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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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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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

Nuclear Power – by Melissa Ballard

 

Leon

A writing mentor, Richard Taylor, said recently “What do you do with the shit in your head if you don’t write? Hit a supersize bag of cheetos and a litre of Coke?”  So many reasons to write. Here’s one of my favourites –

I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. – Joan Didion

 

Or how about this from a great Canadian writer:

I’m concerned about the unknowability of other people. – Carol Shields

I can guess why my friend, Melissa Ballard, wrote this story. See if you can, too. Whatever drives Melissa, I’m grateful for her beautiful non-fiction stories and exploration of events and people in her life. She finds the universal in the particular as you’ll read in her latest story in Belt Magazine. I hope you like it as much as I did.

 

 

A Shot at Redemption

I wake to my mother’s black and white image every day. Her photo hangs over my dresser and she stares directly at me. Its one of those photos where the eyes follow you. My husband has never objected to the location of the photo or that her gaze is focused on our bed. Perhaps its because she is very beautiful and serene.

Judging from the hairstyle and clothes, the photo was probably taken around 1940. She looks like a big city gal which belies her rural Midwest roots. I wonder if it was taken while she lived in Chicago where she finally settled down after years trailing her Dad in the Dirty Thirties as he looked for work.

Propped in my bed with the dog snoring beside me, cozy in a nest of pillows and books, we loll in soft grey light. A squirrel skitters across the roof and I tense, hoping he doesn’t fall down the chimney as happened to one of his brethren on Boxing Day. As I hold my breath, I hear my mother’s voice. Continue reading

Fear of Authenticity

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Christmas morning – Authentic dog and snow

“If I brought my authentic self to work, I’d be fired.” This was the most authentic thing I said in the 2.5 hour long discussion my employer held on the new corporate values. My authentic self is quick-tempered, opinionated, potty-mouthed, and arrogant. These are not highly prized attributes for an underling and certainly, during a corporate group-think values session, I was not about to expose my true self. Continue reading