Conundrum

kids shoes

I have two kids. My son is nineteen and my daughter is eight. Yes, you counted right, that’s an eleven year gap.  No, it was not a happy mistake.  Early in our marriage my husband and I made a decision not to have any more kids.  But life changes and feelings change and we both knew our family wasn’t quite complete yet.

More often than not when I tell people about the age difference they say,  “Wow, really? That’s quite a gap. Is it difficult?”

It actually hasn’t been all that difficult.  My son was pretty close to being self sufficient by the time my daughter was born.  Well, as self sufficient as an eleven year old can be.  The first couple of years were a bit challenging but once he was in high school things got easier.  The hardest single thing has been planning vacations.  How many things do teenagers and toddlers both want to do?  Not very many.

But for me, the most problematic thing is that it creates a bit of a time warp.

time warp

The friends I made when my son was little are still very much in my life.  Over the years we’ve been through so many things with our now young adults.  Without activities to bring us together our connections are now more about us, than our kids.  Many of these friends are now starting to think about retiring.  Not next year, but maybe in the next five or ten years?

Their kids are in university or working and some are already empty nesters if their kids have chosen to go to school back east or in the US.  No more early morning soccer practices, no need for babysitters, no late night pick ups from parties.  They have more free time and less day to day responsibility.  They can travel or even take up a hobby.  They have moved into the next stage or their lives and it’s pretty sweet.

My daughter is eight and the friends that I have made in these past few years are who I spend most of my time with.  Hanging out at the dance studio (for hours), commiserating over school yard politics at the park or escaping to the pub occasionally after bed time.

These friends are still in the small children stage of life and considerable work is still involved on a daily basis.  Some are new home owners or starting new businesses with their future stretching out ahead of them.  Job opportunities and career changes are still top of mind options.  The concept of retiring is a distant goal. Most are still planning their fortieth birthdays.  (My fortieth was…..a while ago).

The fact is I feel a bit torn?  No, that’s not right.  I think confused would be a better word for it.  In some ways it is contributing to my ambiguity on Finding my Thing.

Half of me feels should I SHOULD be getting ready for the next next chapter of my life.  Investing, getting my shit together.  You know, getting organized for getting older.  And enjoying the fruit of many years of parental labour.  The other half of me feels like I’m still a Spring chicken whose got loads of time to do anything BUT worry about RRSPs.

To be honest, I’m  not sure what The Best Thing in Life is about this conundrum.  Maybe it’s simply the fact that I got to use the word conundrum.

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Happiness is Welcoming Friends to My ‘Hood

mexico and canada

Immigration is a hot topic these days no matter where you live.  It’s been a point of contention in the current U.S. election and here, in Canada, the influx of Syrian immigrants has caused many heated debates.  I personally don’t have to look much further than the end of my cul de sac to find a great (and happy) immigration story.

My friend Veronica arrived in Vancouver in August of 2000 from a small town just outside of Monterey, Mexico.

She came to Vancouver with her best friend.  They had sat in a restaurant in their hometown and added up their savings on a paper napkin to see if they had enough money for two plane tickets.  She was twenty five years old and wanted a change of pace from her small town life.  They moved into an apartment on the west side of Vancouver with four other young girls, also from Mexico.  Even though she was going to school to learn English she has to admit that they didn’t speak much English at all.  They lived with and went out with other Mexicans.

But she loved her new city.  The mountains, the ocean, the trees and parks.

Things she remembers from that time?  The weather wasn’t always good.  No matter how hard she tried she couldn’t get her hair straightened with a flat iron. Since she’s a bit on the short side, on rainy days she kept hitting people in the face with her umbrella.  Basically she remembers that the weather was a huge change from sunny Mexico.

For the next two years she would stay in Vancouver. Only returning to Mexico every six months to renew her visa.  During that time she met her husband Jorge.  I have always known that Veronica and her husband, Jorge, were one of the sweetest, most loving couples I’ve ever met but I didn’t know the lengths that they had gone to in order to be together.

In 2003 Veronica decided to return to Mexico for good.  She missed her family and it was too expensive to keep going back and forth.  What she didn’t know was that Jorge had followed her back with an engagement ring in his pocket.  He gave her that ring and they got married the very next day.

Even though they were married, the process of getting her papers to allow her to permanently return to Vancouver took over a year.  Devoted Jorge continued to fly back and forth to Mexico as often as he could.  Eventually Veronica moved to Bellingham, WA and stayed at the YWCA.  Just to be that much closer to her husband.

The process was long and the immigration interviews in Mexico City were intense.  They asked her questions like.

“Tell me again.  On the evening you met Jorge, did he drive you home or did you take a taxi?”  Just to make sure her story was consistent.

“What brand of toothpaste does Jorge have in his bathroom?”

Seriously?  Who pays attention to that stuff?  Or remembers it three years later.  Anyway, bottom line, she got her permanent resident card and is now a Canadian citizen.

They best part of living here?

The people.  She finds Canadians to be incredibly friendly.  In Mexico, she says, people are sometimes only friendly to you if they know you.  If you come from a wealthy family you do not acknowledge people who are less fortunate.  In fact you don’t even talk to them.  The division is very clear.

She also enjoys the safety of living in an area with good schools and parks that she can send her kids to without worrying about them.  Over the past fifteen years Mexico has changed and she doesn’t always feel comfortable taking her kids out when they visit.

Would she move back?  Probably not. Obviously, the Mexico of today is very different from the Mexico she grew up in.

So now Veronica and her lovely family live at the end of my street.  Her kids play with my daughter at the park and I get to enjoy the fresh produce they grow in the summer.  Their tomatillos are amazing.  Great friends and fresh veggies.  That’s a Best Thing in Life for sure.

P.S.  Although I’ve never managed to stay up late enough to go, I’ve heard that they have killer parties.