September 11, 2023

Will Elvis Leave the Building for Good?

When the current elderly generation expires, will Elvis Impersonators be out of a job? 

The above question occurred to a friendly acquaintance and me, pretty much at the same moment the other evening, at a 50th wedding anniversary party we attended with our respective husbands. 

I was so tired. I had been away working all week and driven home in the dark the night before - an hour plus of scanning the road for wildlife with exhausted eyes and a throbbing head. When I got home my husband reminded me about the party, which was on our schedules for the next evening. "Noooo!" or maybe some curse words escaped my mouth. I can't remember. Cancelling was not really an option for this particular event, though. I decided not to think about the party, brushed my teeth, and fell into bed, sleeping hard all night.

The next morning I woke up, still tired. I managed a half-hearted shuffle around the lake, had lunch and then, a nap. The party was back down in the valley, and was to go from 4:30 to 9:00 pm. At least it won't be a late night, I told myself. The theme for the party was the 1970's, in honour of the decade our hosts were married in, and also, we found out later, the decade in which they saw Elvis live in Las Vegas for ten bucks a ticket (and that included two drinks! said our host, enthusiastically).We had been invited to wear costumes. 

We arrived at the venue and changed into our costumes in the truck. I went for a 'Rhoda from Mary Tyler Moore' look, while my husband wore fake leather pants and a polyester satin shirt for a 'disco sleezeball' look. We had found our costumes at Value Village a couple of weeks prior. While we began to get into the spirit of the event I knew we both needed a drink. We opted for rum and cokes. We both needed the caffeine boost. 

The majority of the crowd were elderly peers of our hosts, but a small group of 50-somethings and assorted younger relatives rounded out the group. After drinks and mingling to the best of our ability (I admit to sitting down and posting photos on my phone after an hour of standing around making small talk), dinner was served. Our small table of four shared a bottle of wine and waited our turn at the buffet.

The evening's entertainment began after dinner. A local Elvis impersonator in a gold jacket entered the room and began his performance. While our table had misgivings about what to expect, none of us being Elvis fans, we soon had to admit our entertainer was a pro. He soon had the room singing along with the golden oldies, and a few couples, including the anniversary couple, got up to dance in the old way. 'Elvis' sang well and interspersed his Elvis material with some Neil Diamond. Roy Orbison, and Louis Armstrong, but it was his rendition of CCR's 'Proud Mary' that got us 50-something women on the dance floor. The alcohol and food had worked its magic and energized me briefly. A couple of spry older women were inspired to join us. The elderly folks unable to dance themselves, enjoyed watching us. We became part of the entertainment. 

After the cake, made to replicate the original two-tiered wedding cake, was served, my husband and I said our goodbyes. As we made our way through the crowd after stopping at the head table, an elderly woman grabbed my hand. "You all looked great!" she said, smiling widely. I covered her hand with both of mine, holding them for a moment, and said thank you. It made me glad to know she'd enjoyed herself so much.

The party, although I had approached it that night with a 'grin and bear it' kind of attitude, ended up being fun. I observed and appreciated how the Elvis impersonator had figured out his evolving audience needed more than the dated Elvis material (sorry, fans) to be entertained. In fact, he didn't really sound much like the original Elvis to me, just did his hair like him, danced a bit like him, and drove a pink 1970's Cadillac. He told us he was going to be performing at a big classic car show the next day. 

I also concluded I am very much in favour of parties starting early and ending at 9 pm, especially when the drive home is over an hour on a dark, curvy mountain highway. 

July 21, 2023

An Ode to my Eldest Sister, on her Birthday

Happy birthday to my bookend sister, Monica

Whose very existence for me is a tonic - ahhhh

I am the youngest, she is the oldest

I am the most hesitant, while she is the boldest

She's a good listener and also a talker

With friends and dogs she's a very fast walker

She makes a great meal, really loves to share it

She buys a nice wine with which to pair it

She has six children, all grown, most flown

A generous mom who would give her last bone

Three girls, three boys, a dog and a cat

A home always welcoming, no doubt about that

A grandma to two girls, she loves them to pieces

I love them, too though they're only my nieces

She calls her long hair colour 'Arctic Fox'

Her energy belies her age, she totally rocks!

When I was a kid and nine years her junior

She was the planet, I semi-lunar

She paid me five dollars to tidy her sock drawer

Always nice to me, never giving me what-for

As we grew older we became such good friends

She talked me through motherhood, the job never ends

Our husbands are friends, too, talking shop for, like, hours

While Monica and I sip coffee among their flowers

A journalist by trade she writes for the papers

An editor, too, now, no time for 'the vapors'

Her writing strives to always uphold the truth

She'll research and write 'til she's long in the tooth

(I believe she also has a colleague named Ruth?)

Mon's a great mother, sister and friend

To help you with issues over backwards she'll bend

She's super good fun and tells a great story

And if she goes before me, I'll be ever so sorry

Happy birthday, big sis! I love you so much.

June 25, 2023

Generation Cell Phone

I've been thinking about how each generation of children we raise lives in a different world than the one before it, and how that affects parenting those kids. I have three kids who would be considered young Millenials and one that would be considered GenZ. I know various factors contributed to their style of upbringing, but with the rate of change being as drastic as it is in this age of rapidly advancing technologies, even in the five year gap between my third and fourth children (both being girls) I noticed a difference. This main difference was the hand held pocket personal computer and communication device known more commonly in this country as the cell phone. And, I'm not just talking about my youngest's possession of one and how that affected her life, but of my own. 

I put off having cell phones in our home as long as I possibly could. My husband was issued a flip phone for work, but the rest of us did without phones, and no one thought to ask for one because they were yet to become commonplace among their peers. We did have the family computer in the living room, and we all took our turns to do schoolwork or writing projects, play games from DVDs like Magic School Bus and I Spy, Lego Harry Potter and LOTR, watch YouTube videos, download music, and play Club Penguin when those online activities came along. Often there would be more than one kid sitting at the computer at a time, sharing their experience together. One of my kids was loaned a Game Boy in Grade Five from a friend, and when I saw how addicted he became I asked him to give it back and never borrow it again. My older daughter somehow talked us into letting her get a Nintendo DS with the digital pen thingy when she was a pre-teen, but she never seemed to become as addicted as her brother had to the Game Boy. My goal was always for my children to develop their 'real world' interests first and use the digital gadgets as a tool for relaxation and entertainment on a limited basis.

I remember waiting in the elementary school yard for my youngest. A woman asked me if I was on Facebook. I told her, ugh no, that if I wanted to communicate with people from high school I would do it the old fashioned way - I wouldn't. A couple of years later my eldest who was in high school asked if he could get a Facebook account. I told him yes, but I would get one, too, and then he would have to be my 'friend' on the site. Facebook was this scary unknown to me then, and I feared losing awareness of what my son was up to. Little did I know the only thing he would use it for was posting music videos and messaging friends about social gatherings. He was the first to leave the site a few years later, too. To him, Facebook was lame already. Not so for me, I found. To my surprise, it was actually really fun to reconnect with old school-mates, my large, scattered family, and acquaintances in this limited way. For many of us it became a way to cheer each other on from afar, and to make each other laugh. People were sharing their travels, their kids' achievements, their health struggles, and their hilarious daily foibles. I soon became rather addicted to all the daily updates, and anyone who is 'friends' with me on Facebook knows I am a regular contributor. I do know my life would be lonelier without it, especially during Covid when digital connection became so vital to many of us. I know it seems I digress. We were talking about cell phones, but social media is a huge part of their use. 

I remember the day I told my husband I couldn't put off having a cell phone any longer. My job was requiring my use of one. We went to the Koodo kiosk at the mall and signed me up. By that time, flip phones were not the norm any longer. The phone I chose had a touch screen and so, in addition to being connected to the cellular network, it hooked up to our home WiFi. My carrier was Shaw, so free WiFi was available in lots of places. Unlike with the computer, I could lie down on the couch and read articles, scroll Facebook, and message people. I'm not going to lie, that was a revelation. One by one, my three older kids got phones as well, although they were well into their late teens. When all three of my older children had moved away to attend college or university, my youngest and I thought, with her busy schedule, that she should get a basic phone, too, so we could communicate on pick-up times from her theatre rehearsals in the next town. If I remember correctly, she was thirteen when I got a new phone and she inherited my old one. Fortunately, my youngest was too busy at the time to become completely addicted to her screen, and she was very handy as a tech assistant when her dad or I couldn't figure something out on our phones. 

The other day I was remembering my youngest and I sitting in our living room when she still lived at home, both looking at our phones. I compared it to the days when she or I, or other members of our family, would sit at the computer in the living room, whatever we were doing open and available to the rest of the family, opposed to both of us isolated with our little screens in our own little worlds. Most of the time she was chatting with her friends and theatre colleagues, while I scrolled social media or read articles, or chatted with family and friends of my own, losing track of time. I wondered how this change had affected our lives in a deeper sense. I know teenagers deserve to have privacy at times, but to be honest, I think personal phones have  given them too much privacy and too much information available 24/7 to absorb - a lot of it sad and/or alarming. Of course, the difference from my own girlhood is huge. I couldn't even have a private telephone conversation in our house, the corded phone being on the wall in the very center of a small house full of up to nine people at any given time. And, TV news was limited to an hour or so a night. I also wondered how my time spent isolating myself with my phone made a difference to her life, or was it just normal to her - part of the culture of the late 2000's that she took for granted? I know there are scholars out there studying the effect of technology on our brains and we are still learning. I know I have made changes in my own consumption. I turned off the Facebook and Instagram notifications on my phone, and I have learned to recognize in myself when I have become over-saturated with information and screen time. Fortunately, I feel like I have struck a balance with the devices in my life, but it took a long time. That we expect our kids to figure this out on their own is a big ask in my opinion.

I can't help but wonder how the younger moms and dads raising Generation Alpha are doing dealing with all that the world is throwing at their families. Probably their best, as most of us have done before them, learning, failing and winning as we go. 

Until next time, 


June 9, 2023

Ode to the Eastern Fraser Valley: Marking Twenty Years

We arrived in early spring, the slurry it stank

The farmers said it put money in the bank

We found the people down to earth

Of new friends there was to be no dearth

No one asked "Are these ALL your kids, Maam?

When many families filled a fifteen passenger van

The Bible Belt, ever so many churches

Chilliwack has over 50, according to Google searches

Artists, too, but harder to find

Find them I did, and they were most kind

A fab little folk fest where I found work

For ten days I would dance, my responsibilities shirk

Fields of green and lakes of blue

Ribbons of silver rivers, too

Mountains in a ring all around

Rising like castles from the ground

Flood plain living comes with warnings

We check the weather forecast in the mornings 

People shocked by how much I walk

But they almost always stop for a talk (often about the weather)

The wind can be fierce, the ice storms the worst

The swampy hot summer will give you a thirst

The autumn is nice, discuss it we must, but

With all the rain the leaves don't change, they rust

Agassiz, Chilliwack, Mission, Harrison, Hope

Agassiz' the hub, the rest make the spokes

We love to drive between all these places

The beauty that surrounds us puts smiles on our faces

We're lucky to live here, we remind each other

Our girls have left and so have their brothers

But, we have stayed for twenty years

If we ever leave, it will be with tears

Fraser Valley, yes, you have been good to us

Formed our family, gained our trust

Life here has been rich and abundant

I'll stop now, before this ode is redundant

Until next time, 


May 29, 2023

Material Girl

Until my eldest sister moved out I shared a room with my brother. We were kids number five (him) and six (me) in the family. As we lay in our bunk beds we would play a little game. We called it, "What would you rather have?" The game went something like this: 

"What would you rather have? A million dollars or all the cars you wanted for the rest of your life?" My brother was really into cars.


"What would you rather have? A big house or a lifetime supply of chips and dip?" Or toys, or banana splits, or whatever highly desired, yet rarely enjoyed, item we could dream up.

We would then discuss our options and give reasons for both choices. I can't remember what conclusions either of us made, but I remember how seriously we took the game. I remember my brother saying his dream was to have a nice big house when he grew up, with a rec room with a big TV where all his friends and his kids' friends could gather, and he would supply them with all the chips and dip they desired. I was only ten and my dreams for the future were hazy, and not quite so specific. I just knew I wanted more than we had. We went to an independent Catholic school, the only 'private' school in our town, and many of our schoolmates came from middle to upper class families who wanted their children in a private school, Catholic or not. So, most of my classmates had much more in the way of material goods than I had. I remember getting into some light trouble lying in Show and Tell. I told the class my mom had brought me a rabbit from California. My mom found out about the lie when my Grade Two teacher phoned her and asked if I could bring the rabbit to school. "Why did you tell them that?" my mom asked. I told her I was sick of everyone else having fancy and exciting things to bring to Show and Tell. My mom had not yet been to California, let alone gifted me a rabbit. 

Even if ours was not a rich, or even middle class family, we were a creative and lively one, and we all had dreams. My dream when I was a kid was to, one Christmas, be given an Easy-Bake Oven. I thought anything I saw in Saturday morning cartoon ads as otherworldly, highly desirable, and mostly unattainable, but I pined for an Easy-Bake Oven against all odds for at least two years. I don't remember making Christmas lists, I just hoped if I wished hard enough, and circled it in the Sears Christmas Wish catalogue, I would get one. I never did get one, but my closest friend got one. When I finally got to play with it with her, we baked a cake from a mix that came with it, and I suppose that was kind of exciting. That was probably also when my dream for an Easy-Bake Oven ended. Life is like that sometimes. 

From Easy-Bake Ovens I moved on to dreaming about clothes and fancy bedroom sets. I remember a black velvet outfit in the Sears catalogue that I would quite literally dream about. I didn't get that either, but my mom was very understanding about clothes and took me shopping at the start of each school year, so I could have at least one outfit that was not a hand-me-down. I dreamed of a canopy bed - the Holly Hobby one - also in the Sears catalogue. One day when I was invited to another school friend's house her grandad said he had a surprise. He had bought her a complete white bedroom set from Sears, with matching linens, just like in the catalogue. I think I was too gobsmacked to be envious. I did, however, come home from her house once and began to list in great detail, all the Barbies and Barbie stuff she had. After about ten minutes of this, my mother rolled her eyes and asked me to please stop.  

When my granny died we inherited a lot of lovely stuff that she had owned. I remember well the day when the truck arrived. I came directly home from school to help my mom unpack the many boxes of crystal glasses, dishes, and furnishings. Needless to say, I was enthralled. What extra money my parents had they spent on paintings by local artists, books, and records, not pretty dishes and rose coloured sofas. I had been once to my Granny's home in Delta. It was very elegant, very colour-coordinated. I was proud that my family now had lots of pretty things in our old house.

In the Eighties, at the height of Yuppie-dom, I began to dream of a lifestyle such as I saw on TV and in the movies I went to. The clothes! The houses and apartments! The art and decor! The antiques! Let's face it, I loved stuff. I didn't exactly have the income of a Yuppie, but I was good at faking my appearance as one from my years of haunting thrift shops for vintage clothing. I was developing a great interest and passion for art and pledged to buy one piece of art per year. As a teen making my own money, I also spent it on clothes and makeup. The wall by my bed was a collage of fashion photos cut out of magazines. After I moved away from home to go to university, I had a lot less disposable income, but I continued to hunt for designer clothes in the many consignment stores in Vancouver.  After I got married and had small children, I had even less money to spend on myself, so my collecting was streamlined to whatever vintage dishes and objects I could find at garage sales and thrift stores. I would give myself a strict budget and only buy what I really liked. My desire to be a Yuppie was outstripped by real life.

Now that I am an empty nester, I have more disposable income than I have ever had, and can pretty much buy what I like, within reason. The thing is, I no longer want to accumulate stuff. I still buy a piece of art now and then, and I love to buy gifts for other people, but my desire for stuff seems to have mostly run its course. I want different things from life now, and they aren't material things. My dreams now run to seeing my children happy and having good relationships with them, and to being able to travel to visit family and friends. I care a great deal about my health and my husband's health, and our quality of life. I like to explore new places, even ones that are near home. I do buy books, yes, that is an indulgence that seems necessary to my happiness. And just a few weeks ago I bought a pretty vintage china teapot at the closing out sale of an antique store. I just could not resist. Old habits die hard, I guess.

Did my brother get his big house and his endless chips and dip? He got a sweet, mid-century house of modest proportions in Calgary. He has three great, grown-up kids and hosts many dinner parties. I don't know about the chips and dip, but last I looked in his fridge he had five kinds of fancy cheese. That must be the adult equivalent. 

Until next time, 


April 21, 2023

Where does Individuality End and Community Begin?

 As I get older and join the melting pot of somewhat invisible middle aged women, I think a lot about the concept of individuality. When I was younger I strived to stand out in the crowd. I dressed differently than most of my peers (I favoured a button down shirt and slim leather neck tie for example), and I listened to the alternative music of my generation. I didn't want anyone to put me in a box with a label. That would have been the end of the world in my view back then. Being the youngest of six may have had something to do with that. I was greeted at the beginning of the school year by teachers who said things like: "Not another Lamb kid", or  "are you as good at math as your brother, Stephen?" Ha. No. But pretty good at English Literature, for which I received an award in Grade 12. I had a great group of friends and got along with most people in my school, probably also a result of being the youngest of six widely varying personalities. 

My mother used to say, "Sometimes you just have to join the Human Race." I think she meant that sometimes we had to do things in a normal, accepted way. I struggled with that over the years. While considering myself somewhat of a rebel, I also wanted elderly ladies to like me, and I had a secret passion for ballet and all things Victorian/Edwardian. I was also desperate for my family to be proud of me. As the youngest I had received the teasing label by my siblings as 'spoiled baby' and I wanted to live that down. I worked hard in college and was accepted to all three of the big universities in British Columbia, my home province. I ended up going to the University of British Columbia, mainly because my parents had gone there and spoke so fondly of their time there, but also due to the fact that my sister and her husband lived in Vancouver and I could board with them. First Year mandatory housing at university was not a thing in the late 1980's and it was hard to get a place in the dorms. UBC was an eye-opening experience for me. My first day on campus I looked out on a sea of black leather jackets. The alternative uniform was Roots sweatpants, chunky wool sweaters, and wool socks with Birkenstock sandals. Both looks said 'money', and coming from a large, poor family, I fit neither. For the first time in my life I felt awkward in my individuality. A couple of professors complimented me on my look, but that was hardly satisfying to me. Clothing was not the only way I felt like a fish out of water at UBC. I was a small town girl, used to knowing everyone and feeling free to go everywhere. I felt lost. I did find a home in the arts lounge and began to make friends there through conversation with people with whom I shared classes, but I didn't socialize with them much outside of school. I was afraid to take the bus from my home in East Vancouver to meet them anywhere at night. Small town girl problems.

After I was done with post-secondary education, I got married. I soon joined the ranks of wife and mother and dressed a lot like other wives and moms: comfortably. Energy and money spent on expressions of individuality took a back seat to the daily grind of parenting, and I loved it. I felt free from trying to find my 'self'. I had a built-in purpose each and every day. Raising kids and being a team with my husband was the best part of my life so far. I made friends with other moms and felt a real sense of belonging.  As my kids grew older I was able to work and volunteer, and there also, I found my purpose as an individual outside my family. To my surprise, my purpose seemed to be about being part of, and giving my time and my heart to, a community, whether that be the local arts council or festival society, other families through providing day care at my home, or helping out at my church. Life was so, so busy, but it was good.

After twenty-eight years of raising children, suddenly, they were gone finding their own lives outside our family. Like so many other mothers I really struggled with finding my purpose beyond those twenty-eight years. My kids are, by and large, very independent people, so I suppose we did our job well enough. After all those years of living in the ultimate community (my family) I found myself having to, well, find my 'self'' once again. Over the past couple of years I have spent much time alone, most of it recovering from a head injury. While I enjoy my own company in general, I don't believe the solitary life is the life for me. Ironically, while spending so much of my youth trying to be an individual, what I really desire is community. Back then, I realize now, I was secure in my quest for individuality because I had a community.  

I think, as a human race, we all crave a sense of belonging, no matter how much we want to be known for our uniqueness. Finding community can be hard work and involve much trial and error, and there have been a few dead ends on my journey. I also spend my time going back and forth between the mountain resort where my husband works and lives most of the time, and our home (and my seasonal work) in a medium sized city an hour and a half's drive away, so committing to a community is a challenge. I am fortunate to have little pockets of community in my extended family, the friendships I have made in the various places I have lived over the years, and within the work environments I have been a part of. That being said, I am still looking for something bigger, wider, and more encompassing. Will I ever get it? That remains to be seen. In the meantime, I will continue to put my heart and time into my little pockets of community in hopes that one of them grows into something more full. 

Until next time, 


March 15, 2023

When People Don't Like You

I try to get along with most people. I'm not an 'in your face' kind of person. I tend to hang back and feel my way into an acquaintance, to see if what I have to offer as a person will be accepted before I try to deepen any relationship. There was a time when I made friends quickly and easily. Those days seem to be over. In fact, over time I have begun to protect my energy more and more, and maybe other people around my age do the same. The relationships I have fostered over the years matter a great deal to me. I treasure the friends I have because I feel safe and welcome with them, and I hope they feel the same about me. 

A few times I have encountered people who simply do not like me. I accept that, but it is always interesting, not to mention humbling, to ponder why people may not like me. There have been people who have crossed my path whose energy seems to clash with mine, even though, like I said, I try to get along with most people. Years ago I was in a choir. I love to sing, and I enjoy the choral format. I get a thrill out of being part of a wall of voices creating a living work of art to present to an audience. When I was invited to join the choir by some friendly people of my acquaintance, I readily accepted. I attended the first few rehearsals and people around me seemed to be fairly friendly, the musical selections a good challenge for me, and I thought, 'this will be fun'. Despite my positive attitude toward the experience, almost immediately I felt a strange negativity directed towards me from the director. I am not even sure he realized what was happening. I've always been a sensitive being, and I know that what I am feeling with another person may not be felt (or acknowledged) by them, but I could not ignore the rays of hostile energy coming my way from the director. I felt completely unwelcome. Still, I persevered and spent a couple of seasons with the choir, even though I sometimes came home in tears. 

During my time working as a cook in a café a regular customer gave me a similar reaction as the choir director. For some reason, I just brought out something a bit nasty in her. She used to narrow her eyes when she saw me, although she would plaster a smile on her face when I served her food. I have no idea what I did to provoke her dislike, but again, our energies seemed to clash like Luke and Darth's lightsabers. One day I made a decision on how to handle this customer. I would be super duper extra nice to her. Amazingly, my strategy seemed to work. We carried on to have decent, if somewhat fake, exchanges. She was in the café daily, so I had to come up with something so I wouldn't dread her appearance. Recently, I ran into her at a garden center. She recognized me, but could not place me right away, and when I said I used to work at the café in question she nodded and then we talked about the beautiful white poinsettias she was buying. "It was good to see you" we both said as she left the garden center. 

My most recent mysterious, negative experience with a person was just a few weeks ago. A school that comes every year to the resort I live at was finally able to return now that Covid is more manageable. I had met this person, a man who works for the school and heads up the out-trips, and we seemed to have an amicable relationship. I was happy to see him again as he has always been really friendly towards my husband and we had even visited the school before Covid and been given a tour by him. This time, however, his reception of me was frosty. When I mentioned it to my husband he said, 'Nah, he's just got a lot on his mind'. I accepted that. The next time I saw the man in question I was cheering for him as he was about the cross the finish line in an annual cross-country ski race. Afterwards, he was again frosty and dismissive and only spoke to my husband. The last night the school was here, my husband asked me to come to the pub for the final gathering, which I did with a woman friend who works here. When the man in question came into the pub he greeted my husband and my friend and completely ignored me. This time, my husband noticed and felt as confused as I did. I concentrated on talking to another person near me, and then went home, relieved I no longer had to pretend everything was fine. 

A good friend of mine quit a co-ed sport she loved because she felt completely unwelcome by the male participants. At that time I was also in the choir so we could commiserate. Sexism may have played a role in both of these situations. My friend and I are not ones to shrink our personalities around men. 

When I was younger these unfortunate clashes with other humans would have eaten me up inside, but as I have grown and matured I realize they are simply a part of being in the world. While I am bothered whenever I have seemed to upset someone, I realize I cannot take full responsibility for their dislike of me if I have examined my behaviour and simply could not come up with any reason for their dislike. If their reason is simply because I am a (mostly) self-assured woman with a somewhat feminist bent, all the more reason to discount their attitude towards me.  'Ain't nobody got time for that!'

Until next time,