Sunday, August 31, 2014

Changes Ahead?

Well that was fast.  

Dad’s lawyer delicately put the word out about our house being available for the right tenant and it appears there is an interested party. An older couple with no kids; pretty ideal! She is an artist and he is an international businessman and they have traveled together all their lives. They are looking to retire and are trying some cities on for size, starting with ours.  

I’ll call them the Crofts.  I was surprised to hear the real family name, since it’s one I know.  I couldn't tell you anything of Mr. and Mrs. Croft - I never met them, I just used to know one of their relatives. It was a startling small-world moment when I heard the name.

Anyway, they came to see the place and I made sure not to be there - so I’m at a cafe now, killing time and hiding. The awkwardness of someone walking through your beloved home finding fault, it’s too much for me.  And they should be able to view their perspective residence without the entire family leering over them, right? 

Dad’s lawyer did some good advance work by telling him that the Crofts had heard of him and his illustrious ancestry, and so Dad is predisposed to view them positively.

Fingers crossed.


Friday, August 29, 2014


Dad was in a great mood today. Apparently there was a fantastic picture of him at a party in the society section of the paper and they referred to him as “the timeless Mr. Elliot”. 

 I’m so proud.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Family Dinner

I finally got Elizabeth and Dad to have a sit-down family dinner with me. It was… okay, it was okay. 

I don’t know how to write this without sounding terrible - but I find my relatives boring. They go on and on about trivial matters and when I try to start a conversation about something I find interesting - maybe about something going on in the world that actually matters - they brush me off. They actually make me feel bad for bringing up such boring subjects.  It’s not their fault really - lots of people enjoy their conversation… I just have no patience for meaningless chit chat. I want to have a stimulating conversation

Every time I visit home, I have this revelation - how different I am from my Dad and sisters. I want the family relationships they show in the movies - that sisterly bond, the father you can talk to about anything!  I’m so far from that. Are there actually happy families out there like that? People who enjoy spending time with their adult siblings and parents? I think there are. My old roommate in university loved her mom and would have long phone calls with her where they chatted about everything. She would make long visits home and would be sad to return to our apartment. In contrast, I was always delirious with joy to be back at our hovel student apartment after a visit home

I’m trying to be positive here, end on a positive note. Dad and Elizabeth are good about giving me my space. I may have moved home, but I hardly see them - that gives me space to think and work. I’ve had lots of quiet time to do research on my non-profit idea, looking at existing programs and models, figuring out the financial plan needed to get something small up and running. It’s good to be left alone to work through all this, try to decide if it’s what I should be doing. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tips for Avoiding Reality

My original plan for the year was to come to Dad’s and let him support me while I try to launch my non-profit. I’m being honest here – I could avoid mentioning the fact that I’m mooching off Dad, but I’m not. It’s true. I’m taking advantage of having a family I can crash with and whose food I can eat. I couldn't realistically pursue this idea otherwise. Working full time doesn't leave enough time or energy to start something new. So as much as it pains me to give up my independence and return home, I am very grateful that I have this option.

With the new plan to go to Bath (assuming we can rent the house), I've been wondering what I should do. Maybe this is another sign that my idea of starting a non-profit is ill-timed, like Lacy said.

Whenever I am faced with a problem I want to avoid, I escape into a good book. Initially, after losing my editing job, I found I couldn't think about books at all. Physically picking up a book was so tied to work that it just wasn't possible to relax doing it. I'm a bit further removed now, and because I don't think about book-related things all day long, I can finally read for pleasure again, which is wonderful. I missed that escape. There was a point not long ago when I would critique every book I picked up – and I would critique things like font choice, binding, cover art, copy editing. That's a really powerful way to make it hard to enjoy a story, fyi.

In addition to reading for fun, I also discovered some wonderfully entertaining BookTubers (vloggers on youtube who discuss books), including my latest favourite: The Book Junkie. She's pretty awesome. Her enjoyment of fiction is infectious. You should check her out – she will lead you to good books which might help distract you from that hard decision you should be making. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Convincing Dad

The whole process for convincing Dad to do what he very clearly must do was embarrassing. Obviously things can’t continue as they have been, there has to be a change. Renting out the house and living somewhere cheaper is the least painful option. The alternative is to start selling assets and he refuses to even contemplate that.

Lacy and I had to employ every persuasive trick in our arsenal before he would consent.  In the end, I think it was flattery that did it - telling him that any tenant would be honoured to rent the estate home of the Elliots.  Anyway, it is done, he has agreed to let some key agents know the property is available for rent, should a suitable tenant come on the scene.  We are, of course, not to consider advertising it openly*. Let’s hope something comes of it – I’m not sure you can rent a place without advertising. It breaks my heart, the thought of our home not being ours anymore, but better to rent than be forced to sell.

So, weirdly, I have arrived home only to persuade my family to adopt a scheme that would have me leave this place.  While I know it is what has to be done, and I’m careful to be unwavering in front of Elizabeth and Dad, I do love it here and the thought of this not being our family home does hurt. This is where I picture Mom - on the patio and in the office. She always had organizing committees over, there was always a charity event being planned. Something about the firm but respectful way she commanded all those people was very satisfying to watch, even for a moody pre-teen.  Mom was the kind of person that could get people to do what needed to be done, and they would be happy to do it; she worked magic. These rooms are where I remember that most powerfully.

The thing that ultimately got Dad and Elizabeth on board was Lacy’s suggestion that they relocate to Bath**.  It’s a nearby seaside town where they both have many friends and find the social scene acceptable (and more lively than here, actually).  And it should be possible to live in style in Bath for far less than here.  Basically, they can keep up appearances while getting financially back on track.  Unfortunately for me, I really dislike Bath.  I tried to argue for a smaller place near here but that idea was met with complete silence while everyone contemplated how stupid I am… because obviously it would be mortifying to move to a smaller property in our own city.  By moving to Bath, we can all pretend that the purpose of the move is a change of scene, not a desperate attempt to get out of debt.

So, Bath, it is.

*It would be wrong to secretly post it on craigslist, right? 
** Not actually Bath - this is an alias place name. I'm feeling British today, apparently. Want some tea?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Second Thoughts

I spoke with Lacy yesterday about my non-profit idea and the plan to take this year to try to get it started. She raised some major concerns, which I’ve been mulling over. Most of them are things that have occurred to me – like it being a terrible economic climate to try to raise funds, difficulty in this real estate market in finding a useable space at a reasonable rate, but she had some additional concerns that are really making me pause.

The thing that worries me most about this idea is that I don’t have the training or educational background; maybe if I’m serious about this I should be going to grad school. I’ve thought of that, I just am not convinced it’s necessary and I’m eager to get started. Lacy’s opinion is the opposite. And I value Lacy’s opinion. I know it would be a big advantage to have a stronger background in childhood development, but do I need an entire graduate degree? I’m feeling pretty uncertain about everything right now.

It’s hard to be certain of anything in the midst of upheaval though, right? Going from full time work to free time all the time, from a private small apartment to a large house where you will randomly run into people – some of whom are family and some of whom are staff, it’s a lot of change. And tomorrow Lacy and I are going to have a seriously uncomfortable talk with Dad about…. More change.

Saturday, August 23, 2014


I just realized I never explained the somewhat ominous ending to my first blog post - where I said that Dad's might not be the safe financial hiding place I thought it would be.

It's a funny thing about being ‘moneyed’ - you can be rich and still be broke.  You would be surprised how much the actual wealth of any given wealthy family fluctuates over time - from deep in debt to perfectly solvent.   Often much of the wealth is theoretical rather than cash in the bank that can pay bills.

A few years ago a combination of business decisions and mismanagement and bad luck resulted in a troubled cash flow situation for my family.  Lacy and I talked with Dad and Beth about this last year - the need to reduce expenses to avoid running up more debt, but apparently they could not find any expenses to cut other than immediately stopping all charitable donations and putting off refurnishing the living room. 

When I got here a few days ago, I quickly realized that Dad and Beth have been continuing to live beyond their means (to put it politely). The party was the first warning and it put me on alert. When I asked Dad and Beth about it I discovered they “had tried to cut back” but could not bear to do with fewer staff, or fewer cars, or the yacht, or more modest vacations.  (Insert eye roll here)

Me: What about simplifying the garden landscaping work? I’m sure we can maintain the garden more cheaply-

Dad: Anne! The garden is our face to the world, it would be like suggesting a woman go without makeup! Would you have us living behind a jungle?

Beth: And Anne, the garden was Mother’s pride after all. We have to maintain it for her sake.

Me, refraining from pointing out that Mom’s pride was the _back_ garden that no one but us sees: Okay, what about doing without John? You two are rarely here for meals anyway. I’m sure you could manage without a chef on call at all times, couldn’t you?

Dad: And what, cook ourselves?

Beth: [laughs]

Dad: [laughs]

I guess it’s easier for me – I moved out when I went to university, so I know you don’t need all this space and material stuff to be happy; they haven’t ever gone without it, so they don’t know.

Lacy and I met for a long brunch today and we talked about a lot of things.  Lacy has always been involved in our family affairs.  She was mom’s best friend and she did her best to support Dad after Mom passed. She stood in and did all the parental things Dad wasn't up to - showing up to piano or dance performances, graduations, that kind of stuff. She’s always known our finances and other intimate family issues, so today she and I discussed the financial situation and she shares my concern.  It was such a relief to talk to someone who views the situation as seriously as I do; Dad and Beth don’t seem to.

We think the best thing to do is to rent out the house and convince Dad and Beth to move to a more modest location to stop the financial bleeding.  A few years of living more cheaply, some improved luck on the business side, and they could move back home.

Now we just have to figure out how to talk Dad into it.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Idea

Growing up I loved books. I remember Mom reading to me when I was young and I would turn the pages and pretend I was reading myself. I remember being jealous when my sister could read on her own and I couldn’t. So many of my childhood memories centre on reading. 

But that’s not how it is for all kids, especially children of single-parent families who don’t have as much free time, or children of immigrants whose kids go to school in English and have parents who are struggling with English themselves. There are a lot of kids who don’t have the advantage of adults in their life who can read with them, and these kids, statistically, don’t do as well – across the board. When kids struggle with reading, when they fall behind their peers, school becomes something they dread. Imagine sitting in class dreading the teacher calling on you to read the textbook aloud – would you learn anything if you were fully occupied with being afraid of messing up in front of all your friends who can read?

It doesn’t take much to help counter this, though. Regular one-on-one time, some coaching, getting the kids comfortable reading and they start to do better in all subjects. I find that amazing, that something as seemingly simple as helping a child read can change the course of their life for the better.

That’s what I want to do. I want to start a non-profit reading and literacy program. A program that is so cool (and effective) that kids want to be in it. Instead of being stigmatized for being sent to a special program for reading, I want these kids to be the object of jealousy. And I want them to come out loving reading and feeling enabled and capable.

That’s all. Should be easy enough, right? Uh. If anyone has any contacts with deep pockets that are looking to fund a new non-profit start-up, can you have them contact me?

Thursday, August 21, 2014


What a weird thing to do - write a journal and put it online for any random person to read.  Why not just buy a notebook? 

There’s something about the idea that others may be following along that makes it more real somehow, makes these words matter in a way that words in a notebook wouldn't.  I’m normally very private - partly because it’s just how I am, and partly from growing up surrounded by those who were not very interested in my thoughts or opinions (I exclude Mom and Lacy from this account, of course).

To give an idea of the family dynamics, here’s a mostly faithful recreation of Elizabeth’s reaction to my arrival back home the other day:

Beth is sitting at a table in the large kitchen having coffee: “Oh, Anne. Hi. I wasn’t expecting you today, are you early?”

Me: “Nope, today was the day I emailed you about.  I thought we might all have dinner together tonight. Dad was going to try to clear his schedule.”

Beth shakes her head dramatically. “Oh no, that’s not possible. Dad and I have a very important meeting with our party planner - it was very hard to get her for our event, you know, so we have to accommodate her schedule. I’m sure we can do dinner another night.”

Me: “Oh.  What party is this?”

Beth: “The Solstice party. Didn’t I tell you about it?  Dad and I thought it was time we held one of the famous Elliot fall bashes like Mom used to.  I’m sure people have been missing them. It’s going to be epic!”

Me: “Oh.” I felt pretty sure I knew the answer to the next question, but I always hold out hope, so I asked. “Is it for the same charity Mom threw hers for?”

Beth frowns and looks at me disdainfully. “Holding parties for charity is just not done anymore, Anne.  That would be mortifying - asking someone to buy a ticket for our party? I honestly can’t imagine.  But, you know, we will invite people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to expect an invitation to such an event, and that will do a world of good for them.” Beth waved her hand, indicating that inviting poor, unfortunate people to mix with the fine people of the world was clearly an act of charity and no more needed to be said. 

Possibly I’m exaggerating slightly, but sadly, not much. I didn’t even see Dad until today when we crossed paths at breakfast and he gave me a spiel on smoothies and the amazing wrinkle-fighting power of blueberries.

What kind of greeting should one expect on moving back home at twenty-seven? Maybe they were being polite and not wanting to make me uncomfortable about my situation.  More likely it just slipped her mind that I was returning, or fell lower on the priority list than other things, like party planning. Sometimes I am bothered by my lack of warm relationship with my family, but most of the time… it just is what it is. It’s how it has always been; it is what is normal for us. It would honestly be weirder to have Elizabeth be giddy and excited to see me - that would be seriously unnerving.

Ultimately, my lot in life is pretty good, if the worst complaint I have is that my sisters and I aren’t bffs, well, that’s not bad, right?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Why Half Hope?

Future blog posts will be much shorter than the last one; otherwise this blog will become a full time activity and I was planning to do a few other things, like eat and shower.

If you made it through that first tome and came back for this entry, then, thank you? I’m not entirely sure I want readers, so I’m conflicted about your presence, to be honest.

Housekeeping note – I’ve put a who’s who list here to help you keep track of the people in my life (and to help me keep track of the alias’ I’ve used for everyone).

I thought I’d explain my blog name today.

Naming things is hard. This very simple truth was proven over and over again in my publishing job – the endless conversations and hand-wringing over names! I was probably one of the worst, always convinced there was a perfect name out there for everything, if we just brainstormed enough. For this blog I gave myself ten minutes to decide - set a timer and everything to make sure I didn't spend hours on it.

“Half Hope” explains where I am right now at this weird point in my life. Half of my feelings are in flux all the time – worried, sad, happy, excited, daunted – it changes hourly, but the other half is pretty constantly hopeful about my future.

 Today the non-hopeful half of me is sad.

My family has always had money. We had money and a family name with standing in the community. When my mom was alive, this meant something, it meant we were in a position to help our community, to do good. Since her death, not so much. Moving home makes this apparent and makes me unspeakably sad. Dad and Elizabeth enjoy money; they enjoy the lifestyle, having staff, having the best of everything. I understand that, I do, I just have different priorities and I can see the many better uses for the wealth besides our own comfort and pleasure. Mom was the same way. Moving home makes me miss her in a way that is hard to ignore.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Beginning

Moving back home is never easy. Being an adult and going off to have an adult life and then finding yourself back in your childhood bedroom, no matter how nice that bedroom, is just never a good feeling.

That’s where I am right now, back home. It’s actually quite hard to type that out - seeing the black and white text staring back at me. Back home.

So - I’m starting this blog as a project to help me keep my sanity - maybe writing it all out will help. Having an outlet, that’s healthy, right? Creating an outlet?

Where to start? First, the ground rules. There’s no way to write this without sounding pompous, which hurts me, but here goes: my family is wealthy and well known in our community. My dad places a lot of importance on the family’s social standing, so to avoid any embarrassments, and to give me the freedom to write openly: anonymous. Secondly, due to point one, all names have been changed. Thirdly, as a benefit of point one, I’m committing to total honesty here (otherwise, what is the point?); no hiding from the uncomfortable truths about my life. Also a chance for me to say the things I have to bite back in real life.

My family - let’s call us The Elliots - my mom and dad and their three daughters. I’m the middle one. My older sister Elizabeth still lives with Dad, and my younger sister Mary is married with one kid. Elizabeth and Dad are very alike. Elizabeth (insists on people using her full name, no nicknames; so I will take great joy in nicknaming her Beth here, heh) dabbles as an interior designer when clients of sufficient style, taste, and rank approach her, otherwise she spends her time spending Dad’s money as quickly as possible. (How am I doing on that honesty clause?) Beth is my sister and I love her, I just wish she was less focused on appearances and status and material things. My other sister, Mary, is married to a nice guy and has a son who is…. energetic. Mary likes attention. I’d say I get on better with Mary, but we’re hardly bosom buddies.

I have very little in common with any of my living family members, if I’m brutally honest.

Our mother died when I was 14. She was perfection - which is what you would expect a daughter to say of her mother who died so early. It’s not just my account that supports this notion, though, my godmother Lacy would agree. In my mother’s absence, Lacy has been the closest thing to a mother; she is the person I am closest to in the world. Part of the reason she is so important to me is because Dad is, well, Dad is most focused on ensuring we only socialize with those who are worthy. His lineage traces back to Very Important People, and he feels it is his duty to maintain the respectability of the family name. He is less concerned with the details of raising three daughters, it’s just not his thing.

Let’s be honest, I’m spending all this time going over the cast of characters because I’m avoiding something. Avoiding telling why I’m 27 and have moved back home. Let’s get that over with.

I went to school, studied, figured myself to be a fairly smart, capable person. “Steady and dependable” Lacy would describe me, I think. After graduating I went into publishing, despite it having terrible prospects. I love writing and books and the whole frustrating process of taking a manuscript and turning it into a complete book that people buy. I got lucky out of school and landed an entry level job at a small publishing house that published beautiful novels. I managed to work my way up to an editorial assistant position with hopes of someday being a commissioning editor. All sounds good, right? I mean, my paycheque was tiny and the hours very long, but I loved my work. Loved it. Anyway - the company went out of business. It’s just the state of publishing today, it’s hard for small publishing houses to be profitable.

I've suddenly been thrust into free time. There are zero jobs in publishing right now and a lot of competition for those zero jobs. I sold my condo and I've given myself a year (max) of mooching off my Dad to see if I can realize a dream I've had to start a non-profit focused on improving literacy among disadvantaged kids.

Turns out, I may have been very wrong in thinking of Dad’s as a safe financial hiding place.