World’s Wealthiest Baba…

I am a non-mother.  I have been told many times that “you’re lucky you never had to go through childbirth.”  Yes, real mothers have gone through the pains of labour.  I did not.  I have never birthed a child.  I have never had a C-section.  According to my mother, my life is wanting and incomplete because I have never had a child of my own.  After years of hearing this definitive and repetitive chorus of hers, I have decided that I am a mother.  Perhaps, not called “mom” or “mama”, but the functions I have performed would absolutely qualify me as being a mothering type of woman.

My love of children started when I was young.  Coming from a large family there were always children younger than me running around.  In various photos you could find me holding one of the youngsters.  I LOVED holding babies.  I loved playing games with them and making them laugh.  This was not contained to just my family.  At school recess time, I would head over to where the kindergarten children were and play with the kids there.  I became something of a hero to these little tots.  Kids my own age would play baseball or soccer (I was never good at sports).  Then there were the mean kids who just played pranks on people.  I didn’t want to be part of THAT group.  So, hanging out with blissful people (children) was way more fun!

As I got older I started planning for the day that I would have my own children.  I started buying Disney movies.  I collected children’s books.  I was going to have lots of children because all my life I just wanted to be a mommy.  It would be easier buying everything while I had a disposable income and living at home.  I got mommy practice after my sister had kids.  I got to change them, feed them, bathe them, dress them, even potty training was on the agenda.  Yes, I was getting my mom-training hours in.  I would be the best mom ever.  As time passed I realized that you could be planning for your life to go one way and then suddenly there is a fork in the road with a tough decision.  You can decide with your head or with your heart.

When Wiseguy and I first started hanging out I knew he had three children.  He was not planning on having anymore.  I had always wanted many children and now I had a decision to make at this fork in my life road.  Should I choose to be with the man of my dreams who made me laugh everyday?  The man who understood me like no one else had before?  A man who loved to dance and enjoyed living everyday of his life?  A man who adored his children and wanted someone who could share his life as well as theirs? The other path was to leave this wonderful man behind, find someone else who would want to have children.  Would I find someone who intrigued and entertained me as much as Wiseguy?  Was my happiness more important than the prospect of a life with children?  What if I couldn’t have children?  As you already know, I followed my heart.  I chose love.  I chose Wiseguy and his (now our) children.

The kids did not call me mom.  I didn’t want them to.  They already had a mother.  We were (and are) “Dad and Maryann”.  I didn’t need a title.  I was an adult female who would do mommy things.  I would be there to kiss the boo-boos.  I would be there to apply bandaids.  I would be there to teach them things.  I would play with them.  I would guide them.  I would advise them.  Sure, sometimes I would beat myself up for things I said, but I grew up in the house of “tough love” and sometimes being honest is harder than being kind.  The truth hurts, but oftentimes it will get you so angry that you will persevere and move along in life.  Sometimes being hard and honest is what true love is about.

I do not accept my mother’s definition of a “mother” to heart.  I am not short-changed in life.  If anything, I am one of the wealthiest women / moms around.  Not only do Wiseguy and I have his/our wonderful children, but we watch (and happily cry) when we watch these youths (now adults) raising their children.  They do the same things we do.  They parent and worry that they are getting it wrong.  They think that maybe they are horrible parents.  To them we say:  if your child is clothed, fed, and happy then you are an absolutely incredible parent.  Parenting is so harshly judged. It is the the most thankless and difficult job to do day in and day out.  No rewards.  No awards.  No praise. No accolades.  Parents, be kind to yourself.  You are doing a wonderful job! Congratulate yourself on the small things.

As for me, the non-mother who became a grandmother or “Baba” in Croatian, I love and adore these children!  Each one has a special talent, gift, personality, and smile that wins me over.  I do not compare them to each other because each is unique.  They have their own personalities and talents and thoughts.  Ok, I’m getting teary-eyed because I am so captivated watching them become their own individual being.  There is the honour of being able to be their Baba and being able to love them.

As hindsight is 20/20, I can say that by following my heart instead of my head, following love instead of expected behaviour, I chose the right path when I got to my fork in the road.  I can also say that, although my bank account doesn’t show any lottery winnings, I am the World’s Wealthiest Baba.

 

 

 

Purge of 2016

After years of accumulating stuff and things and needed items, our house has become a hoarder’s dream (and my nightmare).  To be completely honest, when starting our new life together with nothing except a room to rent and a bed to sleep in (mind you, it was brand spankin’ new!) the pursuit of needed items became my main goal.  Now, after 20 years, I am ready to review the necessity of our belongings.  I am mentally prepared and slowly limbering up for the PURGE OF 2016!  Yes!   This will become a glorious and monumental memory that we shall cherish forever!  At least, I thought we would.  When actually touching items and deciding if they could be discarded and banished from my life forever, I found that every item had a memory and a touching story attached.  How does one part with things that are actually moments etched in the storybook of your life?

Purging is a commonplace word nowadays.  Purge your body of bad food intake with a 7-day cleanse.  Yoga…to purge the mind of everyday stresses and old negative thoughts.  You thought IKEA was space conscious, you should check out the new Tiny House movement.

Hubby and I were the opposite. We went from a one bedroom apartment to a three bedroom semi-detached home to a single home with seven bedrooms.  Oh yes!  Seven bedrooms which would accommodate our growing family.  Total count:  Me, Wiseguy, his father, Wiseguy’s grandmother, two sons, and a daughter.  Check, check, and check!  A room for one and all.  This also meant more items being brought into the humble abode.  As life changes so do the items in your keepsake arsenal.

When my mother-in-law passed away my father-in-law moved in with us.  That meant 50 years of accumulated treasures and keepsakes.  He sold the cottage.  More items transported into the home.  I myself was cooking with enthusiasm and vigour which also introduced me to many new kitchen appliances and toys.   (Kitchen gadgets are my drug of choice…first even before my Sephora make-up “crack” addiction).  After years of planning, purchasing, collecting and storing how does one begin to cut the umbilicle cord of memories?

I will now show you an item that should be discarded.  As a sane human being, if someone showed me this particular piece I would look at them askew and ask why they still have this piece of dreck to begin with.  It’s absolutely asinine to keep this.  Here is the item I refer to:

 

This is a container that used to have Coca-Cola in it.  I received this at a fair that we used to go to called the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition).  From what I can recall (as I was at a tender tween age), this particular drink was purchased when my brothers, sister and I were at said CNE and we went to the Food Building and got pizza (we must’ve had a coupon).  I think it also came with free refills.  This is junk right?  NOPE!

Above are three pictures showing different angles of this plastic soda pop container.  The first picture shows the container in its full glory.  The second shot shows how I had devised a way to store straws so that I could keep them dust free.  This had started when Wiseguy and I had first moved in together.  Limited space meant using stuff in an ingenious way.  The third picture shows how I had created an enticing way for the kids to get straws.  We would tip the container and try to guess what colour straw would come out.  Sounds silly, but for some reason this has become a weird tradition.

Historically, traditions are passed from generation to generation.  They date back years, decades, centuries, etc.  My fantastically absurd way of getting a straw was my way of entertaining my stepchildren.  We had no money to do fun stuff so I was always trying to think up new ways to challenge their minds and create interesting new games.  This straw game has now gone from stepchildren to grandchildren.

Kennie, being the eldest grandchild, was shown this trick by her mother (my stepdaughter).  She was fascinated!  Now, she knows where this old container is and shares it with her little sister and younger cousins.  It’s like magic!

I’m holding this ridiculous straw container in my hand.  It’s really old, junky and I could buy a lovely glass container to hold my straws.  I could easily discard this space invader and keep the memories of this CNE memento.  I would always remember the magical memories it held for me with each child that used it in awe.  However, seeing it in my cupboard and knowing that one of the four grandchildren would grab for it, I hesitate to discard it.  If it came to a purge vote would it be IN to keep or OUT to purge?

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Geraniums and other mysteries…

I do stop and smell the flowers.  However, nowadays with the new everlasting hybrids, most flowers do not have a scent.  You need to go and stalk people who have been planting for the last 25 years.  They have the wonderful originals.  Standing around you can actually smell the lilacs when the wind blows.  I have tried to keep flowers in my house, but to no avail.  Besides aloe plants, everything else either gets too dry or overwatered  a.k.a. drowned.  So imagine my surprise when I realized that I can actually keep geraniums alive.  Yes it’s true.  I learned the secret from my mother-in-law.  It’s a simple trick and yet I find that it applies to situations in everyday life.

My mother had a green thumb.  I am not sure if she always had it, but our house could’ve been a greenhouse.  A botanical garden.  I recall a wonderful green plant (nope…no idea what it was called…all I know is that she used to use kitchen twine to tie this climbing plant to the spindles of the staircase.  Oh yes, this went on for years until my brother and I decided to challenge each other to slide down the bannister.  Keep in mind, this plant started from a cutting and ended up being 12 feet long.  It wound up the stairs and up to the bedrooms.  I will always remember this:

Me:  (whispering) No…mama is gonna kill you!

Bro: (whispering) not unless you tell her!

Me:  It’s a long way down.  You’ll fall!

Bro:  Don’t tell…

NOTE:  This dangerous endeavour was even more high faluting as our mother was sitting precariously around the corner in the family room watching tv.  Daredevils?  Idiots?  You decide.

And then he began his slide.  He started at the top of the stairs.  He straddled the bannister and launched himself down.  Suddenly,  his leg got caught on the foliage halfway down and then he flipped over and fell down onto the ceramic floor.  The only thing that saved his hide was that he had a frickin’ nose bleed!  Otherwise our mother would’ve whipped his butt!  The important thing was to fix him up and make him well…before she could beat him.  Oh…European upbringing…so logical.   The worst thing on my part was that, not only had I predicted the fall, but I couldn’t help laughing when he fell.  Yes, I was a good big sister.

I recall seeing the Giant Beanstalk strewn on the floor.  Not sure what happened afterward.  The fact that little bro lived AND did not receive any punishment that I can recall made this evergreen moment memorable.  The other floral memories I have are African violets.  My mother was obsessed with them.  We had them all over the house.  She prided herself on having these plants thrive and having family and friends comment on how she could make them live and grow exponentially when others could only condemn them to death.  My mother had a gift.

I myself thought repeated drownings were important in order for flowers to survive.  Yes I killed everything until I purchased geraniums.  Beautiful flowers.  Many colours and yet Wiseguy’s favourite were the bright ruby red ones.  Not pink or white.  The red ones were the ones that his mother always loved.  Her reason for loving geraniums was simple…they bloom all summer long and into fall.  A little chilly weather and they still bloom and thrive.  So, after being a mass floral murderer I tempted fate and extended my interest into the daring flora.  I bought and took care of the bright red geranium.

I bought fancy pots.  I purchased the good soil.  I hoarded and applied “miracle grow” to ensure that they would thrive.  I carefully planted these beautiful flowers and watched them bloom and grow.  (Reminds me of “Sound of Music”…”bloom and grow forever…”)  Then something strange happened.  My beautiful flowers started drying up and blowing away.  Did I do something wrong?  What happened?  I felt like a failure.  I slaughtered a living green being.  I felt horrible.    I didn’t know what to do.  My hubby’s favourite flower and I was killing it.

I finally came to the conclusion that I couldn’t keep any plant life alive.  One weekend we ended up visiting the in-laws.   We arrived and walked into the backyard.  My mother-in-law was beside a geranium and was bending branches off the geraniums.  The flowers were already drying out.  I asked her what she was doing.  She replied, “In order for the new flowers to bloom you need to cut off the dried flowers.  You don’t want to keep wasting nutrients on the dead flowers when you can feed the new blooms.”  I wasn’t sure what she meant.  “See,” she pinched the stem of the dried petals and pulled it off.  “Now, the new blossoms can bloom beautifully because the nutrients are going where they are supposed to go.”  I went home and I gently bent and tore away the dried stems.   It was time to feed the blossoming blooms.

IMG_0811.JPG

 

I compare my life to the blooming geranium.  Sometimes you need to cut off the dead blooms.  The dried out blooms being negative people.  They won’t feed you any wisdom, kindness, or goodness.  It is best to just let them go.  Learn how to handle things that grow.  That includes children, grandchildren, parents,  siblings, family, friends.  We are always learning and growing.  So instead of drowning those in order to save them, perhaps it is best to let them go.  It is up to them if they want to survive and move on.  For those newfound petals that are blossoming, be there for them.  They are vibrant, excited, and usually happy.  Those are the flowers you want in your garden because together you can make a happier life.  This is how I view my beautiful geraniums…mysteries leading to life lessons.  Happy growing!

One Step at a Time…

“…One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind…”  Thank you Neil Armstrong. Neil will always be remembered and quoted for saying this phrase when this astronaut landed on the moon.  It is a phrase that can be applied to many phases of our lives.  The most memorable comparison for me is when I get informed that any child has gone from crawling to walking.  Yes…one small step…

I am sure you have noticed a trend in my writings regarding children.  I am amazed at their tenacity.  I adore their independence. I marvel at their simple wisdom.  We adults oftentimes lose perspective of our lives because we have been educated.  We are taught to follow certain paths in our schooling.  From kindergarten to elementary school. From middle school to high school.  Perhaps we have advanced to College courses or even University.  Education is very important and yet I admire the free spirit of the young.  Don’t get me wrong, being brought up by universal standards of quality (and the wooden spoon of “tough love”)  I can now appreciate even more the wonderful open qualities of youth.

It was repugnant to me when my parents would refer to me as the “Pepsi” generation. I believed it was supposed to mean something like “you are so spoiled you don’t drink water, you drink Pepsi.”  I still haven’t really figured it out, but it sounds about right.  (Note:  my parents never purchased name brand so that is why I assumed this was something they heard and adopted).  Anyway, every generation goes through the “you have no idea what it was like when I was growing up.”  To be fair to my parents, they were right.  They were raised in a village with many many siblings (no, not 4 or 5…try 8 or 9).  Schooling was done by grade 3 due to farming obligations.  They worked hard to make their lives better and better for their children.

Wiseguy and I had started our lives in a less-than-prominent-societal situation.  We fell in love (so cliche), but it was true.  We moved into an apartment.  No real funds.  First and last month’s rent.  No furniture….seriously….no furniture.  A room on the 11th floor of an apartment building with a wonderful balcony.  Our view of the sky was magical.  There were no buildings around us.  We could actually see the CN Tower in Toronto from our balcony is Mississauga (yes, that is a city in Ontario, Canada).  Yes, we were that weird couple that got together for love and not money.

So, our lives as a couple began as one small step.  We found each other.  We became best friends.  We knew that we could live as a family.  We decided to throw caution to the wind and move in together.  A simple one bedroom apartment.  A small starter home.  We married a year later.  There were many doubters.  There were many personal and family consequences.  Again, we decided to do what we thought and believed was best for us.  Many doubted. Many disbelieved.  There were those beautiful few who believed in us and they are always remembered and special in our hearts.

The years have passed, sometimes feeling slow but nowadays feeling so quick.  We have raised 3 beautiful children.  We look at our wonderful grandchildren and I am in awe whenever I see them.  I was once asked why I quiz children and “bother” them.  I honestly answer, “I don’t bother them.  They are smart and I LOVE hearing their answers.”

Children are magnificent!  I can tell you honestly that what they think about is waaaaaay more interesting than what you have to work on at work.  Their minds are agile and fresh and ingenious.  You used to think like that until you got pigeonholed at school.  Think the same.  Act the same.  Behave the same.

Yes, our world is comprised of structure and rules.    I am not saying this a bad thing.  However, sometimes thinking and behaving “abnormally” can be fun!  Grab a box of crayons and a colouring book but DON’T colour inside the lines.  Oh I know there are new colouring books for adults…very intricate and detail oriented.  Your mind goes CRAZY if you colour outside the lines.   Even better, get a children’s colouring book and colour a monkey purple and green and pink.  Believe me, not colouring to “specific norms” will feel really weird and almost heart wrenching.  I slowly got over the “brown monkey” syndrome when I coloured my monkey green and yellow and my granddaughter said, “Here, add some pink to his head.”  Hmmm, sharing and good advice from the eyes from a child.  Monkey can be different just like people are different.

I just received a text (yes, I am a modern Baba a.k.a. grandma in Eurospeak) that my youngest grandson took his first steps yesterday.   Little “Jumpin’ Jack” will be one on May 19th so Mr. “I’m-on-the-move” has decided that there are too many adventures in life that he needs to explore and got his groove on early.  Congratulations little JJ (Jumpin’ Jack!)  May your new elevated levels of adventure be as fun and exciting as you hope them to be.  May your bumps and bruises heal quickly.  May you always know that every adventure you undertake will always start with one step at a time.

 

 

 

Us

Us seems to be a very short title, but I believe that sometimes less words are more integral in describing a thought than a run on sentence  full of adjectives, adverbs, nouns, verbs…and nothingness. This two letter word is so full of meaning and definition. It is a concept and way of life that I am finally beginning to fully understand.

We begin our lives as wonderful, dependent, little bundles of cuteness. Some babies are born into loving families. Others are born into dysfunctional families. In the end, there is a beginning. We emerge and grow and learn. Some lessons are taught to us and others we discover on our own. Life lessons. The world is our educator. In most cases we are taught to find our perfect soul mate so that we can live happily ever after.

Poor girls, we try so hard to find Prince Charming everywhere we look.  We can overlook the flaws in order to have someone to hold us and take care of us. Right? Heck no. Nowadays we want the handsome Prince, but he had better know how to wash dishes and do laundry and make  dinner. We are very busy women folk. Not to mention adding child  bearing and raising that child. Who’s going to do all that?

Fast forward in life…career woman,  make dinner, make lunches, attend meetings, get stuck in traffic, driving children to and from school and after school?  Dance or karate or baseball or soccer.  Grocery shopping, clothes shopping.  Hang out with significant other. Who? Oh yeah,  I remember you.

I remember when we used to jump into the two door sedan and just go driving. (Can’t do that now because gas prices are so crazy and we  have a mini van not a cool sporty vehicle). Remember when we would go out for dinner and just talk about nothing. (Dinner out now means going out when we get a coupon in the mail and then talking about bill payments or house renovations). Remember when it was just the two of us? Us.

I remember the early dating days. Money? We were lucky if we had 40.00 between the two of us. We would talk for hours. We would write little notes and letters to each other. There was no texting or e-mails.  It was pen to paper and it was beautiful and thoughtful.  Little things were monumental. A cup of coffee, ready-made, and nice and hot when I woke up. Sitting around on the balcony of our rented apartment and just enjoying the view.  Beautiful.  Calm. Quiet. Some music playing softly in the background.  Bliss.  Us.

Us then became extended us. Children and elder family. Family obligations. Us went from having no furniture to an apartment overflowing with stuff. Suddenly Us took a back seat. Everyone and everything else was more important. Keeping children happy was number one. There were bills to pay and items to purchase. There were future houses and mortgages. New / used cars to be purchased as old ones fell apart.  Schooling and weddings and grandchildren. Work became the most  important thing because money is needed to pay for everything. We were ships in the night….literally…since we ended up working different times of the day. What happened to Us? We talked about date night and once a year, for our anniversary, we could count on that, but otherwise, Us became a non-existent thing…until tonight.

Tonight was special. Tonight you created magic. You decided to cook up a beautiful meal. I came home and did not have to prep anything.  We sat around and talked. Not about bills. Not about renovations.  Not about anything that adults would deem important. We talked about the sky and the perfect weather. We talked about your shopping spree at the grocery store and how meticulous you were in picking what you thought I would enjoy most for dinner. I was your primary concern and nothing else mattered. I want you to know how much I appreciated that and love you for it. My meal was excellent. The flavours were invigorating and the company was my favourite part. We sat outside. Just Us. The two of Us.  I realized more than ever tonight that in the end, we are in the “Us” part of our lives. The children are grown and living their own lives.  Taking care of elders is no longer part of our responsibility. All we are left with is Us.  You and me, as was before, but newly modified.  Husband and wife, grandparents, friends and lovers.  Another new exciting stage of our lives.

I love you, my other half of “Us”. Thank you for making tonight a special time and a special memory for me. I enjoy being able to date you again. The serenity and peacefulness. The non-drudgery of everyday life.  The laughter (including piggy snorts…my specialty).  You refocused my perspective and helped me don my rose-coloured glasses that I had misplaced.  Living in the pink is a pretty nice place to be.