up with my crazy daughter on the dance floor. No small feat.

Liv and Jacob

Jacob is seven now and a great kid. He is a mini Lucas. Kind, funny, smart and energetic. But he is having a bit of a hard time right now understanding why all the other kids in school have dads and he doesn’t? He’s even gone so far as to ask Nicole “will I ever have a new daddy”. If that doesn’t break your heart then I don’t know what will. Can’t even imagine how you would answer that question. Nicole keeps Lucas’ memory alive as best she can for Jacob. They look at pictures and she shares stories of Lucas. His love of sports and the Miami Dolphins. Most stories, she says, include the word “fart.” Its a boy thing. Lucas liked a good “fart” story too. He was a big kid with a huge smile and a positive attitude about everything. Mostly she tells Jacob how proud Lucas would be of him.

I’m pretty sure that if all of this happened to me that I would find a dark closet corner somewhere and curl up into a ball. I can’t even imagine how hard it would be to not only lose the love of your life but to then be a single mom and entrusted with raising a little boy without his father. Nicole doesn’t understand how people see her as an inspiration but if you met her and saw the love in her eyes for that little boy and the smile that is on her face every day, you would understand. When I asked her if she had any advice for somebody else going through this she said. “Be easy on yourself. It’s a tough journey”.  What keeps her going?

Jacob-the reason she gets up each day
Family-her mom and brothers
Friends
Lucas’ strength of never giving up
Wine-it’s not an answer but some days it sure helps!

So going forward I will not hold pity parties. Whenever I am feeling like the world has dealt me a poor hand or if I feel like I just can’t quite make it through a difficult time, I will think of Lucas, Nicole and Jacob. They were all short-changed in the game of life but somehow have managed to move on and are seeing all that is good in what they do have. Beautiful memories, love and family. The Best Things in Life.