Friday, April 16, 2010

Wearing the White Carnation: Remembering Mom and other amazing women...

Welcome to the Twitter Chats Blog Tour, organized by Mariana N. Blaser at Mari’s Randomities and Anne Tyler Lord at Don’t Fence Me In. Today's theme is Mother's Day.

You'll be traveling with us through the blogs of some of the fantastic authors and writers who participate in our weekly -- funny, entertaining and educating -- Twitter chats. This tour will feature writers from #writechat, #litchat, and #fridayflash.

You will be directed to your next stop at the end of this post. Please feel welcome here, and have a happy Mother's Day!

As the years fly by, I am in awe of the impact this tiny woman continues to have on my life. My mother, Betty Lou, (b-Oct.6, 1931, d-Feb.14, 2000) was one of those eternally optimistic ladies we often encounter among her generation. She never rose without a cheery "Good Morning", and she sang (admittedly badly) while performing the most menial household task.

I would be lucky to possess one-half of her wisdom -- the common sense with which she approached every one of life's challenges.

But then, Mom descended from a long line of sturdy souls. I remember her grandmother, my great-grandmother Griselda, pictured here in the early 60's shortly before she died at 96.

She was especially proud of this photo of her farm, where she continued to work until her death. Having lost her husband in middle age, Griselda handled the bulk of the physical labour, assisted only by her disabled son. My mother's Uncle Archie had broken his back as a young man but still did what he could.

Uncle Archie is on the right, pictured here with a friend on the farm where he lived with his mother.

One of the most important people in my childhood was my Grammie Bessie, my mother's mother. My sisters and I loved her with all our might. She was sensible, smart, well-educated (a registered nurse who ran a team in a hospital) and carried herself with dignity. This woman taught me self-respect and kindness, lessons which have served me well.

My father's mother, Mary Elisabeth, was one of those ladies you read about in books. In the height of the Great Depression, my grandfather ran off to chase the ponies, leaving her alone to raise three children. In fairness to Grampie, he probably hoped to earn a living gambling -- there weren't many jobs to be had in 1935. He returned home in the 60's shortly before he died, and I remember him as a cheerful, loving grandfather.

Nanny Mary held three jobs for most of her adult life. She was head cook at one of the most prestigious hotel/restaurants in the Maritimes -- the Brunswick Hotel -- as well as keeping 2 permanent jobs as maid/family cook/housekeeper for wealthier people in her neighbourhood.

Although she belonged to the class of "working poor" during the Dirty Thirties, Nanny Mary taught me about charity. She never feared walking the streets of Moncton alone past midnight. Every homeless person on High Street knew her name, and they knew that Mary was on her way home from her job at the hotel. She carried food from the restaurant, which she gave to each person she encountered. She told me: Don't fear a poor man, or a working man. Share when you can. There is always someone worse off than you.

In my memory Nanny Mary is always laughing. She never saw the hard life as something to complain about.

This is me, my Nanny Mary, my Dad and my oldest son, Tom. Mom was holding the camera, as usual, wanting to get a shot of the "4 generations" on Mothers' Day 1986. Notice the carnations we are all wearing?

There have been so many important people in my life! Honouring them all would take nothing less than a book, but the "mothers" in this photo were certainly among my most influential.

Here are my Mom, my Nanny Mary and my father's sister, Aunt Betty, who was my mother's closest childhood friend. My mother and my Aunt Betty shared a bond based on perpetual good humour, kindness and devotion to their families and friends. I am thrilled when my cousins tell me I look like their mother. I think so, too!

When I was first asked to write a "Mother's Day" blog, I was hesitant. My mother's life was not one that could be easily packaged in a few sentimental phrases of 'a thousand words or less'.

I wanted to honour her, but not at the expense of the truth. How could I celebrate the spirited "Mighty Mouse" of my childhood, without turning a blind eye to the hardships life dealt her?

For purposes of this Mothers' Day Memorial, though, I'm determined to focus on the happy moments. Here (on the far left) is a picture of my beautiful mother, standing as maid of honour at her sister Helen's wedding. You can see the joy of youth in Mom's face -- the hopes of one day marrying and starting her own family. It's all there.

Here is my Mom many years later, in Saskatchewan with my older sister Debbie, myself, and my younger sister Rosalind. A stranger would not notice the sadness she tried so hard to hide. Life has dealt so many blows -- the loss of two sets of twins, 4 boys born too early; living with a volatile mate -- and has yet to deal so many more. In 1977 my older sister committed suicide, a blow from which we doubted Mom would ever recover.

On to the next generation of Mothers! This is me, on April 3 of this year. (My 50th birthday.) I'm grateful for the path that led me to my incredible husband and family, and for this smile on my face. They say all roads lead to Rome. My path has sometimes seemed impossible, but it brought me to exactly where I want to be. I have no regrets.

These are some of the people who are most important to me now: my husband Alex, who is my constant partner in this madness we call the "writing life", our oldest son, Thomas, middle son Ted, and our baby daughter Tammy-Li! Also pictured with us is our children's cousin Alexx,(the golden blonde teen) who was travelling with us that day. (Let's not overlook that other golden blonde, our puppy Daisy!)

Here I am with my darlings on our beloved beach. Yes, Alex is there as well -- he's the shadow you see holding the camera!

Where would I be without these dear children of ours? I can't even imagine....

I only hope that one day, when it's their turn to wear the "White Carnation", they will remember me with love.
Thanks for stopping by! Your next stop for the Mother's Day Twitter Chats Blog Tour is P.J. Kaiser at Inspired By Real Life. You can Tweet with P.J. @DoubleLatteMama !

The complete list of participants can be found at the host's blogs: Mari Juniper and Anne Tyler Lord.

Friday, April 2, 2010

On The Eve of My 50th Birthday... Friday, April 2, 2010

This is a milestone, folks. Yup – as of midnight tonight, Yours Truly will crest the half-century mark.

Thanks to my beloved husband Alex and our family and friends, the week leading up to this big moment has been memorable. There have been gifts, cards, parties, lunches, dinners – I couldn’t ask for more!

Aside from the celebrations, though, there have been moments of reflection. Those of you who have already sailed past this marker will likely know what I’m talking about. There are times when one’s age really is more than “just a number”.

Achieving the age of 50 is one of those times.

I’ve found myself plunging into a near-fugue state while sitting at my computer or standing in the kitchen, walking, driving or lying in bed. One question keeps running through my mind

Am I where I should be at this point in my life?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to assess my status in material terms. I have a good day job that pays the bills, as does my husband. We have a home, car, education for our children…

In terms of material considerations, I’m more than content – I am downright grateful.

No, my ponderings have nothing to do with money or clothes, jewels or homes. Instead they are focused on the less tangible assets – the lessons of life. I review the years that led to this moment, all 50 of them, and what they should have taught me.

I’ve certainly tried to take those lessons to heart. I suppose I must hope that effort counts in the grand design. I’ve tried to be generous and loving, tolerant and truthful. I’ve bent in the storm and stood my ground in the hurricane. I’ve been sometimes stubborn, and at other times compliant, as the situation warranted. I have loved my family truly, even in my childhood, when doing so often seemed impossible.

But there is so much more I want to learn – so many pearls that still scatter past my feet, out of my reach. And now, on the eve of my half-century, it seems appropriate to chase down some of the most valuable pearls, before this moment passes and I forget what it was that seemed so pressing.

So here, for all to witness, is my To-Do list for the next 50 years:

1- Always appreciate the love of family and friends. Let no kindness pass unnoticed. Try to see myself as my loved ones see me. Forgive my own short-comings. They never arise out of malice.

2- When in doubt, proceed with kindness. Let gentleness be my ‘default’ position.

3- Stand tall. Make no apologies for who I am. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the facing of it. Brave is the person who rises each day without knowing what challenges lay in wait.

4- Treasure my physical health. My aging body is less than perfect, but it serves me well. Take care of it to the best of my ability.

5- Follow my passion for written words with conviction and energy. Make no excuses – place no blame.

Just keep on riding the tiger until the end of days.