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.

Noah’s Ark

noahs-ark

I think that Noah had it right when he marched those animals on to the ark two by two.  And not just for the obvious reasons.

Some animals like turtle doves, swans and wolves hook up for life.

Given the numbers, I’m sure there were some tense moments on the ark.  Even the best of partners, given extended time in close quarters, will start to rattle each other’s cages.  Good thing it was a relatively large boat.  But how would they have felt if they had made the trip solo?  Lonely, unsatisfied and a bit of a third wheel as all the other animals would be with their mates.  Sure it would be fun for a while.  Footloose and fancy free on a trip at sea.  But soon they may have found themselves wanting some company.  Maybe just somebody to sit and share some hay with.

Some animals like dolphins and Bonobo monkeys only come together occasionally.

Bonobo monkeys, for example, are amongst a handful of animals (including humans) that have sex recreationally and for social purposes.  I have this image of a large hairy monkey coming onto the ark on his own and siding up to the bar trying to buy the llama a drink.  Hey, we don’t know maybe the ark had a bar. We just don’t know.  Anyway,  I would imagine the monkey would have found it pretty hard to find somebody he was compatible with on that wet journey.  Not to mention that pretty much everybody already had a buddy to buy them a drink.  Although, being that type of monkey, maybe he was okay with it.  Some are.

I have realized this week that I am not like that monkey.

I am a fairly strong independent women and I am used to being on my own a fair bit, but I need a partner and I’m not afraid to admit it.  My husband has been working on a huge event and I am immensely proud of him but it has meant that he has been away much more than he has been home in the last six months.  It’s not just that I miss him.  It’s more than that.  This last while I have felt restless and discombobulated. Like something just wasn’t quite right.

I would have been happy to go on Noah’s little cruise so long as I had a partner.  I would not want to go through life as a solo traveler.  I like having somebody to laugh with, argue with and cuddle with.  I like knowing that I don’t have to make decisions on my own.  I am happy that I have somebody to share my hay with.  Yes, both kinds of hay.

Is it human nature? Or are some people more like the monkey than the turtle doves?  Which are you?

TBT – A Place of My Own

In the second installment of my Throw Back Thursday endeavor I chose a picture of my son sitting on the stairs in the townhouse we lived in for five years. It’s not the only picture of that time, or of that place, but somehow it always takes me back there.

everett on the stairs

When my son was three months old, I left my husband. I lived with my parents for six months but the reality was that I needed to start over and that meant finding my own place. With the help of a real estate agent I looked at, what seemed like, hundreds of apartments and condos on the North Shore of Vancouver. I loved this place as soon as I walked in. It was roomy and bright and just felt good. My son did not have such a great first impression. As we were leaving I had sat him down on the first step going up from the foyer. I was standing in front of him while I put my shoes on but somehow he worked his way around my legs and fell head first onto the tiled entryway floor. He cried non stop for the next hour. I bought it anyway.

When we first moved in I had very little of anything. I had borrowed a crib and a change table from my sister. I had a mattress and a side table in my bedroom. The kitchen had a folding table, four folding chairs and a high chair. The living/dining room had a cardboard box with a borrowed black and white TV on top of it. A few weeks after I moved in my brother bought me a love seat for the living room. So basically I had a lot of empty space. With a nine month old boy just starting to pull up and walk it was actually great. Lots of play space and room for building block cities and hot wheels race tracks. Great when he was there. Empty and lonely when he was not.

Part of the reason that I chose this townhouse was how close it was to everything that I would need. I could walk to stores, restaurants and a great park just down the street. That first year was made so much better with green space to enjoy a couple of blocks away. On the weekends I would put my son in the stroller at nap time and he would have a nice long sleep while I got some much-needed exercise exploring the neighborhood. The townhouse also had a great patio off the living room that my son could crawl out onto and not get into any trouble. We planted flowers in a big half barrel that year and spent lots of time chasing each other around it and enjoying the sun.

Every wall in the townhouse was white when I first moved in. Boring yes, but also a blank canvas. Coming out of a very controlling relationship, I can remember how great it was to be able to decide on whatever I wanted to do with this blank canvas. I could put up any artwork I wanted to and paint walls any colour I wanted. Freedom. Exhilarating, heady freedom. I couldn’t afford a lot but I bought what I liked and hung it wherever I wanted to. Some of the art was even hung a bit crooked. I loved it. And I didn’t have to ask anybody what they thought. A very new concept for me. And I bought fresh flowers every week. Just because I wanted to.

It was a difficult time for sure but after a few months I met someone and eventually he helped my son and I fill up all the empty space in the townhouse. I no longer needed to buy flowers to cheer myself up and welcomed a second opinion on where to hang the artwork. The Best Thing in Life is new beginnings.

Pumpkin Patch

Run Lisa Run

ultra running 3

More and more I am finding that road running is hurting my aging body. The repetitive pounding on pavement is tough on my muscles and, despite some fabulous new runners, my hips and knees are often crying by the end of a 10km run. So I’ve been turning to trail running lately and I have really been enjoying it. Why am I surprised? I think it has something to do with my dislike of running up steep hills. A couple of weeks ago a friend and I ran a 20km trail run with about 1200 ft of elevation gain. It felt great and I patted myself on the back many times. Could I run that again? Could I run that five times over? Not likely. My friend Lisa can and does. She runs ultra marathons.

An ultra marathon race is defined as anything longer than a 26.2 mile marathon. The most common distance are 50km and 100km but people do 50 and 100 mile races as well. The races that Lisa participates in are trail ultra marathons. Run on paths and trails in the mountains. Factors to consider are elevation, inclement weather and, I would imagine, wildlife. You may even start or finish in the dark (or both) depending on the time of year and your speed. Trail running is a different beast altogether from road running. Your pace is way slower (and you just need to accept that) and with roots, rock and creeks to get over you need to pay attention to where you are putting your feet. And it’s dirty. Muddy dirt usually. Or hot and dusty. Sounds like fun. Right?

Ultra Running 1

I would think it takes a certain type of person to run an ultra race. In general, ultra runners are a well-educated group of people. Focused, organized and definitely type A. And yes, in my eyes, just a little bit crazy. So much of this type of running is mental. Lisa was having a particularly hard time on a recent race and was almost ready to drop out. Her running partner asked her if she was okay. She said yes. “Then get your head out of your ass”. She did just that and finished the race. The community that supports these runners is also incredibly genuine and inclusive. One of the men that Lisa often competes with finished this particular race two hours ahead of her. Yet, there he was as she crossed the finish line cheering her on and congratulating her on a great race.

So when she runs a 100km Lisa is out on the trail for approximately 15-16 hours. I was curious to find out how she fueled for one of these adventures. She said that the races typically provide aid stations that supply, among other things, electrolyte drinks, cola and potato chips. What? These are elite athletes and they are scarfing down junk food every 15km. Yup. Think about it. What are you losing when you sweat that much? Salt and lots of it. And the cola? Well a little sugar and caffeine never hurts, but it can also provide a welcome change from water and electrolyte drinks. Lisa carries Vega gels, stinger waffles and Cliff packs but readily admits to not always eating enough during a race. Sometimes she doesn’t feel she needs it, sometimes her stomach is upset and sometimes she just forgets. I was tempted to ask the inevitable question of how do you relieve yourself, but really, does anybody need to now that?

But really what I did need to know from Lisa was this. You have a full-time job, a husband and young daughter and you spend roughly twelve hours a week running plus cross training sessions. Where do you find the time? I feel that perhaps this is the downside of what she does. She admits that the lifestyle is not always conducive to a balanced relationship with her husband and daughter. They support her and are incredibly proud of her accomplishments, but something has to give when you are spending that amount of time dedicated to a hobby. If you are going to do this you need to do it 100% or it just isn’t worth doing. Also, her social life revolves around running. “If you’re not into running and craft beer there’s a pretty good chance that we won’t be friends.” She does have a dog. Spencer. But apparently he is the worst trail dog ever. Why? “He’s so slow”.

Lisa has run twenty three 50km races.  Last Spring she ran the Miwok 100 and next month she will run the Zion 100. She tries to pick races that are held in places that would be cool to visit and that have activities for the whole family. For her, trail running is about adventure and exploration by foot.  While I am super proud of my 20km trail running achievement, The Best Thing in Life is having something to work toward. Oh who am I kidding. Never. Going. To. Happen.

ultra skeleton

Honesty

“Honesty refers to a facet of moral character and connotes positive and virtuous attributes such as integrity, truthfulness, and straightforwardness, including straightforwardness of conduct, along with the absence of lying, cheating, theft, etc. Furthermore, honesty means being trustworthy, loyal, fair, and sincere. Honesty is valued in many ethnic and religious cultures. “Honesty is the best policy” is a proverb of Benjamin Franklin and the quote “Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom” is attributed to Thomas Jefferson.”

I value honesty above pretty much every other personal trait, so when I am faced with a loved one being dishonest I tend to get a bit crazy. I’ve been in relationships based on lies and filled with lies. No happiness can come from a relationship like that. The truth hurts. Yes, it does, but that is not an excuse for doing it. And, might I add, it is never okay to blame a lie on somebody else’s actions. As in, I lied because I knew the truth would hurt you. (Lamest excuse ever.) Lying is never the answer. Some people say that they lie to avoid confrontation, but the reality is that the truth always come out and by that time the original confrontation has been compounded by the lie. So why not just fess up? Fear? Most likely. That minuscule chance that the truth won’t come out and you can actually get away with it? Bit of a crap shoot really, but some are willing to take that chance.

Right, so now I will come down off my high horse and admit that this has become a hard post to write because, as nutty as I am about being honest, I can’t say that I have always been 100% honest with everybody in my life. So, am I a hypocrite? What have I lied about? Say I am faced with not wanting to do something, I have been known to make up an excuse why I can’t do it. “Sorry I can’t make it to your party but I have other plans”. My other plans involve a glass of wine, pajamas and a book. A white lie some would say. Is there a difference? Is there a line that separates little lies from big lies? Or are all lies just that. Lies. Is it better to be a bit dishonest in order to be politically correct? “Yes, that style of dress looks great on you.” Or are you just as guilty as the guy who lies on his tax return?

Have you ever seen the Jim Carey movie, Liar Liar. A man is cursed by a wish from his son so that he can not tell a lie. A funny premise, but could it actually work in real life? Being honest (I prefer to call it being authentic) has certainly gotten me in trouble in the past. I don’t always sugar coat things. If I don’t like you or something you have said I’m typically going to let you know. I’m also not going to pretend that everything is okay when it’s not. If something is bugging me, you will know. Do I worry about hurting people’s feelings? Sure, and I’m pretty sure I have probably done that in the past. Would it be better to not tell them what I think? Is that different from telling an outright lie?

So, having completely talked myself in a circle the question remains unanswered. Is it ever okay to be dishonest? The Best Thing in Life is being truthful in admitting that life is hard to navigate sometimes and knowing what is right and what is wrong isn’t always clear.

You Can’t Pick Your Family

familyThis past weekend my daughter and I spent the day with some friends in Whistler. We hadn’t seen each other in a while and while our girls played in the water park we had lots of time to catch up. We talked about lots of things. One of the things we talked about was family. More specifically our parents and siblings. We both admitted that if we had a choice we probably wouldn’t spend a lot of time with them. It got me thinking on the drive home about my relationships with my parents and siblings.

I wouldn’t say we were a close family. If I had to use one word to describe us it would be judgemental. Don’t get me wrong, I include myself in that statement. We each judge each other and my parents judge everybody. It’s weird though because they are very accepting of other cultures but judgemental of people who don’t live life the way they do. I know that probably doesn’t make sense does it. For example, they are accepting of somebody from Japan or somebody who is Muslim, but not accepting of the guy who lives down the street who doesn’t like to garden and has his front yard paved over so he can park his RV.  Over the years I have tried to be less judgemental but at last I come by it honestly.

My sister and I have never had a solid relationship. I was the youngest and was kind of spoilt. I wanted to be just like her but she wanted nothing to do with me. She never let me borrow her clothes so I just took them. I wanted to hang out with her and her friends so I just tagged along. That didn’t make her very happy and I was often told to go home. When she was in college she suddenly decided we should be friends. After years of being pushed away, I was not interested. We’ve had periods of time when we’ve gotten along but it always seems to be at arms length. At least for me anyway.

My brother and I used to get along really well but have drifted apart over the past ten years. We have very different approaches to life and tend to butt heads a bit. We live close to him and his family and sometimes I feel bad that we don’t see them very often but the reality is that I don’t have an over abundance if time and would rather spend it with my husband and kids. Ya I know you are all shaking your heads thinking how selfish I am. I’m guessing some of you feel the same way but just don’t want to admit it. I’m right aren’t I?

Getting back to being spoilt. Yes, my mom spoilt me. I’m not sure why. (Okay, I was pretty cute). The problem is that I think she still thinks I’m a little girl who isn’t capable of looking after herself, despite surviving a divorce and having two children of my own. I am grateful for all that my mom has done to support me through some very difficult times, however, not returning her phone call in an acceptable amount of time does not mean that there is a problems in my marriage. Being tired and stressed from working and having a husband who travels a lot does not make me depressed. And no, I haven’t lost weight in the seven days since I saw you last.

When I was little my dad worked a lot. He owned his own business and it required time and dedication. I admire that in him today. What I don’t admire is the fact that when he did come home from work we, as his kids, were pretty much taught to be seen and not heard. It’s a British thing. As soon as his car hit the driveway we had to turn off the TV. There was not a lot of affection. He taught us a lot. Skiing, fly fishing and how to tell a spruce tree from a fir tree. But there wasn’t a lot of playing and laughing.

I know all of this may sound harsh but at the end of the day we do all love each other and have supported each other through the years. We don’t fight. We just judge from a distance. So is it wrong that I don’t want to hang out with them? The saying about how you can’t pick your family couldn’t be more fitting for me. The Best Thing in Life though, is that you can pick your friends and enjoy spending the day hanging out with them in Whistler.