Tag Archives: family

Finding Balance

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It’s been Summer Holidays for more than a month. Traditionally, it’s a time of year where I lose my mind, trying to fit in the demands of the irregular work schedule, my own writing desires and the various activities (or not) of the Weasels.

This year has seen a few changes, with Eldest Weasel leaving school and filling some of her free time with volunteering at the Vancouver Aquarium and the Pacific Northwest Raptor Centre.DSCN8839

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Middle Weasel took a brief course that will help her if she decides to continue helping out on ice – she’s done her Ringette Ref training, and now is ready to help teach a new generation of Ringette players.

Tiny Weasel took two weeks of the school-run summer entertainments and we’ve all traveled with my parents who were over for a fortnight.

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None of us are in this picture, but we were there – it’s Long Beach, Tofino.

What I have to relearn every year is the trick of balance. I’m not being denied my work time, or my solitude, and the kids aren’t being forced to go out and have fun. There’s time for writing, time for relaxing, time for exploring and time for socialising. There’s even, god help us all, time for watching brainless twits on YouTube blathering about the very latest thing that they found in their breakfast cereal….. I may be a little prejudiced about the value of YouTube as an entertainment delivery system.

Anyway, for every five minutes where I’m convinced we’re not going to get anywhere or do anything, there’s times like this:

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or places like this:

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or discoveries like this:

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I don’t know what state we’ll be in when we reach September, but most years we seem to have done alright. We’ve had fun, been to some interesting places, seen some good people and and spent a healthy amount of time outdoors, as well as getting in some good screen time. This year, I’m going to remember that Summer isn’t about what you can cram in, or what you worry about missing out.

It’s about the balance.

 

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Facebook and the Imminent Divorce Drama

We hadn’t been living in Canada very long before the top question from people we spoke to became “What do you miss?” rather than “Why Canada?” It wasn’t so easy to answer, because we’d spent a long time thinking “Why Canada?” but had been consciously avoiding the “What will we miss?” question. To be honest, there weren’t a lot of the expected things to miss, because there were so many new things to get used to. The Weasels missed odd things, like Weetabix and Ceebeebies, but Mrs Dim and myself…Well, I suppose you could say we immediately missed the familiar, the known ways of doing things. We tried to buy a car by looking in the local papers, a method we both had used in the UK for buying a second-hand car, something good for running about it but not too precious. We couldn’t find any listed. Odd. No “Autotrader” magazine in the shops either…. Little differences, rather than gaping absences.

As time passed, however, it was clear that the expected suspects were the ones that were missed most – family and friends. That first month in Canada was the longest time we had all spent together as a family without the intervention of school or work, and the realisation that the kids had no friends to go and see, that we had no parents available to go and stay with, was quite terrifying. You know that moment on a rollercoaster, when the bar clunks into place and you realise, however enthusiastic you were getting in, that now you CANNOT GET OUT if you want to and your stomach gives a little flutter of panic? Well, that was us, all day.

Moving into our first house and making friends with the other people in the street took some of the strain off, and regular Skype chats with our parents helped the lonlieness, but it still felt like we were on the end of a long line. We’ve adjusted, had friends come over to stay, but there are times when we still feel those absences sharply. Like last weekend.

I’ve mentioned in a couple of posts how I’m struggling with The World’s Largest Home Improvement Retailer over the matter of working every weekend. For her part, Mrs Dim is struggling with working 7am to 6pm weekdays and Weasel wrangling all weekend. There are unhealthy tensions from time to time, and last weekend the dam broke again. Despite me working Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon/evening, we had gone to the US to celebrate Thanksgiving with Mrs Dim’s Sister and her family. I came back early Sunday to get away to work, and returned home in the evening to find a frosty reception. Over lunch the next day we laid out the problems on both sides and discussed possible solutions. In the meantime, Mrs Dim used my Facebook account to post that we were in the throes of an “imminent divorce”. It’s nice to report that friends were horrified and rallied to support us and send messages of hope and best wishes. Nobody weighed in with “I knew he was a waster, you’ll be well shot of him!” which was a relief. Once we had sorted through the mess and established a plan of action, we posted a retraction:

Mrs Dim is worried that we trivialised the very real and stressful effects a marital break up can have on everyone concerned, when the real problem we seemed to be suffering (apart from inflexible working conditions) was the lack of a safety valve – had we been in the UK, Mrs Dim might choose to spend at least part of the Weasel Wrangling weekends with one set of parents or the other, thus spreading Granparently joy and getting a break from being sole caregiver. Knowing that isn’t an option increases the tension.

I picked up my new work rota yesterday, and there’s a whole free weekend coming up in early December. The school  Christmas break might involve some manoevering, but for the moment the marriage prospects look good again. Plus, it’s been a record month in terms of writing income, which always helps. Today’s moral seems to be, don’t always believe what you read on Facebook. Or maybe it’s make the most of the family you have around you. I shall be smiling more broadly at my folks on Skype this Sunday anyway.

The Great Canadian Adventure – the Mad Week (originally posted Mar 6/09)

 

The whole family, just before we left the country

Still life with weasels....

The GREAT CANADIAN ADVENTURE is a true-life story that follows Dim and his family (Mrs Dim and the Tiny Weasels) as they embark on their epic move from the UK to Canada. After three and a half years, the Visas have come through, the flights are booked, and now it’s the week when they move out of their Bournemouth house.

I used to have a theory that if your life was really interesting enough to blog about, you wouldn’t have enough time to blog about it…. After this week, I’m even more inclined to agree. They say a week’s a long time in politics, but God knows what it’s like for a politician who’s emigrating to Canada….

The Tiny Weasels went off to school as usual on Thursday (the 26th Feb) and removals guys really got stuck in. There were four of them, and the most amazing thing about them was that all four of them were actually working at the same time. Some on our previous moves have featured guys who took it in turns to do the work while the others smoked. Our problem was that we weren’t just able to stand back and let them pack everything – we have this week and a bit travelling around the country catching up with friends and family. So we needed some bags packed for the coming week and bigger bags packed for the first month in Canada before the container catches up with us. Mrs Dim worked her socks off grabbing clothes and entertainment articles from around the house. I made coffee, loaded up the car for several runs to the tip, took bagloads to the charity shops in the village.

It was like some weird kind of optical illusion. These four busy guys, wrapping, shifting and carrying all day, and yet each time I returned to the house, there didn’t seem to be any less stuff in it. The master bedroom was a bombsite, with clothes strewn around and the guy who had packed the kitchen kept shuffling in, asking if he could start packing it up yet.

Mrs Dim and I shared the onerous task of collecting the kids from school for the last time. There were tears all round (except from me – I’m carved from granite and have a heart of teak. I also have a liver of pvc and a foot that turns green in hot weather, but that’s neither here nor there. It’s on the end of my leg.) We headed back to the Wonkey House for the kids to use the loo before the long trek to the Aged Parent’s new house, but Oldest Weasel, still sniffling, didn’t want to go in. I couldn’t blame her. Goodbyes are miserable things.

We made good time on the road and reached the Aged Parents abode. I hadn’t seen it before, since they only moved in the previous week. It’s a smaller place than their last one, and they hadn’t had much luck with the downsizing either. I offloaded the weasels, had the tour and got back in the car to go back to Bournemouth. Mrs Dim had stayed to oversee the removal guys and get more packing done, so she was asleep on her feet when I got back. Luckily we’d booked a room in a nearby hotel (since we now had no bed, and no bedding) and we were taking a friend out to dinner so there was no cooking to do in the kitchen we hadn’t got anymore. It was a good way to round off the day, chatting over good food and good drink, hearing about daring plans that weren’t our own for a change. We were tired but happy when we stumbled into the lovely hotel room later that night.

Friday: We had a hearty breakfast, since we didn’t have to cook it or wash up afterwards. The plan for the day was another round of packing, a clean down and run away to join the weasels at the AP’s. Sadly one of the removers had tipped off Mrs Dim that the Canadians don’t let you import mud, and the bikes and roller blades had to be cleaned. First time I’ve done that job, and I’ve had my bike four years. Anyway, the removers were fewer on the ground than the day before, but they worked twice as hard and were finished on time. We weren’t though. We’d packed clothes into every suitcase we had, we’d thrown away clothes we didn’t even know we owned and still there wasn’t enough room to take them all to Mum and Dad’s. The only sensible answer was to come back on Saturday and collect the other suitcases and bags. It was particularly galling because we’d previously booked Saturday morning for staying in bed and refusing to get up in the vain hope we could regain some sleep. But no.

Heh. Mum and Dad’s place is lovely, but it is, to coin a phrase, compact and bijou. To use the beds in the spare room, Mrs Dim and I put the youngest weasels to sleep in there early on, then when we were all done in the living room, we brought down the sleeping weasels and tucked them under duvets on the sofas, then took their beds for the rest of the night. It was a tough system, but it worked. The pair of us cleaned the Wonkey house until the grime gleamed and packed the last of the suitcases and rubbish into the long-suffering car. We hauled it back to Andover and threw ourselves into helping the AP’s make the most of their place. We Feng Shui’d the place, helped with putting up shelves and cupboards and introduced Dad to his new laptop (he has facial recognition software on it, and it cracked me up that the third time he started it up, it still didn’t recognise him…Is he going to have to get a chaperone to introduce him every day?)

We didn’t get any rest on Sunday either. We went visiting old friends in THEIR new house. This one is not compact and bijou, mostly because they’re bumping their conservatory into a dining room. We forced ourselves to go down to another pub and suffer more great company and wonderful food before returning to our sheltered nook.

So far we had been keeping busy enough to avoid too much thought about the fact that we were homeless and unemployed, but Mrs Dim admitted she has dreamed about her old job every night since she left. I was getting remarkably twitchy about the fact that I hadn’t had an internet connection for days. To combat this, we went travelling again, launching off to Cheltenham to catch up with my brother and his family. Easier said than done, since we arrived mid afternoon to be met by my Sister-in-law and her youngest, because the elder nephew was still at school and my brother was at work. Still, we had coffee and walked to collect Nephew from school, and the Squadron Leader himself pitched up in the early evening. We were only staying overnight, so we made the most of a convivial atmosphere and more good food, staying up late to talk our way through a bottle of wine and several beers. They’re a lovely couple who have battled enormous difficulties in the last two years, but now there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and a fair chance they’ll be out to see us in the Great Beyond.

Since everyone had late nights, when we hit the road the next day everyone but me took the chance to nap. Because I was relying on the Sat Nav, we took a different route to the one nominated by Mrs Dim. I had just remarked that I was hungry and we were going to stop at the next pub we saw, when one came in to view. The Green Dragon inn, it was, somewhere between the A345 and the A417. The food was fantastic and the pub itself everything an old pub should be without the smokey atmosphere and locals made of whisky and compost. We were supposed to have a light Bar Snack, but the plates were enormous. Oh dear. Shame I won’t see the inside of a gym for at least another month…(Or longer, if I can manage it…)

So that gets us back to the AP’s house and ready for Wednesday. What the hell happened on Wednesday? (I’m writing this on Friday morning, having written most of the previous account on Thursday, hence the title – it’d been a week since we left the Wonkey House. My memory is not top-notch at the best of times, and these, as has been mentioned, are not the best of times.) Ah yes. Mrs Dim has just reminded me that we hosted my Aunt Kathleen at the AP’s for lunch on Weds. She’s an amazing person who, at Eighty-odd (it’s not polite to give a lady’s age, you know) has got a hard-drive recorder, mobile phone, laptop and broadband connection, and has just bought a DVDR/Hard-drive combi as a backup recording system. I used to drop round to help sort out cables and fix the odd glitch. She’s a little apprehensive about us being so far away, even now she’s on e-mail. Anyway, she arrived in style, just an hour late, but moving fast, and we had a fun-filled lunch together… I think that was the third official “Final Goodbye” to Kathleen.

Before we knew it we were back in the car (with my Dad following along with more suitcases in his boot – still haven’t got those sorted!) and heading for Mrs Dim’s Parents. I wanted to call them the Other Aged Parents, but that makes the acronym OAPs…Oh well, if the cap fits…. The OAPs made us welcome, despite the fact that we filled their living room with suitcases. The weasels relaxed and we rejoiced in the fact that we would be sleeping in a bed that would still be our bed no matter what time of day it was. I got to grips with the computer we’d given the OAPs, trying to connect it up to the BT Home Hub they’d ordered. Now, I won’t say a word against BT. They’re a fine company, with many highly trained employees who work very hard. I’m just saying they wouldn’t come first in a backside finding competition if you gave them a map and a flashlight. On the plus side, the computer is connected to the internet. Most of the time. On the downside, despite every ADSL filter known to man, the phones don’t work anymore, and my laptop can’t pick up the wireless signal if it’s not in the same room as the Hub. Luckily for me, the guy down the road from the OAP’s house doesn’t believe in password protecting his wireless broadband. Bless him.

On Thursday we strode into the village and achieved many things, but the main point of the day was unwinding. The weasels played outside and took naps, and we drank more tea than was good for us and went to visit Great Gran. We’re starting to get that Holiday Feeling, the one we hoped we’d get as soon as the removers left.

Next Blog: The run up to the FLIGHT!