Author: Andrea

I'm a writer and communicator using both words and photographs. I'm also a mother...to my teenage daughter and my Golden Retriever (RIP April 28, 2020). I used to travel a lot when I was younger but now find myself significantly less mobile (house, husband, Golden Retriever etc). I currently reside on Vancouver's beautiful (but wet) North Shore though I started this blog during the summer of 2014 whilst living in Tokyo with the aforementioned teenage daughter.

Homage to Josephine…and Christine

Today is the birthday of ma belle Christine and I thought I’d dig out this short piece I wrote in the MANDATORY creative writing class I took during the Print Futures Professional Writing Program back in the day (2003-2006). As you can maybe tell from my tone…creative writing isn’t one of my strong suits. This was about 17 years ago so Karis was four and just about to start Mulgrave; my lovely godchildren were aged seven (Georgia) and ten (Dylan). 

Yep, it’s a bit cringey and yep, I edited it to the best of my ability because I am just not that person who can or will publish really cringey work and be OK about it maybe it’s a thing if you’re famous? I also had to correct the tenses so it makes sense now. It’s still unsophisticated but it’s about CHRISTINE (and today is her BIRTHDAY—December 9th) so I’ve gotten over myself and I’m posting it! As you’ll see…this type of writing isn’t really my forte.

BACKGROUND

For years, every Christmas, Christine and I used to have our Book Exchange. In place of trivial knick knacks that were expensive to mail (she was living in Nelson at the time), I suggested a book exchange. The rules were: one book only, no boxed sets; hardcover or paperback; a novel you have read and loved. The book she chose for me for Christmas 2002 was Sandra Gulland’s the many lives and secret sorrows of Josephine B. (And yes, that is how the author wrote it…sans capitalization…see image.)

The exchange of books is not merely an easy out for problematic gift buying. We choose our books with care. She chose this book for me because aspects of Josephine Bonaparte reminded her of me. Another reason why she chose this book is because we are both Francophiles. We met in Europe in 1989 on a six-week Art History tour through by Langara College and have been kindred spirits ever since. We both love Paris, its people, history, buildings, museums, and that certain je ne sais quois that other cities don’t seem to have. Also the bread. From this book, an idea took shape that resulted in a trip to Paris, a visit to the Chateau Malmaison and the gift of time.

PARIS: August 2003

Paris via Manchester. Air France flight 403 was carrying Christine and I and only ten other brave souls flying to the ‘City of Light’ to experience the soaring 40° plus heat of August 2003—it was actually a significant heat event in that over 15 000 people died in Paris alone and temperatures hit 111°F! Christine and I were so thrilled to be away from our respective husbands and children that the heat barely dampened our spirits. Yet.

It had all started with our Christmas book exchange. Christine wanted to break one of our “rules” to give me a boxed set of “the best books she had read in a long time.” I stood firm though; one book only (we’re both known for excess). I received the many lives and secret sorrows of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland, the first in a trilogy. Little did I know that this innocuous trade paperback would lead us to Paris to walk in the footsteps of Josephine Bonaparte.

Christine and I met in London in 1989 on a three-month European Art History Tour (this tour was actually awesome and so valuable and pivotal to my life and I’m SO GLAD I did it even though I was enormously opposed to ‘group travel’ at the outset and only went because Tracey made me) and knew instantly that we would be friends. Though our lives have taken very different paths, we remain close. Her children are my godchildren and mine is hers. She lives in Nelson and we get together about four times a year, which is not nearly enough. (UPDATE: She lives in VanCity and my godchildren are now adults 😱 and I don’t see her very much because she works in the film industry and the plague.)

Christine and I in a train station in Italy…possibly Rome…when we first met on the Langara Art History Tour 1989

I had had the good fortune of traveling quite a bit in the early 2000s and every time I went anywhere, especially Paris, I always asked, “If you can buy the ticket, I’ve got the hotel room anyway…” 

Little did I know that this particular time she would pause and say, “You know…, I think I may be able to swing something this time. I’ll talk to James and get back to you.”

I was elated. This had never happened before. It was always “maybe next time when we have more money” or “when the kids are older.”

Christine belongs in Paris. Armed with her eyelash curler, red lipstick, and nail polish, she always looks classic and elegant. She is that person who wears clothes well as my mum would say. She’s got an eye for fashion and always has whether it’s an outfit from a high-end store or a thrifted vintage piece. She is a gourmet cook and she believes that life is too short for cheap chocolate and Costco bread. Her formal education is incomplete as she dropped out of college to give birth to my godson; however, the nuns taught her well and she is one of the cleverest, well-read people I know. She can speak knowledgeably about art, architecture, films and politics AND she actually looks at all the paintings in the museums. When I picture Christine in my mind’s eye, she is sitting at a sidewalk café with a cigarette (not anymore though— qu’elle horror!) and a café au lait

We decided that Josephine’s life would be the theme of our trip to Paris with the highlight being a visit to the Chateau Malmaison — not the best name as it means ‘evil house’ — see here for some history —which is kinda like the Milan airport being called Malpensa which can be roughly translated as ‘bad air’ and doesn’t sound very auspicious for an airport in my opinion. ANYWAY, this comparatively small house on the outskirts of Paris was the last place Napoleon and Josephine lived together. Malmaison was also where she died just five years after Napoleon has their marriage annulled to marry Marie-Louise of Austria in order to provide a legitimate heir for the French Republic. Which he did.

As our plane touched down and taxied to the terminal we could feel the heat even though it was the middle of the night. We entered the terminal and retrieved our luggage in relative comfort; however, as soon as we went outdoors it felt similar to Bangkok in June — hot, steamy and polluted. Weather like that was unusual for Paris. We cared little though; we were together in Paris, we were there for a week and there were no children or husbands! What utter bliss.

The city was buzzing, even though it was well past one am and the temperature had only cooled to a mere 38°C. The taxi driver drove with the windows open as his air-conditioning could not keep up with the heat. He told us this temperature was average in his home country of Nigeria and assured us that we would acclimatize. I seriously doubted it. 

Our hotel, which was just across the street from the Pantheon and was appropriately named Hotêl du Pantheon, was beautiful and quaint, though the staff looked harried and hot and were seen muttering “…fait chaud, tres chaud” under their breath. It was slightly cooler inside than out, though the continuous stream of water from garden hose rigged over the air-conditioning unit in the inner courtyard was slightly alarming. The clerk informed us that the air-conditioning unit had a “petite” fire as it was unused to coping with 40°C+ heat, but was now fixed (it was not). Since it was still so hot and we were too excited to sleep we decided to go out. 

We wandered down the road towards the Luxembourg Gardens. The gardens were locked (I believe they did end up leaving the gardens open as the heat wave continued), but the roads were still busy with people out having drinks, smoking, and walking their dogs, still formally dressed despite the heat and the fact that it was the middle of the night. Christine lit up a cigarette and decided that her self-imposed limit of one cigarette per day did not apply while in Paris. As we wound down toward the Seine we saw the last Batobus leaving. “Should we go for it?” I wondered out loud. (Cringe. Dialogue is challenging to write naturally.)

“Why not? We’ll never sleep anyway and maybe there’ll be a breeze on the boat.” The sea breeze we had hoped for more closely resembled being blown with a hair dryer and was not remotely refreshing. We didn’t care as we sat on the top deck in the front row, half listening to the garbled four-language commentary while checking out our fellow sweaty, tired passengers. 

Just past Pont Neuf there were four grandstand areas that opened on to the river. Each one had music and people dancing on the stage—just regular people, not professional dancers. One stage had an actual band playing big band favorites and people were jitterbugging! In the middle of the night! Another one had ballroom dancing and yet another had break dancing. (I often wonder if this still happens.)

Most of the buildings along the Seine were floodlit emphasizing their Gothic, Napoleonic, or Art Nouveau origins. The Eiffel tower twinkled in the distance. People who lived in houseboats along the river were out on their decks, smoking, drinking, and calling out to each other. Strangely enough, on this polluted grey river the air smelled like summer and there seemed to be music everywhere. Reluctantly we headed back to our stuffy hotel room around 4 am. (And sat with our feet in the bathtub filled with ice drinking Champagne because it was too hot to sleep. Ever.)

The next day we got down to exploring the Paris that Josephine would have known. It was so incredibly hot that it worked best to keep moving very slowly and never stop because the momentum necessary to start moving again was too much to summon in the heat. We checked out all the “Napoleonic” sights: Les Invalides (Napoleon’s tomb), La Madeleine (church inaugurated during Napoleon’s reign), and the two Arc de Triomhpes: Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile (the BIG one) and Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel (by the Louvre). The heat sapped our strength and our initiative and we ended up spending a lot of time exploring Les Galeries Lafayette, Paris’ oldest department store, as it had the best air conditioning in the city. And it’s really quite something to see anyway—the lingerie, linens and children’s wear are epic. We ate breakfast at the hotel because it was free and served in the cool basement (la cave) and mainly ate ice cream for the rest of the day because it was impossible to sit at a cafe and eat with sweat pouring off your body. 

During the next few days, we did the run of the tourist gamut, maybe more so because Christine hadn’t been out of the country for fourteen years (aforementioned children). We signed up for the “Eiffel Tower at Night/Moulin Rouge” tour and had dinner at the restaurant on the premier étage, of the Eiffel Tower, with the senior tourist set. It was actually fun and the view was stupendous. In the spirit of never-having-done-it-yet-or-again, we took the stairs to the bottom of the tower and forfeited our “transport to the famous Moulin Rouge.” We caught a cab with our new friends from New York to Montmarte to rejoin our group of blue-haired American tourists and claim our complimentary glass of champagne at the Moulin Rouge (where one of Karis’s jazz teachers danced for years) before the show started. Kinda cheesy but fun to be honest. 

We went to Versailles and Giverny in pursuit of art and flowers. The heat was mind numbing; Christine slept on the way to Giverny and I took an abbreviated tour of Versailles in order to sit with my feet in one of its numerous fountains. The Louvre, the Musée D’Orsay and the Musée de la Mode et du costume de la ville de Paris (now the Palais Galliera) were enchanting as well as wonderfully cool—gotta take good care of the art. The numerous tiny galleries in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area were not so cool, but were equally enchanting. 

The pinnacle of our trip was to be a journey to Château de Malmaison — Josephine’s last home. We kept putting off this excursion in fond hopes that the weather would cool down as the journey involved the Metro, the bus and a bit of walking—formidable in any temperature—but over an hour in 40°+ is daunting. We asked our sweaty, yet chic hotel receptionist how we would get to Malmaison if we should decide to brave the transit system. “Hmm, Malmaison, ce n’est pas possible…trés difficile… peut-être un taxi?” We explained that we thought a taxi would cost over 200 Euros and that would be too much. “No, No, I will telephone Maxine, she will come—100 Euros only!” I wondered who Maxine was—her mother, her sister, a friend? Maxine—who turned out to be a bona fide cab driver—subsequently arrived and drove us to Malmaison, puzzled that two Canadian housewives would have such an interest in an obscure and not particularly well-kept chateau outside of Paris. We haltingly explained about Josephine and the books in our very basic French. I think she thought we were writing the books ourselves. 

Malmaison was a charming house set on once-beautiful grounds. The grass was dry and long and the famous rose garden was faded and brown from the heat (reminded me of the BC Heat Dome in summer 2021). These minor details did not detract from our excitement at actually arriving at our destination—the end of our odyssey (so dramatic). As we wandered through Malmaison looking at the very rooms that Josephine had lived in, the view she saw from her morning room, and many of her clothes and personal effects, we were awed by a sense of history that was tempered with sadness. This was the house of a woman who had died alone because her husband had put his duty to the “Republic of France” before his love for her. A man who insisted she change her name from Rose to Josephine because “she looked more like a Josephine.” This was the house of a woman that would have been ordinary would it not have been for her extraordinary life. 

Our pilgrimage to Malmaison was the pinnacle of what was really a journey about us and our friendship. Having a week to ourselves to talk all night, eat whenever we wanted, shop to our hearts content and be responsible to no one but ourselves was the real journey. Our busy lives, husbands and children took our time and energy, which we freely gave; however, this time was just for us, no responsibilities, no ties, no “Mummy do you have my hat?”; “Honey, where is the map?”; “How much is that in dollars?”. It was a break from being the holder of the map; the tour guide; the carrier of band-aids, money, cold drinks, sunscreen, bus tickets, guide-books, crayons and paper, snacks and sundries. It was a respite from being responsible and in charge, in short, from being a mum. For eight fabulous days we had the freedom to walk out of the hotel room whenever we wanted, completely unencumbered, to do whatever we chose in our favorite city and that was our ultimate homage to Josephine.

Adventures in Refrigeration

Tis a thing of Beauty…mum’s vintage Tupperware

Trials with the Mini Fridge 

I have been moderately afraid to post this in case I jinx it…but we got the fridge fixed last week. I have slowly been putting things into it as I don’t want to upset it or cause unnecessary stress. We had a scare on Day 2 when the temperature in the freezer showed 8 degrees instead of zero but I just pressed the colder button and it seems to be fine. Fingers crossed. Shrines set up. Prayers offered. I draw the line at live animal sacrifice. 

I have now transferred all the food into the fridge and even purchased some freezer items…but not yet put away the mini fridge or reorganized the eating area. Baby steps. I’m thinking of doing a smudging ceremony to purge the space of any bad vibes. Honestly, this has been a THING. First world problems for sure…but a trial nonetheless, though to be fair, this past six months have been challenging on SO MANY LEVELS….

  • The heat dome.
  • Busted sewer pipe (the Roto-Rooter guy was epic though).
  • Selling my mum’s condo and having to clear it out completely in two weeks and store it all in my basement (during the aforementioned heat dome).
  • The movers damaging five pieces of my mum’s furniture and not taking responsibility
  • So. Many. Clients. VIPs. And bidding wars, bribes and annual rent paid in advance in the rental market. Yes, the RENTAL market.
  • Active building site next door. Dust. Noise. Constantly.
  • Cancer diagnosis and radiation treatment for another family member. Doing OK so far. Fingers crossed.
  • Karis moved out.
  • Cleaning the house, dealing with the garden (which needed a LOT of water during the heat dome) and now figuring out recipes for bushels of kale and jalapeño peppers.

French People and Small Fridges

I’m not entirely sure how French people manage with these tiny fridges though I suspect that French people that live in suburbs or the country have proper-sized fridges because they shop at the Carrefour and not at the neighborhood shops: la boulangerie (bakery), l’épicerie (small grocery), la fromagerie (cheese), le marché (farmer’s market), la boucherie (butcher), la charcuterie (deli) or my particular favourite la confiserie (candy store…so the 7-11 for me). It’s definitely possible to shop daily in French cities where you are walking or taking transit but things become tiresome when you’re driving a car—which is how most of our cities are set up. 

I also have to say that I was kind of disappointed when I went to school in the south of France (Université Canadienne en France, sadly defunct since 1996) that we did most of our shopping at the Carrefour because it was cheap. And huge. Kind of like a French Walmart. I even got my hair cut there (regrettable, no photos will be provided). Our campus was basically on top of a mountain and we had the option of really expensive cafe food or going down the mountain into Nice to shop and then taking the bus back home and hitchhiking up the mountain to the school with our groceries. Because we were on a student budget we went to the Carrefour as it was by far the best bang for your franc. It was still French stuff—way better than anything you’d get here—but it was packaged and not quite the same as battling it out at the local deli trying to order cheese and cold cuts in bad French. We were housed in mediterranean-looking 5-bedroom townhouses but they were new (peach-coloured stucco) and had proper-sized fridges…so also not very French but we managed. 

Small Fridges and other Appliances in Japan

I also had a tiny fridge in Tokyo but the whole food thang was so different there and I also had a lot more disposable income. I didn’t cook very much and it honestly didn’t seem to be as much of a challenge to stay fed (ramen, take-out sushi and cinnamon toast). I was more upset by the lack of an oven and once paid $29USD for potato skins at the Hard Rock Cafe because I wanted something cooked in an oven. I had a small toaster oven and a hot plate in my first apartment; when I went with Karis we had a small North American-sized fridge, a small four burner gas stove and a weird gas broiling thing that I was scared of. I think I am just now grateful for appliances in general.

Fun with Fridges in North America 

Why didn’t we just give up and order a new fridge you may ask. There are two reasons and both are equally compelling. The first is that our fridge is a ‘built-in’ fridge. After a bit of research, I found out this is not at all the same as a ‘counter-depth’ fridge. We purchased our fridge when Karis was four when we renovated the house (nineteen years ago). It’s not enormous and, as such, there are not a wide range of replacement options and they are all at least $10K. If we were going to stay here the foreseeable future, we would have considered replacing it and renovating the kitchen BUT we’re not sure we’re going to stay—we’re waiting until the Monster Spec House next door is finished to make our decision. Actually we’re just procrastinating because we don’t know what we want to do or where we want to live. 

We could have replaced it with a counter-depth fridge but we would have had to re-do the cupboards as there would have been a big gap at the top and it would have stuck out quite a lot. Not an ideal situation if we decide to put the house on the market. 

The second reason why we didn’t just replace the fridge is to do with the shipping situation in terms of the supply chain. That ship that got stuck in the Suez Canal for six days and basically broke global trade. The shortage of container ships. The back up at the ports. This is affecting pretty much any kind of consumer goods. So even if I wanted to order a fridge (counter-depth or built-in) there are no guarantees of delivery and some people have been waiting for up to six months. Therefore not solving the problem at all. I met a property manager that has several suites sitting empty in the West End because the smaller fridges that fit into the space are on a six-month backorder. Who knew? 

The supply chain also impacts parts. They tried hard but—for whatever reason—their supplier couldn’t get the last part we needed. I called to check every few weeks and finally I asked for the part number and said I was going to check it out myself. I ordered it from Parts Warehouse in Texas for $266CAD and received it less than three weeks later. It’s the same part but they won’t give us the 90-day guarantee that they would normally offer but I honestly don’t care.

Re-use, Repair and Recycle

One other reason why we wanted to fix the fridge is that it’s a good fridge. It still looks pretty decent and not overly dated. It’s not a ‘Smart Fridge’ so it doesn’t email me and let me know when I need milk (which I’m kind of glad about) or have a fancy window (bad idea, fridges are messy) or anything like that, but it’s a solid fridge and I didn’t feel it was ready for the landfill. Most of the repairmen I’ve spoken with are overwhelmingly encouraging when it comes to repairing older appliances because the new ones don’t have the same longevity that older ones do. Our washer and dryer are over 20 years old but they are reliable and work perfectly. I feel like the fridge deserved the same chance. In terms of cost, I could have purchased a new fridge for sure (that wouldn’t fit) but ours is basically rebuilt with a new compressor and evaporator and some other stuff that I can’t remember. No renovation needed. I feel a bit virtuous about that. Another nod to the Sweden—the world’s recycling capital—as they have an entire mall for recycled goods. My last post was about Swedish Death Cleaning. It seems that they are indeed a tidy and organized country in more ways than one. Go Sweden!

COSTS:

  • Repair attempt by terrible repair people $200
  • First repair attempt by competent repair people $131
  • Evaporator from Texas $266
  • Other part and installation $1776
  • TOTAL: $2373

Moving Forward

I did purchase some Marie Kondo-type containers to organize the fridge. Chris hates them but I kinda like them. It will also prevent me from over-purchasing and decrease food waste. Which is also the right thing to do these days. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

I can honestly say that I hope I will not be writing any further posts about refrigerators…except perhaps when I get a new dishwasher. Or design a new kitchen….

A STORY-BASED APPROACH TO SWEDISH DEATH CLEANING 

This is my first blog post in a long time. I’m not even going to say how long because when one is a blogger one is meant to write and post things on a relatively regular and consistent basis. So, by definition, this makes me NOT-a-blogger. You’d think that during the pandemic I would have had time. Which I did, in all honesty, as there was a period of time when travel was banned and consular services overseas were closed…meaning I had no clients arriving. Hence, no work. So I gardened, did household chores and DIY projects, read books and ate too much. I could have been writing but it’s something I put off but am always—once I’ve done it—glad I did it. Basically I am a living embodiment of that quote that says, “I hate writing, but I love having written.” I feel that, though I also actually enjoy writing once I start. I suspect this is the case for most writers. It’s a matter of discipline, which I lack as well. 

I have so many ideas for posts floating around in my head, but again, mustn’t get lost in the planning. Judging from the plethora of quotes—from Goethe to George Bernard Shaw to Tony Roberts and Zig Ziglar—representing writers, philosophers, self-help gurus and business leaders that speak to the meaning of taking action, this is not an uncommon problem. So this is me, starting. I’m not going to commit to any sort of schedule yet. Let’s not get crazy.

As many of you know, my mum passed away after a short battle with an aggressive cancer in February of this year (2021) and I’m sure her life, our experiences and her death will be part of many posts to come.

My mum was opposed to clutter and regularly got rid of things as a matter of course. She couldn’t be more pleased when one of her items found a new home with a friend or a friend’s child or grandchild…or really anyone who could use it. When she sold the family home on Barmond Avenue and started the packing process, she’d leave unwanted items out on the curb and was always amazed and happy when things were picked up—usually within the hour! When she acquired new items from her travels or at a sale…it often meant the re-homing of something old. Which is also a practice adhered to by my longtime friends Kent and Gordon (@gordonhtaylor_vanc) who have literally THE most beautiful and tidiest home you’ve ever seen. Their daily life is art. My mum was a big fan of their taste and discipline. She was also a big fan of  ‘Swedish Death Cleaning’. It’s a thing—check it out on Google—it means that you declutter your life and home to lessen the burden on those left behind. I think it’s a great idea but I do think there should be some context for treasured belongings; hence the idea of ‘Story-based Swedish Death Cleaning’. 

My mum was not overly sentimental but did have some favourite pieces that we knew she wanted kept in the family. Unfortunately, by the time we knew that the cancer treatment was not going to be successful, she was quite ill and we didn’t want to waste time discussing all the other items during the few good hours she had daily.

However, being a practical and pragmatic person, my mum made sure that we had random discussions over the years about things that were meaningful to her and what we’d do with them after her death. She would be very pleased to know that her fine china (Rosenthal Romance) will go to Karis as well as the flatware—both were wedding gifts. Karis also benefitted from an almost fully-equipped home when she moved out including kitchenware and dishes to cleaning items (Miele vacuum) to linens and towels—all in great condition because my mum didn’t keep ratty old stuff or chipped dishes unlike me. I am still using everyday dishes I got for my wedding. They’re cracked and chipped and need to be replaced. I don’t know that I’m overly sentimental in this case…I think maybe just lazy (or busy to be honest). 

My brother kept a few items though he is an anti-hoarder much like my mum. I’m glad he wanted the wooden chest that my dad painstakingly refinished in the basement workshop, the soapstone carving and a few furniture items. Of course, I have a bunch more stuff because I’m more sentimental—not a hoarder, but definitely a keeper of many useless items which I am working my way through now. I have a sterling silver gravy boat, some china, jewelry, her favourite chair, her carpets and many other travel souvenirs as well as some radical 70s Tupperware that I just can’t get rid of.

My mum had a friend who passed years ago (one of her ladies group) who collected antique toast racks. After she died, her best friend chose one each for all of the ladies as a memento and my mum always talked about what a nice gesture she thought that was. Of course, in my mum’s situation, we didn’t have time to discuss what to give to whom so when my mum’s friends came to the apartment to help me pack, I also asked them to find some items that they’d like, that would remind them of my mum and it worked out so well. It gave me a lot of pleasure to know that her friends have items that remind them of her whenever they’re used or seen. 

Having her friends involved was also a great solution as there were some things that were meaningful to Christopher and I as family memories that we didn’t have space for or want particularly, but also didn’t want to sell. For example, my mum and dad bought a Robert Bateman numbered print of giraffes stampeding back in the 70s. It was a big deal as they bought it when they didn’t have much money but it doesn’t really fit in my house or Christopher’s so would likely have ended up in my basement—unseen by anyone because we couldn’t bring ourselves to sell it. My mum’s longtime friend Elsie (Mrs. Anderson) remembers when they bought it and how exciting it was—they were neighbours and came down the road to see it (and likely have a cup of tea). She was thrilled to hang it in her living room and it makes us happy to know that it is being enjoyed and appreciated. I think my mum and dad would be happy too. By the way, I know I’m an adult and can call her Elsie, but I just can’t. Her daughter Cheryl ended up working at the library when she was a teenager and my mum was her supervisor. She told Cheryl that she could call her ‘Lou’ now and not Mrs. Albanese…and I honestly think Cheryl just avoided addressing her directly the whole time she worked there, which is exactly what I would have done.

My mum and Mrs. Anderson at Christopher and Becky’s wedding 2005

Another situation is that you, as the children, don’t know the stories behind the items…because—surprise—your parents were people before they were parents and continued to be people whilst they were parents and have lives and experiences that we don’t always remember or know about in the first place. Which brings up another happy solution, (also pertaining to artwork) that I knew my mum got on a cruise. Of course, I couldn’t remember where the cruise went, when it was or who was with her. In my defense, she DID travel a lot! I was discussing the situation with the ladies whilst they were helping me pack and it turns out that Joanne (another longtime friend) was on the cruise with my mum and they went to the auction together AND that’s when she got the painting. Joanne has a similar piece and now has a matching pair in her living room. Again, I was so happy to give it to her knowing that she’d be reminded of my mum whenever she looks at it. 

So with some detective work and help from the ladies, I’ve managed to figure out where a lot of stuff came from that I didn’t previously know about…but there is so much more… a narrow marquise-cut peridot ring that I don’t know the origin of; some cool scarves that I think are from India; a set of bowls that look European but just as easily could be Moroccan. I plan to have a visit with the ‘travel ladies’ to hear some stories and to pass on mementos to them. And also the library ladies and various other friends…it’s been crazy busy but I will get to it before the end of the year. Please feel free to contact me….

So…found this mysterious peridot ring with my mum’s jewelry. No idea where it’s from…anyone? It’s not anyone’s birthstone 🤷🏻‍♀️

So the moral of the story is twofold; don’t keep a lot of junk and make the stuff you do keep meaningful…and do make sure that somewhere, somehow there is a list/spreadsheet, a conversation or a photo that will help the heirs know the history of your special items because it may be meaningful after your death.

Yes, when it’s all said and done, it’s all just stuff but I’ve found that it can bring a measure of comfort to have and use special items and to share items with friends and family. I enjoy the continuity of meaningful objects and the history of everyday items. It’s nice to have and use cherished items daily as a reminder of family and close friends who have passed on. I often use my mum’s stainless steel teapot. It’s not expensive but it reminds me of my childhood and how my mum and Elsie (Mrs. Anderson) used to have tea almost every day using her metal teapot from Ireland. My mum’s teapot isn’t from Ireland and it isn’t fancy but I enjoy using it. Cheryl (daughter of Mrs. Anderson) and I always tried to hang around at teatime and were promptly shooed away—which I totally understood when I became a mother!

Personally, I would be a terrible conduit for any sort of oral history as I can’t remember anything—apparently it’s menopause and not dementia…we’ll see. My mum knew everything and everyone. All the relatives, so many friends, former workmates, my old friends…and remembered everything. Sometimes I’m not even sure who my relatives are and how they’re related and my mum knows the birthdays of their stepchildren. I wish I’d listened more, asked more questions and wrote stuff down! My advice it to make the effort and write it down as it’s nice to have a sense of family history with a healthy balance between extreme Swedish Death Cleaning and being a hoarder.

My mum and I had a lot of fun putting together the Family Wall in her apartment. I DO know all these people…starting with my great grand parents on the right (apparently I look like her 🤷🏻‍♀️) then my mum at age seven then my dad…

Fifty 4 Fifty: Embracing Life as a Mid-Century Modern

I’m turning fifty this year, hence the reference to the Mid-Century Modern—that’d be me, the ‘Mid-Century Modern’ woman. This post is a bit of a departure as it’s about me and not the child, her world or my interaction with her world. But mothers are people too so I thought it wouldn’t be too intrusive to do this one post about me.

Chrissie's Classical Guitar Recital

Chrissie on stage

This past weekend, whilst listening to my brother play classical guitar,  I had a brilliant (well I think it is) idea. In honour of my fifty years on the planet, I’m going to do fifty things (#fifty4fifty)—new things, things from my bucket list, family things, travel things, learning things, seeing people things, friend things and new people things. It’s a pretty open field but I wanted to make it achievable and fun. It’s also significant that I thought of this in January but not exactly in time to do a New Year’s resolution as my track record with those is not inspiring or even worth discussing.  Seeing as I’d like this to be a positive endeavour and not a drag, I’m doing it for my 50th birthday year only, though I’d consider round two if I make it to 100. Secondly, it’s strictly a one-off for two more reasons: I get bored easily and lack staying power; and secondly because the hashtag would become downright cumbersome and typographically hideous in year two (#fifty-one4fifty-one).

A MID-CENTURY MODERN WOMAN
The Mid-Century Modern reference is a nod to my age and hopefully, my state of mind—not any sort of personification attempt to see life through the eyes of a Mid-Century Modern home trying to fit in with its traditional suburban neighbours because that would be weird, narcissistic and probably dull. I love Mid-Century Modern architecture because it was a departure from the accepted design (or lack thereof) aesthetic but in a good way, not just change for the sake of change. It was inspired by (among others) the Bauhaus movement, the work of Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe and resulted in the creation of physical space that reflected the sociological and idealistic values of modern thought in terms of art, architecture, politics and culture. Houses were meant to fit into their natural setting and invite the outdoors in by using post and beam structure, open spaces and large windows. It’s one of my favourite styles and if forced to make this a metaphor for my life…“In this fiftieth anniversary of my birth (the ‘mid-century’), I hope to expand my mind and my experiences by seeing, doing and thinking things that break out of, or directly contradict (the ‘modern’), my customarily held behaviours, beliefs and values (the ‘traditional’).” And that’s about as academic as I’m capable of these days seeing as I can’t really remember even getting my BA in Philosophy much less anything I learned.

A SUB-PLOT TO THIS ENDEAVOUR

Being try-hard math geek without the requisite intellectual abilities, I enjoy the symmetry of numbers and 5 figures big for me—beyond the actual number 50. My birthday is May, 5th, 1967 (yes, Cinquo de Mayo though I didn’t know about that until I was in my late 20s). It would have been more symmetrical if it was 1965 though my parents weren’t actually married (though they did date for NINE YEARS before marrying) or even 1955 but my mum was only fourteen and didn’t yet know my dad. However, using my personal interpretation of numerology (which isn’t a real science anyway is it?) it does work if I use 05.05.67 because 5+5=10; 10+67=77; 7+7=14; 1+4=5! I don’t think this is entirely correct but I’m taking artistic license here. This lack of symmetry in the year of my birth is made up for by the fact that it’s Canada’s 150th birthday this year which brings an extra ‘5’ to the party.

 

INSPIRATIONS

Celebrating Martha's birthday 2008

Lunching with Tracey, me, Mel, Misha and Martha

Though I enjoyed the guitar concert immensely, I can’t give total credit to the creative power of music for the idea. I had two human inspirations. The first one is my friend Martha who turned fifty last October and decided to go out once a week. Now Martha doesn’t just ‘go out’ she crosses the bridge and goes downtown and beyond. To jazz clubs and bars.With interesting people. It was downright inspiring and I’d like to join her one night and go to a jazz club. That’s Martha on the far right at her birthday lunch back in 2008. (Gasp)

Photo by Rod Pasch

Best ballet pic ever. Photo by Rod Pasch

My second inspiration was my sister-in-law Becky, lovely wife to the aforementioned classical guitarist brother. Becky decided that she didn’t want to organize social events and outings this year as she spends her entire day as the head archivist at the City of Burnaby organizing stuff. So she has committed to say ‘yes’ to all invitations that come her way. In the event of a lull in outside invitations, she has put my brother in charge of organizing their social life which initially horrified my mum and I, as it would be fair to say that my brother leans toward quieter side of things in social situations involving more than five people. A bold move on her part, however he has taken on his new role with enthusiasm and success. Who knew?
That’s my favourite photo of Becky taken by her dad, Rod Pasch, back in the day.

After these personal tales of inspiration and bravery, I have decided that I too can do some different things. New things, maybe even with new people. Like I said, nothing crazy. There will be no bungee jumping or skydiving because I’m just not that interested. I’m going to focus on doing those things that I always thought would be great ideas or fun outings, things that I saved the brochure for but never got around to doing or things that are just a little different or perhaps out of my comfort zone.

PROGRESS SO FAR
Back to the math world…fifty new things divided into 12 months means four new things per month with 2 bonus events available for months of exceptional inspiration. Being a practical person, I retroactively deemed a few events in January as worthy of the list.

  • On January 2nd I went out for drinks and appies with my oldest and dearest friend Leah who was in town from Toronto to celebrate her 50th and her other friends who I don’t really know well at all. In fact, I mostly know them only by the things they’ve done together and the odd Facebook post. It was cool to hang all together and get to know them too. #fifty4fifty #newpeople
  • On January 15th, my mum’s birthday, I went to the Steveston Seafood House for dinner. I spent a good deal of my teenage years working here (age 13-19). I made lifelong friends, earned a lot of money and learned a lot about life in general. It’s different now and when I thought about how old the former owner and managers would be, it was also slightly horrifying. #fifty4fifty #nostalgia
  • On January 21, my friend Mel (a Mulgrave mum and one of our ‘ladies’) was in town and we went to Black and Blue for dinner and drinks. Normally not my scene at all because it’s across the bridge and cooler than I can pretend to be. I realized that a) it’s hard to be cool when your clothes are not;  b) I need to wear more make-up as the ‘fresh-faced’ look refers to youth, not clean skin; and c) expensive and unique cocktails, leather seats and Dine Out Vancouver make for tragic service. Back in my day, we would have been fired. However, a good time was had by all AND a nice young man bought us shooters. (OK he was the boyfriend of one of our children, but still.) #fifty4fifty #newplace
  • On January 22 I went to a classical guitar concert to see my brother play. My brother plays both the acoustic and electric guitar and has done since he was six (more than forty years) and periodically performs on stage. I haven’t seen him play for quite a while so we all decided to go as a family and watch. It was a fantastic concert with an amazing roster of talented guitarists. I kept thinking about the 10 000 hours thing…I think my brother has practiced that much in the last ten years, never mind his whole life. And there were nine performers who had all clearly done their 10 000 hours. Their dedication was inspiring. I don’t think I’ve done anything for 10 000 hours except maybe sleep. Or maybe write if you count university…. Anyway, this concert also inspired me to consider attending the VSO. Stay tuned. #fifty4fifty #musicappreciation #family

So that’s where it stands right now. I have lots of ideas for the next 46 things but I’m not going to include them because I don’t want to jinx it. Don’t worry, I have no plans of posting every single thing I do. I’m keeping a list and will do a lovely re-cap blog at the end of the year 😉
(Note the positive attitude #newyearsresolution #trytobelesscynical)

The Other Mother

The Graduate Rockridge 2016Almost everyone who knows me, knows that the child graduated from high school in June and moved to New York in August to pursue a modeling career. And for those of you that don’t, she graduated and moved to New York to pursue a modeling career 😉

I’ve received mixed responses from people when I tell them what Karis is doing—and any parent of a recent grad will know exactly what I mean. You cannot get through a conversation where post-high school plans are not discussed. Reactions to Karis’s modeling plans run the gamut from barely veiled disapproval to genuine excitement and support. I’m pretty sure a lot of people are silently thinking, “Thank GOD I don’t have to deal with THAT,” relieved that their child is safely ensconced in some temple of higher learning—though I feel compelled to point out that this is a costly endeavor with no guarantees either.

I’m not going to waste a whole lot of time on the haters (especially since I’m pretty sure most of them don’t read my blog) but suffice to say that yes, we thought long and hard about this; no, this was not a spur of the moment decision because she got bad grades (she did quite well thanks very much); yes, we have been planning this with her mother agent Liz Bell of Lizbell Agency since she was fourteen and no, she is not working illegally as a slave or forced to go to nightclubs to earn her keep. Though that does happen. Just not if you’re with a proper agency. And most people do ask me if I know about that.

Karis has a US work visa and a social security number and it’s all quite above board. The majority of her costs are covered because she is working with people who believe she has a very good chance of success which is what Liz has told us from the beginning. In the early days I demanded that Liz “be honest” and “tell me what you really think” in terms of Karis pursuing modeling as a career. At which point Liz gently reminded me that this was her business (and not some obsessive hobby that she spent ALL her time on) and that if she thought Karis should pursue academics instead of modeling she would most certainly let me know in a timely manner. #gotit #secretlyhopingshewouldsayno

Anyway, I digress. Many people have asked me how this whole modeling thing works and I will attempt to address this in a variety of blog posts, hopefully in a logical order. Well, it will be logical in my mind at least. To begin at the beginning, we must start with the Mother Agent.

Karis has wanted to model since she was eleven. I was initially skeptical for most of the reasons any parent would be skeptical—it is a recipe for eating disorders, exploitation and superficiality—and she was too short and too shy anyway. And she had braces and a lime green retainer. Furthermore, it seemed a strange choice for a child who didn’t particularly enjoy or demand to be in the spotlight. However, she persisted and I reluctantly started looking at local agencies when she was thirteen. We submitted photos online to Lizbell Agency as instructed. And heard nothing. Ultimately, a mutual friend (thanks Karen Delaney-Wolverton) contacted Liz and we got our meeting.

After the meeting, Liz told us Karis needed to be at least 5’8” and preferably 5’9” and to contact her again when Karis was fourteen and had her braces off. One month after Karis’s fourteenth birthday (no, she still hadn’t forgotten about it), we met again with Liz and signed with Lizbell Agency that week. We did look at other agencies but chose Liz for a variety of reasons:

  • Liz is a former international model and knows the industry.
  • She is well-connected and has current relationships with agents and casting directors in New York and Europe (Milan, London, Paris). This is important.
  • She is a mother herself (bonus points from me) and understands that this is your CHILD, not a commodity (well, she’s a commodity too, but also your child).
  • Lizbell Agency is a boutique agency meaning each model gets a lot of personal attention.

TIP #1: If you have ANY connections at all to a modelling agency, use them. Agencies are inundated with photos and don’t always get a chance to have a close look at all submissions. Alternatively, check out social media channels (mostly Instagram and Snapchat these days) for open calls for new faces as it is a sign they are actually looking to sign new models OR if there is a live scouting event GO. It’s a great opportunity to actually get a face-to-face meeting with the agent…not always an easy feat.
TIP #2: Do your research. Ask friends for recommendations. Almost everyone will know someone whose daughter is a model and they’re usually happy to answer questions (I’ve met with four parents of ‘prospective’ models). Local photographers, stylists and make-up artists (MUA) are also a great resource as they often work with agencies to develop new faces and have some fairly good intel on the local agent scene. That being said, meet with agents, ask questions and consider your ‘gut’ reaction as you will have a close relationship with this person for a long time and you need to be able to work together.
Tip #3: READ THIS E-BOOKThe Guide for New Faces It only costs about $2 and is very informative about the modeling industry. Also follow their blog as it’s chock full of relevant information and plus they’re Canadian! I found out about this from a Scottish model while I was in Tokyo with Karis.

fullsizerender-19Also, funny story. After I found out about them, I followed them on Instagram. They posted a photo of one of our favourite restaurants (Mamma Luisa’s Table owned by an Italian guy who only speaks Italian and Japanese) in Tokyo which was just around the corner from the model apartment we stayed in. So of course I commented on the post which initiated a dialogue and ended up with me writing an article for their blog.

But what IS a mother agency you may still be wondering and why is it different than any other agency. Basically pretty much ANY agency can call themselves a mother agency in relation to a specific girl. It means that they ‘discovered’ and developed the model and arranged or facilitated her being launched with other agencies in other markets worldwide. A Mother Agent usually has input (in consultation with the model and her other main agency) on career direction and choices and has a ‘mother(bear)-like’ relationship with the model in that they will protect their model’s interests.

Once a model is signed with their first agency—AKA their Mother Agent—the agent will work to develop the model over a period of years. This involves education about the industry (meetings or handouts from the agency), walking lessons and photo sessions (known as ‘creatives’ or ‘testing’) to get images for a portfolio. The agent will take what used to be known as ‘Polaroids’ but are now ‘digitals’ or ‘digis’ in a basic outfit (tank top and jeans or shorts) and bikini shots to post on the website. Digitals are also taken without makeup as it is necessary to see the bone structure and skin clearly. (Before I knew this, one of the shots I submitted was Karis with stunning makeup done by a senior MAC artist. I thought it was lovely, but they want to see bone structure. Live and learn.) Models will also have their measurements taken for height, bust, waist and hips. *Not even going to open this can of worms as any discussions of weight and measurements in the modeling industry results in a highly charged emotional discussion. It’s a personal decision.*

However, I will offer this advice, if your daughter (or son) has any issues at all around eating or body image, do not even think about allowing them to model. The industry is not kind. Karis regards fitness and healthy eating as part of her job: much as a university student needs to study, she needs to stay in shape. I think this is probably the healthiest way to think of something that could, and often does, go badly awry for many models.

Images above are from a short video Karis did with Liz for Fashion One

To develop a model, you need to think of it as a training program—it is not a way to make easy and consistent money, especially in Vancouver. When you factor in your time as the parent (and yes, it will take up YOUR time driving to castings, shows and shoots), parking and money spent on clothes you will NOT be in the money at the end of the year. If you cover your costs in the first year, consider that a roaring success.

That being said, in Grade 11 and 12, Karis did make a decent amount of money, though this is not really the name of the game. Learning how to model, how to walk, how to deal with clients and agents, building confidence and interpersonal skills and learning how to manage your own correspondence is the goal of modeling during high school. The secondary goal for some girls is building up a portfolio that is comprehensive enough to support a Visa application to pursue a modeling career in the USA after high school graduation. (That whole paperwork thang is another story. OMG. The trees that died for Karis’s career.) Anyway, throughout the years, Karis has done many creatives; fashion shows for Blanche MacDonald, LaSalle College, Eco Fashion Week and various charities; Lookbooks (fancy word for ‘catalogue’) and campaigns for local designers all in the name of honing her modeling skills and creating content for her portfolio. See below for images.

TIP #4: Do not ever pay anything for modeling or personal development courses or to ‘join’ an agency. A good agency will work with new models to teach them the business and will have relationships with local photographers who will do creatives/testing in exchange for images to develop a portfolio for free. The only thing we pay for is a small annual fee to maintain Karis’s portfolio on the LB website and for any comp cards, printing costs or courier charges. We also buy a basic model wardrobe, some of which is suggested by Liz (would likely vary from agent to agent) and some items that are necessities.
Basic Necessities: Model bag, portfolio & comp cards (provided by the agency) black thong and strapless bra; nude thong and strapless bra; black and nude bras with no padding and no underwire (bralette); black bikini; plain black heels, casting outfit #1 (usually something simple that shows the lines of your body like a tank top and jeans); lip gloss and cover-up; hair elastic and hairbrush.
Options: plain nude heels; ankle boots with low heel; casting outfit #2 (simple black dress).

Now you’re probably wondering WHY an agency would bother to develop new faces and act as a Mother Agency especially since I’ve pointed out that it takes years and if the model isn’t earning much money, the agency certainly isn’t either. Cost/benefit analysis = FAIL.

It’s true, scouting and developing a model takes a lot of time and does not pay well. Most US and Canadian agents charge 20% of the model’s fee and 20% on the client side…so if a model earns $1200 in a year the agent will make $480 and the model takes home $960 before tax as (N.B. models file taxes as a contract worker not an employee). That’s not much money when you consider the time and administration necessary for new models.

The payoff for a Mother Agent is when one of their models starts working internationally and earning real money. And that is because the Mother Agent receives an ongoing commission, paid out of the booking agent’s cut (in that particular market) for every job the model does. If you have a good eye, good relationships with international agents and you train your development girls well, a Mother Agent can make a decent income from ‘her’ models who work internationally.

Before you decide you’re going to rush out and open a modeling agency to get a jump on this passive income stream, let me tell you that being a Mother Agent is not easy. I’m not sure what the exact numbers are but you have to develop a lot of girls in order to produce a working model.

Many things can go wrong. Some girls hate it; some aren’t good in front of the camera; some choose sports or dance or school; some are unable to deal with the insensitivity of the industry as a whole; some girls do not grow tall enough or cannot maintain their measurements in a healthy way; some parents change their minds and a myriad of other reasons can make a girl opt out of modeling.

Even if a model makes it to that magical gatepost of graduation and is launched in New York and internationally, there are still no guarantees they will be successful or even if they are successful, if they will continue to work. Modeling is HARD work and many girls give up before they achieve their potential because they’re too homesick, they miss their boyfriends or they simply can’t manage the lifestyle because of the uncertainty and inconsistency associated with the industry.

All these girls—the development girls and the working models—represent hours, weeks, months and years of time invested by a Mother Agent who has no guarantees and no compensation if a model decides to quit.
Also as a side note, if you like to sleep regularly and through the night, being a Mother Agent is not a great career choice. When your models are working in Europe, most of the frantic emails about options, jobs and other incidentals occur from 11pm -9am PST. It’s easier when they’re in New York #justsayin’

Models can, (and usually do), have different agencies in different markets worldwide unless you are signed with an agency with a global network like IMG or The Society/Elite Worldwide. The Mother Agent is the link to all the agencies representing a model and they all need to work together once a model gets busy in various markets. When I say the Mother Agent is the ‘link’ it also means that they have developed and continue to nurture relationships with the bookers at these agencies (not necessarily the agency themselves, though sometimes this is the case). THIS is the most important thing. Someone could be the most organized and well-intentioned person ever but if they have no key relationships in the industry, they aren’t able to secure the best contracts for their models. So as you can see, a good Mother Agent is invaluable as their particular experience and skill set is not easy to come by…I don’t think there’s a course anywhere for this. Their key relationships aside, they are are also meant to provide input and suggestions to ensure that the model is casting for, and getting work that reflects their ultimate career goals.

For example, consider the following scenario: A model is in London doing editorial work (not much pay if any, but good exposure). She gets an option (an option means that a client is interested and is inquiring as to availability, but does not guarantee anything) to go to Paris for two days to work on e-commerce (well paid, no prestige); an option to do an editorial in London for a top designer (no pay, product in kind=free clothes); or a trip to Singapore to do a fashion show for a local designer (paid, plus expenses and clothes). All the dates overlap. How do you prioritize and choose?

This is not as easy as you might think as it is not solely about the money. A mother agent would sort through these options with the model’s main international agent which, for most Canadian girls, would be an American agent, ideally in New York and the agent in the particular market. Now back to the options, there are factors to consider for each one that range far beyond the money.

  • Who is the client? Sometimes it’s about building relationships for the future more than the money or prestige. Perhaps the designer or casting agent likes the model and may want to work with her on a lower profile job before offering something bigger.
  • Who else is on the job? Sometimes it is strategic to place a model in a job that doesn’t seem like much in terms of prestige or pay but it may be an opportunity to meet a top stylist, photographer or Makeup Artist (MUA).
  • What is the exposure? If an editorial is unpaid but is in a decent publication with a large social media following it might be worth considering. Sometimes flight and hotels are covered and sometimes models are paid in kind (clothes). Sometimes not.
  • On the downside, money and potential relationship-building needs to be weighed against the reach/exposure of poor images on the market. Because once you’re noticed, Models.com keeps track of everything you do. Which is GREAT. Providing that all the work you do is of the same calibre…otherwise, you’ll become known for lower-level work and it’s hard to work your way up again. Probably impossible.

So as you can see, decisions are rarely straightforward and this is where the importance of a well-connected and up-to-date Mother Agent cannot be overstated. All these options must be designated 1st, 2nd or 3rd or just a flat out no; however, the industry is small and one must also take care not to offend anyone. Because they’ll never forget that either. The importance of having a Mother Agent that can collaborate intelligently and strategically with other agents is a career necessity.

fullsizerender-22
Liz with her girls in NY

So the Mother Agent is like a mother…overworked and unappreciated and always tired. Having to deal with other parents who may or may not be crazy (Not me of course. I am eminently reasonable #bahahaha) but still having to be polite. Ultimately though, the Mother Agent is fiercely on the side of her models in navigating through the crazy, unpredictable but potentially rewarding fashion industry. #thanksLiz

 

Any feedback, comments, corrections and questions are welcome 🙂

GLOSSARY: (There will be a short quiz in the next post)

  • Mother Agent
  • portfolio
  • creative
  • testing
  • Polaroid(s)
  • digitals /digis
  • Lookbook
  • comp card
  • bralette
  • commission
  • bookers
  • option
  • casting agent
  • stylist
  • MUA

Hyperfocus on Graduation, Life and Publishing.

So…the child actually graduated which I’m sure you all know by now. The graduation year started with pre-grade 12 parties last summer, a grad sleepover, a boat cruise, a football game (I think), a semi-formal, pre-pre-grad parties, an actual pre-grad party (with parents), the party bus (also with parents, don’t ask), the grad ball, the after-grad party (also with parents…go figure), the post-after-grad (whatever else happened that night that we don’t want to know about), a breakfast, the pre-commencement party, the after-commencement dinner, the after-commencement party that she was too tired to attend, grad kidnapping, grad kidnapping breakfast (shoutout to SMcD for hosting even though her kid was NOT IN TOWN), the last day of school grad sleepout, the actual end of school party, the Canada Day pre-party and then the after party, the July 2nd party (fatefully held at my house-shoutout to my neighbour that called the cops and ended it), the last minute trip to the Pemby festival despite deciding against it…. Sympathy shoutout to all the parents with kids in Grade 12 who are going through this for the first time. You’ll be good by this time next year. And it’ll all be a fuzzy memory. Even fuzzier for the grads. #justsayin’

I remember my graduation summer (1985) and how much we all wanted to do things together—many things, all the time—because THIS WAS IT. High school was over. And we would never see our people again. The was a poignancy to every event as we’d never be together, as a high school class again. Of course we were though. That fall to be exact. People didn’t really go away to school back in the day and I saw ‘my people’ fairly often, except for Ari who ran away to film school in LA and didn’t return for ten years. However we faithfully documented a plethora of ‘last’ events that grad year and summer. And I have a collection of somewhat blurry photographs that do indeed document our Grade 12 year. Those halcyon days…before (sort of) real life.

I totally saw the same thing happening with Karis and her people…that phase where they’re clinging to the ending of one thing because they’re not quite sure they’re ready for the beginning of the next. And it’s different for them as most of them ARE going away to school. Which is terrifying but in reality, university is a bit of a bridge…a kinder, gentler (though ridiculously expensive these days) way to prolong real life. I’d still be at uni if I could possibly justify it financially. Or chronologically, in that I am actually supposed to be an adult and one does have to step up to real life one of these days.

*short lecture* A word of advice though from my very own experience…go to class. Take notes. Do the work even though the professors don’t know your name (and likely wont) and there is literally 300 other people in the class. I remember being very surprised when mid-terms suddenly ‘happened’ as I didn’t really feel I’d gone to class much or really learned anything. These teachers don’t know you, they don’t know that you’re a great kid, that you volunteer, that you do great work that is sometimes a bit late, that your siblings were geniuses and that you’re an amazing athlete. Do the work and don’t get behind. *lecture over*

Anyway, I digress. Back to the poignancy of the grad summer and how it was for ME. Because this blog is about ME and MY adventures raising a teenage daughter (and a Golden Retriever-he’s easier than the teenager just in case you were wondering). So I made an album for Karis’s grad as I wanted to document her journey in a concrete way (as opposed to the digital media of her generation), which seemed like a fun little project at the time. A couple of pages of photos for each year of her life a little blurb noting the highlights of that year. Of course, I underestimated the time. Oh the time. First there were actual photos for the first five years that needed to be scanned as they were taken before I got a digital camera. The remaining years encompassed hundreds, possibly thousands of photos that needed to be reviewed and the most ‘significant’ and ‘meaningful’ ones selected. All these photos needed to be ordered and separated into years. Then, I started doing the writing part. The first few years were easy as I had baby books. But then it got dicey as real life crept in and I forgot to record significant events and milestones. Through a serious and calculated audit of my photos, greeting cards, journals, school records, bills, certificates and daytimers I managed to cobble together enough information for each year. Then came the online creation of the album. The placement of the photos. How many for each page? What order? The fact that there needs to be the same number for each year…madness.

I should NEVER attempt things like this because I cannot control myself and make a book with a few photos and some fun memories. No. It has to be an encyclopedic reference with consistency in both photo number and subject, as well as text and ‘talking points.’ I didn’t keep track of the hours because it would be terrifying and I’m supposed to be looking for contract work and doing the taxes and vacuuming the dog. This folks is a classic example of the ‘hyperfocus’ you experience if you have ADHD and no amount of medication will take that away from me. I like to think of it as an unexplored gift that needs a little harnessing and direction.

grad-album

Anyway, I finally finished it. Sadly you cannot see it because the file is far too large and it cannot be downloaded or uploaded or accessed from anywhere. Though here it is just in case you want to try.

Fast forward. It’s now October and grad seems like a lifetime ago. My obsession with this album precluded the publication of the adulting book I mentioned in a previous post. Though I did write it. Frantically, every night while I was in New York in August after Karis went home to the model apartment by 10pm. Procrastination is also a symptom of ADHD in case you’re keeping track. I brought all my notes because, of course, the book was almost written, just not online in any sort of publishing program. So I hand-wrote the adulting book. The whole thing. I think this was as much to help her as to help calm the incessant voice inside me listing all the things I have not yet told her. I was channeling all those monks that copied out books by hand before Gutenberg got it together with the printing press. I think their work may have been a tad more formal and less manic than mine though. It was a good visual though that kept me going whilst I laboured on the 15th floor of the Lexington Hotel.

The book is divided into sections with stick-on page dividers and employs the use of highlighters, coloured pencils and mind maps. The contents are somewhat tailored to Karis and her life as a model living in a model apartment but some chapters would be applicable to anyone. Here’s a very brief outline…but of course I can’t really remember all the stuff I wrote. I’m thinking of publishing it when she brings it home at Christmas…though I’m sure I’ll re-read it and think it’s terrible.

  • Finance: ATM secrets, online banking, the mysteries of foreign exchange and the difference between a charge card and a credit card.
  • Travel: don’t lose US visa, email important docs to yourself, take Redoxin before you go and wipe down your seat and tray table with disinfectant wipes.
  • Health & Wellness: sleep, drink green tea & water with lemon, wash your hands,use oil of oregano & sunscreen, get exercise and fresh air daily.
  • Nutrition: “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.” Eat mainly vegetables, one raw with each meal, limit sugar but have treats, 80% compliance.
  • Recipes and food ideas: hummus, fish, salad with a protein, soups without cream, eggs, coconut oil, sushi, cottage cheese with fruit or vegetables, tuna.
  • Etiquette: remember names, say thank you, acknowledge help and kindness, apologize sincerely, listen respectfully.
  • Cleaning (communal living): clean up after yourself in the kitchen and bathroom, hang towels and clothes, rinse spit out of sink, flush toilet and take out the garbage.
  • Relationships: avoid gossip, keep your word, cheer others’ success, be kind, talk about ideas not people, speak words that are only kind or helpful.
  • Laundry: follow directions on tags, separate colours, use cold water with appropriate detergent, beware of bleach, if in doubt, ask Mimi.
  • Shopping:
    • FOOD: don’t overbuy as you travel often, avoid processed food (expensive and unhealthy), think of a meal before you shop.
    • TOILETRIES: try Saks off 5th or Marshall’s first as they have great stuff at affordable prices.
    • CLOTHING: see above…don’t overbuy as you have to carry everything everywhere you go, buy quality and make sure it hangs well.
  • Beauty: take off your makeup every night, moisturize, use sunscreen.
  • Time Management: find a tool that works, make time for big items, prioritize daily goals, schedule important items, review tasks weekly to make sure you’re on track.
  • Business: understand how different markets work, keep track of charges and expenses, get statements from each agency.
  • Exercise: find exercises you enjoy, commit to a daily activity, work on core stability regularly, stretch and do yoga.
  • Model Bag: cover-up, band-aids, insoles, allergy pills, snacks and protein bars, Kleenex, tampons, scarf, book, sketchpad, charger plus all the other stuff.
  • Various other chapters that I can’t remember but possibly (in no particular order): Religion, Pets, Vitamins, Interpersonal Relationships, Safety, Transit, What to do if you are sick…..

Stay tuned 😉

The Mozart Effect and Other Mothering Failures

I chose this school because I liked the uniform. Jk.

Don’t you love the uniform? A big deciding factor for me….

As most of you know, the child is graduating and I’m overcome by a feeling of inadequacy as a mother. I’m not ready. I’ve not told her enough to face life on her own. I lament all those lost teaching opportunities that are forever gone to me, all the systems I should have instigated and mundane things I never insisted she do for herself. Why didn’t I give her an allowance and make her record it and save 10% and take her to the bank once a month to deposit it? All those chores I didn’t make her do because she was so busy with homework and dance? How will she function? I don’t think she knows how to clean a toilet unless my mum or one of her friends taught her. I wish I been vigilant with Baby Mozart…maybe she would have been a math genius if I had committed fully to the Mozart Effect? What about all that reading I never forced her to do? All those habits like daily meditation, goal setting, healthy eating, being tidy, flossing daily. Why did I ever let her watch television in the first place? Eat candy? Why did I ever get her a mobile phone? Should I have been doing extra workbooks with her all summer? Would she be a different person if I had?

It’s funny when they’re born and you have all these ideas of how you’re going to be a parent and how your child is going to respond. You have this illusion that if you do everything right, your child will do well, be well and have a happy and successful life. I made my own baby food, used natural detergent, breast-fed as long as possible, did all the baby activities like Gymboree©, Storytime and various mummy playgroups. I didn’t use any medication until she started teething and I had to resort to Tylenol as she was cutting four teeth in a two-week period. Before that I used naturopathic remedies and essential oils. Seriously. (N.B. I was trained in aromatherapy…don’t try this at home unless you really know what you’re doing.) I read to her all the time and didn’t allow TV or videos until she was three. There was no juice or candy allowed. Her clothes always matched. We listened to music—even the dreaded Baby Mozart, thought not every day. We played with educational toys and spent time in nature. She went to play-based preschool and on to private school—one that I chose (after extensive research) because they taught Philosophy and Japanese and had a great uniform.

However, despite my best efforts to create a little girl in my graven image but better, Karis grew up to be herself and not really like me. Just as they’re meant to do. I’m thankful she’s not like me for many reasons as I actually learn things from her (don’t tell her that as she’ll never let me forget it). Our kids are actually people, with their own ideas, wants, needs, desires and aspirations and there’s not really much you can do about it. Except celebrate, as that’s what they’re supposed to do. If you’ve helped create a thinking and conscious being, I think that’s probably a good thing; however, this whole parenting gig is a constant learning process and I’ve recently had a somewhat terrifying epiphany that it actually never ends. I think I subconsciously assumed that once I’d got her this far, the universe would take over and she’d magically become an adult and we’d have dinner parties, lunches and go to the spa once in a while but that overwhelming terror/love you feel for your offspring would mellow and become less intense. It appears that that will not be the case as I’ve realized my precious child will be going out in the world, without me to protect her, to grow up and become an adult. She’ll be living her life and I will be wondering where she is, who she’s with and when she’s going to be home. But she’ll be living in another country so I’m not sure how that’s going to work. I have actually become my father. I totally understand him now. I know why he didn’t sleep until I got home, even if I was in my 20s and had lived alone in a foreign country. It didn’t matter because I was under HIS roof and he went right back into dad mode as soon as he was given the opportunity. He used to give me $20 every time I left the house…I managed to train him out of this by the time I was 27. And married. I think he was relieved to pass me off to Chris so someone else could worry. Though I don’t think that stopped him. Until I had Karis, then he worried about her too. It’s an Italian thing. Don’t be thinking my mum didn’t worry. She did, but she’s much more practical and tended to get stuff done instead of being paralyzed by the unending and unresolvable existential angst over children that can’t be controlled anyway. The fact remains, I did survive. Learned stuff. Grew up and became a relatively productive adult, I’m sure despite my parents initial misgivings that I was a complete moron.

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My sense of impending doom is complicated by the fact that I’ve also realized that I haven’t taught Karis anything that is remotely useful. Neither, for that matter, has her education, but that is another story. All those little things that I simply do, that I haven’t told her about:
♥ How to buy a fresh avocado.
♥ How to suck the air out of freezer bags so your food stays fresh.
♥ Buying toilet paper when it’s on sale.
♥ Always pay your credit card on time.
♥ Don’t buy fish if it’s smelly.
♥ How to fold a fitted sheet (just mastered that recently myself).
♥ Choosing clothes that hang well.
♥ Finding meaning in our cold cruel world.
♥ Appreciating art (maybe I’ve done that one just a little).
♥ How much it really costs to have a pet.
♥ How to arrange food on plates.

This has caused me a lot of anxiety as I’m constantly adding items to the ongoing mental list of Things-I-Need-to-Tell-Karis-Before-She-Graduates-and-Moves-to- New- York. Of course, I then forget what’s on this list which causes me more anxiety. I’ve decided to channel this free-floating anxiety of mine into something useful, productive and tangible.

Earlier this year I was wondering aimlessly around Park Royal looking for Christmas gifts and I found myself in Urban Outfitters. An establishment I no longer support since I found out that they’ve been accused of stealing designs from small independent artists but anyway, they had this book called Adulting: How to be a Grownup in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown. This is a GREAT book and a GREAT IDEA for a book. I wish I had this book when I was a young adult. I’ve decided to write my own version of this book for my child. Seeing as she doesn’t like reading, I’m sure it’s an exercise in futility, but it’ll make me feel better. Maybe I’ll do an audiobook…though I suspect this is actually about me anyway and she’ll be fine with, or without, the book 😉

PS. My one real regret: I wish I had bought a copy of Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Place’s You’ll Go and have every teacher, coach and significant person sign it so I could give it to her at grad as a tangible record of her life thus far. I have to say, that endeavour would be more about me as it would indicate a level of pre-planning and organization that I aspire to even today and she’s not really into that kind of thing anyway. I did start writing letters to her on every birthday and keeping them in a box but I lost interest. Maybe I can fake it….

Any Mum Will Do: Communal Child Rearing

A great subtitle for this post would be Any Mum Will Do: And Don’t Think You’re Going to Get Away With Anything Ever Again Because One of Us Will See You. Maybe Not Today, Maybe Not Tomorrow, But Someday. And You Will Be Found Out. Welcome to the Tribe. Communal Child Raising 101.

My first tribe actually started when I found three kindred spirits at Chelsea House Preschool who did NOT talk about how smart their kids were, how early they walked, what their Apgar score was and what percentile they were in (for anything). The four of us have remained friends ever since and try to get together 2-3 times a year. We go for sushi at Zen at 7pm and sit in the little room until there’s no one left in the restaurant and we feel guilty and leave. Same restaurant. Same time. We’ve been through a lot collectively: three private schools (two co-ed, one boys only); French Immersion, public school, home-schooling, illness, jobs, going back to school, death, family stuff and a whole lot more. And to perfectly cap off the end of an era, Karis has seen all her preschool buddies recently—two at the Collingwood prom and one through a mutual friend. Everyone is all grown up now. How. Did. This. Happen.

Communal Child Rearing truly started in earnest in the early days at Mulgrave. When the kids started kindergarten the tribe started to form. We had the ‘new mums coffee events’ and of course we all went so our children would be socially accepted and make friends and that we would be part of the tribe. Shades of the Upper East Side (see previous blog post). Actually it wasn’t nearly such a tough crowd and I can happily say that I still count these ladies as my nearest and dearest. At first, we were a pretty big group, but over time it settled out to a more reasonable number with the occasional new member (with particular success from our UK ladies). Though there was that one mum though who would never join us because she was at the school to ‘ensure her children got a good education not make friends with the other parents.’ We took particular pleasure in inviting her to everything we did for years, just to hear her say that. And no, she wasn’t that busy..yep, she had a big family, but she had staff. She was a misplaced Park Avenue-type for sure. She probably thought we were all boozy slackers. Not that that is a bad thing. Or necessarily true…it all depends on your perception.

The kids in our tribe learned how to get along with each other when they realized they had little choice in belonging to this group which became known as the ‘Friend Family’ (thanks Jordan) to distinguish it from the lesser significance and proximity of a mere family friend. We saw each other almost every day. Being in the ‘Friend Family’ meant that you were party to various events whether you liked it or not. Camping trips. Pool parties. Festivals. Birthday parties. Beach outings. Friday afternoons with the mums. It meant that you had a whole bunch of other mothers that you likely didn’t want some of the time because it was impossible to get away with much of anything. If your mum didn’t catch you or find out about a specific transgression, one of us would and it was only a matter of time. On the other hand, there was always a sympathetic ear when your mum didn’t understand you or you needed a different perspective on life. The benefit of having a whole bunch of other mothers is that if you put us all together we were pretty much the prototype for a perfect mum 😉

Truthfully though, we operated well as a tribe and I like to think the kids had optimal care as we all worked to our strengths. We had driving mums. Cooking mums. Snack mums. Shopping mums. Dance mums. Fun mums. Cool mums. Music mums. Exercise mums. Sporty mums. Make-up mums. Stylish mums. Strict mums. Academic mums. Practical mums. Organizing mums. Advice-giving mums. Swimming mums. Trampoline mums. And I add those last two like they’re just as useful because that was me–the swimming and trampoline mum because I was happy to play in the pool and jump on the trampoline for hours. Which sounds useless but let me just give you a practical example. During one of our Mulgrave camping trips, we had left the campground at Bear Creek to recover at Manteo (a lovely resort in Kelowna) for a few days. That particular year, I went with two other mums and their kids. No dads. We renamed our family as the Dixon-Dawson-Beck family and we shared a condo at the resort. Now there are things that must be done, even on holiday, like food shopping (yuck), cooking (double yuk) and laundry; however, these things go much faster when the children are safely occupied elsewhere. Like with me in the pool. It’s much more efficient and I actually enjoyed hanging with the kids. Still do. So between all the pools and all the trampolines and all the late night chats, I’ve had some great times with those kids.

Our tribe had a few truly golden years together. The stock market was good. Most of us didn’t work or did so on our own time. The kids did a lot of the same activities so car-pooling was easy. We had yearly Vegas trips. We went camping together. Stayed at friend’s cabins. We went out for lunch to the Cactus Club twice weekly and out for dinner at least once weekly. We attended concerts, galas and charity events. We celebrated any and all birthdays. Everyone got gifts. Copious amounts of champagne was had by all. It was truly the best of times and I am eternally grateful that we were all able to share such an amazing era.

Of course, time marches on and things change. Kids move schools and grow up. Marriages end. People get jobs. We’ve been through divorce, death, illness and the many assorted and sundry heartaches that go hand-in-hand with raising children and teenagers. However, our tribe is strong. We still celebrate. Marriage. Jobs. Graduation. Pretty much anything. We visit. Hang out. Commiserate. We don’t get to see the kids that often as they have lives and can drive. Basically it’s easier for them to get away from us. Though no matter how old they get I still have huge space in my heart for my beautiful kids of the Friend Family. You know who you are. xox

Motherhood Report: Child R.O.I.

So I’m back at it again. I’ve had so much to write and so little time, mostly because I am
constantly ‘busy’ doing ‘stuff’ like cleaning or looking for work or driving the child instead of writing. Not that I expect to earn money from a blog, but it’s a great writing exercise and, as all pros know, doing anything well requires discipline and consistency. So I’m attempting a bit of both here. I’ve got lots to say, it’s just a matter of saying it.

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An insider’s look at a very different life.

On the topic of mothering and being a mother, I read a fascinating novel/memoir/anthropological field study called ‘Primates of Park Avenue‘ by Wednesday Martin. The book is about that very particular group of New York mothers that inhabit the Upper East Side (UES), which is truly a very different world in terms of wealth, status, privilege, expectations and lifestyle. I have not been there myself, nor do I know anyone who lives there but I read a lot and am familiar with some of the social and societal peculiarities of these very wealthy families.
(On a side note, I also read a book about another group of the financial elite called ‘Crazy Rich Asians‘ by Kevin Kwan which is not about crazy Asians but about crazy rich Asians and is a fascinating look at reclusive and moneyed Singaporean families but not particularly about kids.)

Back to the Park Avenue stories. The anthropological commentary is an interesting adjunct to the story because it tells how we, as humans, have completely changed focus in our idea of ‘family’ in a number of ways.

CEO, Motherhood INC. or Killin’ it on Park Avenue

One of the first observations the author makes is that these mothers, who are themselves highly educated at elite universities and have held prestigious jobs—think hedge fund managers and lawyers—dedicate their entire being to raising successful children as stay-at-home mums. Their motivation is to ensure that their children get into the right preschool, leading to the right private school, then a top university (preferably Ivy League)  and that they are taking the right classes and cultivating the right hobbies whilst attending the right events with the right people and so on, until they are married off to a person of similar wealth and status thereby ensuring the survival of the lineage.

According to the author, who reports without judgement or malice even though she’s an outsider at first, the UES mothers are very adept and ruthless in managing every aspect of their offspring’s lives from toddler music appreciation and Mandarin lessons to organizing playdates with the right people. Mothers’ entire lives revolve around the success of their children and every dress they buy, event they attend, summer house they rent is done with an eye to providing the right environment for their offspring to thrive and succeed. Mothers are congratulated on the child’s achievements and blamed for their failures which is, I suppose, pretty much the case in most first world countries, but apparently it’s magnified to the Nth degree on the Upper East Side. This is helicopter parenting at its finest or most horrendous depending on how you look at it.

Assets: 9 Children, 3 Cows, 3 Pigs, 8 Sheep

The author also notes that historically, large families were seen as a type of wealth. Children were loved but were also currency for success. When children were raised communally, they were valued as future hunters/warriors and gatherers/nurturers necessary to ensure the survival of the tribe. Even when we evolved into nuclear family units, young children were responsible for basic chores, helping around the house and caring for the younger children.  A child’s net cost was food and clothing as there were no ballet classes or hockey practices, but the potential payoff was significant in terms of building the family wealth and/or status: Sons could work the land or work in the family business. Daughters could make advantageous marriages to expand and solidify land holdings or business success.

This is SO not the case now. Children are not ‘useful’ in modern civilization and represent a financial liability to their parents so large families (4+ kids) are pretty rare. Of course we view our children as assets in sentimental and emotional terms; however, they would correctly be labelled as liabilities, as an asset, by definition, produces income or has financial value. The expense of raising a child—in hard costs for food, clothing, education, lessons etc. and loss of potential income from a parent—is significant. Obviously, very few Park Avenue families would experience financial limitations, but are constrained by the time commitments necessary to produce a ‘successful’ child; even with a nanny, housekeeper and a driver, it is unlikely that even the most organized and dedicated UES mother could efficiently manage more than four children.

Child Status: The Light of My Life (AKA Centre-of-the-Universe)

The place and status of a child in the family has changed dramatically and is now based on sentiment rather than utility. We have evolved to the point where children are born and become the focus of the family with a significant portion of the family resources are devoted to their care. This was never the case historically as children were not overly useful for the first few years.

As a personal note about the ‘centre-of-the-universe’ idea of children in families, the only book (and I read them ALL) that helped me when Karis was an infant and would not sleep more than 2 hours during the night, believed that the baby should be welcomed as a new member of the tribe but certainly not the focus. The author advocated putting the baby on a schedule starting at 6am and waking her up every 90 minutes to feed with structured naptime based on the baby’s age and weight because YOU are the parents and YOU need to guide this helpless infant and help her learn to manage life on the planet (AKA parent-directed feeding). So anyway, I followed the schedule and the child slept through the night on the first day. Of course I didn’t sleep that first night because I kept checking on her, but she slept through the night from that day forwards. Coincidence? I don’t know. Anyway, I later found out the book was by a pseudo-Christian religious cult and has mixed reviews so I don’t tend to recommend it 😉

My Tribe: It Takes a Village

One final idea the author touches on is the idea of communal childcare. I won’t give away the ending of the novel, but suffice to say that the author does connect with the UES tribe and they rally round her in her time of need. I think we need more of that in our lives. Karis attended private school from K-5 and that’s where I met the ladies of my tribe. We spent a great deal of time together when the kids were young and, as a result, the kids did too. They weren’t all particular friends but they managed to get along together with a minimum of fuss as it was simply the way it was. They knew that they could be picked up by any number of mothers who would arrive with a snack and the necessary gear for ballet or soccer as the case may be. They knew that ‘any mum would do’ and became comfortable with all the mums in the tribe. Best of all, they knew that even if their mum didn’t know about or see a particular transgression, some mum did. And it was only a matter of time before you were found out. Any mum will do…stay tuned for Part 2.

Surviving the Pemby Fest without your mother…

Pemby...the day after pemby aftermath

So…I allowed Karis to go to the Pemberton Music Festival without me. Not that I would EVER go to anything like that as I am unwilling to put up with hardship for any music by any band ever, but I did have a clever friend who allowed her child to attend provided they stay at the family home in Whistler. She sold the girls on the idea of clean, cool beds; electricity, running water, toilets and food; and the ability to have a good night’s sleep before heading out to do it all over again the next day. She was within a reasonable distance should anything go wrong and also saw them daily to make sure nothing was going wrong that they weren’t telling her about (they are teenagers after all). She wouldn’t have allowed them to camp anyway but I’m not completely sure the girls knew that. Like I said, clever. Admirably so. Sadly, I don’t currently have a home in Whistler and didn’t actually think of this in time to rent one…perhaps next year if they attend this heinous event again.

So, my first and only child set off with two friends on Thursday morning at 5am. And yes, they can now drive themselves which is another worry entirely. The previous few days were busy with trips to the store to get various supplies and foodstuffs, doing laundry, borrowing camping items and packing. Karis was a lot more interested in selecting her ‘music festival’ wardrobe and getting stick-on tattoos, glow-sticks and coconut water than the wet wipes, Vitamin C/Immune support tablets, LED lanterns and bug repellent that I thought would be useful and practical.

The three girls had a tent, foamies and sleeping bags; a couple of coolers and food and beverages; water bottles and towels. I heard there was food for purchase so I wasn’t overly worried as I figured she could buy food with cash or using her ATM card. They were lectured on the importance of staying hydrated, using sunscreen, wearing a hat and trying to get some sleep. They were also instructed that they MUST contact us in the morning and evening when they were back in the tent. No exceptions or excuses as one ‘team member’ had a portable charger so they could ALWAYS be reached. We told them we expected them to behave like Navy Seals…”No man left behind.” Ever. For any reason.

It appears that a good portion of the population of not only their high school, but the North shore in general were at the festival. I did have a couple of ‘boots on the ground’ as well–the aforementioned Clever Mum; a young lady I’ve known for years who has just graduated university and several of the security staff. Not that ANY of this made it any easier being at home and not actually knowing too much about what was going on. I think the growing up thing is a process for both parents and teens. I was unsettled the entire weekend. Karis told me, when she returned home, that she would not allow her children to attend until they were older. Nice. Thanks honey.

I don’t envy the festival organizers. It’s an enormous amount of people to manage and they did have some great ideas in theory that did not withstand the rigours of reality and 30+ degree heat every day. They did provide garbage and recycling though I’ve heard mixed reviews about the availability. I also heard they were charging $4 for garbage bags at the end which seems so counter-intuitive that I can’t even comment. There were some logistical issues though. For instance, the parking lot for the general campers (read the plebs) was over an HOUR’s (apparently 2km) walk in 32+ degree weather. There were golf carts everywhere but not available to help people with their gear. Why wouldn’t they offer rides for $2, particularly in the heat? Another rule that I understand logistically but feel is unfair, is the parking hostage situation. You are not allowed in or out of the parking lot once you arrive so, You can visit your car and get things from it but you can’t move it or sleep in it, making you essentially a captive in a large hot field for 4-6 days.

In this large hot field (cleverly marketed as the ‘festival grounds’) organizers provide showers, cooling stations, food, phone charging stations and FREE water! What they neglect to tell you is that it is easily a 2 HOUR+ wait for a shower (costing $5); over 2 hours to charge your phone (and often longer as the chargers aren’t available and you can’t bring your own; and up to an HOUR at the water stations which are blessedly free if you live long enough to reach them. Basically you are waiting for pretty much everything and in the blazing heat with no shade. One of Karis’s friends got heat exhaustion…fever and shakes. The only alternative is the Alouette River though festival goes are “highly discouraged” from going because it is fast moving and dangerous, and I suspect also because it’s free. Karis and her friends made the 40-minute trek to try and cool off and escape the heat and dust for a while.

The cost of food is a complete gouge job ($8 for 2 sliders, $10 for a burger, $8 for a cup of lemonade–no alcohol, just lemonade); which is in incredibly poor taste considering many of the attendees are young people who have likely spent most of their money on the ticket. As I mentioned before, the hour plus walk from the car to the campground makes the idea of carrying coolers full of food impractical and unappealing. The parking lot hostage situation prevents you from driving to Whistler or Pemberton to re-stock and you are not able to leave the parking lot and re-enter. Karis and her friends did leave the parking lot to go to Whistler for food and medication. They were denied re-entry but went in through an unattended exit. If that hadn’t happened they would be in a pickle as any cars that are parked anywhere near the festival are towed and it’s $500 to retrieve them.

The pictures of the grounds on the news now show it absolutely chock-a-block with abandoned items and garbage. I suspect many people simply bring tents, coolers and sleeping bags that they are happy to leave behind, perhaps from yard sales or something. I do feel for them as the last thing I’d want to do is hike BACK to the car in the heat after 4-6 days of hell; however, it’s no excuse for that mess.

I think the festival needs to step it up a bit here as they did have many good ideas in theory but not in practice as there were simply not enough facilities for the amount of people. More water stations. More chargers. Cheaper food choices. They DO have shuttles and golf-carts on site for the VIP campers and the shuttle bus pass holders. Perhaps they could consider offering rides between the parking lot and campground for $2 to help move stuff?  Perhaps they could have festival volunteers walking the campgrounds on the last days and finding out who is planning on leaving tents, coolers or sleeping bags and tagging them to be picked up and donated to a homeless charity or re-sold as they are now doing for university dorm furniture (http://www.postlandfill.org/new-campus-program-trash-treasure-tulane-university/). Perhaps they could hand out free garbage bags (and not CHARGE $4) and offer anyone with a filled bag a ride to their car or pay them $5 (cheaper than $80 per ticket for clean-up). Just a few tweaks could make it a lot better. Just sayin’.

In terms of my child, yes, she’s growing up and probably learned a lot from the experience. She survived, as did everyone else’s children. I try daily to NOT be the dreaded ‘helicopter parent’ dooming my child to a life bereft of coping skills and an almost certain outcome of anxiety, depression and failure but some days it’s harder than others as life just seems a lot harder than it was when I was young…. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/nation-wimps/201401/helicopter-parenting-its-worse-you-think