Tag Archives: relationships

Family

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Family

Snow has arrived in Leavenworth. I decided to escape to the warmth of California tonight and tuned in to YouTube to watch Season 1 Episode 3 of one of my favorite TV shows. Family aired in the 70s and 80s and featured Kristy McNichol as Buddy.

When my son Kyle was three years old, he enjoyed watching this series with me. In those days we had a VCR and the episode I watched tonight was Kyle’s favorite. He called it “the swimming Buddy.” He admired Buddy because she learned to dive by herself. His favorite expression back then was “self did it”, so he really identified with Buddy. He was always eager to do things on his own without any adult help.

That episode struck a chord with me because Willie was such an awesome older brother to Buddy. That’s an experience I never had growing up although I do now have a couple of close male friends who are like the brothers I never had before.

I also treasure a number of close female friends whom I consider to be more like sisters. Two of them even date back to middle school years. And have we ever changed since then!

My friends tell me I collect family. I don’t like the word “collect.” It’s true that my extended family continues to grow over the years with all the traveling I do. But these amazing people are much more than a collection. We’ve been there for each other through thick and thin. We’ve shared laughter and tears and it doesn’t matter where we live now. We are more than friends for life. We are family.

What’s Next

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What’s Next

The clock is ticking. I’ve been in the USA for over two months now and still don’t have a clue as to where I’ll go when my 180 days are up.

I know that I am not anxious to travel. If anything I’m anxious about travel, whether it be to Canada or to Mexico.

One thing I do know is that while Covid-19 is crazy everywhere, I am also determined not to live in fear. I’m not going to seek out crowds, but I do intend to continue to do my own shopping and to go out with friends. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that the library has reopened although the book club and craft activities are still cancelled.

By nature I am an extrovert. However after all the quarantining and closures, I believe I am now leaning towards being more of an introvert. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that.

While it is nice to have a less hectic schedule, I miss my volunteer work in Leavenworth and in Cashmere. I miss my friends and the programs at the senior center. I miss the children’s ministry at church. And virtual Thanksgiving celebrations just don’t cut it.

It’s been well over a year since I last saw my daughter and granddaughter in Kelowna. I haven’t seen my son in Winnipeg in well over three years. And I haven’t seen my family in Culiacán in a year. Duo video calls are enjoyable, but they don’t take the place of in person interaction.

In one of my recent conversations with my son, he asked me what my long term plans were. He was adamant that 180 days in the USA is not a long term plan. I disagree. For me it’s as long term as I can fathom right now.

Before Covid I kind of had a long term plan. From Mexico I was planning to go to Winnipeg to see my son. I was planning on going to Kelowna to see my daughter and my granddaughter. I was also going to take some time to find a quaint little town somewhere in Canada where I might want to settle down in a couple of years. But now all of that is on hold.

I was also planning on doing a few months in Leavenworth again before heading back to Mexico for the winter. But it now appears that I am about to experience a Washington winter instead.

There always needs to be a Plan B or C or D because the only constant in life is change.

Hmmmm……..

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Hmmmm……..

The election is over but it’s not over. The virus didn’t disappear. The land borders are still closed. You can go into a store to buy weed and booze but you can’t go into a store to buy a toy for your kid.

I used to feel like I was living in the twilight zone. But that doesn’t even describe it anymore. My body is confused because I’m not in Mexico. Joints tend to stiffen up in colder climates. My brain is scrambling to adjust to a completely different lifestyle that seems to keep changing every day.

I get it. Life will never go back to what it once was. I need to adapt. But just how can I possibly adapt when change seems to be my new daily routine?

Governments are presenting us with confusing and ambiguous rules to follow. The new restrictions are being interpreted differently in every town and county in this country. It kind of reminds me of the way INM functions in different areas in Mexico.

I’m Canadian. But right now I’m glad I’m not in Canada. Things are just as complicated up there and I already have too many complications in my life and don’t need any more. Finding somewhere to quarantine and to live is just a tad overwhelming to me at the moment.

I had actually hoped to be in Winnipeg right now. My son turns 40 this week and I really wanted to be with him. He is deeply disappointed that he won’t be celebrating in Vegas as he had originally planned. It has also been more than ten years since I’ve been with him on his birthday.

Thanksgiving is coming up this week. Most people I know are forgoing the large family dinners and the usual travel for virtual Thanksgiving celebrations.

I for one won’t be breathing a big sigh of relief when 2020 finally ends. Who knows what lies ahead in 2021? I’m not a pessimist but right now I’m struggling to be optimistic about the future.

Focussing completely on the present seems to be the healthiest choice.

Who’s with me?

Memoirs On My Mind

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Memoirs On My Mind

On February 9th, 1977 I lost my best friend, my hero, my father. More than 43 years have gone by but in some ways it seems like yesterday.

I was so young when he died and there is so much more that I wish I knew about him. Although we were very close, because he left me so long ago, there are questions that have surfaced over the years as I have grown.

My dad never met his grandchildren. They came along years later. It’s sad that he missed out on the opportunity to be a grandparent. And it’s also sad that my children never had a loving grandfather in their lives.

One of my writing projects involves writing my memoirs for my granddaughter. Madeline is 2-1/2 now and it will be years until she will read and understand the significance of these stories. Yet it is important to me that this history be recorded. Indeed my own daughter is not aware of some of these memories.

I must admit that compiling these memories at times is overwhelming. How much information is too much information? And wow is some of it emotionally draining for someone who practices mindfulness on a daily basis to avoid unnecessary sadness and anxiety.

I had hoped to attend another memoir writing class this year while in Leavenworth. Due to Covid-19 there is no class. And as I continue to work on my memoirs, I wonder just how much Covid-19 will impact my writing. Only time will tell.

I Will Miss You Raul

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I Will Miss You Raul

When I head up north next week, I know I am going to experience the reverse culture shock I usually do. I will miss the laid back life I have here in Aguascalientes. And one person who I will really miss is my friend Raul.

Two years ago this October I arrived in Aguascalientes from San Luis Potosí. I had researched the city and thought that two or three weeks would suffice to visit the museums, templos and pueblos mágicos close by. Instead I stayed for three months.

When I lived in Mazatlan a few years ago I was looking for an opthalmologist and asked for a recommendation on an expat Facebook group. Jose Alberto responded along with a few others. I wound up going to Guadalajara for the cataract surgery instead.

Flash ahead two years and I’m in San Luis Potosí. Again I post in Facebook groups looking for recommendations. Jose Alberto responds and tells me that Aguascalientes is his hometown. He refers me to his nephew Fernando who still lives there. Fernando refers me to his cousin Raúl who owns a hotel.

Fernando offered to pick me up at the bus station and take me to Raul’s hotel. However he had to cancel as he had come down with the flu and was running a fever.

I took a taxi to the hotel. Expecting a hotel, I was quite surprised when I was dropped off at the door of a house. Two workers repairing a drain answered the door and showed me to my room.

I was anxious to settle in and go exploring despite the light drizzle but wanted to talk to Raúl first. What if the workers had let me into the wrong room? And of course I had no keys.

A few minutes later Raúl showed up. And he spoke English!!! I felt better already. That day was also the first of many times I would hear the comforting expression “don’t worry” from Raul.

Seeing as Fernando hadn’t picked me up and taken me to the ATM as I had anticipated, I didn’t have rent money for Raul. He assured me I could pay him when I found an ATM once I settled in.

I then asked him where I could find a garrafón of drinking water as tap water is a no-no here. He asked me to wait and in five minutes was back with one and installed the pump as well.

Another comforting expression I heard for the first of many times was “anything you need, anything you want, just ask” And I admit I did take him up on his offer a couple of times.

His son had a birthday party and I was invited to the celebration. His wife and all of his family were most welcoming. Fernando had a loncheria and I would often see family members there as well.

It was time for the Ferria and I was supposed to have left by then. Raúl had already rented out my room. No problem. Raúl moved me into his home for the weekend. And he drove me to the bus station when I left for Puerto Vallarta.

I told him I wanted to come back the following winter. There was a communal kitchen at the house that I didn’t use. I asked if it was possible to have a fridge and a microwave in my room. No problem. Just a week’s notice before I return.

And return I did. At first I moved into a room on the second floor in another house. However when a main floor room became available at the house I’d stayed in last year, Raúl moved me over.

I had intended to stay for six months, but COVID-19 changed my plans. I had numerous frantic emails from the Canadian government urging me to return immediately to Canada. I couldn’t go to Leavenworth as the insurance companies refused to cover COVID-19. I decided to stay in Mexico.

My FMM expired in April. At that time Mexico was allowing tourists to obtain another FMM, for humanitarian reasons, without leaving the country. When Raúl offered to help me deal with INM, I’m not sure he realized it would mean four visits (two on one day once) and a mountain of paperwork. It was great having him as a translator. The staff at Immigration spoke really fast and the masks made it even more difficult to understand.

Then came the advisory from Mexico Hotel and Tourism that hotels would be shut down and tourists would have nowhere to stay. Raúl said that didn’t apply to him as he was registered as a long-term hospice. He also assured me that if he was shut down that he would move me in with his family.

For three months we were under lockdown. I went out for daily walks to pick up groceries only. Raúl chauffeured me to the ATM and to Telcel to renew my phone plan. He also stopped by regularly to check on me and chat.

I had begun to stockpile some extra medication in anticipation of spending six months in Leavenworth. When that ran out, I went to Farmacia Similares where I was told it was no longer available in generic form. I then went to Farmacia Guadalajara where something got lost in the translation when I was talking to the pharmacist. Raúl to the rescue and the medication magically became available.

Yesterday morning I walked down to Farmacia Guadalajara to pick up extra medication for my upcoming trip to Leavenworth next week. I bumped into Raúl at the pharmacy and jokingly suggested he stick around when I talked to the pharmacist. And it was a good thing he did!

There was none in stock and the other locations weren’t answering their phones. Raúl offered to drive me to Farmacia Ahorro and I eagerly accepted.

His translation skills were extremely helpful once again. This pharmacy had a slightly different medication that also had a diuretic included in the formula. So now only one pill a day to control my blood pressure. A separate diuretic not necessary anymore.

Then it came to paying. I had a discount card I’d gotten in Guadalajara years ago, but my card was at home and not with me. I speak a lot of Spanish but don’t really know the alphabet all that well. Raúl helped me spell my name so it could be checked on the computer. And they found it!

Thank you Raúl for being more than just a great friend, for being a part of my family. I never worry because you always say “don’t worry” and I will miss your comforting words “anything you need, anything you want, just ask”

At the moment I’m not sure just when I’ll be coming back to Aguascalientes, but I know I have more than a room here. I have a home.

Writing An Obituary 101

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Writing An Obituary 101

On Saturdays I read the obituaries section in The Winnipeg Free Press, my hometown newspaper in Canada. I often recognize familiar names of people in my past, many of whom I’ve lost touch with over the years.

Decades ago I took a Creative Writing class in college. One of our assignments was to write our own obituary. At the time my children were young and I recall struggling with this concept.

Eight years ago I actually did write my own obituary. It was just before I had my first knee replacement. My mother had died from complications after having that surgery, and I was terrified that the same fate awaited me.

Well, I survived that first surgery and the following year I had my other knee replaced. That obituary was tossed long ago.

My children and I live thousands of miles apart in different countries. They know very little about my life, other than that I divide my time between somewhere in Mexico and Leavenworth, Washington. They have never visited me in either place and have not met many of my closest friends, nor have they seen the places where I’ve lived. I don’t think either of them can quite understand why I chose to stay in Mexico rather than return to Canada during a pandemic. And they have voiced the idea that I must have a death wish if I want to go back to Leavenworth rather than return to Canada.

Recently the topic of obituaries has arisen when I talked with friends who also live far away from their families and have similar circumstances. Perhaps a bit on the morbid side, but we wonder what our children would say about us if they had to write our obituaries today.

In all honesty, I have trouble just keeping up with holographic wills because I move around so much. Writing an obituary is the last thing on my mind right now.

The Choice

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The Choice

Occasionally I read a book in English when I’m in Mexico. Today I finished The Choice by Nicholas Sparks. This isn’t the first time I’ve read it. It’s just the type of story I enjoy reading more than once.

It never ceases to amaze me just how strong the love is between Travis and Gabby. I marvel at how a man can be so dedicated and passionate. I know that was never the experience I had in my marriage, although I have found it since in subsequent relationships.

I wonder if there is a genetic link out there that makes some men more inclined to feel and express love. It can’t all be learned behavior from our upbringing.

I’ve actually had conversations on this topic with both female and male friends. I’ve observed that while females appear to be more emotionally definitive, males seem to be more on the defensive side.

Then there is the idea of love turned inward resulting in narcissism. There is a strong correlation here with environment, suggesting that this type of love is a learned behavior.

Unfortunately we don’t recognize narcissism in our partners until the relationship ends, despite the persistent attempts by therapists over the years to open our eyes to this toxicity in our lives.

I’d like to think that the love story about Travis and Gabby is not unique. But it’s hard to believe that in view of the high incidence of divorce in today’s world, or in viewing the number of couples who stay together for financial reasons and are bitterly unhappy. I think that number has overtaken the one for couples who remain together for the sake of the children, another fallacy in parenting.

It was nice to escape to the world of Travis and Gabby, even for a short time. I highly recommend this book if you haven’t yet read it. Or if you have read it, you should read it again.

If You Grew Up In Winnipeg, Manitoba

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If You Grew Up In Winnipeg, Manitoba

One of the Facebook groups I belong to is called If You Grew Up In Winnipeg, Manitoba.

First some facts. Manitoba is one of the prairie provinces in Canada. Winnipeg is the capital city of Manitoba.

Winnipeg is my hometown. I was born and raised there. My children were born and raised there. My son still lives there although my daughter has long since moved away.

Back to the Facebook group. Members post photos and memories of growing up and living in this city.

Here are a few recent posts. As you will see, there is a wide range of topics and I have just selected a few.

This photo is of the maternity pavilion at the Winnipeg General Hospital from back in the 50s when I was born.

Clock radios were popular back in the 60s and I had one on my nightstand back then.

In March of 1966 we had a blizzard that crippled the city for days. People were stranded at work and this milk delivery truck got hung up in the snow.

Assiniboine Park is home to the English Gardens in the summertime. This famous statue is known as The Boy With The Boot and greets visitors at the entrance.

This is part of a map of the City of Winnipeg that features the neighborhood where I grew up, River Heights.

These cookies were a chocolate covered marshmallow with a jam filling and a cookie base. Paulin Chambers was a customer of a business I owned. When I’d drop by for a visit I always enjoyed sampling one of these fresh right off the conveyor belt.

The Paddlewheel Princess was one of the boats that had cruises on the river during the summer. Unfortunately it was destroyed by fire a few years ago.

TV tables were another item commonly found in homes back in the 60s. TVs were usually in living rooms back then, not in family rooms. We had these exact ones when I was growing up.

July 1 marks the celebration of Canada Day. When I was a kid all the neighbors would get together at the park on my street and pool their fireworks. This one was always the grand finale.

Other topics covered on this site deal with restaurants, night clubs and even dance and music schools. Someone put up a post the other day about learning to drive. Anything nostalgic goes on this site.

What I find interesting is that a lot of the reminiscing seems to be done by people who have left Winnipeg and live elsewhere now.

I don’t get back to Winnipeg often. It’s changed a lot in the last 10 years since I’ve been gone. When I do go back I see new roads and new housing subdivisions. Once familiar stores are gone and big box stores have taken their place. But what is most disturbing to me is that the crime rate has soared as the city has grown. And that makes me sad.

Penpals

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Penpals

June 30. I’m still in Mexico. Borders are still closed. Canada is still enforcing the Quarantine Act.

In another lifetime it was month end at work. It was the last day of school when I’d take my kids out for brunch after picking up their report cards. Another tradition was going to Chuck E Cheese later on in the day.

And then I moved to Mexico ten years ago to teach English. One of my first projects was setting the students up with penpals.

I’m actually still friends with my first penpal. I was living in Winnipeg and Carole lived in Minneapolis. We were 12 when we met. We have been friends for over five decades.

Today technology such as Face Time, Skype and Zoom have changed completely the concept of long distance relationships.

Today’s generation will never experience the thrill of rushing home from school to check the mailbox for a letter.

They will never have the opportunity to browse through stores in search of the perfect writing paper, envelopes and hasti-notes.

I also remember going to the post office in search of commemorative stamps rather than ordinary postage stamps. And the joys of sealing that envelope with wax!

Mail was only picked up at certain times. In the city there was next day delivery. International mail usually took 3 days.

I must admit that I now refer to email as snail mail with all the other options available. Here in Mexico the postal system is almost non-existent making FedEx a good friend.

But it’s nice to reminisce about the past as I compile more stories for Memoirs For Madeline. My granddaughter is only two and I wonder what communication will be like when she turns 12.

Dear Daddy

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Dear Daddy

Another Father’s Day without you today. We haven’t celebrated this day together in 44 years. You were taken from me way too soon.

When you died I lost my hero, my best friend and my sense of security. You were always there for me. I could talk to you about anything and everything. And there has never been anyone else in my life who could fill that void.

I treasure the memories I have in my heart. I can still see you assembling the swing set in the backyard on Brock Street. You were so patient in teaching me how to ride a bike and then later on teaching me how to drive a car.

I remember the day we were at Ashdowns buying tools and I fell in love with a pink pyjama dog. I cuddled with Pinky every night for years.

I absolutely adore this photo of us at Van Kirk Gardens. You always sculpted a beautiful garden around our house. You knew my favorite flowers were marigolds and there was always a special place set aside for them.

Sometimes you’d go back to the office to work in the evenings. I’d take along my homework and go with you.

At Christmas we’d go for rides to see the lights and always check out the Carlings display. It was such a magical place with a nursery rhyme theme.

We had intense conversations when we went for rides or walks. Two of your favored phrases have stuck with me through the years. Honesty is the best policy. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

You instilled a set of values in me that have made me the person I am today. And I have tried to pass these on to my children, the grandchildren you sadly never had the chance to meet. They have missed out on having an amazing grandfather in their lives.

There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think of you.

Sending you lots of love today and every day.

Happy Father’s Day!