This is Life, Based on a True Story  

KISSing the basics

You know the adage about going back to basics and keeping it simple?

There seems to be a lot of this type of chatter going around lately. I often wonder if this is typical with every generation as they approach and journey through their 40s and 50s.

Or is it something that seems to be getting harder to achieve, so we talk about it more like we would talk about any other dream?

Many of my peers seem to be in this same thought pattern — going back to the basic necessities and creating simplicity where complexity currently lives.

I consider myself very lucky to have two brothers who are pretty cool. Not only do I love and connect with each of them deeply, but they also keep me realistic and challenge me on my opinions — including this one.

While talking with my younger brother about this topic of simplicity, he really gave me pause for thought.

As I was expressing my unexplainable, intense desire to just simplify my life and cut out the “rah-rah,” he asked me what I was hoping to achieve by doing that.

Well, obviously, I want to have more freedom to live life the way it’s supposed to be lived — with enjoyment and experiences. The way I’m living now is just to literally pay my bills and then go into debt to have fun — except that it’s not fun.

For so long, it was very important to me to have a nice house in a nice neighbourhood and drive a nice car to go to my nice job.

Well, if that was the be-all and end-all to happiness, then call me an over-achiever because I have all of that and then some.

But with all of that came more of other stuff I hadn’t thought about: more financial burden, more comparison to the next person, more rushing to the next best thing and definitely more stress.

All the stuff I’d wanted to attain and that I’d thought would make me happier and more grateful, actually gave me less — far less.

I have less sleep, less vacations, less time to do what I want, less money in my bank account and less connection with the people I love the most.

I recently saw an online video about how we all kill ourselves to go to work for hours everyday to pay for houses we can't spend time in because we're too busy working to pay for them ... how true is that?!

I wrote a couple of months ago about how being in Maui gave me a smack-in-the-face realization that less is more.

With no access to Wifi in most public places, I was forced to disconnect. The reminder of how simple it is to not worry if you left your phone at home was startling.

And it also made me yearn again for simpler times. It made me slow down for 10 glorious days and appreciate life for the moments it gave me — not the Facebook or Instagram post.

Even today, I have these weird, unexplained remembrances of how easy and simple life used to be — way back in the 1970s. Before technology and modern-day influences took over. It can be something as simple as a song on the radio that makes me nostalgic for the ease of those days.

My brother had another take on it. He, too, has a bunch of friends who are wanting to simplify and in his own way, he’s on the same path.

His reasoning behind it though is that it’s for a deeper, spiritual connection — be it religion or ethereal based. We all have the innate desire to go back to our roots at a DNA, molecular level.

He thinks it’s because it’s where we come from. We stem from simplicity and love. And as we get older, whether we consciously realize it or not, we want to recreate that.

Even now, as I write this, I struggle to make this sound as good as he did. Mostly because I don’t want to tick anyone off by speaking too religiously or too universally. As much as I like to create conversation, I also hate creating controversy.

All summed up though, my brother gave me insight in a different way — always a good thing. Thank heavens for family that can call you on it …

My plans to simplify have gone full steam ahead … I’ve put my house up for sale and have set clear goals to live a life filled with more vacations, less workday. More gratitude, less attitude. More experience, less stress.

And whatever your reason for simplifying — if it works for you, it doesn’t matter what others think.


Let's hear it for Gen Z

Every generation has its “thing.” What they’re known for and how it affects past and future generations.

Much has been said and written about how the Millennials are a lost generation. And the group coming up behind them, Generation Z or iGen are no better off.

These two groups are often referred to as being lazy and unmotivated and lacking direction.

People who are my age — the generation raising these two groups — are in a constant battle with ourselves of how do we fix this and is it really as bad as perceived?

The baby boomers and earlier generations tend to think so. Their rhetoric is often along the lines of “take away their phones and electronics and make them get jobs.”

Before I continue, I feel the need to state I’m not painting every single person of every generation with the same brush – it’s more of a generalization and there are many exceptions.

But I find that amidst all the complaining about the young up and comers, their good traits are often overlooked and overshadowed by their technology obsessiveness.

Traits such as open-mindedness, tolerance, acceptance and compassion, regardless of one’s ethnicity, sexual orientation or religion.

I think from what I’ve observed with these kids, that the change we’ve all spoken of for years, is going to happen with them.

As their demographic group starts entering the workforce and becoming players in the game of life, a shift in the way society thinks will be more prevalent.

As a parent raising a couple of iGen kids, I’m super impressed with how they and the Millennials have chosen to be the most accepting of all generations prior to them combined.

I was talking to a family member about this. While acceptance of everyone has been preached for decades, it was never truly embraced until the millennials and Gen Z kids took the stage.

I was raised in an environment where my siblings and I were taught to be kind to everyone and to always turn the other cheek in times of turmoil.

Yet, underlying that, was an unspoken “look the other way” mentality that if another person were to discriminate or be racially offensive to a person or culture, we wouldn’t say anything in defense of them.

Was it right?

Absolutely not.

But we also honestly didn’t think we were wrong. We just thought we were being polite by not saying anything at all. And being polite was more important than being confrontational.

That’s not to say my parents ever encouraged us to take a backseat if we seen someone being unfairly targeted. Quite the opposite in fact. My dad was a huge proponent of standing up for others, and the Golden Rule was enforced in our house.

But I was born in a time where it was also ok to just simply pretend you didn’t hear it, see it or notice it.

The difference between then and now is the kids nowadays will absolutely not stand for that and are very vocal in being outwardly accepting to all.

If someone is gay, they don’t care — that’s just who they are. Someone dresses differently — what’s the big deal. It’s that person’s choice.

So while I was talking to my family member about this, I was saying the credit should go to us because we’re the ones raising our kids to be like that. And then I was given another spin on it.

Yes, we have done an amazing job of teaching our children from a young age that it’s OK to be you and that differences among us should be celebrated.

We’re that generation that had to make the leap from being raised in households that perhaps weren’t as open-minded, to having to be the household that is.

While it doesn’t sound like a difficult thing to do, it can be exasperating to unravel many preconceived notions of multiple generations – not only in one’s family, but in a societal way as well.

Yet, somehow along the way, that’s exactly what happened. But can all the credit go to us, the parents?

The more likely culprit, or shall I say hero in this case, is social media. Social media has created a whole new form of social justice never known to generations past.

Anything that goes awry can and will be posted on social media for all to witness and judge. And this is making the younger generations more socially conscious and aware on a grander scale.

Because of the amount of screen time kids and young adults log, they are constantly subjected to other ways of thinking, seeing and understanding what may have been misunderstood in the past.

It’s exposure on a global platform.

While much can be said about the atrocities of social media, the negative effect it has had on society (something I’ve written about many times) and what it’s done to the Millennials and iGens, there’s the flip-side that can be attributed to opening their minds and expanding their tolerance.

Dare I say this could work for the older generations as well?

Thanks for reading.

Burning the divorce papers

In my few years of dating after marriage, I’ve heard my share of stories from the dating trenches, as well as participated in a few of those battles myself.

The common lament by both men and women is usually along the lines of how hard it is to find someone decent.

Someone who is serious about making a real, legit go at it with someone else. Who accepts the baggage of their new partner and whose own baggage is managable.                                                                                           

In the case of kids, new adult singles often (not always) seek someone whose kids are the close to the same age as their own. As one woman once said, there’s no way she’s going back to playdates and play school when her own kids are getting jobs and graduating.

But this is just one more filter applied to possible potential mates, which only results in limiting the limited dating pool even more.

The common dating problems I hear about here, are the common problems everywhere … same stories, different geography. Many people swear they’re “off” dating and prefer to play by a “if it happens, it happens” attitude.

So when I came across this story, I was head over heels curious about its inner workings and background.

I was introduced to a woman who has been divorced for seven years. She share custody with her ex-husband of their four kids ranging in age from 10 years up to 19 years old.

Their divorce wasn’t the best in the beginning, but as time tends to do, wounds and old hurts healed and were eventually absorbed by the every day running of their newly, individual single lives.

After about three years of angry email, phone and text exchanges, this couple managed to find their groove with each other. They were both in happy, settled relationships that were providing each of them what they needed.

They even got to the point where they would mesh both new households for some events – such as birthdays or graduations. To people looking in, they had each nailed the relationship after divorce thing – not only with their new partners, but with each other as well.

She explained to me they strived to keep things civil between them for the sake of their kids – who were younger at the time of their divorce. She admitted they didn’t always succeed, but their long game was a mutual, unspoken agreement

About 5 1/2 years after their divorce papers had been signed, her ex-husband’s relationship went sour and his partner moved out. That left a void in her kids’ lives she didn’t see coming.

So she did what any parent would do and amped up her game to ease the transition for her kids. That meant taking them extra time at her own place and just being there when her ex struggled to make sense of what happened.

What resulted was a new appreciation of her … by her ex-husband. Although he’d never seen her as a bad mom, he never viewed her as the person who would help him when she had no pay-off or obligation to do so. But as she stated, it wasn’t for him – it was for their kids. The rest was just an afterthought.

As her ex-husband came to terms with his relationship ending, he started spending more time than ever with their kids – who were with her most of the time. This, in turn, caused her relationship with her partner to come to an end.

This woman says it was always easy for us to just let him (the ex-husband) come along with whatever they were doing. It’s not like there was any discomfort. And the bonus was the kids listened to both of them without fail – even joking sometimes about “who’s week it was” to give them discipline.

Over a period of about a year, and many kid milestones and crises along the way, the two former spouses, started re-bonding and reconnecting in a way they never had the first time around in their marriage.

She states they both had battle scars from the time they were apart, but it helped them to grow. They realized that no one except them will ever love or raise their kids the way they wanted to … and that was the starting point for the re-ignition of their love story.

Their experiences from their new, now past relationships taught them a lot about acceptance, forgiveness, growth and openness. She said neither of them regrets or blames the other for what happened after their initial marriage ended.

They both feel those experiences have led them to the point they’re at today – which is planning to have a “just married - again, burn the divorce papers” party.

Their kids are ecstatic. While she admits they likely don’t understand the mechanics behind what happened, she also says they don’t need to.

So I couldn’t help asking – what if it doesn’t work the second time around either. Her answer was lovely.

“We’ve come a long way and had to face so many doubters and even our own families questioning us. But in the end, it doesn’t matter. This is our choice. And knowing what we know now and how hard it was to get here, we won’t give up easily ever again.

"We’ve worked hard to figure out exactly what we need to succeed as a couple and a family. And we’re putting us first, for the first time ever.”

I wish them nothing, but the best and so much success.

Thanks for reading.


Lessons learned on Ikea trip

Relationships are funny – in a “ha-ha” way.

I don’t think there’s anything in life that will bring us as much joy while simultaneously stressing us out. Watching others as they engage with their partners in every-day, mundane tasks, makes you realize your own couple weirdness isn’t actually weird.

I write this on the heels of a road trip my partner and I took to Ikea. I was quite entertained throughout the day – not only by my partner, but by our interactions with other couples.

Although we were both looking forward to the quick road trip, the day started out on a wobbly foot between us. Knowing we were making the four-hour drive just to go to Ikea, then coming home again, I was anxious to get on the highway.

So I was instantly irritated when I was told we’re going to make a stop at the recycling centre to drop off stuff he’s had kicking around his garage for months ...

Like now? We need to drop this off right now – there’s no other possible time in the world to do this?

As it turned out, we weren’t able to drop the stuff off anyway. So after getting road coffee, we were on our merry way.

We were both irritable that day. You could just feel it in the air. And after an hour of driving, the conversation turned to that fact. It was at that point that things turned around and for the remainder of the way, we laughed and talked in the way that couples do.

At the store, we were able to buzz through the departments quickly getting what we came for. It was while we were browsing in the bedding department that we came upon this exchange between another couple.

Her: (holding up a duvet cover) “What do you think of this one?”

Him: (not looking up from his phone) “What does it matter what I think … you’ll think it’s too masculine-looking anyway. I already told you what I liked.”

Her: “the one you picked was too masculine looking.”

Him: (grunts)

At this point, my other half told the guy that he totally gets it. Then, they high-fived or fist bumped or something – something about “bro-code.”

I, on the other hand, agreed with the other woman … I liked the duvet she chose. We didn’t have to exchange words. The looks we exchanged showed each other we knew.

We were on the road back home shortly after. We were both feeling good after our day together, and outside of him talking while I was trying to nap, the trip back was comfortable and easy.

So what’s the point of this whole column? Well nothing more than entertainment really. I’m not going for newsworthy with this one.

But on the other hand, it’s also good to air out these moments every so often. Not that comparing your relationship to another is healthy, but as stated already – it reminds you that you and yours are perfectly normal – in that weird, “coupley” way.

What I’ve realized from my own situation is how important communication is in your couple-ship. Whether your feeling irritable just because or disagreeing over bedding, what it comes down to is your still communicating these feelings to your other half.

You don’t have to like or agree with what the other is saying, but you do have an obligation to listen. You’d expect the same. It's just simple respect for one another.

I always feel like I’m nagging – and honestly, I often am. But my partner has told me time and again, he’d rather me nag him so he knows, than me be silent and he hasn’t a clue. And then out of nowhere, I’m mad at him.

This is something I’m working on. I tend to hold my thoughts in for long periods before bursting and freaking out. But all that accomplishes is literally nothing. He’s confused, I’m upset and we both pout.

Overall, our mini road trip was a success – not only for getting what we went for, but also just to catch up with each other and talk about things outside of “how was your day…”  

The best part though?  He offered to assemble the Ikea furniture I’d bought …

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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