This is Life, Based on a True Story  

Relationship's rocky road

The one commonality every single person has is that we are all in a relationship. Relationships are the building blocks of humanity. Without relationships, mankind wouldn’t exist.

You’d think with all the centuries of practice we’ve had at building relationships, we’d all be experts by now. And yet, it is the one thing we are far from perfect at. In fact, I‘d almost say we’re regressing.

This column idea came to me after watching an interaction between a customer and clerk at a store. It was a heated interaction as the customer was angry about a return policy the store had, which the clerk was defending. 

For the brief moment that customer and clerk conversed, they were in a relationship. What amazed me was how two people who didn’t know each other prior to this meeting, were talking to one another — it wasn’t in a nice way.

And I remember thinking how we, as a society, seem to be failing at building relationships, however brief, to the point that we’ve lost basic respect for one another at times.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen a couple of relationships end this summer as well. My daughter and her best friend had a big fight, and now they are no longer friends.

In typical teen fashion, my daughter started choosing to hang out with her boyfriend over her best friend.

This understandably led to feelings of being left out and sadness by my daughter’s friend. My daughter of course, protected her allegiance with her boyfriend and the result was the end of their friendship.

What makes me sad about this ending is that I did this exact same thing to my best friend 25 years ago … and I learned my lesson.

I tried desperately to get my child to learn from my experience, but at 17, her choice is to learn it her way. Will they be friends again? I’m hopeful because this is their grad year and they need each other. But the adult side of me also knows this may well be it for them.

I have a lot of friends and some of them are acquaintances for the most part as we rarely see or speak to each other. But when we do get together, it's like we were never apart.

We follow each other on social media and make appropriate comments and likes on each others’ posts. And for us, that’s enough to keep the friendship going till we meet again; peppered with the occasional inappropriate text.

It’s our way of staying in touch, without staying in touch.

But then there’s those relationships that just come to a quiet end. There’s a saying that goes something along the lines of “people come into your life for a reason, a season, a change.”

Well sometimes that season lasts for years, and other times, it’s a few months – literally a season.

One of my friends is struggling with that “season” right now. Her marriage has ended and she and her spouse are establishing their own, new, single households. With that, came a change of friends.

They had a number of “couple” friends – the friends you meet and have when you’re part of a couple.

What my friend is struggling with is how their mutual friends have “picked sides.” And its been pretty predictable for the most part. Any of the friends that were his first, picked his side and vice versa.

She’s struggling though with losing some of her relationships as a result of that. Over the years of her marriage, she became close to some of the women on her husband’s “side.”

Now, she says it’s just awkward when they get together because these people still have strong relationships with her ex. Although she’s OK with it, she says she gets a sense they feel they’re betraying her ex by hanging out with her. So now these relationships are fizzling.

It occurs to me as I’m writing this, I’ll likely not see her ex again unless I run into him somewhere even though I think he is a good guy I always got along with. I was her friend before being his friend, so my relationship with her will stand.

It’s weird how that works. Without even realizing it, I subconsciously chose her side. She asked me what I thought she should do about the others, and I really had no clue.

When my marriage ended, both my ex and I lost relationships to the other side. But we also both kept some too – mostly family ones, but they are relationships that were and are still important to each of us.

I’d even go so far as to say I don’t think either of us harbour resentment at the other for still having these relationships with someone from “our side.”

Relationships are tough, and they require tons of work; whether the relationship is friend-based, spouse-based or temporary as in the grocery store clerk and yourself. Our need to connect and form bonds is primitive and deep-rooted.

As I end this, I hope my daughter and her bestie will make up and re-establish a new relationship with some new wisdom and acceptance on both sides.

And for my friend to understand the value of fostering the relationships that are there for her right now, and maybe letting go of the ones where the season has ended.

Thanks for reading.


Lessons on the path

I took some much-needed time off from writing after my uncle’s funeral to reset.

Like every other person, life is so busy sometimes that it feels like I am out of control and running to try to catch up to whatever I’m behind on.

I felt it was reflecting in what I was writing and there was a lot of negative connotation in my recent columns.

I’ve come to realize how much I still have to learn. And that feeling of “aaahhh, I have so much to do,” never quite goes away.

2017 has been my least favourite year in a long time. It’s sucked. I’m a strong proponent of the Law of Attraction — what you put out there is what you get back.

If you’re negative, you’ll attract negative people and experiences. For that reason, I’m a mostly positive, sunshine-y person. Seriously! Ask my kids.

Although it’s only been a few weeks, it gave me time to refocus. I’m going back to my New Year’s resolutions and re-evaluating the whats and whys of it.

One thing I’ve been reminded of over and over the past few years is, when you think you’ve                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     cleared the hardest hurdle yet with your kids, they’ll point and laugh at you as they present the next one.

This has been amplified for me this year. One day I’m going to share those moments with you, but I’m still in recovery mode and can’t quite joke about them yet.

One of my 2017 resolutions was to join Toastmasters. So I did. That was the tipping point for me when one day after just a few meetings, I realized I needed a break.

My biggest fear happened when I was asked to stand up and share a story about a topic.

I didn’t have a story for that particular topic, and coupled with my fear of being put on the spot in front of a bunch of people, I totally crumbled, mumbled something about being tired and sat back down, swallowing tears of embarrassment and anger for not being the best, new Toastmaster in the history of the organization.

Nobody else put that expectation on me, I did. Even though I hate it when I fall short of others’ expectations for myself, I hate it more when I fall short of my own. So I quit going, albeit temporarily.

I haven’t gone back yet, but I suppose I will.

Wanna hear something even more ironic?  Earlier this year, I completed my certification for motivational speaking. Go figure.

The other hard pill to swallow  was wrestling with the knowledge that I’m going to have to sell my home. Yes, the home I just built, bought and moved into a year ago.

It just suddenly became really expensive to live here. I’ve had increases in everything from strata fees to mortgage payments to life in general, with a few mishaps along the way.

I was quite embarrassed by this one for a while. In my head, I should be further ahead at 43, yet feel like I’m falling behind. I can’t be the only one who feels like this, right?

Although far from thrilled about having to move so soon from the house I thought I’d be in for a long time, I love the idea of not having to worry about cash flow again, so in the end, this will be OK.

After all, there is a reason for everything.

To sum up, I just wanted to reconnect again with anyone who reads this column by just laying it all out there. I’m working on optimism again and coming up with stuff people want to read about.

Stay tuned; the kids are working on the next crisis for me to write about and as always …

Thanks for reading.

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.

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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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