January 16, 2017

I love where we live. I love that I can walk out the door, choose a trail and be out in the wilderness within minutes. I love that a thriving cosmopolitan city is only a fifteen minute drive away. I love that in the summer we go to the beach and in the winter we go skiing.

Do you know what I don’t love?

Raccoons who use our roof as their personal litter box.

Raccoons notoriously return to the same spots most times to…ummm….do their business. These particular raccoons have chosen a very dry, cozy spot.

Under the eaves directly outside our bedroom window.

As I lay in the dark last night listening to the rain I suddenly realized that the rain was making a new sound. A heavy, trotting kind of sound. Damn. I grab a flashlight and open the blinds.

Three sets of eyes peer back at me. If they could talk they would have said.

“A little privacy please.”

The Best Thing in Life is having something to throw at those little stinkers.

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Home Alone

cat sleeping

It was two minutes before eleven when she finally finished the novel she had been trying to read for the last couple of days.  The cat was leaning heavily against her leg.  He twitched in his sleep then snuggled in a little closer to her in the big soft chair.

As she stood up and stretched she caught sight of the dirty breakfast dishes still in the sink.  She chose to ignore them and put the kettle on instead.  A cup of tea and a snack maybe?

The pounding rain had eased off to a drizzle and she wondered how her daughter was doing at sailing camp in the cove close to their house.  She had dropped her and a friend off this morning in the early morning greyness.  The had happily grabbed their life jackets and headed down to the dock.  The rain didn’t seem to bother them but she was more than glad to head home to a quiet, dry house for a few hours.

There was something cathartic about being at home alone for the first time in weeks.  The laundry was done, the “to do” list was all but complete, the bathrooms were clean (pretty much) and emails had been answered.  Okay, so the breakfast dishes were a bit of an issue but, really, they could wait.  At least for a bit.  Nobody else would be home until after 4:00 so she had….five hours.  Five hours.  Alone.  Excluding the cat.

June had been a full on month of work, year end wrap ups, ear infections and many, many challenging parenting moments.  Then a week full of Disney and dancing in California.  Late nights, early mornings and crowds.  So many crowds.  The input overload had resulted in a few headaches and numerous medicinal glasses of wine.  And the occasional margarita.

As she poured the freshly boiled water over the tea bag and spooned in a generous portion of honey she thought.

“What should I do now?”

It was genetically imprinted in her that after a few hours of idleness she must now accomplish something.  Her dad was the culprit.  Even at 87 he still wasn’t capable of sitting still for long.  It often resulted in exhaustion for him but damn it if he was going to change now.  So way back in her mind the tiny “stay busy” gremlin was getting restless.  What to do?  What to do?

She could put away the dishes?  There was that stack of filing that needed to be put away.  When was the last time she vacuumed?  Should she talk something out of the freezer for dinner?  Has she call her mom in the last few days?

The cat stood up and yawned.  Circled the cushion and curled up.  Asleep again in seconds.

She thought about it for a moment.  The dishes could wait.  She picked up the remote, turned on the TV and pushed the cat over to the side of the chair.

The Best Thing in Life is changing the way you spend your days once in a while.

 

 

 

TBT – The House

The House

My mom’s friend Anne painted this picture.  It’s the house I grew up in.  The house is now over 100 years old.  Although my parents sold it over two years ago I still consider it my home.

I grew up in this house.  It has creaky floors, drafty bathrooms and a huge rock in the basement.  It also has so many memories that it’s hard to remember them all.

Like the cow bell.  When my mom and dad were in Austria for their honeymoon they bought a cow bell.  A big ass metal cow bell.  That cow bell lived on the cabinet by the front door of this house.  It had one purpose.  When it was time for us to come home, my mom would stand on the front doorstep and ring that cow bell.  Everybody knew when they heard the cow bell that the Hamilton kids had to go home.  The cow bell had done its job.

Or the living room.  The room where my dad would have his scotch every night after work while he read the paper.  The room where the fire place would  warm us all up after being outside.  The room where we hung our Christmas stocking each Christmas.  The room where I told my parents that I was going to Europe instead of college.  The room that my son learnt how to crawl in.  The room that I used to rock out to Sonny and Cher to.  Ya, that’s right.  Sonny and Cher.

stockings 2

Then there’s the kitchen.  The tiny kitchen that somehow produced enough food for many, many parties, Thanksgivings and birthdays. I can’t remember how old I was when we finally got a dishwasher.  After dinner there were three jobs to do in the kitchen.  Wash, dry or feed the cat.  Accidents happened in that kitchen.  Typically after too much wine.  I learnt how to cook with my mom in that kitchen.  Typically after too much wine.  Wait,did I say that already?

My dad’s study.  The tiny room at the top of the stairs.  Boiling hot in the summer but holy crap what a view he had.  If you climbed out the window you were at the top of fire escape.  When the door was closed we knew to be quiet.  The dreams that were hatched from that tiny room have helped my family be who they are today.  The black rotary phone on the mahogany desk that my dad used to make endless calls getting his business up and running.  Funny how the smallest room in the house may have had the biggest impact.

Perhaps the best part of the house wasn’t even in the house.

The yard.  The tree in the back that my sister fell out of and broke her arm.  The metal pallets that we would put the wading pool on so the water would warm up faster.  The thousands of rocky holes and nooks and crannies where my parents hid foil covered Easter eggs every year for us and then for our kids.  The steep driveway that you had to take a run at to get out of if it snowed.  The cherry tree that we could reach from my sisters bedroom window on a warm summer day.

yard

I wonder sometimes as I write these posts if anybody is even interested in my old house? But then I think that one day I will be old (er) and maybe I won’t be able to remember all the great things about the house.

The Best Thing in Life is going to be reading this years from now and smiling the same way I am smiling today.

An English woman, a Scot and and an Irish woman walk into a pub

moving truck

An English woman, a Scot and and an Irish woman walk into a pub. No really, they did and it’s not the lead into a bad joke, it’s how I researched this post.

For as long as my husband and I have known each other (17 years) we have been talking about moving. We love living on the West Coast but, for my husbands work, opportunities are pretty limited here. First it was Memphis, then Boston, then Seattle and now Ottawa. Or maybe Seattle again. None of these discussions have come to fruition yet but it could happen any day and I want to be prepared. While I completely support him and his choice of work, I have never lived anywhere other than the North Shore of Vancouver (other than a couple of years working in Banff) so it’s safe to say that I’m a bit apprehensive of loading up the moving van and starting over. With a young daughter.

So I asked some friends who have made big moves with children to meet me for a drink so that I can get the skinny on what it takes to move, not just to a new city, but to a new country.

(This is where the joke line comes in)

I have to say, I got a bit more than I bargained for though.  The conversation ran from moving to kids to traditions to religion to shopping and sports and back to moving. As I struggled to keep up with three different accents and three different stories, I got some great insight into what moving with a family is all about. But I also got a bit of a lesson on what it means to be an ex-pat. Each of these three women has moved from the UK to Canada either for work or for a better family lifestyle. “If we didn’t have kids we would still be living in London.” And make no mistake “I am going home (to Scotland) to die.” Clearly they love their home land.

Moving to another city within North America may seem like a momentous change for me, but realistically not a lot would be different. Perhaps some differences in local terms may pop up. For example, on the West Coast you spend the summer at the “cabin” but in the east you spend the summer at the “cottage”. Really, a first world issue. Moving to anther country can bring vast differences. Religion, while for some an important part of life in Canada, is woven into everyones upbringing in the UK. One of my friend’s son hasn’t been baptized yet and she thinks that when her mother finds out that she may just stick him in a sink full of water just to make sure he’s covered.

“You have to do what you have to do”.

While life in Canada has its traditions, hockey for example, nothing can compare to the rich traditions of the British isles. It’s what one of my friends misses the most if she stops to think about it. “Shared history” is something that can not be reproduced when you start fresh in a new place. A ceilidh, I learned, is a traditional social gathering which usually involves Gaelic music and dancing. And telling somebody to “stick it up your jumper” is not a term of endearment. John Lewis is a store not a person. And real hockey isn’t played on ice, it’s played on a field of grass.

“Moving from the UK to Canada was less traumatic than moving from Scotland to England”. So, I learned, it’s not really about how far you move but how different the area you move to is from what you are used to. Yes, things will be different and you will miss the “shared history” of where you have come from but if you go with reservations and close yourself off, it can be horribly lonely. If you go with an open attitude and are willing to put yourself out there and meet people and experience new things, then it becomes an adventure. Especially with kids.

“They will be looking to you for help in adjusting and if you are anxious, then they will be too.”

As usual I have gone into writing this post with one thing in mind and come out with insight into, not only that subject, but far, far more. I have a new respect for these women who have let behind a comfort and history in order to move their families forward. I know that if it comes to that, I will be able to do the same. The Best Thing in Life is having inspiring women to help you along the way.

Coconuts on the Tide

coconuts 2

Life is like an empty coconut shell on the tide.

Each day the tide takes you out to sea and you bob around.

Some days are stormy and you have a tough time staying afloat.

Some days are fair and you relax and enjoy the sun shining on your face.

Some days you just bob along seemingly without purpose.

And every night the waves bring you back to shore. Safe at home until the next day.

In Appreciation of Growing Up

West Vancouver

Do you ever have those days when you are just at loose ends? That was me this morning. I didn’t have a lot of energy, didn’t have anything specific that I had to do and it was a wet drizzly day. I could easily have pulled on my jammies and gone back to bed, but I knew that wouldn’t really help. I didn’t have quite enough energy to muster up a run but knew I needed to get out and get some exercise. Closets are sorted and the yard is ready for the onslaught of November rains. What to do, what to do? And then I knew what I needed to do. I needed to go back to my roots.

Fortunately, my roots, or the area I grew up in, are only a 20 minute drive away. I was headed to Ambleside and a walk on the sea wall. There’s just something about going back to West Vancouver that calms me and in some ways, reconnects me. It’s familiar and holds so many memories and firsts. First school, first best friend, first kiss, first party, first driving lesson in a standard…..you get the picture. For me, going back to West Van and walking the seawall can clear my head and remind me about what is important. Family, friends and belonging.

West Vancouver is not necessarily the same place today that it was when I was growing up. The majority of the ranchers and cute little bungalows are gone. Replaced with huge, gated homes. Not many kids walk or ride their bikes to school anymore. Park Royal Shopping Centre has doubled in size and increased its profile. Bonnie Belle Makeup has been replaced by Sephora and Bootlegger by Banana Republic. Most people I knew have either moved away or, in the case of my parents friends, have passed away. But you know what, it’s okay. Times have changed everywhere and selfishly, West Vancouver gave me what I needed and I’m grateful for that. What did it give me? So many things.

An appreciation of nature. There are so many fabulous outdoor spots in West Vancouver that it’s sometimes hard to know where to go. Not just the sandy, park like beaches of Ambleside and Dundarave but also the rocky, often deserted, beaches between 29th and 31st streets. The trails and rocky bays of Lighthouse Park. For so many years I was convinced that the boogie man lived there. The mountains. A family friend had a cabin up Hollyburn Mt and we would hike up there in the summer and swim in the extraordinarily cold glacial lakes. Access to the island and Whistler were only minutes away. Believe it or not I did my first overnight Girl Guide camp out at the top of the British Properties. Somewhere up there amongst all those new homes is a trail leading up to beautiful wooded spot where we (gasp) lit fires and slept under the trees.

An appreciation of a good school. I still keep in touch with some of the people I went to West Bay Elementary School with (thanks to Facebook) and have such great memories of that school. Sports day three legged races, music class with Mr Rose, the annual track and field day at West Van High track, and of course those after school dances. It was such a simple time in my life but it was also a lot of life lessons. Like the time Katherine Taylor hit me over the head with her metal lunch box. Lesson learned? Don’t be friends with kids with metal lunch boxes. Walking to school, starting in Kindergarten, was not only accepted but pretty much mandatory. Lessons learned? Get over your fear of dogs, loud trucks and the weird kids who lived along the way.

An appreciation of community. May Day Parade 1974. I was one of the flower girls in the parade. Not only did I get to ride on the float but I got to dance around the maypole in my pretty pink dress. My daughter will be very jealous one day. If I ever tell her. West Van in the 70 was really just a small municipality. The ice rink on 22nd street is still there. I wonder if they still have Teen Night every Saturday? The aquatic centre didn’t exist then. If you wanted to take a swimming lessons, the rec centre assigned you an instructor and you went to somebody’s house and learnt to swim in their pool. If you wanted to hang out at a pool you went to the outdoor pool at Ambleside. Kids all took the bus. Everywhere. There were crazy people around then too but we all just accepted them and they lived their lives in their own way.

Really, I could go on forever. So many memories of people and places and events, all just a short drive away yet really so far away. I came home after my walk with a better outlook on my day. For me, The Best Thing in Life today is being able to just go home for a quick visit and a reminder of some of the important things in life.