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Imagine that!


The other day, I was coming home traveling through a small airport. I usually couldn’t  concentrate on reading or do anything serious, but I rather liked spending my time watching people instead.

People watching made my mind wander, my curiosity piqued, and my imagination soared … I wondered who they just left behind; who they were going to meet; were they happy to be en route to somewhere happy, important, fun or somewhere somber, cold or mundane? Was this a holiday, a business trip, a celebration or a funeral?

A little girl around 3 or 4 years old ran around the waiting area, not a care in the world. Dodging grown-ups’ legs and luggages, she seemed to be having fun all on her own. Her mom did her work like checking in, dragging her bags around her and eventually settling down on a chair. Naturally, her little girl was bored and seeking something to do. I watched them start a game, an imaginary game … I could only guess at what game they were playing as I couldn’t hear their conversations, but it looked like a “shopping” game.

The little girl seemed to pretend to be buying something and talking to an imaginary shop keeper. She talked to him, making faces, carrying on a conversation all on her own. She held out her hands as if to receive the goods. Her face changed with different expressions, full of animation, tilting her head this way and that. She ran back to her mom, said something to her, then ran back to the empty spot in the waiting area to make another “purchase”, checking out the goods.

I couldn’t help but smile watching her, having fun, not caring what other people thought, gesturing in the air as if those imaginary folks were really there. For a short time, I imagined along with her, wondering who else she might have been talking to, what she was buying, who all the other customers or merchants were in her private world.

As the airline agent called for us to board our plane, I was a little sad to feel that our own kids, almost adults now, were once this little girl’s age, full of wonderful imagination, creativity and interesting ideas beyond the harsh reality of life. I was happy to have shared that short moment in the airport, however, to have had a chance to enjoy the world through that little girl’s eyes, it made me smile in joy. It was a short, but AWESOME moment. Thank you, little girl.


In the last couple of years, a number of nephews and nieces and children of our friends got engaged or married. Now, a few more are having babies. Happy news all around, neutralizing some of the sadder news like deaths and poor health of the more elderly families and friends. I suppose this is the Circle of Life, balancing out the old and the new.

It got me thinking about my own and immediate circles. My dad will be 90 years old next month; our youngest daughter is in her last year of teenagehood; our careers seem to have advanced into another stage – approaching potential retirement; my in-laws have moved out of their home and into a facility with independent living and assisted living programs.

Being middle age brings a new beginning for us as a couple – we are now having to adjust ourselves to being a twosome again. Without our children being our centres of attention and focus all the time, life now includes more dates, relaxation and sleep. Our worries are different now, they are more focused on our elderly parents; we wonder if our children will succeed in life, will be happy with whomever they will be with and whatever careers they choose, will be responsible and contributing members of society and living with values and integrity that we hope we have taught and inspired.

Looking back right now … I don’t think I have any big regrets. We did all that we knew how, all that we could, and all that we were able. The children have been given way more than we ever had as kids and young adults ourselves. I have to keep reminding myself that in bigger scheme of things, life has been good, no, AWESOME, to us so far. The Circle of Life is a natural and AWESOME balance.

A Test of Nerves


I don’t know about other moms, or indeed other parents or adults … I don’t like being a passenger when our kids are learning how to drive or as new drivers. OK, so I might be a control freak, but I really do get far too nervous for my own good and for my kids’ good.

Our girls are both learning how to drive. Granted, they are not bad drivers overall, but their driving still makes me a nervous wreck, because I don’t know what they are thinking or what they are seeing. I can’t tell if they saw a pedestrian that might dash out in front of a car, or a cyclist who might swerve out around a parked vehicle, or if they were going to rush the yellow light. Our kids drive with the traffic, which is not a bad thing, but it becomes a habit that will cost them from passing their road exams. They are not driving defensively all the time.

Both girls thought they were ready to do the road test, and in fact, their instructor told them they were ready. But alas, both failed. JA claimed the woman examiner was too picky about everything she did; her examiner actually braked to a stop at one point telling her she was too close to a parked vehicle and stopped the exam there and then. K claimed her examiner failed her because she did not do her shoulder check on a right turn and she was one kilometer over the school zone speed. She argued that she did, but just not turning her head excessively. Too harsh? May be. I am in no hurry for them to drive, I do think they need more practice, with my husband, that is. He shows more trust in them than I do – he can shut his mouth and not cringe, I, on the other hand, can’t help myself but react.

While they both want to get their driver licenses badly enough, they seem content taking a bus or being driven by us or their friends. In fact, many of their friends seem quite happy taking public transit. It is more environmentally friendly, but it is not any cheaper, faster, or convenient.

So, it will be another attempt to pass their road exams. Better luck next time, my darlings! Follow the AWESOME rules … even if it’s just for the exam.

The last 19


Our youngest turned 19, the dreaded legal drinking age here. Of our 3 kids, this one wanted to “host” a birthday party at a club. What that really means is that she would arrange with a bunch of her friends, they would all chip in to rent a party bus or stretched limo that would drive them to and from a club, where they drink themselves silly and dance the night away (K wore new 5.5″ heels! I had no idea how she would be doing that.)

Apparently, this is THE trend. Our eldest was invited to one of these a few years back, our middle child didn’t do anything like this (or may be she did, we just didn’t know about it), but our youngest wanted to “host” one. So she gathered 18 friends and asked me to rent the party bus on my credit card, with a hefty price and damage deposit.

My initial reaction was “are you crazy?”, my second reaction was “I don’t want to be stuck with a $1000 bill”, my third reaction was “why can’t you just have a lovely dinner and movie night at home? I’ll even cook for you and your friends.” Of course, this was wishful thinking on my part.

K wanted me to phone the party bus company, ask all the necessary questions and reserve it for her. This was where I drew the line. If she wanted to do this, the least she could do was to take the responsibility to find out all the information I need, and all the guarantee she could muster from her friends to promise not to damage the bus, puke on the bus or irked the driver so much that he would leave them stranded. At first she resisted, until she realized I meant it. AND she did do all the things I asked. I had to give her credit for this and to at least have the sense to arrange for a safe way to get themselves there and back, without risking drinking and driving.

Needless to say, I was a nervous wreck, worrying about all sorts of things. Some of her friends showed up with brown paper bags full of liquor, I didn’t realize they were going to drink on their way to the club as well. More worries on my part. A few of her friends reassured me that they would look after each other. I know most of them are good kids, and I forced myself to trust them.

At the end, all her friends did pay for their share for the bus and for the gratuity for the driver. The driver was a very nice and personable guy, whose 19 year old daughter did the same just last week. He gave me his cell phone number, which gave me some reassurance. Surprisingly, K even took the plastic bags I offered for her to take along on the bus, just in case.

I did wake up at 3 am to get a text from K that she was alive and arrived at her friend’s house for a sleep over previously arranged. This morning, she told me nobody threw up in the bus and they all had a great time and got home safely. K said she danced a lot and successfully in her crazy high heels.

I was relieved that I survived the last 19th birthday, glad that everything worked out without incident, and more importantly, K did show responsibility with her friends. AWESOMEr than I thought!

 

Remembering Kenya


Today I received in the mail an envelope, marked with a cartoon monkey next to my own hand-writing, addressed to myself. I vaguely recognized why this envelope would come. Upon opening the envelope, I was reminded of and saw a letter addressed to myself dated July 18, 2012, near the end of the Kenya trip with Me to We and Free the Children. I’d like to share this letter with you, my AWESOME MOMs readers and followers:

Dear Me, REMEMBER:

.. Being welcomed by Amy and Alison at the airport

.. Mark Kielburger at Roslyn, Nairobi

.. Jostling lorry ride to Enelerai

.. Bumpy roads full of rocks and ruts

.. The magnificence of the Great Rift Valley

.. The excitement of seeing our camp full of green tents, the portable showers and toilets

.. Jono, our Maasai Warrior and guide in his Maasai garb

.. The delicious meals we shared with everyone, created by Mohamed and his team in the kitchen tent with very limited facilities

.. Building the X-ray room next to the Baraka Health Center, under the burning searing sun

.. The primitive tools used at the build site

.. The labour and toil needed to get even the most basic jobs done, such as mixing cement, cutting the rocks, all under the guidance and watchful eyes of our Fundi, Jacob

.. The fun games and sing-alongs led by Amy

.. The amazing Kenyan Boys Choir performance at Bogani

.. The exceptional meal at Bogani with Mark K. and Robin W.

.. The honor and wonderful Maasai Blessing bestowed on us by the Maasai elders at Bogani

.. The beautiful shuka

.. The amazing work at Kisaruni Girls Secondary School, eloquently shared with us by Carol and Robin

.. The inspirational story shared by Spencer West

.. The unbelievable welcome by the Kisaruni girls, in songs and dance

… The opportunity to teach some of the Kisaruni girls on how to use visuals and drawings in their learning

.. Sitting under a tree to exchange education information with 2 education facilitators, Charles and Myriam

.. The warm welcome by Mama Nancy and Mama Wilda into their home, and the opportunity to learn about and experience their daily journeys to the river to fetch water (using 20 litre cans)

.. Jono’s story of traditional Maasai upbringing and the key stages to becoming a Maasai Warrior

.. Learning how to bead with Mama Leah and Mama Gladys

.. Robin sharing her amazing story of how she became a Maasai member of a family, and her involvement with Free the Children

.. Sharing a tent with Maureen, Monica and Donna

.. The emotions, passion, fun, laughter, joy, tears, delight, awe and so many other feelings in this trip

.. The truly amazing savannah, so full of animals free to roam and co-mingle; the expanse of open sky; Safari Day – AWESOME!

.. The hot showers and how good it felt.

How grateful I am to be here in this once in a life time experience.

How grateful I am to have what I have and to be where I live.

How grateful I am to be able to share this trip with so many like-minded people and new friends.

Remember these 2 weeks and live my life differently.

From Me

Parental Guidance


Last night, I went to see a movie with my husband … we haven’t done that for ages; my husband is too cheap to spring for cinema tickets, he usually would rather wait until the movie comes out as DVDs, and buy them as a previewed sales item (and may be not even that).

We saw the movie “Parental Guidance” along with 4 other people in the theatre, on a Wednesday night. I know my laughs were too loud echoing off the walls, with so few people. I couldn’t pretend that it was someone else’s weird laughs, if more people were there.

I enjoyed the movie … first of all, it was a comedy with Billy Crystal; secondly, it was about parenting of our generation and how uptight and overdone we are sometimes even with good intentions; thirdly, it’s about family relationships and how easy it is to misunderstand each other and unintentionally hurt each other, but we really love each other at the end, and finally, lets face it – our kids can be manipulative, lovable and vulnerable at the same time.

There were many scenes and moments in the movie that I can relate to, some were a little far-fetched. Despite blowing 20 bucks for a bag of popcorn, a large pop and a bag of candy – it’s really highway robbery, and it’s so bad for you, BUT it’s part of the movie experience – it was a good night out with my hubby, a date if you will. It was AWESOME to enjoy a movie in a theatre together again.


2013 – a new beginning. Yesterday, New Year’s Day, we had the occasion of driving through the Okanagan, a snowy wonderland. It was like driving through a Christmas card. This time, without the distractions of kids and much conversations, I paid more attention to the scenery out the window.

The snowy landscape took my breath away. The fake Christmas trees one often sees in the stores are often pre-decorated with lights and heavy with flocking, they always seem so unreal to me that I never thought to look and compare them with the real thing. Looking out the car windows, I saw forests of predominantly spruce trees, draped heavily by the snow, weighing its limbs down like a child dragging on his parent’s arms. Each branch heavy with a capping of snow at least 8 inches thick. The fake trees in the store really look like the real thing. I was mesmerized by the white covering the mountain tops and dotting across the terrain.

On the snow blanketing the steep road cuts, I noticed interesting and intricate patterns made by the trails of snowballs or debris rolling down the snowbanks. I am guessing that the trails resulted from the various sizes and shapes of the falling debris. Some trails were evident with indented holes caused by bouncing or loping objects, others were tiny thin lines as if a miniature bird had walked on the snow, still others, regular patterns and dots criss-crossed each other’s paths, like ski trails down a slope. I couldn’t remember ever paying close attention to these lovely marks made by nature and the physics of snowballs.

Along the highway, there are fences to keep the animals away from the speeding traffic. These metal fences are separated by wooden posts. It was quite a sight to see all the posts in a line, each wearing with a big ball of snow on top; they looked like wooden soldiers saluting in white bearskin hats (furry hats worn by British guards). The accumulation and weight of the snowcap causing some to droop over the side, like a Frenchman’s beret. (a hat theme seems to be emerging here) The posts interrupted only by a few gates, where on top of the wooden support, wavy blankets of snow were created, sometimes drooping one way or the other; it looked like mother nature’s own white garlands or stoles.

The trembling aspens, now leaf-bare, stood out against the spruces, pines and firs. They cluster in bunches and are shorter than the tall coniferous. Their trunks, whitish grey, reminded me of Bev Doolittle’s famous paintings of birch trees in snowy backgrounds. The snow in them was like huge cotton balls, scattered and caught between the empty branches. I have never seen cotton trees before, but this is how I imagine them. Fluffy balls of white, perfectly balanced and suspended amongst the tree limbs, inviting one to pick them.

Water previously dripping over the rock cuts or seeping over the rock surfaces was frozen in time, repeatedly as the temperatures fluctuated. This created multiple icicles, spiky and translucent, like shards of glass or sharp knives pointing towards the earth. In my idle moments, these frozen waterfalls made me imagine an ice queen, using her power and magic to stop time, to freeze motion and to create this fantastical vision against the backdrop of snowy fields and forests, as if trying to make us pay attention to this natural wonder.

I wish I had my camera handy and that we weren’t driving on the highway where we couldn’t just stop for me to capture these beautiful images.

As I listened to the radio, an older interview with Raylene Rankin from the Rankin Family, the song “All the Diamonds” was playing. The lyrics and the word “diamonds” focused my sight on the glistening snow against the sun, sparkling like tiny diamonds. As I listened to the words and Raylene fighting a losing battle against cancer, I couldn’t help but count my blessings, my diamonds, of all things family – often so small and bright, but often so ignored or taken for granted.

I appreciated this quiet driving trip and burning these snowy images in my brain, feeling appreciative of my AWESOME family and all the AWESOME diamonds in my life. Happy 2013!

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