This is Life, Based on a True Story  

A living-dying perspective

No one wants to confront death, but we all have to at some point.

Death tends to make people re-examine life priorities. The day-to-day things that seem so important lose their ranking in the grand scheme of things.

One of the hardest things for me about death is how with each loved ones passing, it’s the end of an era. It means we’re all getting older and time continues no matter the loss.

This column is a bit self-indulgent. It’s a tribute to a family member and the richness he endowed upon so many people.

My family comes from a strong Ukrainian background with a penchant for John Deere. Perogies and cabbage rolls are staples at any and all family gatherings and making borscht is considered a sport among my cousins, aunts and me.

As with most families, we also have that one person whom everyone regards as the cool one. The one we can all shoot the shenanigans with and guffaw with. The one who always has a good joke – often dirty – but guaranteed to make you laugh.

In my family, this person is my Uncle Syl. He’s not doing well right now. Cancer has once again done its dirty deed on another person who doesn’t deserve it.

My whole family lives in Alberta – all of them. I’m very much alone out here in this mini, expensive paradise, and at times like these, I wonder about the price to live here – and not just in a monetary sense.

Although I love living here most of the time, it’s right about now that I wish I weren’t so far away from the fam-jam.

I feel a sense of pride and nostalgia when I see social media posts about the whole gang going to visit my uncle to try to help keep his family’s spirits up.

But I also feel a great deal of sadness. Sadness for not being there with them all and to see him at least once more. Sadness because some childhood memories exist because of him.

Although the memories will always exist, it’s indisputable that he will no longer be there to share them with us.

I rode my first horse on his farm when I was about three years old. The horse’s name was Candy and no sooner did I get on than I fell off.

His farm was a magical place to my three-year-old self. He had pigs that let me scratch their backs as hard as I wanted to with my dirty, little fingernails.

There was also this duck pond that I was mildly obsessed with. My aunt must have given me about four loaves of bread in one day to feed to the ducks before she cut me off, simply due to breakfast demands the following morning.

My aunt and uncle eventually sold their farm and moved closer to the big city. As years went on and I grew up, I see less of everyone in the family.

We all had jobs and school and new families to focus on. The only time we were guaranteed to see each other was a wedding or a funeral.

For a while, there were a lot of weddings and the odd funeral. My 13 cousins and I would always joke that we needed to stop meeting like this. Yet, those were still the venues we most often met up.

The past decade has shifted things and now instead of weddings, I see my family at more funerals. We really do need to stop meeting like this.

This is what I mean by priorities and perspectives changing. It’s always at crossroads like this that I truly understand the point of life.

I have a great job that I love and I’m lucky to own my home (or rather be forever indebted to the bank for “gifting” me the loan to buy it).

But as we all know, work will still be here and homes can be made anywhere. In the end, all we have is each other, our families from which we came.

And to my Uncle Syl – you’re irreplaceable and family gatherings will be less than they should be without you. Thank God for our memories and your part in creating them.

Thanks for reading.


He said, she said

So that went well. The Dear Abby format I introduced in my last column generated more readers' questions to my inbox.

In the words of my writer mentor, “always write about what people want to read about.”  

I’m going to do that, but I’m also going to get another opinion on these questions – that of a guy. It’s the whole she-said, he-said concept.

With that said, please read on for the answers to a few questions sent to me …

Question: What is considered an appropriate age span between men and women? Why is it OK, or even applauded, for a man to be much older than a woman, but if the situation is reversed, it’s weird and the woman is called a “cougar.” So unfair.

Old-ish but still legit

She said:

Dear Old-ish,

It is unfair. A double-standard to be sure. To answer your question, there is no appropriate age span – unless you're feeling like you should stick to the old formula of half your age plus seven.

Ultimately, if you’re happy and your partner’s happy, then who cares? I don’t know why society deems it OK to label an older woman dating a younger man in a negative connotation. Yet a guy is labelled a stud if he can pick up a much younger woman.

What it comes down to is if the two of you have common interests and goals in life, then it can be a fantastic match.

Here’s another thought … it’s well-known that men typically die sooner than women, so it makes sense for an older woman and younger man to pair up, as their life span together would be about equal, if they actually make it till death do they part.

Don’t worry about the naysayers. People’s negativity in instances like this is often just due to ignorance and even jealousy. Go with your own flow – not society’s.

He said:

Hi Old-ish and Legit,

If you guys love each other and can stand each other even when one of you is being unreasonable (probably him), then I say just do it. Especially if one of you likes to cook and the other likes to eat. If you ask me, that’s match made in heaven kinda stuff.

Question: My boyfriend and I have been together for 16 months. We’ve exchanged I love you’s and have meshed our two lives together in every possible way – except for moving in together. He says he’s not ready and we should just take it slowly. How much slower can we take it? I know couples who moved in together after three months. Help!

Tired of Sleepovers

She said:

Dear Tired,

That’s a tough spot to be in – I know this personally. Have you guys had that heartfelt talk where you try to figure out what’s blocking him from wanting to make the move?

If he’s anything like me, he’s likely worried that moving in together will cost him his independence. It’s tough to go from all your own stuff in your own place, to all your own stuff and someone else’s stuff – some of which you don’t like – sharing space. Plus, you’re also seeing little quirks and habits you never knew existed in your partner.

Moving in together is more than just sharing dishes and deciding whose couch goes upstairs. It’s sharing bank accounts and bills and personal space. It’s knowing that if he has friends over, they’re in your space too and vice versa.

It really boils down to respect and an understanding that you’ll each need some time alone once in a while. In the beginning, it’s a lot like playing house. You’ll have fun grocery shopping and divvying up the housework, but that stage will end, and you’ll move into the “real life” stage.

Real life stage can be tricky for many couples who’ve established their own independence. In my opinion, your boyfriend knows himself well enough to know that right now this isn’t right for him. But it doesn’t mean it won’t be one day.

Maybe set a timeline for yourself, and re-visit the idea at certain points. You’ll both know whether its something you should continue to pursue or not. Good luck.

He said:

Hey, Tired of Sleepovers,

What’s the rush? Are you guys wanting to start a family or are you past that? If you love each other and being around each other, then just roll with it for a bit. At least he’s being honest about not being ready. Not all dudes are like that … neither are all ladies.

Check back in a few more months, but in the meantime, don’t bring it up again. Sometimes, us guys can be stubborn and just say no because it’s not our idea. We can’t help it.

Feel free to email with your questions. Thanks for reading.

Playing Dear Abby

Often, the biggest challenge about writing this column is coming up with an idea. If I have some version of a minor crisis in my life, I have something to write about and the ideas flow.

Then, there are the weeks like this one where, alas, things are running smoothly. So that’s when I turn to you to give me ideas.

The most requested topic? Relationships. Everyone wants to know if theirs is normal. And what is normal?

Relationship stuff is a hot topic. Why? Because every single one of us is in some form of a relationship. From daily interactions that create mini-relationships to our major player relationships, these all dictate who we are, how we live, and almost every other facet of our being.

With that said, I’m going all “Dear Abby” on you for this column (and possibly future) and answering some questions people fired at me.

My disclaimer: I’m no relationship expert; far from it. But sometimes it helps to hear the thoughts of a third party who has no vested interest in the relationship and no allegiance to either side.

I am merely the third-party thought.

Question: At what point after you move in together is it OK to just come home after work, crack a beer, kick back and do absolutely nothing?

Signed, Needing to zone out

Dear Needing:

There’s no set timeline to be able to do this. It all comes from the comfort level you feel with your partner. Some people take months to get to this stage, whereas, others may be sporting sweatpants and stained T-shirts by the second weekend.

Ultimately, do what works for you. Maybe while you’re in the midst of cracking that beer open for yourself, you can pour your sweetie a glass of freshly, un-corked, cool Okanagan Gwertraminer. That should help take the pressure off you to do nothing more than reserve your spot on the couch for the night to power-watch Shameless on Netflix.

Here’s a thought. Maybe your sweetie is also longing for the same “do-nothing” kinda night after a long work day. Put it up for discussion. Just remember not to become complacent and boring in your pursuit of apres-work relaxation.

Plan for a couple of nights where you just go for an easy walk or a dinner out. Then, just let the rest of the week unfold as it will. Happy zoning!

Question: I’m a stay-at-home mom to young kids. My husband goes to work during the day. What are the rules when it comes to who does what for housework?

Signed, Sick of the Swiffer

Dear Sick:

Well that’s a loaded question as both sides have valid arguments. From my experience, I’m guessing you think your husband expects you to do the household chores because you’re “just staying at home all day watching the kids.”

I mean, how hard is that, right?

Except that it’s not about how hard it is (but for the record, it is an intense juggling act). It's about you needing a break from the every-day mundane. You need to feel like you can still have a conversation that doesn’t revolve around poop schedules and how effective the Mr. Clean sponge really is at removing permanent marker from the dog.

Your husband, on the other hand, thinks he needs a break from the demands of the client that’s never wrong and threatening to take to Twitter to prove it. Your husband has to be “on” from the second he steps foot into that workplace, and he can’t let his guard down till he walks back in the door of his own sanctuary.

You guys are both right in your own sense. He’s worked a full day with other people who get to shower without interruption every day and who don’t care about his home life.

You’ve also worked a full day monitoring the potty training schedule, driving on clogged roadways to get to the nearest play place full of other people’s screaming children and making sure the kids are eating more than goldfish crackers for meals.

So the division of chores can be a contentious subject among couples. You’re both doing a job that contributes to the good of your family.

I may be unpopular for saying this, but most general household chores should fall to you because you’re home during the day and that’s part of what being a homemaker is. Of course, there’ll be days where you get nothing done, but the good news is the chores will still be there waiting the next day.

For the record, I was a homemaker for the first seven or eights years of my kids' lives. I'm well aware of how much it takes to run a household day in and day out. I don't take what you're doing lightly.

Just remember to recharge and reward yourself with a night out with your friends. You’ve earned it, and your husband will appreciate the work it takes to run the household for those few hours without you. And … he may figure out how to get that permanent marker off the dog in the meantime.

If you too have a question you want a third-party answer to, send it my way. Thanks for reading.


The Like-Me Generation

To “Like” or not to “Like,” that is indeed the question.

I’m talking about the Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Snapchat likes-and-views counter. These seemingly harmless numbers have become new measures by which kids — and adults — measure their popularity and in some cases, their worth.

A high number of likes must translate into many people actually liking me, right? That’s what some people think.

Kids are particularly at risk of falling into this trap. Most kids seem to get some form of social media account in the range of 10-13 years of age.

They soon realize the powerful feeling of posting a picture or status update and the heady rush one gets when you see you have dozens or hundreds of likes.

This has actually translated into some kids focusing their time and energy on becoming Internet and social media superstars.

For example, the latest and greatest is creating an Instagram account with tons of followers. For anyone who doesn’t know what Instagram is, it’s a picture-based social media platform.

You can post a picture and use a bunch of different filters to achieve a desired “edit” of the photo. Add a quick caption and a few hashtags, and you could be well on your way to achieving Insta-fame status.

Well, that’s the hope anyway. The reality though is that this type fame is usually reserved for an elite few. The same few who already have celebrity status – celebrities, sports stars and socialites.

So what’s the driving force behind kids (and adults) wanting to do this? It’s a combination of fame, money, and the chance to stand out from the crowd.

It’s hard not to want the perks-and-cash flow that come from getting a product endorsement. Look at any celebrity Instagram account and they’re littered with advertising from various sources.

The vendors know that to get their product to the forefront of people’s minds, they need someone perceived as successful to push it. They pay the celebrity to endorse it on their social media accounts because these people have millions of followers watching their every move, post and status update.

The most attractive thing about this set-up to a vulnerable kid is that you don’t need any special talent to do this. You just need to post a photo or funny one-liner and get enough people to share and like it.

But as with anything that seems to good to be true, this scheme has more than its fair share of negativity. The No. 1 being that anyone can follow you or your kid. And I mean anyone.

Now, I could go on about the dangers of the Internet at this point, but I’d rather take a different path and give you something else to think about.

To a kid, likes on a photo equates to likes in real life. It offers a false sense of popularity that these kids thrive on. Not getting likes on a post can create anxiety and an obsession with checking their post over and over to see if the like counter has increased.

Both my kids have told me many stories of people they know who will delete their post if they don’t get enough shares or likes. They don’t want the stigma or the embarrassment of being the person who wasn’t popular enough to generate more than a few measly likes.

The whole likes and comment counter thing has grown to a point where it’s directly impacting a kids self esteem. Everyone wants to feel heard and recognized, and for the upcoming generation today, it’s via social media that they’ll get this instant gratification.

And I get that, I really do. I too have fallen prey to this form of ego petting. Not only through things I might post on social media, but also through this column.

I get excited when I see have a few thousand views. In my head, that means a few thousand people are reading this column of mine. But as someone wisely pointed out to me, that too is a false sense of audience reach.

People may be clicking on my column link, but not necessarily reading it. Or they may just be reading the first few lines and backing out. Or they may have even clicked on it by accident.

The moral to this story is simple.

While likes and shares and comments are an indication of people taking a mild interest in your life at that moment, it’s not a measure of who your friends are, your popularity or your standing in this world.

It’s meant to be a form of entertainment and sharing tidbits of your life. Not the scale upon which you live your life. But for the record, I’m still going to continue to check my own column counts and Facebook stats too.

Thanks for reading.

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About the Author

Tanya Gunderson has been writing for the heck of it for many years. Her inspiration comes from her kids, their friends and the craziness of life. She takes great pleasure in exposing life for what it really is and has an open-book approach to her writing.

Her formal education and background include a blink-and-you miss-it stint in the radio and television industry, but it gave her an opportunity to write professionally on a few different occasions.

Email: [email protected]



The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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