Quick turnaround

We just got home from Toronto, right? Well, Kevin is heading back there again tomorrow. Sadly, his uncle just passed away yesterday and Kevin was quite close with him so he’s heading back home for the funeral.

When you think of travel, you imagine vacations and celebrations and adventures and fun. While I’m sure Kevin will have some good times seeing family and old friends, the spirit of the trip is sad and this loss has cast a shadow over our house for a last two days since we found out.

Saw these mugs at Indigo tonight. Kind of wish I’d bought one.

I hadn’t really planned on heading to day one of the Minto Cup today, but since Kevin will be leaving tomorrow and he had to be there for work tonight, I decided to go along with him. It was a typical day one for any national tournament – teams feeling each other out and getting their legs. I have a strong suspicion of who the winner will be, but things can change so much in the next day as they settle in and get comfortable. It was nice to be out there and to see a couple of friends we haven’t seen in a little while and to do something different to take our minds off of everything else.

Aside from that, today was a total hibernation day. I didn’t even look at Twitter until we’d left for the arena late in the afternoon. I just needed some peace and quiet for a day – and now I’ll have a few days of extra quiet while I’m home alone. Now that we’re back, I just want to be at home. I don’t envy Kevin’s trek back where we just came from and I’m certainly sorry for everyone’s loss.

My weekend will consist of a trip down to the New West Pride Street Party tomorrow and aside from that, it’ll be just laying low and getting ready to go back to work on Monday.

What have you got on your agenda this weekend?

Happy Father’s Day!

My day was pretty low-key. Thankfully my family isn’t super high maintenance when it comes to days like these. Getting together is mostly good enough and that’s exactly what we did.

I spent most of the morning digging into a book I picked up from the library yesterday – The Library Book. You may have heard of it since it was rather highly acclaimed in 2018. I knew very little about it, but I’m sure glad I picked it up when I saw it. It’s a bestseller express book which is what my library calls a super short loan. I can only borrow it for a week and fines are $1 per day that it’s late. Bestseller expresses are, as the name implies, new and popular books. I’m not confident I can polish it all off by Saturday, but I’m hopeful. All along, I’d thought it was fiction, but it isn’t. It’s the story of when the Central Branch if the Los Angeles Public Library caught fire in 1986. Never heard of it? I hadn’t either and that really shocked me…until the authour implied that I wasn’t alone since the fire took place during the same week as Chernobyl. I’m only about a third of the way through so far, but it is really enjoyable. Hopefully it stays that way.

In the afternoon, we went over to visit my folks. My dad asked for two things leading up to Father’s Day this year.

  1. No gifts.
  2. That we barbecue hot dogs.

We made neither wish come true. Well, technically, anyway. We did buy him a gift and we didn’t eat hot dogs, but he did and that’s really all that matters, isn’t it?

We had a nice time with my parents and my brother even in spite of the fact that golf was on the tv.

By the time we got back home, it was already late, but I did manage to spend some time preparing and setting intentions for the week ahead.

How was your weekend/Father’s Day?

“There’s only one thing more precious than our time and that’s who we spend it on.”

None of this is mine. Nothing more than the intention to share it. I’m lucky enough that someone wanted to share it with me. It’s from the mailing list of a site I’d never visited before, The Daily Stoic. Here’s the story.

Of the Stoics, Seneca seems like the one who had the most fun. He’s the one who it’s easiest to picture spending time with friends or mingling at a dinner party (in fact, he was known for his legendary parties with hundreds of guests). Whereas almost all of Marcus’s writing is private and solitary, and Epictetus’s comes to us in the form of lecture notes from his students, a sizeable chunk of what survives of Seneca are the letters he wrote to his dear friend Lucilius.

We don’t know too much about Lucilius, except that he was a governor of Sicily and possibly also a writer. Nor do we know much about who the guests at Seneca’s parties were. But from what we do know, we can gather than Seneca was social and had a large circle of friends and acquaintances with whom he spent a lot of time.

Which begs the question: How did he choose these friends? We can hope—and expect—that Seneca’s many friendships adhered to the rule he put down to Lucilius in one of those famous letters:

“Associate with those who will make a better man of you. Welcome those whom you yourself can improve.”

It’s an impossible thing to know really—even for ourselves—how we came to know most of the people in our lives. But how they stayed in our lives? How our acquaintances evolved into friendships, that should be easier to figure out. And Seneca’s rule is a wonderful guide because what he’s describing is what friendship is about. A process of mutual improvement, benefit, and enjoyment.

We become like the people we spend the most time with…so we should choose wisely. And we should choose widely because life is too short to live lonely or narrowly—even for a Stoic.

I think about this a lot. I mean A LOT a lot. How do the people we spend time with impact who we are? How do they help us meet our potential? Or hinder us?

I respond well to diversity. The friends I like to surround myself with inspire me, they support me, they challenge me. They are different than I am – they have different hobbies, they are of different ages, they come from different backgrounds. They bring experiences, opinions and interests that are not that same as my own. I don’t often learn to share them, but I like to be aware of them and understand them. New perspectives, unique adventures, fresh eyes. They also give me something to aspire to. I want to be more like them in some way. I like positivity tempered with realism and complaining without solution is a major turn-off. They mean what they say and they say what they mean. And even though my most precious people have all of those things in common, they are all still radically unique. 

I focus a lot on effectiveness in my life. It’s my nature. Whether I’m at work or in my personal life, I want results. I want to see the additions and subtractions that result from my actions. The positives and negatives, the contributions and the distractions. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to hone my friend group to include only the most meaningful relationships. Lately I’ve felt it important to be more diligent about that and it’s actually been a big happiness booster. More time with people who make me better, less time with people who don’t. It’s become something that has become very important to me. 

“What I’ve learned is that no matter what comes you’ve got to wrap yourself in all the goodness you can muster.” – Jann Arden

I was starting to feel like I was in a bit of a reading funk, but maybe I was just in a reading selection slump.

I’d thought it might be possible that my passion for reading would wane as the weather got warmer and we spent more time outside. I finished up an okay book that took quite a while on Sunday night and then started one I was kind of enjoying (though it was still early) yesterday morning. Last night as I was heading to bed, I picked up a different book (contrary to my 19 for 2019 resolution, I know) I’d bought on a whim on the weekend, Feeding My Mother by Jann Arden and it is the most beautiful thing I’ve read in a very long time. I stayed up late with it last night, I got up early with it today and I was actually thankful for long commutes and waiting room times this morning because I could read more of it then.

As you may have read, heard or watched in interviews, Arden has spent the last several years caring for her ailing parents. In this book, she details the experience of watching them suffer through dementia and Alzheimers diagnoses and supporting them through the end of their lives. The stories inspire a span of emotions and Arden truly presents as an inspiration. As much as she can recognize when she lets her frustrations get the best of her, she also frames the situation realistically – the heartache as well as the bright spots, the triumphs and the defeats.

As the dog and I walked home with the wind at our backs and the sun streaking through the trees, I thought to myself how good people are. How kind and helpful and hard-working and empathetic. Even though my faith in the human race is challenged at every turn, I still believe that goodness is abundant and that bad people will not be able to turn us into the bitter, hateful souls they seem to want us to be. They want us to be like them, full of dark and dread and doom, to become wicked beings set on causing pain for the sake of pain. I will find the good people and I will surround myself with them. I’ll keep trying to be decent and thoughtful and helpful and creative. I’ll leave good things behind me when I pass. I promise this to myself.

She shares all sides of her experience and it’s made me think a lot about my relationships – not just with my parents, but with everyone. How do I give to others? How do I offer my support? What do I do to show others that I care about them? How do I love?

This is a really thoughtful and heartwarming/breaking book. I’d thoroughly recommend it to everyone (just maybe not while riding public transit. Or bring some tissues at least.)

Also, it includes recipes. As you may have guessed.

I need to get out more

And by that, I mean I need to get out WITH PEOPLE more.

A new phase has begun for me and here’s what makes it different: it involves people more. Also: I don’t hate it.

I’m an introvert. Sometimes I feel like an extreme introvert. As such, it’s really taxing for me to be around other people, especially in group settings. I burn a lot of energy being in groups and trying to work in a team. It also takes a lot of effort to prepare myself to be around others. I don’t have any kind of social anxiety, I quite simply just don’t really like being around people in general*, but I’ve already kind of covered this. I could happily spend an entire weekend alone in our apartment without ever thinking of needing human contact.

*People in general = the general public. My people are a different story.

Find this image and more here
To say a new phase has begun may be a little overzealous, but I have started to open up to new people and new relationships. By that I mean that, for the first time in a long time, I’m feeling excited about new and existing relationships and enjoying time with others.
I’ve been out on a few occasions recently and it’s reminded me how much I really do love people (though one-on-one or very small groups is still my preference) whether I’m just meeting them for the first time or revisiting old acquaintances.
Today, I went out with some of my Mom’s extended family – my second and third cousins, I just found out (thanks to this article.) We all get together every so often, but we’d skipped a year or two in recent past. This was a reunion as one of my second cousins was in from out of town and she and I hadn’t seen each other since I was eight. It’s always fun and I was looking forward to the get together, but it still weighed on my mind most of the weekend. As I walked home, I felt so happy to have been with them, to have made stronger relationships, caught up on what’s what and even met a few relatives I’ve never known before. It was a really good time!
This isn’t out of the ordinary. I often feel a ding in my energy just at the thought of going out to meet even my closest friends. I push through and actually go because I know it will be worth it, but I do have to coach myself. I wish there was an easier short cut to the loving glow I feel after the fact and that it wouldn’t take so much mental work to get there in the first place.

It is getting better, though. I’m remembering the joys of looking someone in the eye, exchanging a smile and connecting over shared experiences. I think it may have something to do with brighter days as we head into summer. Whatever it is, I’m trying to roll with it and have a good time.

A Year of Birthdays

Did you watch last night’s episode of Modern Family? A Year of Birthdays culminates in one big birthday celebration, but I won’t offer any spoilers about that.

The episode takes the viewer through a year of birthdays throughout the family, reflections on what went right and what went wrong (in some cases WAY wrong.) As always, there are highs and there are lows, but the entire family is there for all of it.

I have big feelings about birthdays. I love them. If you’ve ever told me your birthday, it’s likely that I will remember it. I cringe when people say something flippant like, “it’s just another day.” It isn’t. Not to me. I try to respect my loved ones’ feelings when they say they don’t like celebrating, but I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not always good at it. Usually it just means that I’m good at keeping it quiet while privately sending them my birthday love vibes.

In our family, birthdays are often a low-key dinner affair. The birthday person gets to pick their destination and everyone reports for duty. Occasionally, we’ve done something a little more celebratory – we once had a poker party for my dad’s birthday and we’ve had a couple of Super Bowl birthdays for my mom, a few times I’ve done a bowling party. Mostly, though, it’s dinner and cake. I often have fantasies about changing that, about making birthday celebrations a bigger deal. When I say this I don’t mean a huge party every time and for everyone, but a meaningful experience that truly honours the person celebrating. I have a few things in the works so stay tuned.

What do birthdays mean in your family? How do you celebrate?

No photographic evidence

I’ve inherited a trait I consider really bad. I rarely remember to take photos of people. Meals, cats, totally out of focus and way too zoomed in moons, I have a thousand of all of them. But when it comes to spending time with other people, I almost never remember to capture the moment.

This isn’t really new. I mentioned it to my mom earlier this year – that we have never really documented our holidays and experiences – and she just kind of shrugged. My Grandad, her father, used to take great photos of all of us. We spent a ton of time at my grandparents’ house when we were little, but eventually as we aged, we got busier and got over there less and less frequently and, as such, our photo documentation decreased.

As we grew into adulthood that continues on. I didn’t take photos, but neither did anyone else. Every so often, someone in the family comes out with a handful of photos from a Christmas past or a summer barbecue, but they’re usually of just a couple of people and don’t tell much of a story.

In recent year, we’ve started going on family vacations pretty regularly and this is one of the only photos that we have from any of them.

I’m used to it, but that doesn’t mean I like it. In fact, I almost always make an internal resolution that today I’m going to take lots of photos. Today, like all the rest of them, I often don’t. In fact, I didn’t take a single one over our near four hour family Easter celebration.

We had a great time including:

  • A little gift and goodie exchange
  • Badminton in the back yard
  • A delicious meal
  • Watching an intense double OT hockey game and debriefing on the earlier one
  • Deciding on and booking the next family trip

But we also had a great time just hanging out together and catching up.

I came home feeling really warm and happy about the family time. Then I remembered that I’d utterly failed in my plan to record some of the festivities.

On one hand, it makes me happy because it means that I’m somewhat successful in my pledge to be the woman whose phone is virtually invisible. On the other, however, I would really like to be able to look through more photos, to share them, print them. I want to have photos of loved ones up in our home. I want to be reminded of good times whenever I look around and I think that would be a real happiness booster.

I just don’t know how to make taking photos when I’m in the company of others a habit, but I want to try.

Are you good at recording time spent with loved ones? If so, what’s your secret?

The people factor

I’m this season of getting to know myself, here’s another thing that I’ve learned: I don’t feel particularly attached to people just because we were in the same proximity for some period of time in our lives. I used to feel like it was a little part of me that was broken, like I couldn’t become attached to other human beings. In truth, it just isn’t my nature and I’ve come to accept that there isn’t anything wrong with it. It’s just how I’m built.

Three things got me thinking about this lately.

  1. For the second day in a row, I’m going to reference the podcast Spiritualish and something host Laura MacKowen said in an episode. In episode 58: Friends, when they talked about – you guessed it – friends. As we both identify as enneagram type sevens, I often get what she’s saying about personality related tendencies. In this episode, she said that at times in her life, she’d been accused of dropping people when she was done with them. She said that she didn’t really register that she ever felt done with people, but she did find it easy to move on from people without feeling an emotional loss. I totally related to that.
  2. I did this thing where I synced my contacts through iCloud so contacts from the past eighteen years that I’ve been an Apple user appeared in my contacts on my phone. Don’t ever do this. Unless you are meticulous about your record keeping. As you can imagine, I am not. So I came home this evening and had to go through them one by one and delete them. I must have deleted at least two hundred people from my contacts – family’s members, former friends, people from other lives and some that are even still in my life – and not one of them prompted even the slightest emotional response.
  3. While out with some friends I watch basketball this afternoon, another friend of our friends showed up. He also happens to be the brother of a guy I dated for a number of years in my late twenties and early thirties. It was a serious relationship to I knew this brother and his wife and their children quite well. It was lovely to see him and to get caught up on each other, but it wasn’t until I got home that I realized that it never even occurred to me to ask after my ex or their mother, despite having been shown photos that included all of them while we sat there. Thinking about it more now, throughout the entire afternoon, I never felt even a hint of nostalgia.

I don’t want to come across as completely uncaring. There are certainly people I hold dear to my heart and whose absence would sadden me greatly. At the same time, I’m convinced of the impermanence of relationships so when one dissolves, I understand that for this time, at least, it isn’t meant to be. Sometimes they resume later, sometimes they are forgotten. Other times, they remain perfectly what they were before they disappeared. I don’t feel like I need to have people front and centre in my life, to talk to or see them all the time, to know that they exist and that our relationship, for whatever it was, was perfectly contained in its contraints. It couldn’t live forever, but it lasted as long as it was viable.

Someone once asked me how I dealt with breaking up relationships because I always seemed to be able to detach without complication. She was being bitchy and passive-aggressive when she asked it because for her, giving up on a relationship is sacrilege. For me, however, it wasn’t an insult. I decided very early on in adulthood that I never wanted to be someone who chased relationships to make them work. Am I willing to make sacrifices to work on a relationship? Sure. But I’m not willing to be sacrificed.

There are lyrics in an old Matthew Good Band song that go like this:

It’s times like this

When you just close your eyes and kiss

‘Cause everything after this

Is just bullshit and being cruel

The whole song speaks to many of my beliefs about relationships, but that has stuck with me for nearly twenty years. For me, it’s important to enjoy the sacred time in a relationship when things are still beautiful and beneficial. Past that point, sometimes things mature and sometimes they need to be let go.

Stay fearless. 😘

So long, Uncle Jeffrey

The world lost one of my uncles this week. I wasn’t particularly close with him, I didn’t know him that well. He was still pretty young when I was born so I’m sure he wasn’t that interested in me. By the time he had kids, I was around the same age so we were kind of like ships in the night over all the years we roamed this earth at the same time. Friendly, genial, smiling ships.

This week, two of my cousins have lost their father, my mom and her remaining siblings have lost their brother. He was ill, sure, but I don’t think this ending was expected, at least not this quickly.

Despite not being close, I’ve been thinking of his passing quite a lot this week. Almost as soon as I got the text from my mom, I said to Kevin, as we were driving home from work, “this is the first time I’ve lost an aunt or uncle.”

Interestingly, after I called my mom as soon as the car stopped, one of the things she said was, “well, this is the first sibling to go.”

And it all felt really close to home. Too close.

As I talked it through with friends throughout the week, some who’d been through the same experience of loss as I have – mainly grandparents only – some who’d already lost one parent or even both. Everyone agreed that it seems natural that as an adult you lose grandparents. As you age, so do they. And while it is rarely easy or the feelings straightforward, you can accept it because it’s the cycle of life. It makes sense.

This death felt like the changing of the guard. All my grandparents have passed and now my blissful ignorance about the people who raised me – in my home with my parents or in the extensions of it with my aunts and uncles – that bubble has popped and I’ve started to think how they will be next to go. That paralyzes me. It’s terrifying. The kind of thing that is inevitable, but that you can spend a great deal of time avoiding. Ignoring. Disbelieving.

Tonight, I pray that he is delivered to a better place, a safer place, one without pain or suffering.

So long, Uncle Jeffrey. 💛

Giving experiences instead of things

I made a bit of a non-resolution resolution this year.

I come from an extremely generous family. Around the holidays, we all spend a lot of time, care and money on exchanging meaningful – and sometimes expensive – gifts to one another. Sometimes it’s excessive, but I think we all enjoy being able to treat each other.

This Christmas was no different, although I did start to contemplate how I’ve been doing things. We’re all adults, we are all well enough off that if there was something that we wanted, we could buy it ourselves. While we were shopping we finally eased into “but would they actually like/use this?” territory more often than not. We were making guesses about the appropriateness of the gifts we were giving because we all already have all the things we really want/need.

I don’t want to undermine the possibility of opening up a new world with a great and thoughtful gift someone wouldn’t have ever bought themselves. An example was when we bought my folks AppleTV a couple of years back. I’m pretty sure they panicked when they opened it, thinking’s that they’d either need to break it to us that they wanted to return it, or worse, that they’d have to try to and figure out what the heck to do with it. As it was, we were tasked with getting it set up the following January and it’s actually become an everyday tool in their lives. My mom is constantly telling us about what she’s been watching on Netflix.

Through all of this contemplation, my non-resolution resolution became to give gifts that were experiences instead of just stuff. An experience could be a cooking lesson, a snowshoeing excursion, an overnight at a resort or a movie, concert, sporting event, etc. But an experience could also be a consumable like baking, jam, a cake, pickles or spa products, either store bought or homemade.

I put my idea into practice for the first time to help celebrate my girl Cara‘s birthday. Instead of buying her a gift that she may or may not even like, I decided to upgrade our tickets to the last game in our Canucks game package as a gift. We had way better seats than we’d grown used to and that made for a fun final night of the season.

It will certainly be a little more challenging to pull this off. It’ll require extra preparation, but t should also yield a lot more enjoyment. I’m looking forward to getting a little more creative with my gift giving.

Do you ever think about gifting experiences over stuff? Do you have any other ideas that would apply?