The gift of curiosity 

My son has taught me the beauty of curiosity. Before “google” was a thing, he followed his interests by working through huge piles of library books, watching PBS, CBC, or videos and by engaging in elaborate hands-on learning. Kyle has always shared his acquired knowledge in a way that makes you want to go on his journeys with him.

This past weekend, as we took a mini road trip together, I asked for his perspective and understandings on a variety of topics. “Do you have any more questions?” Kyle asked at one point, in an open hearted way, showing he was keen to encourage my curiosity.

This skill, of listening deeply to people, translates into other parts of his life. Kyle has a knack for giving the most meaningful gifts, the ones related to a random comment you made or a story you don’t remember telling. As with everything, he goes below the surface and discovers what matters. 

And man, can he tell entertaining and engaging stories about his many travels and daily adventures! 

Last month I got to hang out with my youngest during her birthday week on the West Coast. Today I able to celebrate in person with my kind, caring, inquisitive son in his part of the world. My heart is full. 

Happiest of birthdays Kyle!  

May 21, 1983

It started out simply enough – the sun was shining, a few birds were chirping.

We were getting married that day.

There was no large hall booked. No long flowing gown or tuxedo.

Six bottles of champagne were chilling and some deli trays were waiting.

We started our married life simply. It worked for us.

I love going to big weddings and seeing all the fun and love and family sharing a moment in a long line of married moments. We had not been to a lot of weddings when our day arrived, but it never crossed our mind to have that type of day. We wanted to pay for it ourselves and a big event was not what we could afford.

We wanted to get married. Beyond that, everything was just icing on the cake (there wasn’t even one of those).

We have had two anniversary parties in 33 years. One was a surprise (for both of us) by our neighbours – who actually thought it was our 25th when it was our 30th (that’s a whole other story). They told us that everyone was wearing their wedding dresses and suits, but when we arrived, we were the only ones dressed that way (Tim’s wedding suit was long gone, but I squeezed into the cocktail dress I was married in). The other guests were dressed as groomsmen and bride’s maids. It was a great deal of fun.

A while after our 30th, I surprised Tim with a small get together. It was fun, but simple. Twenty friends in the backyard, with amazing food and some laughs. The sun was shining, birds were chirping.

So, tomorrow our thirty-third anniversary will be something like May 21, 1983. I hear there’ll be some family around a table and pizza is on the menu.

Hopefully the sun will shine and the birds will chirp.

Just a girl…

“And don’t forget… I’m also just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” Notting Hill

Stepping down from my “education in Ontario is a mess” ranting soapbox for this post to acknowledge something that changed my life completely 34 years ago today.

November 11, 1981 was the day my sweetie asked me out on our first date.

We’d met that summer but I was on my way back to university. In November, I left university and headed back to Calgary. One of my first stops was the firm where I’d worked that summer, hoping to get work. Well, that and a certain young man had transferred back to the Calgary office of that same firm after working in Banff.

On my way in, I picked up a hand-made coffee mug as a gift for that certain young man, not knowing that he was not a coffee drinker. I was unsuccessful finding work again with that firm and Tim was out at a meeting. I left the mug on his desk with a note and left the office.

I stood outside the office doors and had a dilemma. He was expected shortly so there was a chance we’d meet on his way in, but was he the type to take the stairs or the elevator? I didn’t know him well, but I knew him well enough to know he was the type to take the stairs. Lucky guess. We met on the stairs and he asked me out for the following Friday.

What a funny date it was. Neither of us had a car, so we walked to the movie – it was a very long walk but even then, we were both careful with money. We saw the movie Arthur. We laughed. I think he might have even held my hand. On our walk home, we cut through a school yard and we climbed a tree. As we sat in the tree, Tim told me a few things about himself: he was going to get married at 26 (he was 22 at the time), buy a house two years later, and he had no plans to have children. He had it all figured out.

I had plans for two days ahead – watching old movies with my mom.

We were married in 1983 (he was 23); we bought our first house when he was 26 and well about those kids, two words: Kyle and Laura.

We had no clue really where we were going and we had no clue how to get there.

Yet somehow we’ve done it. We’re here. We’re together.

We might just go climb a tree on Friday. He’ll hold the ladder. I’ll give him a hand up.

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….wind in the trees…

I know my dad is sitting in his La-z-boy, with his slippers and his trucker hat nearby, watching some baseball. He’s just come back from an amazing game of Bingo, or had a good game of cards. His hockey stick sideburns are still holding strong….

 Cause it may be 10 years since he left, but he’s still the same guy.

He’s never really gone. If I go into my garden, and wait in the silence, I know, he’ll come and sit a while with me.

Miss you dad.

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I am the wind in the trees
and the song of a bird.
I am moonbeams in a midnight sky
and a glorious rainbow after the storm.
I am morning dew
and freshly fallen snow.
I am a butterfly flying overhead
and a puppy happily at play.
I am a smile on a stranger’s face
a gentle touch
a warm embrace.

Listen to the wind for my message of love.
Watch the sun rise and set in the sky with me.
Feel my essence encircle you with warm memories.
Open your heart to know…I am not gone.
Reach deep into your soul…You will find me.
I am here.
Have no fear.
I am with you,
Always.

(author unknown)

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Best reasons

One of the best reasons to be absent from blogging or anything else is to spend time with those we love. A little over a week ago, we headed west to see our daughter graduate. It simply doesn’t get any better than family time.

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Being deeply loved….

The most important thing is life is give out love, and to let it come in – Morrie Schwartz

(Some of this post was taken from a post in May, 2012, just prior to our 29th anniversary. In 4 days, it will be our 31st anniversary and what I said then still holds.)

In the summer of 1981, I met the love of my life. He literally walked through a door, and that was it. Not that I had a clue, at 18, that this was IT. And not that the road has always been smooth, but it has been worth every moment, whether it has been a good, bad or indifferent moment.

Ours is not some tale of love lost and found, or full of great struggles or tragedy. Instead, it’s just a simple story of two people who somehow beat the odds and have come through the other side. Happy. Together.

How it came to be that our paths even crossed was luck as my sweetie grew up in Ontario, whereas I was born in Alberta. Yet, he took a job in Calgary once he was done his first jaunt in the post-secondary world, and I happened to be doing temporary secretarial work at the firm where he was hired.

It’s funny. We never planned anything much. Things just happened. We dated for a couple of months, and then he needed a new apartment and my mother needed her space. (We always say it was my mom’s idea that we live together – so scandalous at the time; so “meh” today.) So, we got an apartment. We used furniture loaned to us by family or acquired from other tenants when they were too lazy to move it.

Somewhere along the line, I thought we should make it official. So I proposed. No big dreamy fairy tale, just a practical decision that led to a short engagement and a (very) small wedding.

My fairy tale.

Two days after the wedding, I was back at work.

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Two months later, we were driving across the country so Tim could complete his degree at the University of Toronto. The first 2 years of our marriage included Tim’s degree completion and me trying to adjust to life far from home (remember, no Skype or internet to keep in touch). Our marriage stuttered. Our young age (20 and 23 when we said “I do”) undoubtedly had something to do with it. Our significantly different upbringings may have contributed to it as well. But, we persevered. Although we were naive about a lot of things, we believed in us.

The next 4 years saw new jobs, new outlooks and our first house. When we started our family, first Kyle and then Laura, the adventures really began.

421847_4111133230545_1925491284_nSometimes it feels like yesterday and I feel like that 18-year-old. Generally, though, I feel like I have lived my life with my best friend and we have walked the path of our life together and he does so with my best interests and happiness as his goal. We continue to be very different people, but two people who laugh often and appreciate how very, very lucky we are.

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A few weeks back, we had a discussion prompted by a set of questions posed to an author – what is your greatest fear, accomplishment and so on. After being together for close to 33 years, you would think there would be no surprises, that we would know just about everything about one another. Fortunately, you don’t. We learned something about one another that day.

One thing we both felt was our greatest achievement, both personally and as a couple: our children. We raised two of the most amazing people. Capable. Happy. Smart. Loving. Kind. They are two people who have networks of love and support that go beyond our family. They contribute to the world and enrich ours everyday.

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Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage – Lao Tzu

In a little over a month, I will begin an adventure I have waited over 30 years for – my return to university. A HUGE part of the reason I feel confident that now is the time is that I am deeply loved, so I am strong and I have the courage due to the love I feel so deeply. My return to university is largely a celebration of  the love of the family we created.

How lucky am I? How lucky are we?

….I could walk in my garden forever

If I had a flower for every time I thought of you, I could walk in my garden forever – Tennyson

When my father passed away, I was given a gift of remembrance from some coworkers. The gift was 50 tulip bulbs….

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The other day I realized that this fall, it will be 10 years since my dad passed away. I think that came as a surprise to me because I do think about my dad all the time, even though he is gone. He once told me that when I was in a job interview, to answer questions as he would – brag a little. In the last months of his life, we talked almost everyday. And everyday he would choose one thing that I did that day and tell me how I had done a “good job” on that thing. He was specific and earnest.

I was not close to my dad growing up. My parents were divorced when I was too young to remember him. He was not a regular (or even irregular) part of my life until I was in my twenties and living across the country from him. It took us a long time to negotiate our relationship. Fortunately, it became much easier before he passed away. And everything before that no longer matters.

These days, my dad is often in my thoughts. I am struggling, trying to figure out how to work with a particular student and finding that my patience is being tested. A lot. So, sometimes, when I am struggling, I think about what my dad would say. I know that there’s a good chance what he would say would be very colourful and perhaps more than a little inappropriate – but at the same time, it makes me laugh and reminds me how I would scold and educate my dad on his inappropriate comments. It also makes me realize that if I could have the patience to forge my relationship with my dad, a relationship that took more than 40 years of negotiations to build, that I can have patience with this little person for one more day.

…ice cold in the snow…

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,

stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons.

It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags.

And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore.

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.

What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.

What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

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Always remembered (repost)

Four years ago today, one the finest people I’ve ever known – my father-in-law passed away. This is a repost in honour of him.

For me, there’s a daffodil in every dustbin – Eric Sykes

I love this quote and was so glad to finally have a photo to go with it. I found the quote when I was writing the eulogy for my father-in-law’s funeral in 2009. Dad Turner was a man who truly could find a daffodil in every dustbin, literally and figuratively. He was an eternal optimist and he found good in everyone. The literal side of that quote was that dad and is brother, Charlie, loved to go to the dump at the cottage (which they called the Trading Post) to discover “daffodils” – many “treasures” someone else had let go, they were able to put to good use.

I always felt so loved and accepted by my father-in-law and since I did not grow up with my own father, Dad Turner helped me understand what kind of relationship I could have with my dad. Fortunately, I did end up very close to both my “dads”.  They are both gone now and I miss them both keenly, though in different ways, at different times.

The photo above was taken at the family cottage this past weekend – a place that Dad Turner worked so hard to make special for all of us to enjoy. As Kyle said in his eulogy to his grandfather, Grandpa worked hard, but he worked hardest on us – building a family.

Hey dad – woo-ha!