Yes, I Am Trailer Trash and Here’s Why …

I am a trailer trash gal and proud to admit it. I say this with the utmost affection for trailer-dwellers everywhere because yes, that is who I am. As I type this blog and sip my Pinot Grigio on a sunny September Saturday evening … okay, it’s almost evening but hey, it’s the weekend … I am gazing out the window of my charming trailer at all the other charming (and some not-so-much) trailers in my charming lakeside trailer park. And I am happy.
Sure the wine helps and so does the sunshine but what I really love is the freedom. The freedom from dressing up, wearing makeup, blow-drying my hair or donning high heels. It’s definitely a cut-off jeans and flip-flops vibe and I am rocking it to the fullest, with nary a spec of Cover Girl covering my face. On my, but I do love this kind of freedom! And to think that this freedom actually arrives with old(er) age when what also arrives is more that maybe needs covering … is perhaps a bit ironic and a lot surprising.
In my twenties I used to wear full make-up to go to the hairdresser’s. I mean, come on, who wants to sit in a chair staring at themselves for two hours with naked pores and squinty eyes staring back? I loved dolling up and heading out on the town. I could run in stilettos, I washed  my hair every day and mascara was my best friend. I wore it to the mall, to work, to school and I’m pretty sure sometimes to bed. I did not leave the house unadorned. Ever.
Now it’s a different story. I do not wear makeup to get my hair cut. I prefer flip-flops to high heels and mascara is for special occasions only. Here, not only in trailer-trash land but in cottage country in general, I am entirely content to go au naturel day in, day out. And this has been my MO since forever. I have never come to my little corner of paradise with cosmetics in tow. Ever. It’s almost like an unwritten rule – when you’re at Hope Bay you keep it real.
So real, in fact, that several years ago, when back in “the city” I performed a benefit concert in full regalia, a few of my cottage friends showed up in support. When they saw me, the sound of collective jaws hitting the floor was deafening. Because these kind and lovely folks had never ever seen my face made up … ever. I’m sure it was almost a bit of a freak show.
Kind of like that TV show Survivor (yes, I used to watch it). You observe castaway shenanigans for weeks as the participants become more tanned, more disheveled, decidedly slimmer and completely natural (save for whatever they applied permanently before showtime). And then you get to the grand finale and they’re all done to the nines. Hair, make-up, everything we typically expect from celebrities except to me these “ordinary” people now look like aliens! Weirdos. Wax museum rejects. I honestly appreciated their natural beauty so much more when they were stranded. “Go back!” I scream to my TV.
They never listen.
But now, in my (ever-encroaching) dotage I get to listen … to myself. And odd as it seems, myself is the most comfortable in myself’s skin than myself has ever been. Even when I was younger, thinner, unwrinkled, naturally blonde and, well, YOUNG … I was never comfortable (enough) in my skin. Yet now I am. If I want to wear a bikini, I do. If I don’t want to wash my hair for three days, I don’t. I often head to the market in nothing but lip gloss. I mean, yes, I wear clothing but my face is my face. Wrinkles and brown spots be damned.
It’s not that I’m not vain. I’m quite sure I still am. It’s more that I now trust more fully that any real beauty I possess shines out through my eyes. And those baby blues don’t need glitter and kohl for that to happen.
So now it really is Saturday evening in the trailer park. I hear music, dogs barking, people laughing, chain saws humming and my guy grunting (he’s been hard at work outside all day). This same guy who never suggests I wear makeup, lose weight, gussy up or cover up. He is happy with me when I am happy with me.
I may never own a waterfront cottage, I’m pretty sure my size 8 days are over and I’m equally sure these wrinkles ain’t going nowhere. But I am very happy being trailer trash tonight. Pretty soon I’ll trade my cut-offs for long jeans, throw on a sweater and serve dinner by the fire. It’s a beautiful evening so there may even be some star-gazing involved.
I am happy. Reality can be good. Freedom is the best.
And being trailer trash is the bomb!

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What Exactly Are You Rushing Toward?

Everybody’s rushing. Rushing all the time. Blasting themselves into the next moment/adventure/season. Hurrying to something or somewhere. Banishing this moment for all time in a great sprint to the next. Why? Is there a finish line? Do you win something if you get there first? Where is there exactly? All I can surmise is that death is the great finish line? Are we all rushing towards that?

Today autumn is in the air. It is most definitely cooler. Enough leaves have changed to make you stop and realize that summer is sneaking out the back door. But hey, in spite of the chill I’m still out there this morning, walking the dog in shorts and a t-shirt. Because golly, I’m going to work up a sweat and gee, it is still August. It will warm up today. Maybe not to “stifling hot” but certainly toasty enough for shorts and a t-shirt.

And then I see a young couple strolling hand in hand through the park. They are wearing long pants, heavy sweaters, boots and knit caps. Seriously? A woolen toque today, when the temperature will hit 19C and has not dipped below 12?

I don’t get it.

In April, when the temperature hits 12C, we all dash outside in shorts, tank tops and flip-flops. We can’t wait to feel that sun warm our pasty winter skin. And yet at the end of August, somehow that very same number inspires winter woolens.

Like I said, I don’t get it. Everybody’s rushing.

Why?

When my son first started school he did a year of half-day, every-day JK. This would normally be followed by a year of full-day, every-day SK but his principal proudly announced that he was quite ready for Grade 1 and could therefore skip another kindergarten year completely. Clever little fellow, my kid.

“But why?” asked I. He’s just spent a year making new friends and forming new bonds and learning to be away from his mama and why would we charge him ahead, forcing him to reestablish his new-found independence with a whole new bunch of classmates? Was there a prize waiting if he skipped a year and finished Grade 12 earlier than normal? Would he get into a better college? Disregard med school and immediately become a doctor? Was he guaranteed a brighter, more fulfilling life if we decided to forgo his SK experience?

I don’t think so. And I know of what I think.

My older sister was placed in an “accelerating” Grade 2/3 class which meant she did both grades in the same year. I guess this is just something they did back in the dark ages. And then didn’t. By the time I hit Grade 2 the accelerating scheme had been suspended. Except that those who did the suspending didn’t know my dad. My father (the academic) insisted that I do the same as my sister before me. His daughters are only 18 months apart in age and he did not want us three grades apart in school. So he insisted.

Fair enough. I accelerated too. And as a side-note I will admit that Grade 4 was a tough year for me. There probably was a valid reason they stopped the program.

However, I did make it to Grade 12 at which point my father suggested I might want to play some more hopscotch, skip Grade 13 and head directly to university. My marks were good enough, that 5th high school year was on its way out and he had some sway at the university I would attend. The very same at which he worked. “Why not get straight to it?” he asked.

Well, let’s see. I was already a year younger than my friends and if I acted upon his advice I would be all of 17 when I entered the hallowed halls of advanced academia. This meant for my first year I would be unable to venture into the campus pub with my new pals because the drinking age (back then) was 18. Add to that my curfew (already considerably more strict than that of my cohorts – blame old-school European parents) and the fact that I would be expected to continue to live at home and abide by the (archaic) rules my parents had established … well, I can assure you the absolute last thing I wanted to do was say Yes! I’ll go be a baby in a world of adults. How fun!

As it turned out I ended up doing a 4 year degree in 3. But that was my choice and my effort because I was more than ready to finish up with schooling and get out into the big bad world. Yes, I was in a rush to start my “real” grownup life.

All these years later, I wonder why. University was fun. It was interesting. I met cool people. I did cool things. I didn’t have to work full-time and I got to travel. I had to write papers and sit exams but that was a small price to pay for never-ending childhood. I did not have to pay bills or taxes. I really should have stayed and done a few more degrees.

But isn’t that always the way? When we’re young we rush full-tilt into everything with a “damn the torpedoes” philosophy that foolishly forgets to savour the moment. We can’t wait to get somewhere. Anywhere. Anywhere but where we are. Because damnation getting there has got to be better than being here.

Wrong.

Here is the bomb. Here is the be-all end-all only-all. Right here, right now. This is the moment that I will not rush through. This is the moment that I will relish. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for. Until the next one. Then I will do my best to fully immerse myself in that moment. And so on. And so on.

If I had a movie that could replay all the moments in my life that I most likely missed as I tumbled and crashed toward the next one … you’d never get me away from the television. I would be glued to the life I lived and forgot to show up for. I would rewind endlessly until the minutiae of lovely everyday life that I took for granted was imprinted on my brain. I would cherish those sweet, simple moments that I rushed through on my great quest for … um … you know, something. I have a some (old school) photo albums and some foggy memories and even a few treasured hand-written letters and I guess that will have to suffice. We didn’t take selfies back in the day and even if we did – so what? A selfie wouldn’t capture the moment. It would only capture me in the moment and that’s boring. The true moment was everyone and everything around me.

So right now, at this exact moment, as I type (and drink wine) and as the sun (which by the way has heated up to a balmy 19C) begins its lazy descent to its overnight home behind the Hope Bay cliffs, I wonder about that couple. This morning’s couple. I wonder what they are wearing now. Did they ever change into shorts? Did they swim in the bay today, tan on the beach, hike the Bruce Trail, work up a sweat and strip off their cloaks? Or have they given up completely on summer and gleefully booted up for Fall’s unique offerings?

I don’t know. I only know that I am typing in cut-off jeans and a t-shirt. Because damnit it is still summer in Ontario! We get all four seasons. We embrace all four seasons. We do our best to survive and even enjoy winter. But I’ll be damned if I give up on summer because of a chilly morning.

Not this girl. The upcoming weekend looks marvelous. September can be summer’s best month. My winter clothes are still packed away. I have every intention of wearing flip-flops until it snows. And when that first snowflake melts on my naked toes, I will consider a switch to socks and/or boots.

But not until that moment. Until that moment I will be living in this one. Languidly. Luxuriously. Sucking every last drop of sunshine out of summer/2017.

No rushing.

My blissfully bare feet simply will not allow it.

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One Of The Worst Things You Can Say (or Facebook or Tweet or Instagram) In Front Of Your Children.

In the past month I have watched two lovely female friends post photos on social media with their (relatively new) partners. Both of these lovely women referred to their (relatively new) partners as “the love of my life.” Nice, eh? Positively lyrical. Really romantic.

I’m not one to rain on anybody else’s romantic revelry but in my (humble) estimation the problem with these public proclamations is their children. Both these women have children who were not spawned by these (relatively new) partners. And by all accounts these children are still pretty crazy about their biological daddies. So I’m wondering as I gaze upon these postcard pronouncements, whether true or not, is this “love of my life” label something that really needs to be broadcast to the masses? Especially if those masses include your offspring?

I ask this today based on personal experience yesterday. I don’t mean yesterday Monday, I mean many yesterdays ago. In those bygone days I was freshly (maybe six months) out of my marriage and blissfully involved with Prince Charming. Well okay, truth be told it wasn’t all bliss and he sure as heck was no prince but I truly thought that guy was IT for me. My soulmate. The one I had waited for. He was my dream-man and the answer to all my prayers with a side of gravy.

So there we were, camping with my 11 year old son, and I ran into an old friend. I was delighted to introduce said friend to my new man who I confidently (and loudly) labeled “the love of my life.” The look of horror on my friend’s face was instant and obvious. Not because he gave a hoot who I was loving or whether or not it was lifelong but because HE had seen the look of horror on my son’s face. He had seen my cheerful baby’s face crumble when those seemingly innocent words vacated my mouth. My poor sweet innocent boy, who loved his father more than cheeseburgers and Pokemon, was crushed that I could label another man so profoundly. And so dismissively of his dad. Sure he knew we had split up and sure he knew I was with someone new and sure he even knew that so was his father. What (I believe) he couldn’t stomach was my cavalier banishment of the sixteen years his father and I spent together. Those years that produced a son. And thus created a family. The prince and I were unproven newbies in comparison. On what grounds could I anoint him “the love of my life?”

Okay, perhaps I’m over-analyzing and I doubt all those thoughts raced through my child’s pre-pubescent mind. All I know is my words did damage. Big fat ugly stupid damage. To the one innocent soul who deserved it least.

So … to my lovely women friends who are now enjoying Act 2 of their own romantic dramas, I humbly suggest a tiny yet measured modicum of discretion. I’m not advocating dishonesty or even only private, behind-closed-doors jubilation with your new-found ardour. Please feel free, with all the conviction you can muster, to wax poetic about your new love. Maybe just not on social media? Maybe just not anywhere (like a campground) where your kids might hear or see you? Trust me – it’s just not worth it.

While pondering this missive (sometimes it takes awhile for these thoughts to crystallize) I did ask another lovely woman friend who has been living with her own (not-so-relatively-new) partner for over ten years if she thought her children would accept her labeling him “the love of my life”? She replied “Yes, now they would. It’s been a long time, they’re older, they get it, and now they wouldn’t be bothered by that moniker. But in the early years … never!”

Makes sense.

As for me, I have now decided that if I really feel the need to define “the love of my life” I’ll do it on my deathbed. Seriously, up until then, how could I possibly know?

In the meantime I’ll mind my tongue. And my pen. Because the one thing I actually do know for sure is that my child IS the love of my life. And I don’t ever want to do or say anything – consciously or not – to hurt him. I will love whomever I choose and I will include him on that journey. But I will do it (I hope) with tact and sensitivity.

Because as we all know … children will listen.

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Do You Know How Hard It Is To Walk Away From Everything?

I do. And I can tell you with total conviction it is really fucking hard. Damn near impossible.

So what do I mean by everything?

I once heard a tale about a woman who refused to leave her lousy marriage. By all accounts she was quite miserable. Daily. But she didn’t want to lose/leave her brand new kitchen. So she stayed.

Then there was the gal who stayed for the kids. For years and years she stayed for the kids. Her husband was emotionally abusive and any love they had once shared was long dead and buried. But she stayed.

And then there was the heavyhearted wife who did leave. After years of anguish and trying and therapy and torment, she finally left. She did not leave an abusive man, her marriage by many would have been described as just fine, her husband is a good guy much loved by his children and their life together was by no means ugly. But she left. She left because she was unfulfilled. And she had been too-long unfulfilled and had no idea how to attain fulfillment within that union. Her attempts had been exhausted. She was exhausted. Somewhere, somehow she knew that the remainder of her life would be best served differently. So she walked away from everything.

Was this me? Well … no. And yes. I am not the only one, this I know. But I too found myself in that confusing, agonizing conundrum. On the surface my life had everything. A beautiful home on a country acreage, a more than adequate bank account, a lovely husband who cared for me, nice cars, frequent travel, private school for our child and pretty much any old thing that my heart desired. Except … what my heart desired.

Now, please allow me to digress here for a moment. Because my heart desiring leads me to another point. I once read that you should never trust your heart and you should never trust your head because they both always have an agenda. And they will both fight formidably to achieve that agenda, no matter what the other guy argues. Who you should trust is your gut. Because your gut doesn’t have an agenda. No motive. No endgame. Your gut is just there to remind you that something’s up. Something bad. Something good. Something fishy. Just something. You should never ignore your gut.

So there was I, Heart and Head in full bloody battle, and for many years I stayed. I stayed because I was conflicted between heart and head. Heart said “Go!” Heart wanted me to sally forth and find a different kind of love. One that would fulfill me in ways I could only imagine. Head countered “Stay!” Head couldn’t figure out why anyone in their right mind would leave the sweet deal I was living. It was a damn sweet deal, I can tell you that. And I wasn’t entirely miserable and it wasn’t just about a kitchen. I could have just sucked it up, put on my big girl panties and stayed.

But then Gut kicked in. And Gut reminded me that this inner conflict had gone on for a very long time. Gut reminded me that the future was most certainly uncertain but as my everyday life was swimming in uncertainty maybe finding my way away from my everyday life was the only true path to figuring out why everything was so uncertain and finding the certainty I craved.

Yeah … Gut is never very eloquent. What Gut is is persistent. Gut doesn’t let you get away with shit. All the skirmishes that Head or Heart may win along the way don’t worry Gut one bit. Because Gut never gives up. Ever. Gut just keeps nudging you and nudging you until finally you listen. Gut doesn’t give you a solution like both Head and Heart clamour to do. Gut just reminds you that something must be done. And trust me, Gut will keep reminding you until you do something.

And that, my friends, is how I was able to walk away from everything. I simply could not stand the thought of Gut bugging my ass day in, day out, ad infinitum.

These days my gut is surprisingly quiet. Oh sure, I get the occasional pang and when it happens I am sure to check in immediately and establish what is amiss. But the beautiful thing about my beautiful gut is that when I do pay attention and then act accordingly my life becomes decidedly more simple. Simple and honest.

I am not here to judge anyone for the choices they make, the marriages they leave or stay in or the kitchens they love. But take it from the girl who had everything, simple and honest is everything. At least it is to me.

Thank you, Gut.

At ease.

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Great Expectations … and Why We Should Abandon Them.

I recently engaged in a dialogue with a friend about keeping score. She was telling me how her mother used to keep score all the time. About social engagements. As in “We invited them so now it’s their turn to invite us and I’ll be damned if I invite them again before they take their rightful turn.”

Yeah. That sort of keeping score.

I’m sure we are all guilty of merciless score-keeping, even if we do choose most times to keep our tally sheets to ourselves.

I bought her a designer purse for her birthday and she only gave me flowers.

We had them to our house for dinner three times last year and they only had us once.

I sent them an old-fashioned snail-mail Christmas card and all I got was an email.

And on and on it goes.

We all expect so very much. And, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, expectations most often equal disappointment.

So why do we continue to set ourselves up for disappointment, time and time again? Why are we keepers-of-the-score so adamant that our teammates play our game fairly? Our definition of fairly, anyway. Why do we huff and puff and get holier-than-thou when we decide we haven’t received our fair shake?

I have no idea. But here is what I do know, gleaned from many years of great expectations: it’s not worth it.

Keeping score is not worth it. It’s a waste of thought, energy and love. Because it all goes back to that old adage – you cannot control another person’s actions. You can only control your response to those actions.

I am an inveterate entertainer. I love having people over. I love cooking for them. I love setting the perfect stage, candles, music, lighting … the whole shebang. I find it fun. And often in the midst of these festivities, when I look around my great room at the usual suspects, I am struck at the large number who have availed themselves of my hospitality frequently yet have never returned the invitation. Never. As in zero times. And I smile. Because they are not selfish or greedy or stupid. They are obviously just not inveterate entertainers. Perhaps they are afraid of opening their homes? Perhaps they are reluctant to ask their friends to bring booze and food (I’m also an inveterate beggar)? Perhaps they feel their abode isn’t suitable for soirees and perhaps they just don’t wanna.

I don’t care. If it’s not their jam it’s not their jam. And I will still welcome them here time and time again. Because when I issue an invitation I do not expect restitution. I merely hope that a good time will be had by all.

Of course there is also expectation in every relationship. Whether it’s friendship, a love bond or family ties, we all have presumptions. How we should be treated. How we should be loved. How we deserve to be regarded. We line up those expectations like little tin soldiers waiting to be attacked.

Nope. Don’t do it. It’s an exercise in futility. Not to mention stupidity. Because again, in most cases, expectation will equal disappointment.

A long time ago I was mired in “issues” with a long-term pal. These issues were bugging the crap out of me because I truly believed that I deserved better, given our long (and colourful) history. She was just not forthcoming. So my then-ever-so-clever husband suggested that I just accept her for exactly who she is (without expectation) and look elsewhere to fulfill the needs she was neglecting. I took his advice. I developed new friendships. I removed all pressure from her. I carried on with a smile on my face and no malice in my spirit. And you know what? She came around. Resoundingly. Suddenly without my glorious expectations clogging up our communication, she rallied and our relationship flourished.

Naturally, romantic liaisons are huge breeding grounds for disappointment. The number of times I have expected my man to read my mind and then been really pissed off when he didn’t … well, far too numerous to keep score. And yeah, I have kept score. What I gave him verses what he gave me. What I gave up verses what he has given up. What I contribute verses what he contributes. Blah blah blah.

I can assure you (based on lots of practice) that a love relationship absolutely cannot work that way. You must try with all your heart not to expect. You must spell out your non-negotiables clearly and then just be grateful for everything else. Trust me, you will be happier.

Same with family. I have also spent a lot of years expecting my family to treat me a certain way. They treat me just fine (for the most part), just not the way I want them to treat me. You see, I have this picture in my head and for whatever reason they don’t always participate in its painting. It used to drive me crazy.

It no longer does. I now accept them for who they are and who they are not. And I fill in the blanks with new family members of my own choosing. I no longer expect anything from anybody. I take what they offer with gladness and I give without expectation. Because I have learned to find my joy in the giving of the gift, whether it be time, food, help or love. How it is received and whether or not it is reciprocated no longer plays into my motive. My motive is now to be the best me I can be.

Which brings me to today.

I have a couple of nephews who several years ago entered the film-making business. They recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund their latest effort which (even better) stars my ex brother-in-law. You see, these lads are nephews by marriage. My ex-husband’s sister’s kids. When he and I split one of them chose to forgive me and include me in his life. The other did not. Over the years there has been little communication with either but the former is friends with me on Facebook while the latter blatantly ignored my invitation to buy him dinner when both he and my son were in Los Angeles. So be it.

Regardless, I the ever-optimistic filled with love soul that I am, decided to help them out (financially) with this new project. Part of my “reward” was a “personalized” thank-you email and said email arrived today. The only thing personal about it was the “Dear Vickie”. The rest was as standard as it comes.

Was I expecting something more familial? Was I hoping for some acceptance? Some acknowledgment of past affection? After all, they were mere boys when their uncle and I split. They are grown me now. Was I expecting some new-found emotional maturity and maybe even a tiny smattering of endearment?

Of course I fucking was! I am not a damn saint.

But I do try to practice what I preach and so I reigned in my disappointment (have I mentioned it comes from expectations?) and replied. I told them I was proud of them. I wished them great luck and I signed it “love, always.”

Because that is the truth. I will always love those boys. Whether or not they ever choose to return the sentiment is their deal, not mine. My deal is to love them without expectation.

I am so proud of them. Truth be told today I am also proud of myself.

And I can’t wait to see them at the Oscars.

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When You Doubt Your Ability As A Mother …

The absolute God’s honest truth is I never thought I’d make a very good mother. For me, it just didn’t seem to be that “natural” talent that comes to some women, even before they have kids of their own. In my teenage years I had no interest in babysitting and therefore did it only once, when friends of my parents were really stuck. Oh boy, I don’t remember much but I do know I couldn’t wait for that evening to end. I would have blissfully dog-sat or cat-sat or horse-sat any day of the week but kids? Notsomuch.

I guess I was in too much of a hurry to enter the adult world to worry about children, their needs and wants and really, who cares? That was me. I had several pals who were kid-magnets. Mommies-in-the-making. Naturals.

Not I. I didn’t even think about a biological clock until I was in my 30s and even then, the clanging was in no way thunderous. But I got married and a kid was part of that mandate (notice I said A kid cause one was all I ever promised) so I dutifully got pregnant. And immediately miscarried. Same for pregnancy Number 2. Number 3 held on a bit longer (three months) but didn’t go the distance either.

At that point I was thinking this might be a sign from The Universe. “Hey Vic, you’re just not a mother, okay? Go get another puppy and be happy.” I was a little sad but resigned. Who am I to argue with The Universe?

And then came my son. Yep, Number Four was the winner. He went (almost) the distance and arrived at 8 months, kicking and screaming and pooping and nursing all the time. I was really tired but really happy.

And then sometimes I was bored. Because after he was done kicking and screaming and pooping and eating and after he’d had his bath and had a clean diaper and was snoozing contentedly in his pram, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was so used to having a job and a “purpose” I did not know what to do with myself that was worthwhile. Those idle moments scared the hell out of me. So I took on a new hobby that wouldn’t in any way detract from mothering, when mothering called. I got really really good at Super Mario. My husband would come home from work and I would brag about our son’s latest poop and my latest level.

I still didn’t think I was that great a mother. I mean seriously, what kind of amazing mother devotes her energies to excelling at Super Mario in her son’s first 6 months?

Maternity leave ended (damn brief back in those days) and I was back to work full-time. Sad to leave my baby, yes and happy to be back in the land of adults. Yes.

For reasons far too complicated to expound on here, I ended up leaving full-time employment when my son was 6 and I did begin to devote more time to his pursuits. I volunteered at his school. I planned play-dates and excursions. I socialized with fellow-mommies and I tried to be a good one. It just wasn’t a natural calling. I watched those other mommies effortlessly do whatever effortless mommies do and I never quite felt I measured up. I was more “crazy mommy” or sometimes “fun” mommy. Like when I pulled my son out of school for an entire Tuesday so that we could be first at the theatre to catch the debut Pokemon movie.

But I was never “mother mommy.” Even my son would inadvertently extol the virtues of  his friend’s mothers, saying something like “Mom, you should taste the spaghetti she makes … it is the best! I mean, yours is good but she is just one of those MOTHERS who are, you know, like MOTHERS.”

Yeah. I got it. I was one one of those mothers who was like not mothers.

One time when my teenage son had a friend visiting and they were in and out of the kitchen demanding snacks, with their pants hanging precariously close to their knees, I informed them that if they entered the kitchen thusly one more time I too would pull my yoga pants down to my knees. When the friend’s mother arrived to fetch him I explained this to her, and when both those boys entered the kitchen displaying their gotchies (much to their own amusement), she (bless her FUN heart) and I both stood and dropped our pants. BOTH of us. Displaying (much to to the boys’ horror) – lacy thongs.

See what I mean? Fun mother. Crazy mother. Just not mother mother.

I will also admit that my mothering skills took a hit when I decided to end my marriage. I mean really, what kind of GOOD mother walks away? I was told more than once that I sucked. And you know how it goes? When you are told more than once that you suck it’s pretty easy to start believing that you just might suck. Especially when the one and only father of your child is actually being considered for sainthood, that’s how un-sucky he is.

It’s all been a bit of a broken record in my life. I know I am a good friend. A good daughter. A good sister, a good employee, a good girlfriend and a good person. But the mother thing? I was never quite sure.

And then there was last night. Shortly before midnight to be precise. I go to bed early, a fact about which my son is well aware. I am often fully ensconced in dreamland by 9pm. But last night shortly before midnight I received a text from my kid. He has his own text-tone so I knew it was him and I immediately sat up in a panic, afraid of what might be.

“Mom, wake up and listen to this!”

Yeah, okay, I’m awake now and profoundly so, heart beating wildly.  Listen to what?

He then texts me a video with just audio (if that makes any sense). He is in the studio and he and his co-writers have just written a song and they’ve laid down a rough demo and he is SO excited about this new song he HAS to share it with his mother at midnight on Tuesday even though he knows she is fast asleep. He knows I will want to hear it. And he wants my opinion. Even if it means waking me up at midnight on a Tuesday night.

I am thrilled to the point of tears. I love the song. I truly do (and I always tell him the truth about music). But more than that I love that he is crazy, and fun, and breaks the rules, and knows that I am here for him no matter what, no matter when. I love that he wants me to hear the song RIGHT AWAY.

And then it hits me. Maybe I’m not a textbook mother? Maybe I’m not the mother my mother was to me? Maybe I’m not the Spaghetti Queen of Guelph (that would be impossible, given the number of lovely Italians in this town) and maybe I am simply not a “natural” in the traditional sense of the word?

Truth is maybe I’m not the best mother in the world.

What I am is the best mother in the world for Sam. For the path that he has chosen, for the gift that he has been given, for the man he is becoming and for the heart and soul and truth that he is demonstrating at every turn … I am the best mother in the world for Sam.

Thank you, Universe. I get it now.

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Are You Taking Care Of Your Single Friends?

When I was in my 20s I was sort of single. What I mean is I was sort of in a relationship but I still sort of acted single. Hey now, don’t judge me. I was in my 20s. In a band on the road. Living with my best (female) buddy, enjoying crazy adventures and not worrying too much about the future.

In my 30s I got married. And thus began a new kind of life; a life devoted almost entirely to socializing with other couples. It just seemed the thing to do. I still had some single friends and I did still see them on occasion but I confess I was always happier when they got coupled because it meant socializing with me and mine didn’t become a triangle. Even numbers are better, right?

Once I had a child the social network expanded to include other couples with children. I still had coupled friends who were childless and I still had single friends and I saw them all when I could but once you have a kid it just becomes so much more simple to socialize with other couples with kids. Now when I look back on those days I almost throw up a little – picture kids outside running around, men downstairs at the basement bar, women in the kitchen babysitting large goblets of wine. I mean Holy Shit! This was not the 50s! We’re talking the 90s here, even moving into the new millennium.

When I divorced at 48 the entire universe shifted. For a brief spell I was newly coupled and me and my fellow coupler somehow managed to create a whole new circle of friends (with kids and without). But once that relationship ended I found myself resoundingly, screamingly, horrifyingly SINGLE.

Ouch. Because if you have been warbling a duet (in key or not) for over 20 years, finding yourself suddenly singing solo is a harsh wake-up call. And there I was. Wide awake.

So what did I do? I invented a social life. I invited my equally single girlfriends for wine. I cajoled them into staying for dinner. I invited my unhappily married girlfriends for wine. I reluctantly allowed them to depart to feed hubby’s hungry belly. I hosted parties and barbecues and jam sessions and I invited everyone, single or coupled. And I just kept at it relentlessly so that I would not die of abject loneliness.

Once I found myself harnessed again, I would like to think I didn’t forget my single friends. New love is difficult competition, that I remember. And now that I was solidly back in the couples game I was enjoying those perks once more.

Until I found myself, after two and a half years, single yet again. I had moved to a new town. I had a few friends (but not many) and I was alone without even my son’s company to ease the sting of my solitude (he had grown up, as it turns out). And there it was, Easter long week-end, and I was staring at a decidedly empty dance card. Until a new young (in her 20s) friend mentioned she was hosting a surprise anniversary celebration for her parents. I had met them (maybe once) and I barely knew her but at the end of our conversation she said “Hey, come if you like. I’m sure they’d love to see you.”

Boom.

You know, we old folks can learn a lot from the younger tribe. They run how they run, with whom they run, without so much emphasis on coupled or not. And with that simple invitation that young woman changed my life. Because I then realized that NO MATTER WHAT I would never again forget my single friends. I would include them whenever humanly possible because I do know the pain of loneliness. And I also know the thrill of inclusion.

And so I ask you … if you are hitched do you remember the unhitched when party planning? Are your dinner parties always an even number? Do single folk frighten you (there but for the grace of God go I)? Are they just not on your radar? Is it just easier to forget them?

In that same new town reside my cousin and her hubby still. Now, I know we are family and maybe that changes the guidelines a bit but whilst living there I dined with those two almost every week. One week at their home, the next at mine. Oh, how I looked forward to those evenings! As a single woman with most days nobody but a dog for company, I relished that camaraderie. And was always grateful for the inclusion.

And that, my friends, is the word of the day. INCLUSION. Because even though I am once again happily coupled and have been for almost five years I include my single friends whenever possible. I mean, I consciously create events to include my single friends. Sure, every now and then my partner and I host an intimate dinner party for four (two couples). But we have also been known to host an intimate party for nine – two single mothers, three children, one single cousin and a neighbour. And boy, do we have fun.

I’m not claiming here to be Mother Teresa. All I’m saying is that once you get into your 50s you realize that the single population has burgeoned. Whether by choice, fate, divorce or death of a spouse, I suddenly know a LOT of single people. And most of these fine people still crave human interaction. Adult interaction. Hugs. Laughs. Love. Even if it isn’t romantic.

Let’s help them out, okay? Most (not all) of my un-mated friends actually long to be entwined. It just ain’t happening (yet). I get that. Been there, done that. So let’s all think about that next time we plan a get-together. Let’s think about all of our unattached pals next time we want to celebrate. Let’s remember that this is not a couple’s world. It is a world made up of individuals. Some are united. Some are not. But we can all unite. We can all reach out to those who perhaps long with all their hearts to have what we do. We can all think “young” no matter how old we are. We can all act just like that inclusive young woman did for me.

Look at it this way – if you are currently a contented half of a contented pair, then Yay you! But it really is a “There but for the grace of God” kinda world. And you never know what tomorrow will bring.

So let’s all make an effort to pay it forward now.

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