There aren’t many days that go by when I’m not grateful for living in a town like ours, but last weekend I was reminded in a way reminiscent of that old Maxell tape print ad — you know, the one with the guy sitting in his armchair literally being blown away?
Seriously. This town has got your back.
On Sunday night bidding closed for an online auction, held on Facebook, in support of the families of Theo Lazaridis, Jasmine Blake and Lina Palethorpe — all of whom have been battling childhood cancer.
In just 19 days, more than 2,700 people in Squamish and beyond joined the page to show their support. Donations — 157 of them to be precise — ranged from gorgeous vacation rentals to a trio of handymen for a day to babysitting/daycare services so mom and dad could take advantage of one of the many fun nights out (or in, if you availed yourself of a spectacular wine tasting).
And people were generous with their bidding too, oftentimes offering up more than the value of certain goods — even a $250 Nesters gift certificate fetched $290. In fact, Mel Bradley, the highest bidder, was delighted when she was named top dog and given the opportunity to pay $40 MORE than the face value of her prize.
That’s the kind of town we live in.
Co-organizer Leslie McQuade said the estimated total is just over the $20,000 mark.
“We are so amazed by the community’s support with both donations and bids,” she wrote in an email. “I would love to give prizes to so many people for biggest heart, funniest comment, best jabs, best job in upping the bids, best donation, but I can’t put names to these because there were too many. It was so much fun!”
On the Facebook page, organizers wrote: “Although none of these families has asked for help, we want to do something for our neighbours and friends as they face these incredible challenges. We can only imagine how time-consuming and tiring, not to mention costly it is for the three families to juggle work schedules, household chores, family obligations and the kids’ cancer treatments.”
Auction administrators and helpers behind the scenes should all be heartily acknowledged, particularly Lauren Fraser, David Lane, Carol Forsyth, Carla Wilke, Peter Fritz, Gary McFarlane, Tonya Motyka, Monica Rohl, Leslie McQuade, Scott McQuade, Lori Broker and everyone at Theo’s Basecamp.
Cheryl Gordon stopped by the auction online and acknowledged the support she and her family received when her now-adult son Bryan was fighting cancer as a child and teen. Cheryl is one of the key organizers of Balding for Dollars and asked that people be reminded of this great event that takes place on Saturday, May 11, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Nester's parking lot — all in support of those with childhood cancer. Visit www.BaldingForDollars.com
for pledge forms or pick one up at the Adventure Centre.
Ask someone how they are these days and chances are they will tell you exactly how BUSY they are.
Gone are the days when we were “fine” or “good.” Busy is the new black, or 30, or something or other. We wear it like a badge of honour, but is it really something to be proud of?
In this day and age, with all our mind-blowing technology and supply of gadgets, we are busier than ever. Our state of being has been reduced – or escalated depending on how you look at it – to managing and maintaining complicated schedules many of us have come to resent.
Even those of us who are conscious of whirling around at such a frenetic pace and trying not to use the word “busy” to describe our experience resort to saying things equally ridiculous, such as “Oh, life is very FULL.”
Puh-lease. No matter how you look at it, we have abdicated responsibility for our own lives and the accelerated pace at which we live them. Life is happening TO most of us, rather than something we consciously choose. And I can’t say I like it.
As parents we are often running from school to work to appointments to practices. Even really young children have schedules packed with playdates and sports.
I was a bit surprised to learn this week that children as young as two can register for soccer. I’m fairly certain that these aren’t refereed games, and as a tired parent this would be one “enrichment opportunity” I’d be willing to forgo in exchange for some downtime. I have yet to meet a two-year-old who can make an articulate argument for the need to have fair and equitable opposition on the field, though I suppose the wearing of a diaper may reduce the need for a support strap.
By and large I think this notion of “busy” is something we are not merely buying into, but on some level creating. As if being busy by it’s very nature is preferable to having time to putter, garden or soak in a hot bath. There will be time for that later, we tell ourselves. But all we really have is right now. There is no “later.”
What I hear people saying is that they are too busy to enjoy themselves. That right now is a means to an end. That one day we will get to where we want to be in life and be able to enjoy it. One day.
Instead I am choosing to take a page from the life of my children and live in the here and now and give myself fully to the moment. By virtue of this it will mean making less plans, because of course that would be projecting into a time other than the one I am in.
If that makes even a 10 per cent dent in my own busyness, I will have succeeded. Now, where’s my dayplanner… and an eraser?
As we headed back to school on Tuesday after a two-week-long spring break, I really felt the importance of the seasons, our connection to the Earth and the rhythm our family has established in the past few years.
In March, we experienced the crocuses blooming and slowly dying, the tulips poking their heads out of the warm soil and the hyacinths blossoming in gorgeous pinks and purples. The forsythia in our backyard is currently exploding in bright yellows and we can see the fuzzy buds on the magnolia growing bigger every day. For my children, and anyone connected to Mother Nature, all of these signs signal the end of winter and the rebirth that spring offers.
For weeks now our girls, aged five and seven, have been following dad’s lead in the backyard — pinching off old, dead growth, weeding the garden beds, and “helping” to build a new greenhouse while I hide indoors trying to avoid the alder pollen that is leaving a fine green dust on everything. While it is beautiful, inspiring and enlivening, I never said spring was easy on us allergy sufferers!
When I was first faced with 15 days off of school and accepted the fact that under no circumstances were we going to Hawaii for the holidays, I was a little panicked. What was I going to do with the kids, on my own, for that long? And how many Benadryls was it OK to take in one day?
Well, we had a blast. We travelled around a little and were able to witness how spring was progressing elsewhere in B.C. In Stanley Park and on Vancouver Island near Cowichan Station, the daffodils were standing at attention and cherry blossoms were in full bloom. We enjoyed a day at the aquarium, participated in a friend’s wedding at Cat Lake, and the kids managed several ferry rides; while I was on a course, the family went to the Sunshine Coast for some cold-weather camping and beachcombing.
The Easter egg hunt we held at our house was beautiful as six little ones, ranging in age from two to eight, ran around finding — and then re-hiding — eggs in the grass, in trees and under gardening tools. That afternoon we took a new friend and her three-year-old daughter, who were visiting from Scotland, to Smoke Bluffs and little Arwyn got to experience her dream of climbing the steep rock.
The kids had chocolate on their faces and dirt under their fingernails for most of Easter Sunday as the sun shone down fair and strong, earning Squamish the title of Canada’s “hot spot.” It was an amazing culmination to our spring break and now I find myself longing for those lazy, endless summer days — particularly because then I will be able to enjoy it all without the haze of antihistamines.
There’s a new kind of dad in town – cue the tumbleweeds and low whistling that instantly makes you think old Hollywood western. This dad may not have the swagger of Clint Eastwood, but he’s as original as Dirty Harry.
A recent op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal by journalist Sue Shellenbarger examined a newly published study by the Journal of Consumer Research, which based its research on interviews, observations of father-child outings, and analysis of thousands of pages of at-home daddy blogs and commentary.
Shellenbarger wrote that the study suggests at-home dads “take pride in letting their children take more risks on the playground, compared with their spouses.” The study says dads are willing to jettison daily routines in favour of spontaneous adventures with the kids.
Lead author of the study Gokcen Coskuner-Balli, an assistant professor of marketing at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., writes that "Just as we saw a feminization of the workplace in the past few decades, with more emphasis on such skills as empathy and listening, we are seeing the opposite at home – a masculinization of domestic tasks and routines."
"Many men are building this alternative model of home life that is outdoorsy, playful and more technology-oriented."
There’s plenty of evidence of that in Squamish. When my kids were younger, I would marvel – and sometimes inwardly gasp – at the ability dads often have to play it free and loose with their kids. They send them flying higher on the swings, let them sit longer in wet diapers, and don’t mind if they eat with dirty hands. A spring walk isn’t cut short if a child sits in a puddle, it just become soggier.
I have a lot of respect for dads who choose to stay home full time with their kids. Not only is it the toughest job one could probably undertake, for dads it comes with social stigma.
Even if you can get past that, you are still a minority. Let’s face it: chatter between moms at the park can easily turn to cracked nipples and when to start potty training. Not exactly the kind of conversation guys want to get in on.
Moms can learn a lot about letting go of stress and anxiety from their counterparts. Granted hormones may play a part in a woman’s need to sanitize, monitor hydration and snack kids on the hour, but we can take a cue from that laid back dad who is letting his child climb a tree as high as your house. Just think of the balance, strength and problem-solving skills she’s developing!
At the pool the other night, I spotted a daddy friend, a seasoned pro with three little ones under five. The older two were splashing about while Jamie, waist-deep, leaned calmly against the side wearing only his trunks, a broad smile and a Baby Bjorn. Inside nestled the couple’s three-month-old, fully dressed, and sleeping peacefully against dad’s chest.
The only thing this dad was missing was his six-shooter.
Ever since I saw clinical psychologist Shafali Tsabary’s TedTalk on what she calls “conscious parenting” I was intrigued to learn more about this woman and her philosophies. I jumped on the Internet and found she had a book called, no surprises, The Conscious Parent, with a forward by the Dalia Lama himself.
Tsabary, who has a private practice in New York and earned her doctorate from Columbia University, integrates Eastern mindfulness and its teachings with Western psychology. To me, her mix is right on the money.
When I looked a little further I was thrilled to see she would be speaking at the end of February in Vancouver at the Simon Fraser campus of the Dalai Lama Centre downtown. The talk she would be giving was of course about The Conscious Parent, with a subhead of How to Rejuvenate Your Connection. The stars were lining up left right and center and I booked my ticket.
Tsabary suggests that as parents we are dictated by two or three emotional patterns established in our own childhood, and we are “abducted moment after moment by these emotions.”
I’m certainly in no position to argue that one.
Is it not remarkable to be able to get through one day when our child does not do something to raise our ire? Often they possess some character trait or oft-exhibited behavior that triggers us instantly the moment it surfaces. Why is that?
Tsabary insists that our children are our mirrors and that these reflex emotions are nothing more than unmet needs we must resolve for ourselves. She believes that the key to becoming a better parent is to shift the focus from parenting our children to parenting ourselves.
She is adamant that being capable of offering our children unconditional acceptance and love comes from having that ourselves. If we weren’t given it the first go around, now is the time to make up for it.
Topping the list of ways to go about this is to practise mindfulness daily, she said.
“To raise children consciously is both a daily and lifelong practice of becoming vigilant witnesses of our own unconsciousness. Each time we become aware of an element of unconscious behavior, however small it may be, an energetic shift occurs,” Tsabary writes. “As we catch ourselves in an unconscious moment and are able to detach from it, we expand our consciousness.”
The key to this is in the word practice. Everyone knows that if you want to be a star hockey player, skilled novelist, or amazing chef you need practise. So it follows that if you want to be mindful or conscious about your parenting and relationship with your child that you need practise.
Evidently, becoming a conscious parent isn’t going to happen overnight, much to my chagrin.
So, if you happen to see me sitting in a parking lot with a van full of kids and a blissed out, yet somewhat agitated look on my face, know that deep inside I am looking at the mirror my kids are presenting to me. And trying hard not to yell.
The other day, at the suggestion of Scott Noelle whom I’ve mentioned in this column before, I sat and watched the water drops as they formed and slid down my shower door. And later that afternoon I watched the raindrops collect on and flow off of my windshield before I started the van.
If you observe what this looks like you may have just discovered the secret to the path of least resistance.
To put it in perspective, we all know what that can mean if you are on a hike. If there’s a clearly marked path chances are that’s the route you’ll go. There will be a lot less scratches, snagged garments, tripping and falling. You’ll likely get to your destination more quickly and be happier for it.
Now, if you watch drops of water collect, once one starts to move you will notice a few things. A drop of water will almost always take the path of another before it, even if that means veering off in one direction or another regardless of whether down may be the most direct route. It flows around obstacles without effort. If there is another drop in its path the two will often merge and go on together. You won’t find one trying to be different and go upwards. And sometimes it is easiest to stay put until another one comes along.
In every instance you’ll notice there is no effort, no trying. Nature just waits until the easiest avenue is made clear and then takes it. We can notice this in the behaviour of our children – and pets – and the growth patterns of wild vegetation.
When there’s a job to get done and one can find ease in it – maybe picking strawberries from the garden at the same time as weeding, or building a fort from the snow collected from the driveway – it becomes a whole lot more enjoyable and satisfying.
I know when I am guilty of trying to force things to happen when they aren’t coming naturally. I can feel it. Sometimes I even find myself saying out loud “Why isn’t this working?” or “Why is this so hard?”
Making progress in one’s day shouldn’t feel like we are forcing a square peg into a round hole. There is a difference between hard work and determination, and plain old beating your head against a wall.
When we feel stressed it means we are resisting in someway. Maybe it’s too many deadlines or chores, trying to fit in too many appointments or get to too many places within a day.
If things are not coming with ease that indicates that you aren’t in a flow. Think about those drops of water. They all end up getting where they are going eventually. If we invite more of this mentality into our day we can’t help but experience a lot more grace and joy along the way.
I’m not particularly interested in being friends with my children. Not now, when they are still so young. I believe there is a place for me in their lives and right now they need a parent who loves them without condition.
That said, I really want to be friends with them when they are young adults and onwards. These days I see relationships of co-operative housework, childrearing, and meal preparation between my friends and their mothers and they are clearly enjoying their time together — it is much more than putting in requisite family time.
Last week a girlfriend and I were having coffee and watching in wonder as our youngest daughters, 4 and 5 respectively, played.
“I wonder if she’s going to love me like she does right now when she’s older,” I mused aloud. Flooded with memories of our own teenage years, we both snorted with laughter.
But the question hung in the air and as our mugs were drained we chatted about the possibilities and what would be necessary to maintain that intense heart connection we both experience with our young children.
Many women — and men — who have trod on this ground before us may already know the answer, but for me… well, all I can really do is hypothesize and hope. After all, I know just as many adult children who have dynamic and loving relationships with their parents as I do those who are barely able to be in the same room.
And then my girlfriend shared a recollection of a mother-daughter duo that really hit home for me. The girl, now a teen, was an avid Nordic skier and mom had picked up the sport when her daughter was in lessons. Together they progressed and gained skills.
In the lodge, according to my friend, the two of them seemed like “the best of friends, like business partners,” the way they riffed on each other in conversation. They shared a common language and no one in the room was more important. Assuming this was in fact a healthy relationship not impeding on other healthy relationships, I cannot imagine a better experience to share with my girls as they get older.
What did it come down to? They both really enjoyed an activity — in this case cross-country skiing — a lot. And they do it together often. You can see it in other families who pursue activities like sailing, hiking, cooking or baking, and yes, even shopping.
This time together builds connection and relationship. It provides a foundation for which other elements can build upon — such as trust and reliance. This isn’t the only way, but it seems like one that can offer an experience of fun and an element of joy. And who doesn’t want that?
I recently went cross-country skiing with my eldest daughter’s class and though I hadn’t been in 27 years, I loved it — so much so that for my birthday last week I received a new ski kit. Looks like we may have found our sport.
The night before I gave birth to my second daughter, a horrible, dramatic, and (now) clearly hormonally fuelled thought flashed through my mind: I was about to ruin my firstborn’s life. It was never going to be the same; we would never have the same bond, connection or time together.
After having my undivided attention, love and affection for two years, she was going to have to share me — as well as her father, her toys and her room. In fact, for the first while she dare not hope for an even split; chances were the newborn was going to take up a lot more than 50 per cent of my attention.
I cried (OK, wailed) and mourned the loss of what I believed to be her blissful existence, all the while telling myself that it would be good for her, having a sister would be like giving her a friend for life, yadda yadda yadda. I knew deep down that the positive self-talk was true, as was a wee bit of the rest of it. There was no question that the addition of a sibling would be life-altering.
Five years later my girls are the best of friends. And the worst of enemies. You know what I’m talking about. One minute they are cheering each other on, pushing one another on the swing, and considerately lobbying for extra dessert on Sister’s behalf. The next minute they are pushing each other OFF the swing, eating Sister’s dessert and calling her names — while sitting on her head.
How did Charles Dickens put it in A Tale Of Two Cities? It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
That pretty much sums up our household experience day in and day out.
To put it bluntly, the stress of having these two going at it as often as they do can take its toll. With the flip of a switch — or in our case the knocking over of Lego or snatching of a favoured doll — no one is having a good time.
I get my fair share of one-on-one with the youngest; she’s only in school mornings, so spending quality time with Big Sister was obviously in order. It’s not the first time we’ve had mother-daughter time on our own, but truthfully there hasn’t been much of it. Finally, with the holidays past, visiting family packed and gone and rhythm and routine graciously returning to our lives, I whisked my seven-year-old off the city for a date.
After failed attempts at getting last-minute tickets to see Cirque du Soleil, we ended up on Lonsdale in North Vancouver lunching on yummy Malaysian cuisine and then trucking up one side of the avenue and down the other browsing bookstores, bakeries, thrift shops and the like. We managed to spend six hours digging through boutiques and unearthing treasures, sampling new foods, and learning that we really do enjoy spending a day in each other’s company. In fact, it was heaven.
No one yelled, stole the other’s cookie or sat on anyone’s head. Neither of us was even tempted.
I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. I seem to have a strong sense of counterwill that will readily throw a fist in the air and cry out “You can’t make me do it!” even when I’m the one who chose the resolution in the first place. It’s been decades since I sat down with pen and paper – or in this case a laptop – and roughed out details of personal commitment for the coming 12 months.
And since 2012 wasn’t the last year of the Earth’s existence, despite interpretations of the Mayan calendar, now is as good a time as any to perhaps break my own rule about “no resolutions” and, well, make some.
Perhaps the difference this time around is that will be no resolutions that read along the lines of “I will not eat after 8 pm” or “I will exercise for at least 30 minutes everyday.” Though these may be lofty and good goals, I want to focus on stretching my consciousness as a parent. I want to become more mindful, more present and more in touch with what is going on for my children. I suspect with this sort of exercise the rest will follow quite naturally as we all feel more whole, listened to and understood.
For 2013 I resolve to:
1. Be gentle with myself when I lose patience or feel the need to control. I resolve to acknowledge these emotions, to notice them but not give them power over me. Feelings of frustration do not need to be met with validation and action. I will allow awareness to trigger compassion.
2. Find compassion and empathy for my child – and me – when her demands are more than I want to deal with. I resolve to be present and meet my child’s needs with my heart, not my head. I will recognize my child’s immaturity and limitations in conveying her emotions. When she cries or tantrums I resolve to soothe and understand.
3. Talk less in heightened situations. Education theorist Robert Havighurst coined the term “teachable moment” in the 1950s but the buzzword has peaked as of late and spilled over from the classroom into the home. Today many parents feel the need to capitalize on every misstep or grievance and explain, analyze and correct possible future infractions. However, we’ve forgotten that the timing must be right for a moment to be teachable – and that is never when emotion is high.
4. I will keep things simple. Many parents struggle with different realms of family life that get out of hand whether it’s busy schedules, too little rhythm and routine, or too much adult influence – from conversation to media and screens. For me it’s our environment; we have too much stuff and our space is cluttered. This year I resolve to continue to simplify our space and not bring anything new into the home that isn’t consumable.
5. Find the fun. I will welcome joy in my life. I will embrace the youthful exuberance of my children, experience more laughter, and live into the small, precious moments that they bring to each day.
Whether you choose to make resolutions this year or not, I hope you find inspiration in the idea of parenting with consciousness and experience 2013 with enthusiasm, joy and heartfelt connection.Kirsten Andrews will be offering a seven-session Simplicity Parenting course beginning on Feb. 2, 2013. For information visit www.SeaToSkySimplicityParenting.com, like Sea to Sky Simplicity Parenting on Facebook or email email@example.com.
Last weekend served as a rich reminder to me about what it means to truly dial things back and just be together as a family.
With our eldest daughter the unhappy recipient of a particularly fierce stomach flu, my husband and I pulled the curtains, took turns playing nurse and doing the laundry, and huddled up on the sofa while Little Sister took full advantage of being able to do whatever she wanted and performed puppet play after puppet play, calling all the shots.
We kept the lights dim and the music quiet. We whispered in hushed tones and made tea with honey. We stared at the lights on the Christmas tree for hours on end and kept the fire roaring.
With the holidays fast approaching, I am increasingly aware of the expectations that could easily transform our little family into a travelling circus sideshow. My parents will have arrived from out of province, and we’ll be to-ing and fro-ing in Vancouver to see my husband’s family — on both sides. Snow-filled frolics with cousins, aunts and uncles in Whistler and Pemberton are anticipated. And of course, dinners need to be planned, shopped for and made; baking must be prepared.
But as I reflect on the quiet that befell our house last weekend I am reminded what it is I enjoy about my family — and for the most part it doesn’t involve much of the song and dance that has hijacked our holidays in the past. It’s not that we don’t enjoy the visits and revelry, just in limited amounts, please and thank you.
What I really value is slowly waking and snuggling in our big bed in the mornings, discussions of hikes in the crisp, winter air, slow drawn-out breakfasts of crepes… the idea of a mid-afternoon nap with one of my girls.
For the next 2 ½ weeks there will be no rushing out of the house to make it to school on time. My husband can schedule his exercise for later than 7 a.m. We can fill our days with creativity. Play dates won’t have to be shoehorned into our schedule and there are no after-school activities to zip off to. In short, we’ll simply be able to enjoy our time.
So right now I am taking stock of what matters most, and honestly it’s not about saying yes to every single invitation we get this Christmas. This year we are going to pick and choose how we spend our precious 17 days off of school and work. If we are going to have a couple of very busy days, I intend to sandwich them with several very lax days on either side.
In a way, this sick day was good for all of us — it forced us to slow down and remember what we truly value: our health and each other.
This holiday we will not do anything out of obligation, nothing that isn’t full of eager anticipation and nothing that doesn’t bring us joy. That is my commitment to myself and to my family this year. I hope you can make it yours too.
I wish you and your family many blessings of peace, love and joy this Christmas.