Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Lots of Lessons

I still find myself steaming after my encounter with company number three’s representative.
Reluctantly I am beginning to acknowledge that it was his attitude when asking me about my nationality and accent that have upset me the most. You see, he touched a nerve.

When I came to England in the late 1980’s and met G, it didn’t take me very long to realise that England was the place I wanted to make my home. My reasons for this included, but were not exclusive to, the fact that G lived here. Anyway, I believe that in most cases, if someone chooses to make a new country their home, they ought to feel the sense of belonging that comes from being a citizen of that country. The paperwork I used to come to England all those years ago meant that after five years of residency, I could apply to be naturalized. Although many people accused me otherwise, marrying G didn’t hurry the process along at all. In fact, when I did apply for naturalization it was based entirely on my time of residency, and not on our marriage. For those who did accuse me of marrying for a passport I think sixteen years of marriage – and the renewal of our vows at our tenth wedding anniversary – probably did a good job of proving them wrong.

Anyway, during those first five years, I desperately wanted to be a citizen. I also desperately wanted to fit in. Although being “the Canadian girl” really helped me to be remembered and was a great thing when one is a “temp” or “Kelly girl”, it was also a huge burden. What if people were judging all Canadians based on my behaviour? And sometimes being different was the last thing I wanted. So I cultivated a British accent, picked up as much vernacular as I could, and tried to blend in. Please don’t misunderstand, I was very proud of being Canadian, but as I had chosen to make my home somewhere else, I really wanted to belong there. But despite all my efforts after two years of working in Soho, everyone from shop keepers to new acquaintances were still asking me the dreaded “where are you from?”. They would always look at me incredulously when I said “Sydenham” (the district of London where we lived).

To make matters worse, when we did go back to visit Canada, I had picked up enough English expressions and my Canadian accent had softened enough to make it sound like I didn’t belong there either. The first time someone asked me where I was from in a shop in the town I was born in I was thrilled. By the thirty-ninth time the thrill had worn off. I began to realise that no matter where I was, I was different. For someone who has always sought the approval and acceptance of others, this was agony.

Even all these years later, I still get asked where I am from no matter what country I am in. At home in England, I get asked. Visiting Canada, I get asked. I’m always the different one, always the foreigner, even though officially I am a citizen of both countries. I consider myself to be British and describe myself as such, but officially I am still a citizen of both.

Happily, as the years have worn on, I have learned to cope better with this situation most of the time. I try not to think about the fact that I never quite blend in. After all, who wants to be ordinary? My voice has become flexible enough that, with concentration, I can use one accent or the other. Yet ninety percent of the time I really cannot be bothered to make that much effort and on the whole my accent is usually pretty mid-Atlantic. However, if I get very stressed, I sound very Canadian. On a day like yesterday, stressed as I was, the last thing I was thinking about was what I sounded like.

Yes, clearly the representative from company number three did touch a nerve, one that is still very raw despite nearly twenty years of living with it. I really do not mind being asked where I am from, it is just that sometimes the tone it is asked in can be very upsetting. It is like when some says “In this country, we” when they are explaining a situation, as if I’m just off the boat. I wonder why I am so insecure about this after all these years. I put so much stock in what other people think of me, even people like the annoying man from company number three. I really need to concentrate on getting my confidence from inside myself, and not from what other people say or do.

This move really is teaching me a lot of lessons.

The Joys of Moving

I always get three quotes for moving companies (or removal firms as we call them here in England) when we move. This is not an experience I enjoy very much to be honest. Having to walk through my house with a total stranger, opening every cupboard and perusing every nook and cranny, is an experience I find extremely uncomfortable. There are also other frustrations surrounding these quotes which make them very stressful. My experience this time has been fairly true to form.

Company number one’s representative was nearly twenty minutes late. Although he apologised, he did not phone to say he was going to be late. I know he had a phone because when I called the office to enquire where he was, they said they would call him. Not a very good start. Having said that, representative number one was very polite, reasonably accommodating and acknowledged that I did know a bit about the business of moving. He offered me choices as to the services I required. Content to have every other cupboard door opened, he trusted my description of the contents of those whose doors remained closed. As promised, his quotation arrived fairly promptly.

Company number two’s representative was very punctual and polite. He did not insist that every cupboard was opened and was happy to take my word for what was inside. (I’m not in the habit of lying about the contents of my cupboards to removal companies. It isn’t helpful when it comes to moving day.) When I mentioned our lovely geriatric cat I was pleased to see he looked genuinely concerned, although sad when I found out that the reason for this was that he had just lost both his lovely geriatric cats in quick succession. He then attempted to suggest everything he could to make sure that the move would be as stress free for the aforementioned feline possible. I was offered choices, and he spoke to me with respect and the acknowledgment that moving is something I have done many times before. When I mentioned the other companies we were getting to quote, he said nothing but nice things about them, but promised his service was better. His quote has not yet arrived, but I did not expect it until tomorrow anyway.

Company number three’s representative arrived very promptly this morning. By the time we had sat down in the living room he had put my back up by instructing me as to how we were going to formulate the quotation and telling me what I would be doing whilst he was there. He then pointed out my accent, speculated as to where I was from and looked dubious when I explained I had lived in England for some twenty years. “Still got that accent though, haven’t you?” he said in a vaguely accusatory way. I began explaining that we visit Canada frequently and that I speak to my parents daily before realising that I hardly have to defend accent or nationality to a total stranger, and one with a pretty heavy local accent of his own at that. When we did go through the house, this man insisted on the opening of every single blessed cupboard, and recorded every piece of furniture on his pad with a price beside it. When we sat down to discuss logistics, he told me exactly how I would be moving and did not offer me any choices. He insisted my china would be unpacked, whether I wanted it to be or not, and accused Company number two’s representative of lying when he said that I would have seven days to declare any breakages. He trashed Company one and two’s reputations and accused them of promising things they did not deliver on. As I have used Company number two four times in the past, I knew that they do deliver on their promises and they do allow you seven days to declare any breakages. By the time he left I was beside myself with trying not to tell him exactly what I thought of him. Needless to say, I don’t care when his quote arrives as I would move myself before I would use his company.

Chances are, I will choose company number two regardless of whether they are cheaper or not. I know this as I’ve done it four times before. A lot of the reason for using them so often is their attitude, both towards their customers and their customer’s possessions. I do believe firms who provide a service need to realise that the impression made by sales staff really does count for a huge amount. Let’s face it, company number three have already lost my business entirely because of their salesman.

Isn’t it funny how things work out though? I was checking through my receipts from previous moves this afternoon and I found that I did use company number three once before some twelve years ago. I recognised the move immediately as they left an entire cupboard’s worth of china behind in our flat. Luckily the people who moved into it were very understanding and (despite the English law that says if it is left behind after completion the purchasers get to keep it) willingly returned it to me. Later, when I was sharing my experience with my friend, she told me of an experience they had with company number three that involved a huge number of breakages. I guess company number three is one of those companies whose service, from the sales to the delivery, just never quite measures up. Thank goodness I have a choice. I just wish I had the nerve to call up company number three and explain to them exactly why they are not going to get my business. It would make me feel better anyway. Ah, the joys of moving!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

What To Do About Moving

We now have several different options for What To Do About Moving. In fact, What To Do About Moving is really all we talk about anymore. It is getting to the stage it is even developing a personality. Indeed, it is taking on such epic proportions I would not be surprised if What To Do About Moving developed form and came walking into the room and sat down at the table with us.

Our house is now for sale, and for rent. We’ve got two possible houses we may move to. We may be able to do a part exchange. My head is spinning. However I do have to acknowledge that it is a wonderful thing to actually have all these choices, and something I should be very grateful for.

Sadly all these choices are driving me to distraction. I am a creature of habit, one who likes to have all her ducks in a row and know exactly what she is doing. My diary is organised months in advance, and spontaneity is a concept I have struggled with for most of my adult life. I realise now that part of the reason for this move may well be that God knows I need to be more flexible and this is the divine lesson in learning to do that. The trouble is I am fighting the lesson, and until I give in and learn it, nothing is going to move forward. So I am trying desperately to let go of a lifetime of controlling behaviour and acknowledge that God has all this in hand. Some days are better than others.

I’m learning a lot about letting go and trusting recently. We had a small gap in the guttering that runs round the roof of our house outside of A’s window which has leaked for the last couple of rains. G tried to find a ladder tall enough to fix it but no one we knew had one. As I am the lightest of the inhabitants of this house (except our cat Jake of course) I was volunteered to go out on the roof of the extension (which I hasten to add is anything but flat and is actually on one heck of an angle slanting – of course – down to the ground). The idea was I’d pull the guttering, which had obviously slipped, back into line. I was quite confident as I started out of the window in the study – and even as I set foot on the very slanted roof. It was not until I started to move towards the gap and had to navigate yet another slope in the one side of the roof that I started to get really scared. I turned slightly to get myself on a better angle, and noticed that two of our neighbours in the close behind us were watching me curiously. I smiled and tried to look confident, and once they had ascertained I was not suicidal, they left me to it. However, their curiosity only served to make me realise just how high up I was and just how silly a situation I had got myself into. Now I was well and truly frightened.

So I began talking to myself, using positive language to increase my confidence. Thankfully all my neighbours seemed to have disappeared at this point as a woman talking to herself on a roof could possibly cause some unwanted attention. Of course, doubts in my own ability began to creep in and all sorts of negative language started to work itself into my brain.

I confess, I am the queen of “get a professional to do it”. That is one of the reasons I call myself a professional housewife, because I believe we all have talents that we should be proud of and use. One of my talents is being a professional housewife. It is not guttering repair, or anything to do with heights. As I found myself teetering on the edge of the roofing tiles (which incidentally make a horrible slipping noise no matter how carefully you step on them) reaching up to pull the offending piece of guttering back into place, I have to confess I was petrified. I have never been so grateful to finish a job.

This experience has taught me some things however. There are not many tasks to do with my household that I will not at least attempt. I’m thinner than I thought (I fit through the window!). I have incredible balance. I can fix guttering. I’m a lot tougher than I thought. It has certainly taught me that if What To Do About Moving does develop form and turn up and sit down with us at the table, it’s one demon I’ve definitely got the guts to chase away!!

Friday, August 03, 2007

What's really important

It has been quite a week. The chaos surrounding our move is still slowly simmering around us and I keep reminding myself that this move is a good - no, actually a fantastic thing - one that will change our lives in a way so positive I can only just begin to imagine it. The fact that I might get to actually have two houses really excites me, that is for sure! As does the idea that I will be closer to one of my very best friends.
She came up this weekend with her husband and family and I was reminded how much I miss them. We used to live across the street from each other until about eight years ago. Now we get together about three times a year, not nearly enough. This weekend was particularly lovely in that it involved two days where it did not rain! It was our first sunshine in ages, and I was the happiest I can remember being for a long time sitting at Ilam in the Peak District having a picnic all together. The kids were laughing and playing as we sat and chatted in the precious sunshine.
Anyway, regardless of exactly where it is, our new home should be considerably closer to hers so we should be able to meet up much more regularly. I can’t wait. In the meantime though I am still mired in the confusion this move seems to entail, having meeting after meeting with removal consultants, our premier banker and various new home builders. I am also still desperately trying to sort out our lives, having realised that in the space of this last nearly eight years we have accumulated a huge amount of stuff, most of which we do not need. In fact, most of which we have forgotten we have! Despite 12 trips to the dump and numerous trips to the charity shop I am still, embarrassingly, surrounded by clutter. There are a lot of sentimental things I want and need to keep, but if I don’t pull my finger out I am going to struggle to find space for them!
Of course, all this confusion often gives rise to short tempers and I spent a lot of last week behaving rather badly, and I was joined by my nearest and dearest in this most undesirable of pursuits. We snipped and snapped at each other, falling out and making up at such speed we often found ourselves forgetting whether we were contented or cross. As usual when one begins behaving rather badly, one often finds oneself snapped back to reality and regretting the amount of time one has lost being petulant or stupid, or even both.
You see, on Sunday afternoon, just after my friend had left, we had one of those awful phone calls. I totally was not expecting it, although the lady in question was quite elderly and had serious heart problems. However she was one of those amazing people whose vitality and zest for life just bubbles round her so that one really does not believe it will ever stop doing so. If ever someone really lived, it was my Aunt Trish. Not that her life was easy mind you. A divorced mom of five in the day when the very idea of single moms had people shaking their heads, she raised five lovely daughters who are a total credit to her. She had lots of friends, and she really did live life absolutely to the full. She travelled to England from Canada more than once, and knew more about the country I live in than I do. I’ll always remember seeing her arrive at my wedding with her daughters and my two little cousins. Most of my family were unable to make the trip, but they did and I really was thrilled. Although Aunt Trish struggled with heart problems in the last few years, she always insisted she was doing fine, and got up to all sorts of mischief – even going off on the streetcar by herself (at 83!!) despite being entreated by her daughters not to. They looked after her so well that she was able to live nearly independently till the end.
I was the only one who called her Trish. I can’t remember why I did that, but I’ve persisted in it my whole life. Everyone else called her Pat, perhaps a more suitable short form for Patricia than the one I chose. But to me, she was, and always will be Aunt Trish. She was my Godmother, the last one I had left. Of course, I’ve been busy these last few years, but I regret not having kept in touch better. I spoke to Aunt Trish about two months ago, and when we got the phone call saying she had died, her birthday card, along with a long overdue letter, was sitting on the side table by the door.
This very undesirable snap back to reality in the form of finding out about the death of someone I love has, not surprisingly, caused me to resolve to remember what is important. Life is far too short, and our family far too precious, to spend time sniping and snipping, regardless of what chaos is circling round one’s ankles. I’ve also resolved to get in touch when I am thinking of someone, instead of waiting till later. One of the difficult lessons in life is that we do not always have the luxury of later. But the most important things Aunt Trish has taught me were to not waste time worrying, to live life to the full, to experience everything you possibly can, to get out there and just live life to the full. Excellent lessons from a really amazing lady.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Spinning Around

Today has been one of those very weird days where it seemed like I was spinning round in circles. I’ve been turning possible scenarios round and round in my head for our upcoming move. We’re lucky to have lots of choices. We could sell the house we live in now as we originally planned, or we could rent it out. We could buy down near London straight away, or we could rent and then buy. We could move at the end of September, or maybe later on in October. AARRRGGHHHH!! There are far too many choices really, although I’m grateful for the luxury of them. It’s just that things are beginning to get just a tad complicated.

You see, this morning, I was confronted with the harsh realities of being a buyer looking strictly at new build homes. The developers really do not care, and despite their reassurances that they will keep you posted on developments (ie. sales!) they really do have far too many people to call to do that. Naively I did not telephone until today, two weeks after we had viewed the two styles of home we really liked in a very nice location. There are (or were!) five possible houses we could have. Now there are two. If I had known that I might lose out on these properties without notice, arrangements could have been put in place to secure them. I was not impressed.

In the end, the only thing that calmed me down was a good run. Although I’ve never been stick thin (except when I was anorexic in my late teens) and tend more towards a voluptuous size 12 figure, I’ve do believe that exercise is the key to keeping fit and controlling one’s weight. Not that I’ve always been fit. I was the kid in PE who was never chosen for games, who got exhausted in cross country running class and who hated sports day. But when I was in my twenties, I discovered that exercise could work all kinds of miracles. I’ve done it all, Jane Fonda, Callanetics, Pilates, Yoga, Yogalates etc etc. Not only do I belong to a gym, I actually go to the classes there regularly.

Recently we even bought a treadmill to have at home. Allegedly it was for all of us to use, but at the moment it is only me who makes use of it. I also found a fabulous book called Running Made Easy by Susie Whalley, Lisa Jackson, and Zest magazine (available on It has a programme in it where you start out running for a minute and then walking for a minute and slowly work your way up. It is utterly brilliant and I recommend it highly. I have gotten to the stage where I am run / walking for half an hour at least three times a week. I do a little over four miles each time and have run for as many as six minutes without stopping.

Today was an epiphany though. I ran for three minutes and was ready to do a walking section when I thought, “No, just keep going”. I did, a minute at a time, until I had run for ten minutes solid. I have never in my life run for ten minutes solid. It was incredible. Needless to say, the rest of my workout went amazingly well (and included another section of running for eight minutes plus two five minute runs!). When I finished I was high as a kite. My head had stopped spinning and I felt much more optimistic.

All that stuff about exercise releasing endorphins is totally true. And although A teases me about my muffin top (which is very small I hasten to add!) I have abs of steel from the waist up ever since I’ve started a new pure core class combined with the running. I may have no idea what the heck we are doing in terms of our domestic situation or where we’ll be living in September / October, but I’m fit, strong, and on a good day, capable of taking on the world.

Even if you have never taken any exercise for years, I encourage you to just go for a walk. Take it slowly and build up gradually so you don’t injure yourself or get discouraged. Always check with your doctor if you have been inactive for a long time as well. But do something, however little it might be. You really will feel so much better. Go on, go for it!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

All Change

It’s amazing how much things can change in such a very short time. Once again, the 21st Century Housewife’s household is in the throes of change – positive change to be sure, but change nonetheless. My husband G has been headhunted, and offered a new opportunity, an opportunity he has chosen to accept. Suddenly, unbidden, my as yet un-submitted manuscript is expanding, chapter by chapter, chronicling this period in our lives. I wondered for some time why I did not get my act together and actually submit the manuscript of 21st Century Housewife to the publishers as it seemed it was more than ready. Now I know why. It isn’t actually finished yet. Up until now, I’ve never discussed what it is to take a 21st Century Household and move it which is strange, given the number of times I have done it. You see, the new opportunity is some 150 miles away so I have three months to move our not unsubstantial household from here to there or else face an undesirable period of enforced separation when G is there and A and I are here. This will provide a huge amount of material.

You see, I’ve moved our household before. Not just once, but several times. We have never been folk to stay in one place very long. In fact, this is the longest we have been anywhere. To be honest, we ought to have moved before this to be closer to where G works now. We were held in place by our love of the home we have created here and by our love of our rather wonderful house. The house we are living in now is really my dream house. It is decorated exactly as we would like it to be, reflecting our tastes and lifestyle. It is more than big enough and has some really special features, like a library, which I love. I wonder if I will ever be able to find another home (no matter how palatial) that I love as much as this house.

Our move is further complicated by the fact that we wish to keep this new opportunity secret from some members of the family until we have actually firmed up some very basic things – like where we are going to live, what house we will buy and where A will go to school. I find it is so much easier telling some people things after they have already been organised, as a fait accompli if you like. You see, they will try to help. This is really very kind of them, but it can make an already confusing situation pretty much unbearable. We will be moving closer to several different family members, all of whom will want us to move closest to them, all of whom are actually too far away from where we need to be. They will have ideas of where we should live and what we should do. I do not mean to sound ungrateful, but we have enough of these ideas ourselves already. In fact, they keep waking us up at night.

The hardest thing about keeping this secret is that my mother-in-law is psychic. Not officially psychic, nor a practicing psychic, but actually psychic in the sense that she knows things. My mother-in-law is a lovely lady and I don’t know what I would have done these last few years through my parents’ illness without her listening ear and practical advice. I just wish she didn’t know things the way she does. Don’t get me wrong, she doesn’t push or anything, but we’ve already had a call out of the blue asking if everything was alright in the way that she asks when she knows something is afoot. This makes it hard for her, because she does know something is up, she knows we aren’t telling the truth and she probably worries about what it is. It makes hard for us because I hate lying by omission and also because I know she is worrying which isn’t nice.

Although I have told some people who live further away, we have just begun to tell our friends locally in advance of the For Sale sign going up. How I dread that day. I hate For Sale signs. Suddenly your home is out there on the market. I swear it is like being on the market yourself. What other possession so reflects us as our homes? But if it does not sell quickly, G and I will be apart, and that I cannot face. So sell it I shall, and I shall pray it goes quickly.

I also hate the pain our revelation causes. Although A is excited, relishing this change of scene, his friends are very upset. This morning when one of them called on A to walk to school he barely spoke to G and I. Rather, he just looked at us sadly and reproachfully. One man’s opportunity is another man’s nightmare.

Despite all this, I have to confess to some excitement myself. A change is as good as a rest as they say, and what better opportunity to reinvent oneself than a total change of location? I’ve been listening to Madonna’s song “Jump” recently and I hope she won’t mind if I quote it here – “There’s only so much you can learn in one place.” Madonna is wise about a lot of things and this song is one of the most listened to tracks on my IPOD at the moment.

So watch this space as the 21st Century Housewife and Co. move on to pastures new.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Jazz Cat

My remaining cat, the venerable gentleman Jake, has revealed himself to be a connoisseur of jazz. The other evening whilst Jazz FM was playing on our radio in the family room, Jake made his way in and settled down on the sofa for a sleep. Although we joked that he must be listening, I thought nothing of this until the following day when Jake made his way into the family room, sat by the sofa, and began to meow. I talked to him and stroked him, but still he meowed. I even gave him more food just in case he was hungry. Still he sat by the sofa meowing. I was perplexed.

After carrying on doing various other tasks I returned to find Jake still sitting by the sofa, still meowing. Suddenly I remembered the night before and how we had laughed about the idea of Jake listening to Jazz. I turned the radio on to Jazz FM. Lo and behold, Jake jumped up on to the sofa and settled down for a nap.

This has happened on several occasions since – too many for it to be a coincidence. So Jake is now known as the Jazz Cat, and is spending much of his time further acquainting himself with the joys of Jazz music. What a great way to spend his old age!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Think Before You Speak

21st June 2007

One of the very first things I remember being taught in school was to “think before you speak”. It is extremely good advice and a rule I always try to live by. The other thing that has always stuck in my mind is from the Bible. “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” Again, this is extremely good advice. We are all individuals, and we all have certain ideas about how things should be. However, it is terribly important for me to remember that how I think things should be is not necessarily how someone else might thinks they should be. I’m not perfect, therefore how can I possibly sit in judgement of someone else?

I have to say that anytime I have forgotten these two important things it has caused me great embarrassment. I’ve made some huge gaffs in my time by not thinking things through before I started to speak or by suddenly deciding that I know it all and have the right to decide if someone else’s choices are right or wrong. The trouble is, when I’ve done these things, I’m not the only one who gets hurt.

Yesterday however, someone else who I do not even know forgot to think before she spoke and was very quick to sit in judgement of me, and it absolutely floored me. I still have not got over it. It still hurts.

If you’ve read my blog before you’ll know that my parents have suffered ill health for some years. Yesterday my poor Dad had yet another episode where his blood pressure plummeted. He was having dialysis at the time so it was quite serious. The hospital informed the retirement home where my parents live and they informed me. They also gave me the numbers so I could contact the hospital.

The nurses I spoke to in the dialysis department were wonderful and said I really did need to speak to someone in Emergency (that is Casualty to us Brits) as soon as possible. They put me through. Admittedly I always feel awful calling the Emergency Department. The name says it all – very busy people work there under very stressful conditions. I’ve spent a lot of time in Emergency Departments with my parents and I have to say I have met some of the most wonderful people there. I’ve met staff who go such a long way to make you feel comfortable in a terrible situation, and who go above and beyond the call of duty on a regular basis.

Yesterday I was not so lucky. After having told the story about how I live in England and have done for nearly 20 years to the staff in the dialysis department, I neglected to repeat the story to the nurse in Emergency. In an attempt to save time I simply explained who I was and who I was enquiring after. “Is there anything you can tell me?” The reply was cutting. “I can tell you that you can get down here and find out for yourself.” I was speechless. I have always felt so guilty about being so far away from my parents in their time of need. However my life is (and has been for almost half my life) in England. We have done everything we can to make sure that we are in Canada whenever we can be, and in the last 4 years we have made trips to Canada every four to sixteen weeks. That’s right, we’ve been to Canada almost thirty times in less than four years. I’m exhausted a lot of the time and our personal and professional lives have really suffered. I am so grateful to have been able to do it but it infuriates me when people suggest I am doing less than I could. Frankly we spend more time with my family than most people we know who only live a short distance from their families. My parents are so grateful and always say we do more than they could ever wish for.

Obviously this lady did not know that, but even if I had only lived a few hours away it still would have been so hurtful. Or what if I had been disabled and unable to travel? Even after I explained the situation she refused to say anything other than “He collapsed and he’s fine at the moment” very coldly. The silence on the line was deafening. I thanked her and rang off. In desperation, I phoned the dialysis department back. They explained he had not collapsed, that he had been laying down at the time as he was having dialysis, then bless them, they went through to Emergency and spoke to the lady before I spoke to her again. It was clear by the length of time that elapsed that it was being suggested to her that her behaviour had been less than exemplary. When I was put through she did admit we had spoken before, but she never apologised. She shared more information with me that time, but I could still feel the coldness seeping through the telephone line.

It’s happened to me before, people not understanding how I could have moved to another country. One lady in an elevator in Canada was quite rude and said that it was ridiculous I lived in England, even after I explained my husband was British (and that I was too!) and our life was here. She spent an entire elevator journey going on and on, berating me for what she believed was the error of my ways. People really cannot cope with the fact that I am my parent’s only child either, or that most of our other relatives are too elderly to be of any help. I’d be wealthy indeed if I had a penny for every time someone said, “Are you sure there is not anyone else?” No, there is not anyone else, just me, and I worry about that every day of my life. I’m very blessed to have such a supportive husband and son, or I would never have been able to provide the huge amount of support that we have provided over these last years.

I feel sorry for the lady I spoke to yesterday as she must have a very difficult life to be so short and cold to someone who was obviously upset. I can only imagine what she is going through and I pray that she was just having a bad day and not going through something awful that would make her be so unkind. I’m also grateful that all the other people I spoke to were so helpful and kind.

I have to admit I am having trouble letting go of it though, and that quick retorts keep popping into my mind, things I wish I’d said but that it is probably much better that I didn’t! It has really made me think today about the things I think and do and say, and has made me check in with myself and remind myself to always remember to think before I speak and never to judge others.

Just as a postscript, the nurses on the floor my Dad has been admitted to were lovely when my husband spoke to them early this morning. Frankly I was too afraid to call but I need not have been. Ninety percent of the medical staff I have met and / or spoken to in the last four years have been wonderful. I won’t let the one very unkind apple I came across yesterday affect the very high opinion I hold of medical staff in Ontario. They really are brilliant. I pray that they’ll be able to help my Dad again this time.

Monday, June 18, 2007

One of those unexpectedly wonderful days

I love unexpectedly fabulous days, days when you get up expecting everything to be normal and ordinary and then somehow it all changes and you are reminded how wildly, passionately wonderful it is to be alive. Take the other day. My son A and I had no particular plans, so were delighted to be invited by G to go along with him on a business trip to Harrogate. A had a day off school, so it was all perfectly above board. I’m not a particularly spontaneous person, but I decided to throw caution and a day full of plans for washing, ironing and sorting to the winds. I’m so glad I did.

I had not been to Harrogate since my first visit to England in 1985. This was the visit during which I decided that actually, I was probably living in the wrong country and really ought to consider emigrating, the visit during which I fell in love with England. I stayed with my parents in a rented terraced house somewhere off St Mary’s Street, with three floors and many very different accoutrements that my Canadian eyes were simply not used to. I loved every inch of the place. Even the grill fascinated me. It was gas, and was mounted above the cooker. Watching the flames leap into life when I pressed the starter got me every time. There was a toilet in a room separate from the rest of a bathroom, and my room had a sink in it. The roof slanted from the corner of the room towards the window, so my ceiling was on a tilt. I had never seen anything like this before. The wardrobe was a freestanding piece of furniture. I was used to wardrobes that were built in. It was different, somehow exotic. Harrogate itself was a brilliant place to explore, with gorgeous gardens, greens and shops I had never visited before. Not to mention the delights of Betty’s Tea Rooms! We spent a lovely week there. Yet for some silly reason, despite the fact I have lived in England for nearly twenty years now, I had never revisted Harrogate.

So I felt quite excited when we set off. The two hour drive passed quickly with lots of good conversation, and the joy of a day unexpectedly spent together instead of apart. When we arrived on the outskirts of Harrogate we stopped at a Sainsbury’s store. To our delight and amazement there was a Starbuck’s kiosk in it. I know Starbuck’s is kind of a love it or hate it thing, but I definitely love it. It is probably because I do not go very often, so a visit to Starbuck’s still has a modicum of excitement about it. I indulged in a hot chocolate instead of my customary latte. I suddenly realised I had not had proper hot chocolate in possibly years. I’m always thinking about calories. This was ambrosia, absolutely delicious, made with seventy percent cocoa solids and topped with real whipped cream. It caressed my tongue with the most amazing flavours. I immediately resolved to order hot chocolate more often!

Aside from the Sainsbury’s on the outskirts and a few yellow signs pointing to new housing estates, it didn’t seem like Harrogate had changed very much. It was still lovely, green and hilly, with gorgeous gardens and trees and lots of fascinating little shops. A and I had one of those days where we really were in sync, and had the most fabulous time just wandering round the shops together. There is something so special about a day spent with A where we really get along and appreciate one another. Fourteen is a difficult age to be and invariably stress, hormones and goodness knows what else cause lots of problems and sometimes conflict. But not that day, we got along beautifully and even walked arm in arm. I am very aware of the passage of time and how quickly A is growing up. I treasure every day that is like our day in Harrogate was.

Miraculously, G finished his meeting just in time for lunch. We went straight to Betty’s Tea Rooms, the most wonderful place to have lunch in Harrogate. There was a queue, but only a little one, and our timing was perfect as within seconds of us joining it, the queue began to stretch out the door, into the street and round the corner!! We just had sandwiches for lunch, but they were exquisite. As for dessert, well, it was a delight for the senses. I have never tasted anything so delicious as Betty’s Swiss Engadine Torte. Layers of beautiful cake, cream and goodness knows what made this the best cake I have ever had. Eating it was a sensual experience and one I am terribly keen to repeat as soon as possible.

After selecting some treats from Betty’s shop to take home, we made our way to the car for the journey home. It really had been a totally unexpectedly wonderful day. Here’s to spontaneity!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Perfect Housewife

I was interested to notice Anthea Turner’s Perfect Housewife series is now back on television. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Anthea Turner. She’s bubbly and a great presenter, and sometimes I even enjoy the show, but the perfect housewife concept really does get on my nerves. I appreciate that some of the housewives she finds really are in dire straits and some are incredibly cringe-worthy, but I’m afraid this sort of programme just makes most 21st Century Housewives even more insecure than they already are.

When I watch the women she is trying to help, I must admit I do wonder where she has found them. Has Britain turned into a nation of slobs? Somehow I don’t think so. Many of these ladies are probably rare exceptions. Having said that, if Anthea Turner came into my house with her white gloves, would I be able to stand there without quaking in my Choo’s? I know my house is clean, but I am sure there are bits I have missed, and if she went into the garage I think she might faint. Our garage has sadly become a catch-all, the first thing on my to do list, and the main battlefield in my war against clutter. On the whole, however, my house is very presentable and certainly very clean. It sure isn’t perfect though.

Most 21st Century Housewives are insecure enough as it is. We are struggling to find our niche in a society that is not quite sure where to place us, struggling to redefine housewifery in the post modern era. We are doing the very important job of making a home for ourselves and our families, as well as working to grow and develop into the best possible people we can be. The idea that our houses have to be absolutely spotless, tidy and organised as well is completely overwhelming.

After watching Perfect Housewife, I generally feel a little depressed. My house is never going to be as perfect as Anthea’s, my napkins will never be as perfectly folded and my cupboards will certainly never be as organised. But still, I consider myself a Professional Housewife. I can say this with my head held high because I am convinced that, and indeed the whole premise of my writing, is that there is a lot more to housewifery than just house cleaning. I would even dare to say that house cleaning is far from the most important part of being a 21st Century Housewife. There is so much more to life than just having a perfectly clean and organised house.

The sad thing about Anthea’s house is that we almost always see it virtually empty of people, with just her and the hapless housewives in it. If my house just had me in it, it would be tidy too. But I would be incredibly unhappy. The organised chaos that is our lives is a real joy to me. I love to entertain friends and family, but the most important thing for me is that they feel truly welcome, not that my house is absolutely perfect. I don’t want people to feel my house is untouchable, or that they have to be careful lest they put a foot wrong. I am sure Anthea’s house is the location for many happy gatherings, but unless she truly is superhuman, I bet it sure doesn’t look as fantastic after a really good party. To date though, I’ve never managed to catch an episode where it looks as though anyone is truly living in her lovely home.

By all means, watch Anthea Turner’s Perfect Housewife for its entertainment value, but do not let it for even a moment make you feel in any way inadequate as a housewife. There is a lot more to Professional Housewifery than a perfectly labelled larder and precisely folded towels. In the 21st Century Housewife’s World, a happy family and a happy, fulfilled housewife are far more important than anything else.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

It's Definitely A Team Effort

It is so much easier being a 21st century housewife when you have a really wonderful husband or partner. At the end of the day, running a home has to be a team effort or it just doesn’t work, even if you are the most amazing housewife on the planet. I know I am incredibly lucky to have someone who so willingly shares the load, but sometimes I forget just how much easier he makes it for me to pursue the career of housewifery. This morning was a perfect example.

I am not a morning person and no amount of caffeine will make me into one. So the mornings when we have to be up before 7am are really not my cup of tea at all. Today was one of these as my son A needed to be at an early morning school activity by 7.30. Of course, as things are wont to do on those wonderful early mornings, things began to go wrong almost from the start. We all had to get up (perhaps the biggest challenge of all!), showered and dressed. Our fabulous elderly cats (lovingly referred to as “the boys”) needed to be fed, watered and medicated. Both our lovely old gentlemen are on tablets, Jake for his heart and Elwood for his thyroid. If you are thinking these are odd names for cats, they are an homage to The Blues Brothers of the late 1980’s, Dan Ackroyd and the late John Belushi. But I digress.

Having fed the cats and opened the door so they could have a wander in the garden, I rushed to shower and dress. Finally in the kitchen with soaking wet hair and no makeup, I began to prepare A’s lunch. A wandered in, slightly dazed and began to make his breakfast. On his way to sit down at the kitchen table he stopped rather abruptly, turned and in a vaguely accusatory tone said, “Did you realise one of the boys has been sick in here?” Not waiting for a reply, he turned away and went to eat in the family room. I looked up to see that not only had one of the boys been sick, they had thrown up their whole entire breakfast completely undigested. This happens from time to time. Jake has a habit of wolfing his food down and his poor little 17 year old tummy just can’t cope with the sudden onslaught of nourishment. It is a horrible sight at the best of times, but particularly when one is attempting to make a tuna salad wrap at 7am.

Deciding I could not cope with the sick at the moment I resolved not to look at it anymore but rather to carry on making A’s lunch and deal with it later. At this point my husband G came downstairs about to leave for work. “I’m in a rush,“ he announced as he gave me a kiss. He then looked round, saw my wet hair and dishevelled appearance, along with the rather amazing piles of cat sick on the floor. “It’s okay,” I said in an attitude of false confidence, “I’ll deal with it after I’ve taken A to school”. It was now 7.15, and although school is only 5 minutes away by car, things were not looking good for a 7.30am arrival – particularly if I was going to manage to go out looking like something that would not embarrass my son (or me for that matter!). It is very hard to keep up any notion of street cred if your mother drops you off looking like something the cat dragged in – and with my soaking wet hair and face devoid of makeup, I was doing a pretty good impression of just that. G was clearly in a hurry as well, and I know he had an early meeting. He got as far as the door before he turned round. “Look,” he said, “don’t worry, I’ll take A to school.” He then proceeded back into the kitchen and whilst I finished making A’s lunch, my incredible husband cleaned up the cat sick!!! I cannot begin to describe my gratitude.

Five minutes later, he and A were on their way out the door and all three of us were smiling and laughing. There is a pretty good chance that the extra five minutes G waited to leave will have meant that he will have to sit in traffic for an extra half an hour and quite possibly be late for his meeting, but he never said a word about it. If you are a 21st century housewife, I fervently hope that your husband or partner is as loving and supportive as mine is, and if he isn’t, my fervent prayer for you is that he will become so!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Musings on the Universe from a Place of Confusion

I find myself quite unable to write these last few weeks. We spent two weeks in Canada over Easter, helping my parents to move to a retirement home. Despite the fact that we worked flat out trying to do absolutely everything imaginable, my parents are still struggling to settle into a new way of life, and finding obstacles at every turn. Having spent two weeks working 16 hour days trying to get everything done, I find this almost incomprehensible, and also very sad.

It is, without a doubt, a totally different way of life, and a hard thing to accept at any point in one's life. It is doubly hard for my father, as he refuses to accept that he really does need help, although he can barely walk 100 yards without gasping for breath. I feel so sorry for him, and for my mother, who is suffering his frustration, which manifests itself as snide comments and snappish remarks. They are due to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary tomorrow and it pains me deeply that they are both so very unhappy, and so very unwell.

But still, life goes on - and I have to remember this is my life and that I deserve to enjoy it, even if two of the people I love are suffering and unhappy. I have to find a way to accept that we have done our best as a family, that I have done my best as a daughter, and that really no one can expect more than that. Mom and Dad are in one of the nicest retirement homes in their town, one that bears more resemblance to a Hilton hotel than a hospital, and their two room suite (which also has two bathrooms and a kitchenette!) contains their own furniture and belongings.

More importantly I need to be able to move on from this experience and also to move forward. Whilst of course I continue to support them emotionally, I cannot allow my parents to drain me of my own life and potential - nor can I allow them to swamp our own family life. This is the dilemma faced by so many housewives today. How do you support everyone you feel responsible for, balancing their needs and leaving no one feeling unsupported? And how can one possibly do this without neglecting oneself and/or driving oneself quite mad? I appreciate that putting other people first is important, but one cannot do that all the time, indeed one should not do that all the time.

Having been on a real roll and moving forward, I find myself somehow stuck in the quagmire of this strange situation. And of course whilst I remain metaphysically stuck, how can things move forward? The hardest thing about being metaphysically stuck is that you are the only one who can un-stick yourself. One has to learn the lesson and then one can move on. Which is easier said than done when so many of these lessons are things we would rather not learn or accept! Yet the more I resist, the more stuck I get.

The concept that life isn't fair, and that what goes around doesn't always come around, really pains me. As a Christian it challenges me to accept that nasty stuff happens to good people and good stuff happens to nasty folks.

Nigella Lawson said it very well when she said something along the lines of "Awful things can happen at any moment, so while they are not one might as well be pleased." Depending on your point of view that can either be encouraging or totally depressing. I do feel confused - and very frustrated, because until I sort this out in my own head I could potentially stay metaphysically stuck!! I think it truly must be a case of mind over matter - of clinging to that certainty that God is good and that the universe was made to support us, that "all things work together for good" and that our thoughts are the only things that can limit our potential. There is no limit to the abundance in the universe and the next great thing may only be around the next corner.

So the 21st Century Housewife© has to accept that it is okay for her to be happy and move forward, even if she is unable to help some of the important people in her life do that for themselves. So even if my Dad is having a bad day, it is okay for me to celebrate and enjoy myself, and it is not in bad taste to share my joy with him, even if he feels that it is. The only way out of this situation is through it, and the only way through is by changing my perspective and refusing to allow myself to feel responsible for other people's happiness. We are all responsible for our own happiness.

So, it is a gorgeous day outside, and I have just had a lovely pub lunch in the country with my favourite person. We are having a 24 hour test drive of a lovely little convertible which is sadly too small for all of us, but that is an awful lot of fun to borrow for a day - and that might even lead us on to a slightly larger model. My writer's block is gone, and everything is possible, there are no limits. Watch out world - The 21st Century Housewife© is back!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Mothering Sunday

I love Mothering Sunday. My family make me feel valued nearly every day, but there is something special about having an actual day to celebrate Mothers. We always go to church first thing which I love, especially the bit where the children pass out the daffodil bouquets to all the ladies in the church. It is good doing that, whether people are mothers or not. You never know whether someone perhaps just wanted desperately to be a mother and was never able to, or if someone has lost a child. How painful it would be to be left out. I remember the Mothering Sunday before my son was born, we went to a special restaurant with our dear friends Barbara and Noel Wild (who are also my cousins, but that is another story!). Anyway, both Barbara and I were given lovely plants - even though I protested I was not a mother. The waiter insisted that I might be one day - and it was not long after that I fell pregnant with my son!

Of course Mothering Sunday has always seemed different for me coming as I do from Canada. Even though I have been here nearly twenty years, I still think of Mother's Day as being in May. I feel strangely piqued when people in England insist that having a Mother's Day is somehow incorrect. First of all they never mention the fact that North American Mother's Day is in May, not March. I do not even know if many of them realise that and it takes great restraint for me not to mention it. Does it really matter when or how mothers are celebrated, provided that they are indeed celebrated? The English tradition is indeed a beautiful one, stemming as it does from the old tradition of attending your Mother Church (the first church you attended, or the church your church was planted from) the fourth Sunday in Lent. However as most folks in North America were immigrants, attending their Mother Church was clearly not an option! So Mother's Day in May grew out of what many may have remembered from their homeland but were simply unable to do. Yes, it has become commercial, but to be fair Mothering Sunday is just as commercial here. I also fail to understand the upset caused by calling Mothering Sunday Mother's Day. Both are on a Sunday - is it really such a worry? As for me, I always almost forget Mothering Sunday, and then am pleasantly surprised by it, falling as it usually does just after our Wedding Anniversary. Just when I think the celebrations are over, they begin again. G and A always make it such a lovely day for me.

I was given a beautiful bouquet of flowers on Saturday night, and then Sunday morning I had two gorgeous cards. A addressed his envelope "To a Beautiful and Talented Mother". I was so touched. A also gave me chocolates and G had found a beautiful handbag holder. This was made all the more special by the fact we had seen a lady using one in Paris the weekend before (I had never seen one before) and G had managed to procure one in less than a week! It was lovely not to have to put my Louis Vuitton handbag on the floor when we went out for dinner in the evening . The holder simply hooks over the edge of the table and will hold up to thirty pounds in weight. Well, even I don't fill my handbags that full! The holder itself is gold with a beautiful crystal embedded in the top, so it looks pretty as it holds the handbag on the edge of the table.

We had a fabulous meal at The Spread Eagle in Rolleston-on-Dove, a pub we have gone to for well over ten years and that always feels like home to us. After all our gourmet meals in Paris last weekend, pub grub was very appealing in homely kind of way. Having said that, it was hardly pub grub - I had a beautiful fillet steak with sauted potatoes and delicious vegetables in a light sauce. We came home and sat by the fire in the lounge, drinking coffee and brandy and eating the chocolates A had bought for me. It was quite idyllic and I felt very blessed. What a brilliant day!

Monday, March 12, 2007

The 21st Century Housewife© Goes to Paris

Paris is without a doubt one of my favourite cities in the world. As a family, we often visit this wonderful city. As this weekend was my husband's birthday G's and our 16th wedding anniversary we decided a break was in order, and so we treated ourselves to another visit to the City of Lights.

I first visited Paris on a school trip when I was 14. At the time, I was growing up in Canada, so a visit to Paris was a pretty huge thing. I fell in love with the city at first sight, and remember being so sad when we had to leave a week later. As I sat on the bus, I prayed that I would get to see Paris just one more time. Now, some 20 years later, I've been back to Paris so many times, I can't even tell you how many visits I've made. God more than answered my prayer and every time I go back to Paris I remember and feel a lovely sense of gratitude.

Sadly, this visit started out less than auspiciously. The BA Connect handover to Flybe caused chaos, and the plane that was brought into Birmingham for our 1.15pm flight would only hold 50 people. As there were 90 of us, this was rather a big problem. So they tried to find another plane. When there wasn't one available in the fleet, they hired one. Yes, rent a plane! The rental arrived from Manchester after rather a long wait, pure white and totally unbadged. This did not inspire confidence. Nor did it help when we were told that this rent a plane had developed a fault in flight. Lots of engineer labour later, we finally took off at 5.30pm. Not so good when you have an 8.30pm reservation at restaurant that books up weeks in advance - especially bearing in mind that Paris is an hour in front of Birmingham!

We arrived in Paris at 7.45pm local time. G had called the restaurant and told them of our predicament and they had been incredibly understanding. They moved our reservation to 9.30pm and told us not to worry. We found a very nice taxi driver who agreed to push the envelope as much as he could in terms of speed, although he was limited by the fact that the route from Charles de Gaulle airport into Paris is littered with speed cameras. He took great delight in pointing this out to us, emphasising that he knew the British invented speed cameras and we had only ourselves to blame! The only worrying thing was that the car's break pad warning light kept coming up on the dashboard. We were compressed so tightly into the back of the cab that it was impossible to do up our seat belts, but I managed to get our son A's done up. The thought of Princess Diana haunted me vaguely but I tried not to think about it. Thankfully, we arrived outside the wonderfully luxurious Art Deco style Holiday Inn Opera completely intact and only slightly frazzled. However, it was now 8.45pm and the restaurant was a good 15 minute cab ride away.

After checking in faster than we ever thought possible, we threw our bags in our son's room without even going upstairs to our own and raced out to try to make our booking, now less than half an hour later. The hotel offered to call a taxi but said it would take ten minutes to arrive so we decided to take our chances. G raced up the rue de l'Echiquier with A and I following as quickly as we could behind him. By the time we had caught up he had a taxi for us. We made it to Chez Georges in the rue du Mail virtually on the dot of 9.30pm. The owner greeted us very warmly and we were soon seated and perusing the fantastic menu.

G used to go to Chez Georges regularly as a child when he was living in Paris with his family and later when he was there at university and he said it had not changed a bit. It is traditionally French, with long rows of tables against walls lined with elaborate gold framed mirrors. The staff could not have been friendlier and the meal we had was one of the best I have ever eaten in my life. The starter - salad lardons avec oeuf - a frisse salad served with hot lardons of bacon and topped with a poached egg - was incredible. Even A, who is notorious for leaving his salad, loved it. You have to taste it to believe it. It's ambrosia. Our main courses ranged from steak (A) to duck (G) to Coquilles St Jacques (me!) and they were all wonderful. Although we had little room for dessert, the tempting dishes being taken past us encouraged us to indulge. It was profiteroles for A and I, and Tarte Tatin for G. I've eaten a lot of profiteroles in my time (more than I'd care to admit) and these were the best ever. Beautiful choux pastries were filled with vanilla ice cream that actually contained vanilla beans and then topped with a delightfully decadent hot chocolate sauce. At this point, the owner very kindly gave us all a complimentary glass of beautiful dessert wine to accompany these lovely dishes. It was an incredibly relaxing and memorable evening. We left around midnight amid exhortations to not leave our next visit another 20 years - and returned our assurances that we would be back as soon as we possibly could arrange it! As we eased ourselves into the taxi that had been arranged for us, we were all wrapped in the delicious sense of wellbeing that comes from a truly incredible meal, and the promise of the 24 wonderful hours to follow in such a beautiful city as Paris.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Amazing Women and New Beginnings

My husband, G, and I attended An Evening with Honor Blackman last Friday night. What an incredible lady Honor Blackman is. She performed a fabulous show, kind of a combination of an evening of anecdotes from her life, along with some of the bits from her one woman show. (Her Marlene Dietrich was quite fantastic, and very funny.) She was also incredibly genuine. After the show she signed everyone's programmes for them and even asked each person's name. I also have to say that she is gorgeous. She has a lovely figure and her skin is absolutely fantastic - and I don't mean fantastic for her age, I mean fantastic period - even close up. I'd love to know how she does it! I don't know how much truth there is in it, but I hear that she is a fan of Pilates. All the more encouragement to go to class!

We've had two lovely spring days in a row and it is such an encouragement this time of year. It gives me a real sense of new beginnings and hope, even when everything is not exactly as we would wish it to be. The lighter evenings are encouraging too. I feel that there is a real wind of change blowing - and it is not entirely uncomfortable. For someone who has always resisted change I really do cope awfully well with it, and I love rising to a challenge. I feel like something good might just be about to happen, and that is a brilliant feeling.

Whilst I'm waiting I'll keep counting my blessings. Most of us really are so blessed in our modern society - we have roofs over our head, enough to eat, and more besides. I do find it ironic that so many folks are so very unhappy when we have so much. (Obviously some people do have very good reason to be unhappy if they are ill etc, I do not mean to belittle that.)

I was pleased to see that I've been quoted in someone else's blog - that was quite a nice surprise - especially as the person doesn't agree with my point of view that housewifery is not only a valid lifestyle choice but a very fulfilling one at that. Still, we can't all feel the same way about everything and I'm happy to keep on working to change society's perception of housewives, but even more than that, our perception of ourselves.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I am the 21st Century Housewife©

My name is the April Harris and I am the 21st Century Housewife©.

Having just done a bit of surfing, I feel I need to clarify that I copyrighted the title The 21st Century Housewife© over 6 years ago. I also own and operate the website and have done so for some years. I assert my moral and legal right to be identified as the creator of this concept. Anyone using the title The 21st Century Housewife does so is in violation of international copyright law. Of course there are many 21st century housewives out there and there is no harm in referring to oneself as "a 21st century housewife" but I am The 21st Century Housewife, creator of that concept and author of a book by the same title.

Where has the 21st Century Housewife© been?

2nd March 2007

The 21st Century Housewife’s blog has been rather sadly neglected of late as you can see. It is of course my usual excuse of having been away in Canada several times, along with the very busy life we lead (just like everyone else these days!). Of course, Christmas came in between as well, and that is always a busy time for any Professional Housewife.

I have to admit, it is hard helping your parents to move forward through the difficult process of ageing, especially when they are ill. Daily life often becomes a real battle for them and takes them to a place somewhere quite beyond frustration. It is wonderful when you can help and support them on various levels, but of course this is made more difficult by the fact that no matter how old and experienced you actually are, they will still see you as the gawky 12 year old who really had no idea where she was going in life. It is hard to accept advice from a 12 year old (even if she is really much older than that and the label on her moisturiser can prove it!). I have to admit that at times the idea of accepting advice from my son makes me feel very uncomfortable. Having said that, even though he is only 14, my son is very mature and at times does give incredibly good advice, particularly in times of upset and stress.

Having just returned from Canada again (my husband and I went for a long weekend – Friday to Tuesday) I am devastated to see that my parents’ twilight years are not what they had hoped and planned for. It seems terribly unfair that after having worked so hard for so many years a huge proportion of their savings will be spent on a retirement home instead of the travelling they had hoped to do. I am glad that there are such lovely retirement homes in Canada though. The one they have chosen puts me in mind of a hotel it is so beautiful. The suites are spacious and beautifully decorated to your specifications. The menu has six choices at every meal and although I have yet to eat there the smells issuing from the kitchen have been utterly mouth watering. Gourmet evenings and entertainment from award winning performers are on the menu too, along with your own covered parking space and complete freedom to do whatever you choose – or sadly, whatever you can. The staff are kind and accommodating and so far, nothing has been too much trouble, although neither of my parents has actually moved in yet!

It does put me in mind of the old Carpe Diem (Seize the Day) saying though. At times, as a family, we stretch ourselves in terms of time, and sometimes even in terms of finances, to do things we want to do and go places we want to go. I find it hard to regret any of that in the current climate of my parents’ lives. It makes me ever more determined to create a life full of experiences, much more so than a life full of things. This is not to imply that my parents ever created a life full of things. As children of the war years, they were incredibly frugal, but always utterly generous with anyone who needed help of any kind. They often put their dreams on hold though and I wish they had not done that. I do feel a sense of the need to do things now whilst I am fit and well, rather than to wait for the life in the glossy pictures promised me in the advertisements for retirement investments. Now is all any of us really have, and we really do need to seize the day. Although I urge everyone to provide adequately for their retirement, especially if you want to spend it somewhere nice!

I do not mean that in a depressing way, but more in a kind of victorious throw back your shoulders and stand in the wind way. No matter where we are in our lives, no matter what is happening, we truly need to make the most of every moment, even every second. We have to step outside our comfort zone and reject any delay of our dreams, embracing the now whilst facing ourselves firmly in the direction of a positive future. The past is gone, and we cannot waste time lamenting it nor praising ourselves for it. Every moment is a new beginning and it is never over until the fat lady sings. Seize the day and never surrender, that should be every 21st Century Housewife’s mantra!