January 20, 2017

Yesterday my daughter and I made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Aside from the fact that they are now staring at me from across the kitchen, I am happy that we took the time to bake them.

When I was young all of the treats that we had were homemade. My mom was an amazing baker and considered store bought cookies “trash”. Cookies, muffins, bars, loaves and scones. Yummy.

Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies were definitely a favorite for all of us and disappeared quickly. I remember my mom attempting to slow down the cookie consumption by putting them in the freezer. Wrong. That just made them better.

We should really bake more often. It’s easy, it’s fun and it creates great memories…..but it also creates situations like this. Me sitting in the kitchen being stared down by a plate of cookies thinking about my mom.

The Best Thing in Life is fresh oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.  Miss you mom.

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January 9, 2017

We come into this world woefully unqualified for what life has to throw at us. It’s not our fault. It’s just the way it happens.

But never have I felt so ridiculously unqualified as I have as a parent.

People have been doing this for how many years? And yet……nobody has put together a comprehensive ” how to” guide. Yes, many have written self help books on parenting and I have read them all (mostly) but none of them have really resonated with me as being authentic.

I feel like at this point in my life I should have enough life experience to be able to handle this. So how do I take my experiences and the knowledge that I have gained from them and pass it on to my kids in a relevant manner?

This is not going to be a post with a smart, well written, Best Things in Life ending. This is a real question.

How do I take my life experiences and pass them on to my kids in a meaningful, educational way that will benefit them?  Without driving them crazy.

January 6, 2017 – A Canadian Sister’s Perspective

I feel a bit like the younger sister who has gone to a party with an older sister and suddenly realized that things have gotten out of control.

When we decided to go to the party we knew that it might get a bit crazy. We were nervous but optimistic that everything would turn out all right. You hear things but never really know how these things are going to go down.

So now the party is in full swing and my sister is getting scared. There’s a guy my sister met who keeps telling her what to do and when she doesn’t do it he gets angry at her. She’s looking around at me and her friends hoping that somebody is going to step in and help.

The problem is that there really isn’t much we can do. We can make suggestions and give advice. We can be sympathetic and comforting. We can tell the guy to stop, behave himself and act like a gentleman.

Ultimately though, my sister has to be the one to stand up and make herself heard and tell this guy that he can’t treat her that way. It’s the only way to make it stop.

I love my sister and our relationship has always been close.   If I could, I would step in and make the guy go away.

The Bubble

January 11, 2017 – a post from the past that seems appropriate today.

the best things in life

bubble

I live in a bubble.  It’s a lovely little bubble.  Bordered by mountains, the ocean and the city.

I live in a bubble that is a twenty-minute drive from the downtown core of an international port city.  A thriving metropolitan city that has hosted world events.  A city where we can experience diversity in food, art, and social events on a daily basis.  We could experience them if we chose to venture out of the bubble and go *gasp* downtown.  But it’s really just easier to take our kids to the local pub for a burger and a pint then walk home.

I live in a bubble where there is only sunshine and puffy white clouds. Okay, maybe a little rain, but it only serves to water the towering trees and feed the babbling brooks.  And the sunshine and rain grow berries and fish that feed the large black bears…

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January 6, 2017

Oh Friday how I love you.

Even though it was a short week I am still so happy to see you.

It is no longer the promise of two days of relaxation as it used to be as anybody with young children knows. Weekends can often mean even more activity and work than week days. Early hockey or soccer practice, dance lessons, ski trips, birthday parties and more.

So why is Friday such an oasis at the end of the week?

Could it solely be the fact that nobody is going to judge me if I don’t make dinner but instead order sushi and grab a bottle of white from the cold beer and wine store? Is it really that simple?

Yes. I think that’s it.

The Best Thing in Life is a Friday evening with my family eating sushi, drinking wine and watching HGTV.

Mom

jane-hamilton-1-cropped

Tonight it hit me.  Tonight the tears fell.  

It’s been three days since my mom died.  

I finally realized why I haven’t  gone through my photos to find the perfect picture for the reception.  Why I haven’t decided on a caterer.  Why I have told people it was “for the best” that she wasn’t suffering anymore. Why I have gone to work and kept busy.

It was because I didn’t want it not be true.  I didn’t want it to be real.

I didn’t want my mom to be dead.

But she is. My sweet, feisty, occasionally inappropriate, mom is dead.   Not passed away.  She hated that expression.  She always used to say.

“People don’t pass away.  They die.”

The first time I walked into the apartment after she died I was shocked to find that she wasn’t there.  Where was she?   Why wasn’t she sitting at her desk?  Why didn’t I hear her voice?  Why was I only making one cup of tea with honey?

I have lost my comfort person.  The person I call when life sucks.  The person who always picks up and knows that something is wrong before you even speak.  And right now I need my comfort person.  Because right now life sucks.

She was so brave in these last weeks.  She tolerated the imaginable and still kept her sense of humor.  

At one point my brother, bless his heart, was trying to get her to take a sip of water from a straw.  On the fourth attempt I could see the exasperation in his face.  He really wanted….needed her to take some water.  She was having none of it.  Without even opening her eyes she put her hand up and said “Piss off”.   Classic mom.

I know that she is still here with me in her own special way.  Telling me that it’s going to be okay.  Maybe she’s right.  She usually was.  

The Best Thing in Life is that I will have eighty four years of memories to keep me company.  But tonight, the tears will continue to fall.  

A Magic Kingdom?

I’m not a huge Disney fan and I’ve just spent a week in Disneyland.  I’ve got some thoughts.  I know, shocking isn’t it?

I don’t dislike all things Disney, but I’m not squealing with joy every time I see Mickey, if you know what I mean.

My daughter was involved in a dance program that included a couple of days of dance camps and then the opportunity to dance in two parades.  One in Disneyland and the other in California Adventure.  It was something that she will probably never forget and my husband and I will never forget the smile on her face as she danced her way down Main Street with her friends.

parade

(On a side note I now know that I can do a high curly ponytail and full stage makeup at 6:30 am and then sprint for the monorail all without breaking a sweat.)

elevator

Putting that aside…..there were a few things to dislike about our time in the magic kingdom.

We’ll start with the whopper of a visa bill we will get in a few weeks.  The US dollar is not our friend right now.  And Disney is not a cheap day out.  Tickets, food and “stuff” can add up very quickly.  And if you think you can do it without the “stuff” by all means message me with your ideas.

Then there are the people.  Thousands of people.  No, hundreds of thousand of people.  Lineups everywhere you look.  For security, for food, for rides.  Seriously people,  have you not heard of the fast pass?

crowds

Add in sore feet and a mild sunburn and a “staycation” in Vancouver is looking very appealing.

But there were also some positive moments that I will never forget and hopefully my daughter will remember too.

Just as we arrived at Big Thunder Mountain with our fast passes the ride closed due to mechanical problems.  It’s sucks, but it does happen and really, when you are hurtling along at lightning speed in a tiny open cart you are grateful for checks and measures in the safety department.  But it did leave us with three very hot, very disappointed kids and a limited amount of time.  We headed to the Matterhorn with fingers crossed.  Forty minute wait.  Crap.  Disney, however, showed its true colors and the line attendant honored our Big Thunder Mountain fast passes.  I almost kissed him.  But that wouldn’t have been appropriate.  Right?

On my list of things to get down during the week was to get my daughters silhouette done.  I had mine done when I was a bit older than her.  There’s a tiny store on Main Street where a man named Stephen cuts them.  With a pair of razor sharp surgical scissors he cut a perfect silhouette of my daughter in less than two minutes.  Not only that, he gave us a history lesson.  The term silhouette originated in France from Etienne de Silhouette.  Look it up.  We were the only ones in the store and it just felt like a few moments of time away from the crowds to reconnect and create a unique momento.

silhouette

And lastly, the poolside margaritas at the Grand Californian Resort.  Best enjoyed with friends on a hot afternoon while the kids play in the pool.  I would highly recommend this for anybody planning an evening visit to the parks.  It seems to make everything just a bit more magical.

pool

I would have to say that Best Thing in Life at Disneyland is taking the good with the bad and making your own magic.

TBT – Where It All Started

As I sorted through my box of photos and tried to decide which would be my choice for Throw Back Thursday, it struck me that I have had a good life. Not extraordinary, but solid and well-rounded. I’ve travelled, I’ve had (and still have) many good friends, I’ve had some adventures and I’ve grown up in a stable environment. While my early years probably may not be interesting to anybody but me, its my blog and I can write whatever I want. That’s just the kind of girl I am.

So here’s how my life got started…..

pregnant granny

When my mom got pregnant with me she already had two kids. Three year old twins. A boy and a girl. She herself is a twin so the odds were pretty good that it would happen. Why she tested fate by getting pregnant again with me, we will never know. The picture below was taken when my mom was about seven months. I’m not sure where it was taken. They lived in West Vancouver at the time so I’m guessing it was somewhere in that vicinity. How cute are they?

hospital

I was born at Lions Gate Hospital, as were both of my children. Why mess with something that works? I’m pretty sure that the flooring is still the same as it is in this picture though so they may want to think about some updates. According to my mom I was the perfect baby. Quiet and smiley. I liked to sleep. Some things don’t change.

first brithdaybirthday group
Looking at these pictures of me on my first birthday are bitter-sweet. They were taken in the dining room of the house I grew up in. My parents sold the house a couple of years ago and I kind of miss it. The view through the trees out to the water. The old style windows that opened up to a fifty foot drop. Looks like my mom made my cake that day as she always did. The flower floating in the brandy snifter is something my mom always did for special occasions.

The group birthday shot includes my aunt and my godmother. My godmother passed away about twenty-five years ago but she was a lovely woman. She was kind, made awesome cookies and loved a good giggle. My aunt, unfortunately, I don’t see any more. She and my mom and dad had a falling out about fifteen years ago and she refuses to speak to them or anybody in our family other than my sister. LOL. My sister looks totally bored. My mom’s hair? Nice.

bum on beachbum with hat

It didn’t surprise me when my daughter exhibited a strong love of being naked. She had come by it honestly. I, apparently, did not enjoy being clothed either when I was little. The first picture was taken at Boundary Bay Beach in Tsawwassen. There are more. Many more. In particular there is one of me lounging by the side of somebody’s pool wearing nothing but a white flowery swim cap. I’m saving that for its own post.

england
When I was eighteen months old we all went to England. The pictures was taken at my grandparents house. The house was called Hook Cottage and it had a huge English garden full of fruit trees. I love that my dad is wearing a tie even though it was probably just lunch with my grandparents. Very English.

Well that’s my trip down memory lane. The first couple of years of my life on a page. I’m grateful to have had such a nice start. Not everybody gets that. The Best Thing in Life is happy beginnings.

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.

MY DARKEST TIME

dark and scary

Life is pretty good these days. No, actually it’s great. It wasn’t always that way though. There was a time, about thirteen years ago, when my life was a complete mess. Wait, that’s not true. My life wasn’t a mess. I was a mess. A complete disaster actually. My life was complicated and things hadn’t been going my way. Not small things either. Major life things.

Having bounced back from an ugly divorce, I had remarried a wonderful man, my son was in his first year of school and I had a great job. All was good. Then the other shoe dropped. The day after we got married in Hawaii, the company that my husband worked for relocated to Memphis, Tennessee. A great opportunity to move ahead in his career,this wasn’t something he could turn down. We made the decision that he would go ahead and take the relocation and I would approach my ex-husband on the subject of me taking my son to live there as well. Unfortunately, he didn’t agree, neither did a judge….or an appeal judge for that matter. In hindsight they were right, but at the time I was devastated. I just wanted to put the past behind me and start a new life.

So there I was, living in a rental home and sharing custody of my son with a man who not only resented me for trying to take his son away but was bound and determined to share all of that information with my son. As much as we hated being apart, the company had offered my husband an amazing position and even though it did have a finite time frame attached to it (four years) we were newlyweds who only saw each other once a month if we were lucky. I hated being alone and it wasn’t any easier for him. We had sold our townhouse in hopes of being able to make a quick move so half of our belongings were in storage. It was a nice enough place but it wasn’t home. On the outside I had it all under control. Taking my son to school, going through the motions of life but underneath I was floundering in depression, sleep deprivation and anxiety over my relationship with my son and my new husband.

dark and scary 2

At the worst of it I would lie in bed at night in the empty house and imagine that gang members were creeping down the dark driveway to break into the house and attack me. It was so dark, so specific, so violent.  Yet so real to me. I would open my eyes and tell myself how ridiculous it was. I would go downstairs and turn on all the lights, look out the window and re-assure myself that everything was okay. The coast was clear. Back up to bed I would go. Close my eyes and the exact same thoughts would invade my mind. Just as I got close to sleep I would hear a tiny creak and my eyes would fly open and my mind would be all in a whirl again. It didn’t seem to matter how tired I was, I couldn’t get the images out of my head.

I’m not sure if it was the lack of sleep or the depression but my decision-making abilities were all but gone. One day I needed to go to the grocery store for dinner. I wandered around for almost an hour trying to decide if we should have burgers or pasta. Did I want something healthy or tasty and quick. I didn’t want to have to cook so maybe should just get something frozen.

I left the store with a loaf of bread.

Half way to the car I thought this is stupid and I should go back and just buy something. I turned around and headed back to the store. Half way to the store I turned around again and headed back to the car. Sitting in the car I silently cried. It’s just dinner. Why is this so hard?

Believe it or not I didn’t go to the doctor for what was really bothering me. I can’t even remember why I was there but it must have been pretty obvious that I was a mess. After writing me a prescription for sleeping pills and an anti-depressant he suggested I go and talk to somebody. What? No, I’m fine. I just needed some sleep and everything will be good.

At that point I was still in denial.

I couldn’t even tell a man I had known for years what was going on. He was great. He said okay well just go see this friend of mine and if she says your okay then you can come back and tell me I was wrong.

It was just what I thought it would be. A couple of comfortable chairs, books on self-help and lots of candles. Close your eyes and calm your mind she said. I closed my eyes but all I saw was movement. Grey moving shapes flashed in front of me. My mind wouldn’t, couldn’t, stop moving. Try again she suggested. I closed my eyes again. No, still can’t get the world to stop spinning. Opening my eyes again I choked back tears and everything poured out. I explained the last year of my life and how I seemed to have lost any control over what was going on. I wish I could say that after spending an hour with her I had a better grasp on things but that would be a lie. It took us months to get me back on track. The sleeping pills helped. Along with antidepressants and a lot more appointments in the room with comfy chairs.

So why, when things are so good do I go back to that time?  It was dark and scary and out of control. I go back because it’s important for me to remember that all of the Best Things in My Life were with me through all of it.  And they still are.  I just couldn’t see them through all the grey swirling movement in my head.