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A steel fist in a velvet glove

9 Oct

mom-quote

The fall is always a nostalgic time of year for me – schools get into swing, the leaves turn color and Thanksgiving weekend rolls around.  Contrary to popular opinion I am not a lover of Thanksgiving dinner. So much work and so many dishes for a meal that (for me) is underwhelming.   Mom and Dads’ kitchen is not particularly large and Mom (how do I put this) is rather, ummm, bossy when she is in there.  Mom is not a chef with papers, but boy she can handle herself in the kitchen just as well as Jamie Oliver, Rachel Ray or Mario Batali. This weekend it is just me home so we decided to keep it simple and not prepare a meal fit for a small country.  Over the years Mom has produced more food, for more people than Michelin produces tires.  On the topic of Mom and since it is Thanksgiving I will tell you about her.

My mother is an extremely capable, selfless and productive human being.  Last night we were invited over to friends of our family for dinner.  During our after dinner conversation Kathy (our hostess) said ‘Emilie, can you tell me if you’ve ever seen your mother just do nothing for a day?’ Honestly, unless she was down and out with some kind of an ailment I couldn’t remember ever seeing her just be lazy.  Mom was a nurse doing shift work until I was in grade 9 and after that moved to management where she worked Monday to Friday. It would be nothing for her to make us a gourmet breakfast, send us off to school with lunches all made from scratch (I often traded her homemade cookies for a can of caramel pudding or a Flaky- you always want what you don’t have), wash the walls, clean out a flowerbed and head off to a 12 hour shift at the hospital.  About 10 years ago Mom had to have her thyroid taken out.  The doctors said she had a very hyper thyroid (in overdrive), so finally we had an answer as to why this woman never seemed to run out of energy. After her surgery it took quite sometime to get her TSH levels regulated and so she felt tired and might fall asleep in the chair.  Very unusual.  My father (who could be described as being as laid back as a Saint Bernard) said he loved that Mom was exhibiting laziness as it made him feel human.  Fast forward to now, it seems that her natural determination has made up for her biological changes.  What this woman achieves in a week should be analyzed by productivity experts as I think she could teach them a few things.  One year Dad said he was going to get her a miners lamp for a gift so that she could continue working after dark.

I love how perspective allows you to see things more clearly.  At my age my mother had 4 children.  In fact, I am shocked that I was even conceived as mom had awful pregnancies with terrible morning sickness and many other complications.  Thankfully they went for a 4th and got me.  A few years ago on mothers day I took my Mom and Grandma out for lunch.  Mom said ‘thank you’ when we were done and I said ‘thanks for giving birth to me’.  To which she said ‘it was quite the strenuous affair, you were posterior’.  My 90 year old grandmother piped up and said ‘that is nothing you came out feet first Janice.’

On top of that a full-time job, a husband, a house, a massive property with gardens galore, and animals, she somehow managed to cook, pickle and jam it all, visit family, maintain friendships, keep a clean house, plan/host most any event happening in our lives, cart us around to our sports/after school bits, and keep my 3 gong show brothers in line. We always had friends over which meant she was cooking for more than 6 on a regular basis. She starts thinking about Christmas at least 11 months in advance – making quilts for each us or dolls for the grand kids.  Honestly, when I compare my days to hers it makes me feel a wee bit self absorbed… as I get my nails done and sip a latte.   I talk to Mom daily on the phone.  Sometimes it is 5 minutes and sometimes it is an hour. General gab about the day, what is happening at home, what we cooked for dinner and what is on deck for the next day.  Nowadays we are more friends than Mother/Daughter.

When I was a kid I didn’t look at my mother as leader – I looked at her as my mom.  As an adult I now see she has all of the attributes of a great leader – loyalty, patience, generousity, responsibility, determination, trustworthiness, supportive and selflessness.  When you have a great leader you are bound to be more successful in life.   On the outside she comes across as a total softie, but in reality she is a steel fist in a velvet glove.  Donald Trump should get an injection of her modesty.  In the words of Mother Teresa ‘if you want to change the world go home and love your family.’  Thanks for doing that Mom.

 

 

The best time to have friends is before you need them

5 Jul

 

E and S

Tomorrow I am hosting a baby shower for my very best friend and so it got me thinking about friendship.  I’ve done a lot of reading about friendships over the years and what I’ve learned is extremely interesting.  Women who have close friends:

  • Live longer
  • Are happier
  • Have less stress
  • Cope better when traumatic events occur and have better outcomes as a result
  • Have better self confidence and self worth
  • If in a relationship have stronger relationships with their partner

Well, if all of this is true I should be setting a record in The Guinness Book of World Records for living the longest, happiest, carefree life because I have lots of really wonderful friendships. My mother has always been a terrific ‘stay-in-toucher’ and so I learned that from her. Friendships are extremely important to me.  In fact managing all of my friendships can be a cause of stress… hoping that doesn’t counteract the benefits of them!

Sarah (the mentioned pregnant best friend).  How do I even begin?  We are second cousins and so we’ve known each other our entire lives. We started grade primary together and the love affair we have with each other began somewhere along the way at HM MacDonald Elementary School.  How do I describe Sarah?  She is hilarious yet serious, she is wild yet disciplined, she is easygoing yet structured, she is loyal, kind, quirky, complex and she is beautiful yet extremely modest.  Over the years we’ve spent thousands of hours together and hundreds of hours on the phone.  In fact, one time we were having such a solid conversation (but Sarah needed to get ready to go somewhere) that she didn’t want to cut it off.  Instead she took the phone into the shower with her.  Suddenly she sounded like she was in a tunnel and the phone died.  The conversation was done and so was her phone.  Something else about Sarah is that she is extremely honest.  She went into Telus and when they asked what happened to the phone… she told them exactly what I just told you.  The guy at the phone store just burst out laughing, commended her for being honest, but he couldn’t replace the phone for free for being so.  There have been times when our conversations were so long that her cell phone was going to die so she switched to her landline, beeped into the conversation, hung up the original call, then my phone would be on the verge of dying so I would switch to my landline and beep into the conversation.  When we spend the night together we can talk and talk and talk.  In fact, Sarah has been known to say to me ‘Emilie, alright if I stop responding to you when you’re talking, it just means I am asleep, but feel free to keep talking.’  The single-handed biggest theme of our friendship is laughter.  We are 36 years old now and we still roar at the most foolish bits.   We were allowed to stay at each others houses on school nights, we’ve lived together and even worked together as adults.  Sarah got married about 6 years ago – poor Bobby and what he has been exposed to over the years.

When I was a kid my most favorite movie ever was Anne of Green Gables.  My mother had taped the television version of it for me and I would watch it over and over again (until my brothers taped over it in 2 minute increments of a hockey game).  Anne and Diana had a special friendship.  Anne called Diana her ‘Kindred Spirit’ her ‘Bosom Friend’.  Beaches is another favorite movie of mine.  I have probably watched it about 29 times and I still crrryyyyyyyyy every time I watch it.   C.C. Bloom and Hilary Whitney.  When I watch it I always envision me as C.C. and Sarah as Hilary.  The problem is Hilary dies.  I love the line where Hilary says she is forgetting things and C.C. says ‘Listen, I know everything there is to know about you and my memory is long.  Very long.’ Another great friendship I admire is Oprah and Gayle.  They too have been friends for over 30 years.  After working together for a week there was a snowstorm and Oprah couldn’t get home.  Gayle told her she could stay with her.  Oprah said ‘but I don’t have any clean underwear with me’ to which Gayle responded ‘don’t worry you can borrow a pair of mine’.  Oprah said she knew Gayle would be her long time friend in that moment.  Sarah and I have shared everything (other than a man) over the years – money, underwear, secrets, clothing, a bed and so much more.

Friendships (unlike marriages) have no set of rules or expectations attached to them. They are generally purely for enjoyment and enrichment. The one rule for any form of relationship is that it takes work – pick up the phone, type a text, make a plan and get together.  The hardest laughs I’ve ever had have been with friends and I have a lot of people who would be willing to share their underwear with me.  In the words of Oprah ‘what I know for sure is’ that your work will come and go, money will come and go, men will come and go and when they do it is your friends (and family) who will be there.

In September a whole new chapter is going to be written – Sarah is having a baby.  The plan is for me to go in with them to have the baby.  There are some pretty specific logistics which have to work in our favor for this to work (I live a 2 hour flight away), but here’s to hoping.  I am sure we will cry and then laugh about her pooping on the table or something like that.