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.

Oh My God I’m An 18 Year Old Boy!

Me and Everett June 2104

In my ongoing search for my “thing” in life I have come to a startling realization. I am way more like my eighteen year old son than I ever thought. Last June he graduated from high school and has spent the past nine months working. He has three jobs right now, all in different fields. He got all three jobs on his own and has been incredibly responsible in keeping track of his schedule and being on time. Mostly. He is not sure, however, of his next steps. He has looked at some university programs but isn’t 100% committed. I left my job a year ago and have spent the last twelve months keeping track of my traveling husband and my active seven-year old. Oh, and writing this blog. Where are the next few years going to take me? I don’t really know, but I do feel a need to find something to set my sights on.

So, how are we alike?

1. We both feel, deep down, that we have some unique, creative thing to offer the world but we just don’t know what it is or how to get it out there. While writing this blog has been great and I continue to enjoy the process and the opportunity it has given me to reconnect with old friends, I can’t help but feel unsure of where I am heading with it. My son had thought that he might pursue a career in video game design and animation. He took a number of courses in high school and looked at continuing that into college. As its turns out, it is really more of an interest than something he felt he wanted do as a career. I think that this was largely because he is not a strong drawer. Being creative means being judged subjectively and we are both wary of that.

2.  We both gravitate towards things that offer us instant (or close to it) gratification. Probably why I never went back to school. I have, for many years, berated my poor son on his ability to sit at the computer for hours playing video games. Not the shoot ’em up kind but the multi player on-line battles like Defense of the Ancients. (go look it up) When I asked him why he loves them so much he said it was because they gave him instant gratification. Honestly, I rolled my eyes and sighed but I am now slightly embarrassed to say that I get it. I think that I too look for things in my life that give me regular reinforcement and encouraging pats on the back. I think it’s why I enjoy running so much. I can do it and instantly know exactly how far and fast I have gone. If we can’t see the goal we lose sight of the meaning.

3.  We are social but not social butterflies. I love a good party and feel that friends are an immensely important part of anybody’s life. I am also quite comfortable being alone and have been known to pass on social invitations in favor of my jammies. While my jammies are comfortable and all, I have been burnt and some times I use them as an excuse to close myself off a bit. My son has never had a large circle of friends and I often felt that he needed to be more assertive in going out and creating relationships. Now I see that he is also okay being on his own. In the past few months, through his new jobs, he has developed some friendships which is great. But I also see him holding back a bit. Not wanting to dive in too deep. Just in case.

4.  We are more than willing to work hard so long as what we need to do is clearly mapped out in front of us. Or organized. Love a well-organized project. You tell me what to do and I will work my ass off until it is done. Conversely, If I don’t have a set plan I tend to wander off and end up being unproductive. The past year has shown me that in spades. If I am being 100% honest with this I need to say that for my part,this is probably due to a of lack of confidence. In high school if my son had a project assigned to him he tended to leave it until the last-minute and then panic. Not because he didn’t want to do the work but because he often didn’t know how to get started. He is, however, happily holding down three jobs with not one complaint. In fact he has never been happier to be told what to do and get paid for it.

As I read this back to myself some things become clearer while other are still unresolved. Have I managed to make it to fifty without ever really growing up? How can I expect him to know where he is going when I don’t? Have I done enough to foster a feeling of confidence in my son?

How can I move past what is holding me back and in turn show him the way?

The Best Thing in Life is that learning never ends.

Today I Am Fifty

fifty cake

When I was in my twenties I looked forward to birthdays every year. I have always looked young for my age and starting out in my career I never felt that people took me seriously because they thought I was younger than I was. I secretly hoped that some day I would actually look older. I know, a bit weird. So now I AM older ( not necessarily old) and I’m asking myself, as are other people oddly enough, how does it feel? Really it feels like just another day, but that doesn’t make for a very good blog post does it? So, as I sit in my cozy kitchen on this rainy October day and reflect, I have come to some realizations about what it feels like, and means to me, to be fifty.

Over the summer my husband and I were having dinner with some friends, one of whom had recently turned fifty. He told us about the party he had thrown for himself earlier in the year. It was a wild one from the sounds of it. A packed house party with loud music, lots of drinking and the mandatory requirement for any really good party, a visit from the police in the early morning hours. Sounded like one of the parties we had been to in our high school days. The next day he felt like hell, but it was all worth it for him. I am apparently not a party animal because just the thought of doing this makes me tired. I am a social person but I have never been a night owl (ask my college room mate) and am perfectly happy to be in my pajamas by 9:00pm most nights. My husband makes fun of me, but it makes me happy.

For others friends, the big 50 has been marked with a once in a lifetime trip, completing a marathon or overcoming a lifelong fear. When I quit my job last February I decided that this was the year I would train for a marathon. I even wrote a post about it. It took me about two months to decide that it wasn’t going to happen. It took me another month to come to terms with that and be okay with my decision. Now don’t get me wrong, I admire the people who have done these things immensely. I’ve just finally realized that it’s not who I am. I have always thought I needed to show people that I had accomplished some feat in order for them to be proud of me. Why it has taken me fifty years to realize this is not true, I am not sure. I still struggle a bit with who I am supposed to be, but I am getting closer to being happy just being me and realizing that I may not have a “mission” or a “thing”. I may just be…..me.

The past eighteen years of my life has been a bit of a roller coaster. Divorce and single parenthood at thirty three. I remember people asking me how I got through leaving my first husband with a three month old baby. You do what you have to do and you get up every day and move forward. When I did re marry, a few years later, my husband’s work took him 3000 miles away for four years. For anybody who hasn’t had one, long distance relationships/marriages really suck. Then at forty two another baby. Totally planned but nonetheless a challenge. I feel like it has only been in the past two years that things have finally felt settled down. I read a great quote the other day from, of all people, Nancy Reagan. “Women are like tea bags. You don’t know how strong they are until you put them in hot water”. It’s a good thing I like tea.

I’ve made some changes in my life over the past few months. I quit a job that I didn’t really like and am now able to be more present for my family. I overhauled the way that I eat and now physically feel better than I have in years. I have determine that killing myself trying to run up a mountain really has no benefit and have come to embrace yoga. I have come to terms with my relationship with my siblings and parents and am learning more about myself because of it. These things have made a huge difference in my life and I can say without a doubt that I am happier now than I have been in a very long time. I’m healthy, I have awesome friends, a loving, supportive husband and two great kids. Today, the Best Thing in Life is turning fifty.