Monday, June 30, 2008

Multigenerational home or boomerang kids - Perception is everything

Along the lines of rambling and thinking out loud (my disclaimer regarding any coherent conclusion to this post), I was reading Rhea's post on The Boomer Chronicles, Lets Ponder Adult Children Who Move Back Home, where she says:

I remember as a young adult going back home temporarily after I’d already gone away to college. It was murder for me. It sort of forced me back into ‘child’ mode.

Have any of your kids left home, then moved back in? Is it temporary situation, or is it permanent? Why did they move in — were they between jobs, just trying to save money, or to help you out around the house? Any tips on how to make this type of living situation work?

. . . and I couldn't help but wonder if this is a uniquely modern-day (i.e. 20th – 21st century) problem, if indeed it is a problem.

There was a time when the family home was the family home once and forevermore – until sold or lost through misfortune. Daughters would move out if they married to live with her husband and his family; sons would stay home and raise a family under the same roof as his parents. Only the more affluent could afford to set up a separate house on their own property. Meanwhile, the masses did the best they could by cramming into whatever space could accommodate at least three generations at a time. The situation of Charlie in Willie Wonka was more the norm than the exception.

And certainly, this concept of "family home" whereby several generations live under the same roof is still alive and well in other parts of the world - notably in certain Asian cultures such as India, Korea and Japan. To a large extent, these cultures, transplanted to the west, have brought these familial ties with them.

There are large immigrant Indian and Chinese populations where I live, and it is not at all unusual for multigenerational families, including extended families of siblings to live in the same home. Whereas the dominant western culture often looks on this as an aberration, it is an accepted norm, particularly amongst the Indo-Canadian community. I don't think it's a bad idea.

Granted, I grew up in a similar situation, so don't think it's at all abnormal. What I find abnormal is the shunting off of older parents to seniors' complexes and nursing homes.

While poking around the web, I found numerous articles regarding this growing trend of adult children returning to the family nest. It's become so prevalent that a new phrase has been coined for them: Boomerang Kids. There is even a Wikipedia article about them whereby they've been elevated to the status of an entire generation: The Boomerang Generation.

Personally, I don't like the term boomerang. It is used with more than a hint of sarcasm and disdain. Since boomerangs are intended to be thrown and are expected to come back, wouldn't the implication be that parents have thrown their children out expecting them to come home again?

But back to Rhea's questions and an underlying assumption that children moving back home will be problematic. Should it be?

To be continued after I ponder further re: sustainability of one family-one house, green issues, economic issues, responsibilities, pros & cons, independence (all parties), taking advantage of; being taken advantage of, benefits to parent, benefits to grandchildren, . . .

Saturday, June 28, 2008

What's so funny?

“Look at those bear feet! They’re bare!”

He's looking at me like I'm nuts. He doesn't get it. Not even a groan. He really doesn't get it. Maybe he'll never get it – my weird, off the wall, blurtings - what I think is funny.

But he's so nice! Nice guys don’t come around all that often; or if they do, the rest of the package ain’t so hot - the package with wife and two kids.

Let's see. He's kind. He's a gentleman. He's gainfully employed. He's single. But - and it's a big but - he has no sense of humour. At least not my kind of humour. I like to laugh. I need to laugh. What if we could never laugh together? What kind of relationship would that be?

Don't get me wrong, I don't spend my life thinking everything is full of yuks. I also happen to be a pretty big cry-baby. I cry over practically anything that moves me.

Now, that's another thing, he never knows what to do when I cry at a movie. He'll mumble an uncomfortable, are you okay, without looking me in the eye or ask in bewilderment, you think that's sad; what's sad about it? It doesn't seem to matter that I've told him it's just the way I am and there's nothing he can do, except maybe hand me a tissue.

No sense of humour. No empathy. This is doomed!

"Wait, that was a pun wasn't it? I get it. Bear feet. Bare feet. You're very funny, you know that?"

The First 50 Words of this began here.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Happiness is _ _ _

Over the past week, I've been thinking a lot about happiness, prompted by two of my regular cyber-haunts:

On Sunday Scribblings, the writing prompt, happy ending, provoked eighty-seven responses (at last count) -- some very touching and insightful, some questioning whether they even believed in happiness or happy endings.

On a discussion forum, someone posted an open-ended, "The meaning of happiness _______" fill-in-the blank question, giving rise to responses ranging from a simplistic "choose to be happy and you will be happy" to the very specific, "Freedom makes me happy".

This was my response:

Noun: happiness
1. State of well-being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy;
2. Emotions experienced when in a state of well-being
The longer I hang around, the more often I see myself in the above definitions. It's not a constant state – more like fleeting moments that stretch, meld, dissipate, then reappear when I least expect.

I feel the need to explore this a bit further.

In general, I consider myself a happy person. I wake up in a good mood. I go to bed in a good mood (usually). I have my moments of raging anger and deep sadness, but I've learned how to let these moments ebb and wash away – the memories still there, but no longer all-encompassing.

When I was younger, I tended to hold onto these highs and lows like some sort of red badge, proclaiming, "See how angry (sad) I am!" writ large, capitalized and bolded. There was a certain degree of self-indulgence and melodrama involved.

No more. Life, clich├ęd as it sounds, is too damn short.

According to the above definition, joy and contentment are on the same continuum of happiness; different degrees of the same thing. I'm certainly not in a constant state of blissed-out happiness, but I do feel those moments of joy more frequently as I age. By and large, my happiness consists of contentment – a sighing, I'm glad to be here at this time and place, I belong here feeling.

I'm pretty sure these moments were always there. I just didn't pay attention when I was younger. I was too busy and fixated on my problems to notice when they occurred. I took them for granted, letting them slip by, barely acknowledged, as I rushed pell-mell into the next project, crisis or life-altering decision.

One moment I do wish I'd treasured more at the time, but now recall with fond nostalgia, is shortly after I met my future husband. We were attending university and near the end of spring term, we'd slip away (sometimes skipping classes) to a secluded Japanese garden on campus. The cherry trees would be in bloom and we'd find a sunny spot on the sloping grass that overlooked the pond. We'd lay there for hours talking and talking - about what, I can't remember because it didn't matter. We were happy just being together in that setting at that time. That was happiness.

On further thought, perhaps the ability to recall this memory means that my subconscious analyzed and recorded it as "happiness". It just didn't surface as such at the time. Or more correctly, maybe I didn't appreciate it as happiness. I suppose that's the thing about youth – you're too busy with all the clutter and drama to see the fleeting bright spots when they occur.

Why is it that life is appreciated so much more in retrospect? I guess it's the nature of the beast. I'm just glad I'm at this point in my life. I have my memories as well as an appreciation of the present.

Now where was I? Oh yes – happiness. What I don't think you can do is go seeking happiness. -- I tried to make this point elsewhere, but it fell on deaf ears. -- I think happiness is in the moment (see last two paragraphs). If you're in a great quest to find happiness, you'll miss the boat, so to speak.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

When a sweater isn't just a sweater

Linda: Why don't you just get rid of it.

Jack: What?

Linda: That (pointing at his old rugby sweater). You said you'd get rid of it. You were going to take it to the thrift shop.

Jack: I'm thinking about it.

Linda: What do you mean 'thinking about it'? Either you are or you aren't.

Jack: I like it. It's not like I wear it when we go out or anything. What's the big deal?

Linda: No big deal. It just bugs me when you say you're going to do something and then don't.

Jack: It's comfortable. It's good to have something around that's comfortable.

Linda: And what about the new one I bought for you?

Jack: That's different.

Linda: What's different about it?

Jack: It's not as comfortable.

Linda: What do you mean not comfortable?

Jack: I said "not as" comfortable. It's broken in – comfortable – I can relax in it. It's good for lounging around – when I can't find something to wear.

Linda: You could break in the new one. Don't you like it?

Jack: Of course I do. I love it. It's my favourite. Just because I still like the old one doesn't mean I don't like yours.

Linda: You could have fooled me!

Jack: You're making way too big a thing out of this! Will it make you happy if I get rid of it?

Linda: Yes.

Jack: Alright then. Tomorrow. I'll do it tomorrow.

From Thirteen Prompts by Dan Wiencek:
Write a scene showing a man and a woman arguing over the man's friendship with a former girlfriend. Do not mention the girlfriend, the man, the woman, or the argument.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Deus Ex Machina

Debra liked the demented, the dark and the surreal. It reflected her personality. From a young age, she’d realized there was no such thing as happy endings. The pursuit of happiness was for the delusional.

To the world, she presented a hard, been knocked around, can take care of myself, so don’t fuck with me veneer. She didn’t believe in fairy tales -- unless they were told by Tim Burton. Yet, in the back of her mind, she harboured the faint hope that there might be a happy ever after for her. Of course, she never allowed anyone to see this hopefulness.

So, now, here she was lying on a white sand beach. She couldn’t remember how she got there.

She looked down at herself. She was dressed all in white; white slacks, white blouse, white pumps. She strained to remember something – anything. It was surreal; a scene from the Twilight Zone. Wasn’t there a scene like this in Contact where Jodie Foster’s character meets her dead father on a beach? Maybe she was dead. Maybe she was dreaming. That’s it – a dream – it must be a dream. Well, if that was the case, she’d just go with it.

Down the beach, she could see a dark shape against the whiteness of the sand. As there was nothing else around, she took a step towards it. In an instant, she found herself looking down at the body of a black Arabian, lying on its side – the same horse she’d sketched over and over in countless notebooks as a child; when she still had dreams of happiness; before her mom’s death; before the anger and constant black cloud.

A kaleidoscope of her life played back at her in the sheen of the Arabian’s coat; the self-destructive behaviour, the failed marriages, the sabotaged relationships, the sorry state of her self-imposed loneliness. Maybe she really was dead. But wasn't there anything good about her life?

A fluttering movement caught her attention. She turned around to see a multi-coloured hot air balloon. It hadn’t been there a moment ago. That’s the thing about death dreams, she thought – they don’t need to make sense.

Across the breeze, a pure light-as-air voice was singing, “Some day my prince will come . . .”

Debra brushed the sand from her blouse, took a last, wistful look at the now putrefying horse, and stepped into the hot-air balloon.

For Sunday Scribblings, "Happy Ending" and Dan Wiencek's 13 Writing Prompts

(This is probably one of the weirdest pieces I've done. All I had was Dan Wiencek's last sentence, the Sunday Scribbling’s prompt of “Happy Ending” and my own self-imposed word limit. I had no idea how I’d get there until I got there.)

Monday, June 09, 2008

All I Remember

All I remember is how I forgot

What he was wearing that night
In such a rush out the door.

No chance for my usual
'Bye-take-care-I-love-you wave.

So when they came to ask
I couldn't remember.

A Two for Tuesdays bonus prompt.
For MADD and Dry Grads everywhere.

Friday, June 06, 2008

My Nights

If left to my own devices – no job or early morning commitments – I'd be up most nights until dawn.

I'm a night person. I like the solitude. I like the stillness. I like the wrap-around black coziness and the inky-black eeriness; the disconnectedness that sometimes leads to hidden and surprising insights to my soul. Perhaps, these insights were there all along, submerged below the surface of my daytime consciousness – unable to break through because of the noise and clutter of everyday life. I don't know.

What I do know is that those niggling, back of the brain feelings ignored during the day because I'm too busy or too pre-occupied, break out full blown at night. The solution to problems, so unanswerable during the day, becomes obvious and self-evident at night. Thoughts and feelings, long ago forgotten become unforgotten.

At night, all things seem possible. The line between reality and dream; conscious and sub-conscious thin and fade in those late-night hours. At 4 a.m. there's a surreal feeling of floating in another dimension while the rest of the household is snug asleep in their beds.

Maybe, late at night, I enter a dream state and only think I'm awake – in reality, walking around zombie-like. It doesn't matter. I'm convinced my late nights keep me sane.

Another Sunday Scribblings post

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

O is for

Oriental, the opposite of occidental.

That’s what I was called when I was growing up (along with some other more colourful epithets) until Asian became the modifier du jour.

I’ve never really understood the vagaries and inconsistencies of modifying people by geography. Nowadays, the terms Asian or African, either in hyphenation or not, are used as all encompassing descriptors of people who may or may not have been born or even set foot on said continent. It supposedly indicates one's ancestral origins – no matter how many generations removed. Yet, we don’t call someone European unless they in fact are -- at the present, in this generation -- from Europe. e.g. Someone visiting from Europe or just landed from Italy – in which case we’re just as likely to call them Italian.

Let’s look at this scenario: Here is a diverse neighbourhood with a multitude of ethnicities. Most of the families have lived here for several generations. Why do we say that Mrs. Sandhu is South-Asian; I’m a garden variety Asian; Mr. Brown, next door, is African; yet Mrs. Smith is just Mrs. Smith, a Canadian (or American)? Even more incongruous is when we look at the two new families down the street. Both have recently arrived from the UK; one is called Asian, the other is a Brit. Why not European?

I’m also called Chinese-Canadian even though I’m a third generation Canadian. I often wonder when the hyphenation ends. How many generations before the nation of your birth takes precedence over the country of your ancestors?

It’s something to ponder

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - Curve


Here comes the ball
Whizzing down the lane
Straight as an arrow
To that sweet spot
Strike zone.

I've got it
Feeling good
I'm gonna knock it out of the park.
Curve ball.
Strike one.

Here comes the ball
. . .

More Sunday Scribblings