Those Damn Millennials

Those Damn Millennials

Julie Ethan and I met when her blog was called “Waiting for a Star to Fall” and she still lived in Minnesota. Julie is a master-storyteller who is unafraid to show her heart as she reveals the challenges she’s encountered since she made a mid-life career change.

Village Healer

Second Half of Life Series Vol. 6

I know how to use the round dial on a vintage telephone, but I also have an active Snapchat account. I connect with my boomer and Gen X friends on Facebook, while keeping up with my millennial friends on Instagram.

I was born on the cusp of Gen X. I don’t consider myself a baby boomer per se, but technically I could claim either territory. I’ve read when you’re born between generations—1964 for me—you learn how to navigate both sides, and it makes you a generational mediator.

In my mid-forties, I returned to college and studied servant leadership in preparation for a new vocation—a midlife career transition, or so I thought. By the time I had completed my organizational leadership degree and moved on to completing a master’s in peace and justice studies—ready for hire—I found myself not only dodging intergenerational crossfire, but…

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Do As I Say, Not As I Do

 

Unsplash: Jaakko Kemppainen

Do as I Do was the copper-top
battery of the family. Do as I Say
was the mop inside the bucket.
Just saying, Disney princesses

don’t wear chipped glass
slippers or work in the Magic Kingdom
dressed in ball gowns from
Frederick’s of Hollywood.

Do as I Say’s glass slipper
tinkled like a wind chime
when she dropped it in the rock
garden. Do as I Do ground

her teeth and released
the fiz of juniper and quinine laced
tonic in her mouth. When she fled
to Vancouver, 1495 kilometres from

home – because distance makes
the heart ponder – Do as I Say stayed
home the night her shoe shattered.
Warning shoes were fired

but Do as I Do never did not
do and Do as I Say couldn’t
say for sure if the shoe fit the other
foot. So she limped in one shoe.

“You’re half an aphorism,”
said Do as I Do. But the shoe
fit. Because shade thrown.
I know, right?

“Stop moving. If I see you moving
I’ll put a curse on you.” The hot
cauldron of hate sizzled over
the family campfire of love.

An anvil blue sky pancaked
Do as I Do, her jam oozing
from under it, gluing her
legs and arms to the ground.

Do as I Say gurgled a confessional
song underwater.  Suzie did too but
choked. Do as I Say knew
mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

You will love the bittersweet end
of melancholy though you’ll adjust
the recipe. “C’est la vie,” said Do as I Say.
Her shoes crooned “Dooby, dooby doo”.

She giggled. “You’re playing our song.”
In the rock garden, slivers of slipper
glass winked a semaphore of misdirection.
Jam glued the family together again.

This was created using a writing exercise called “Twenty Little Poetry Projects”. Fun has been missing from my writing lately and writing this felt playful. Its mostly nonsense but with some work it could make sense. 

I Know Where You Came From

Rain and muskeg. Noseeums and rain. Rain and skunk cabbage. Rain, rain, rain. Wet canvas sneakers, sopping socks, yellow rain slickers and wet wool that smelled like a sheep draped around your shoulders. Salmonberries, gooseberries, and rhubarb were the only fresh edible things I can remember. The rhubarb leaves were as big as my torso. That was Prince Rupert.

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Then we moved south to Comox on Vancouver Island when I was 10 where there was sun and rain. My mother said “You could shove a twig into the ground in Comox and it would be 100 feet tall the following year.”

Farms surrounded Comox. Not big operations with miles of corn fields, but mixed farms growing cucumbers and pumpkins and squash and tomatoes and beans galore. And strawberries. Lots and lots of strawberries.

There were no farmers’ markets. Farmers sold their produce from wooden stands at the entrance to their driveways. Rough hand lettered signs told passers-by what was on offer that day. Mason jars held tall stalks of dill weed and dahlias. The bees could hardly keep up with their job and from April to September the air smelled like honey.

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Food growing from flowers seems miraculous, doesn’t it? Almost something you might read in science fiction. Beans emerging from red scarlet runner flowers. Honestly, what a crazy invention!

In Comox, salads suddenly appeared with dinner. No more canned vegetables and mushy peas. We picked fresh strawberries in June from Farquharson Farms pick-your-own fields. I willingly crouched in long rows of neat strawberry plants with a bucket beside me plucking fruit, a happy labourer working for nothing except the taste of a warm berry in my mouth.

But then I grew up and moved to a city and I forgot what real fresh food tasted like for years. Grocery stores suck the fun out of food. Everything looks the same and nothing has any flavour. How can a bag of romaine trucked from a California factory field taste like anything except the inside of a truck and maybe some exhaust sauce? Grocery shopping is like going to a mall in Toronto or Vancouver or Halifax or Milwaukee or Denver. Same stores, same colours, same smells. Even the fruit and vegetables have labels, like underwear.

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Thank the stars for farmers’ markets. Foraging among the stalls sniffing and sampling local cheese, jams, sauces, baking and wine is so fine. Expensive, though. You’d have to be Bill Gates to buy all your groceries from local growers because cheap it ain’t. But the food has flavour and brightness you don’t get from a basket of blackberries from Columbia or an avocado as hard as a Toronto Blue Jays baseball.

I like the tiny act of rebellion against the food giants, too, although it probably has the same effect on the big store chains as an ant kicking my shin. Nevertheless, once a week, I head to a farmers’ market and bring home a few items for Sunday supper. I feel all plumped up with virtue for supporting local farmers and I can say to the food on my plate “I know where you came from.”

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Coffee Ghost

white ceramic mug with coffee on brown wooden table

Photo credit: Annie Spratt via Upsplash

I dump the compacted coffee grounds from the basket of the stove top espresso maker into the compost and sweep my index finger in the metal basket to free the remaining grains. The day old coffee puck smells like an ashtray, and reminds me of my mother.

*

I used to lie in bed listening to the coffee percolator burble. I sniffed for the first whiff of coffee and singed tobacco tinged with freshly lit sulfur from a spent match. The signals. To be sure the moment was really right – that I could squeeze between an inhale, an exhale and a sip, when she would be happiest – I sang “Mary Had a Little Lamb” twice. And then I bubbled into the kitchen.  With an elbow propped on the counter, hand raised, mother gently held her cigarette. Beside her were an empty ashtray and a full cup of fresh coffee.

“I’ll make your cinnamon toast and vanilla milk in a minute. Just let me finish this first,” she said.

*

I press freshly ground beans into the espresso basket and set the Bialetti on the stove. Steam hisses from it as the water boils and rushes through the basket into the top compartment. At the kitchen table, I wait and look out at the chickadees gathering at the feeder. I wait for the day to pour open, liquid with possibility, for daylight, like cream swirling into coffee, to lighten the dark morning hours. I drink the quiet seconds before my children thunder into the kitchen.

*

Mid-afternoon my mother stopped time. In the living room, she gazed through the window to the harbour, waiting for Dad to come up the road from the fish plant where he worked. She waited with a full ashtray and a half cup of lukewarm coffee. I nestled into her, placing my fingertip into the pink cave of her longest fingernail – a small place I could hide and insert myself into her quiet time.

person holding cigarette near window

Photo credit: Bart Scholliers – Upsplash

 

Bird Calls

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Lake Huron, summer, 2018

I met my Waterloo in the loo of a Waterloo, Ontario Shopper’s Drug Mart.

“It’s Senior’s Day,” I said to my husband and daughter. Presciently, on my list was a large bottle of Extra-strength Advil. Lured by the 20% discount and bonus points on my loyalty card, we stopped en route to Point Pelee National Park.

For years, I’ve wanted to visit Point Pelee in early May to witness the massive annual spring migration of song birds heading north for the summer. Our Air BnB waited for us in Kingsville. We’d signed up for tours and workshops offered by Friends of Point Pelee. Binoculars and journals were packed. We were ready. Continue reading

Popping Off

According to my daughter, we’ve been “popping off” these last four days.

I could not face another weekend in front of the television streaming more best of the BBC, CBC, and Netflix. We needed to escape the rut we’ve been stuck in since mid-January when the pain in my ass began.

My spouse and I turn to food when searching for bonding adventures. His need for quantity took us to a Ahora, a cheap and cheerful basement Mexican joint that boasted an all you can eat salsa bar. Continue reading

The Ol’ Ball and Chain

Leon

Winter, which drags on like a ball and chain in Ottawa despite the good cheer of robins and red wing blackbirds, has been a pain in my hips. Prolonged sitting – or even brief sitting – brings sharp hot jabs to my derriere. Concentration is difficult so writing has been sporadic and targeted. Blogging, in case you hadn’t noticed my absence, has been difficult.

Look. I’m not complaining. I still have my teeth, all my limbs, and most of my faculties. Those I’m missing are bolstered by my long suffering spouse. Together we are one. Occasionally gas erupts unexpectedly but I have a dog at home and at work my chair has a squeaky wheel to blame. Plus, a well-timed loud toe-tap can sound remarkably like a fart.

Evenings, which formerly were devoted to you, your concerns and interests, I spend on a yoga mat attending to the lengthy physio exercises and stretching routine that will render me as limber and pain free as a puppy. I must persist. But overall, really, I’m fine. Just fine.

I’m telling you this not for your pity (though I’m not above that), but because I miss you, think of you often, and wish I could be with you more. Time, they say, heals all wounds. The pain in my ass will pass and I’ll be back.

In the meantime, meet Crystal Anderson. She’s new to blogosphere and is an enormously talented storyteller. Please drop into Crystal’s blog and say hello.

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The dirty dog in dirty snow demands his due, despite my dragging derriere. 

Life is a Beach

“When can we go to the beach? When, Mom?”

We’d just moved to Vancouver Island from our former home in rainy Prince Rupert on the northern coast of British Columbia, Canada. There were no beaches in Prince Rupert, just the docks at Royal Fisheries where my Dad worked. Commercial fishermen berthed and off-loaded their catches at the docks and this was where my friends and I jumped into the frigid fish-gutted water. The temperature was always blue-lip cold. Continue reading

Weed It Out*

A mound of grey lay in Vee’s lap, growing with each row of the cardigan she ripped out. She would wind the wool with some of the spun llama yarn and design a new jumper – sweater, she corrected herself – for sale in the shop.

The room went dark. Harry stood in the entrance of the refurbished barn that was now headquarters of “Twist of Fate”, their llama farm and wool business. The wool almost disappeared in the fuzzy unfolding morning. Vee liked working without the help of artificial yellow light or the buzz of flickering blue fluorescent bulbs. She liked the neither here, nor there of early morning, the darkness behind her and the full light of day to come. She felt hopeful. Continue reading