Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cosmos and Perogies

It's New Year's Eve. So many thoughts tumbling around my head.

Resolutions, reflections, and procrastinations.
Dreams, wishes, concerns and causes.
Plans, projects and possibilities.
Past and present.

Thank you 2008 for milestones and memories too many to mention.
I face 2009 with unyielding optimism and the feeling that humankind is on the precipice of collective consciousness. We will need that.

So on this last night of 2008, I concocted myself a cosmopolitan and fried up some perogies - bacon, onions and all! Total comfort food and comfort. I saw the movie Milk with my eldest daughter this afternoon, spoke to my parents and MIH to exchange Happy New Years' wishes and left a message on daughter 2's answering machine. Loose ends are tied up. Two hours left in 2008 and then a new calendar will begin. A new page will be written. For now, I sit quietly sipping my cosmo, my heart full of gratitude and my tummy full of perogies!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Second Chances

It's been an emotional day. I went with MIH to meet her first mom for only the second time. First Mom lives a few hours away and we were meeting up to take her to lunch as a celebration of her 75th birthday. On the drive out there our casual chit chat couldn't mask the underlying smorgasbord of emotion. What to expect? What to ask? What to feel? So many questions -- how will this new family intersect with the existing family - if at all?

MIH was warm but a little guarded when First Mom opened the door and hugged her. First Mom seemed smaller in person that her picture. I watched MIH intently to see how she was reacting to all of this. I found it mind boggling ... We sat with First Mom for a while in her home and I couldn't resist asking a few questions about MIH's first father and brothers. The pain on First Mom's face was evident but her eyes sparkled with hope. MIH's eyes were perpetually brimming - with an occasional rogue tear escaping.
Naked truth. First Mom was brave and honest as she described her life and choices. MIH was equally honest as she in turn described the life she had lead with her adopted parents. It occurred to me that I was witnessing a second chance for these beautiful strong women. There is time. First Mom was so young when she had MIH - that she is only 17 years older. As they exchanged stories and tried to compress 53 years of life into 2 hours I couldn't help but note the similarities between them. I couldn't resist the occasional enthusiastic "MIH does that too!"

Both women are warm and somewhat reserved -- maybe cautious is the better word. They have faced personal challenges and longed for that which they were missing. They share an attitude of living choices - and choosing attitudes. Both did the best they could and made the most of the circumstances they were handed. Neither time nor space has prohibited the seedlings of familiarity from taking root. Family.

Sharing. Acceptance. Empathy. Forgiveness. Second chances. What a gift!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Farewells and Reunions

Today my sister and I dropped our parents off at the airport for their flight back to Florida. Luckily we were all busy unloading luggage, hugging goodbye, and exchanging last minute instructions - which removed the emotional teary quotient from our farewell. I usually get a lump the size of Alaska in my throat when I have to say goodbye to Pops and the family. I just swallowed it whole and kept my mind busy. I just wasn't up for sadness. But when I drive by and their house is dark, and no one to hear my honk .... : (

The drive home - which included a border crossing (and a lengthy wait) - gave my sister and I a rare opportunity for uninterrupted chatter. Not that we need an excuse but still, it was a nice treat.

Tomorrow I am taking a road trip of another sort with MIH. I know she has great anxieties about it but in my heart I know she will make a memory tomorrow that will become a treasure for her to cherish always. She is going to celebrate her first mom's 75th birthday by taking her to lunch and I know that no matter what, that will be the best gift her first mom will get this year. And they both have waited a lifetime for it.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Loose Threads

The house is eerily quiet. My sister and her family left for home at the crack of dawn. Kidlet is at driving school. Eldest daughter has already checked in ... I have had a decadent day so far. I stayed in bed this morning to finish watching The Jane Austen Book Club. With the wind howling and rattling the house and the dog cuddled close - it couldn't have been more perfect. Only my caffeine craving drove me downstairs in search of coffee.

I moved my lazy behind - coffee in hand - to the family room and catch a retrospect of famous people who passed in 2008. Artists, scientists, actors, musicians and pioneers. Famous people who left the world a better place. It made me think of all of the not-famous people who also make the world a better place just for being in it.

MIHToday is my MIH's (mom-in-heart) birthday. I refer to her as MIH as she is far too special to be called "in-law", a term that implies a mandated relationship. Ours has grown far past that ... and we have found we share a deep belief that we can choose our response to the events and circumstances in our life. For Christmas I gave her the Randy Pausch book, The Last Lecture. She is not a huge reader but I know that she will enjoy his perspective on living life fully - a philosophy she lives every day. She has been grappling with issues from her childhood and has important decisions to make regarding her birth family. This year could be pivotal --and she will choose.

My Dad and StepMom head back to Florida tomorrow. This will truly mark the end of the holiday season for me. I am proud that I have spent every Christmas Day- since birth - with my parents. They embody Christmas for me. What is it about Christmas that triggers the memory reel to roll? This is truly a time for reflection and gratitude. My memory reel is rich with colour, relatives, hugs, love -- more than most have in a lifetime. For my childhood, I am supremely grateful. For the life I have built today - I am content and blessed.

The house is eerily quiet -- and peaceful. And for that - I am grateful.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Books are Back

I have loved books as long as I can remember and this Christmas, I received a record 9 books as gifts. Each one is a variation on a theme near and dear to me. More importantly - they show me that the people close to me really know me.

~ G R A T I T U D E ~

One of my most favourite was the new Annie Leibovitz book, filled with stories behind her pictures and the people she has photograghed. I have only have a few minutes to scan the pages but I can't wait to dive into it. I have my new collection neatly stacked on my desk -- my very own literary feast just waiting to be devoured. If I could I would barracade myself in a cosy little cave and read for a week. I may need a reading vacation!

~ C O N T E N T M E N T ~

Of course this all has reinforced my desire for a library .... and if you can believe it - as I write this blog entry, there is a design makeover TV show on. Subject: home libraries.

Synchronicity at its best. Universe is telling me I need a library. Is anyone listening? : )

Amyway - books are back - to stay!

~ H A P P I N E S S ~

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Afterglow

Well it's over now-- and it was grand. Weeks of effort - shopping, wrapping, cooking, cleaning are the seeds, and the 2 or 3 days of concentrated family times and a lifetime of memories are the harvest.

Things got really busy just before Christmas eve and with the gentle reminding of hubby I resisted getting worked up about the stuff that simply did not get done -- even though that "thing" ended up being the cleaning. Yikes. I just camouflaged the dust and dirt and hid the clutter as I repeated the mantra "focus on what is really important". Low lighting helped too.

Christmas Eve at hubby's parents was a great kick start. My MIH loves Christmas and embodies the very best part of the season -- colour, generosity, family, love abundance. We left there with contented with full bellies and sore cheeks from smiling. Their Shar-Pei was a big reason for the smiles!

Christmas morning was magical ... hubby and I were up before the kids. The times definitely are a' changing! There is a sacred space of time just before the world awakens, the house is quiet and lit only by the Christmas tree, in which there is utter peace. I love that and claim that special time as my own.

In spite of our vow to cut back on materialism, the tree bulged with gifts. There was a distinct difference though ... the gifts were more thoughtful and meaningful - evidenced by wide smiles, misty eyes and hugs. I parted with two of my most precious possessions; I gave eldest daughter a gold locket that was bought as a gift when my mother was born 69 years ago. She is my mother's namesake and I knew she would treasure it. Middle daughter received my 1942 edition of Anne of Green Gables that had been my mother's. My way of giving while I live ....

The feast -- Hubby took on turkey duty and wowed us with the results of his constant coddling and basting of the bird. The lemons, oranges, apples and onions didn't hurt either. The chatter was animated, constant and loud. I often wonder how food even gets eaten in our family -- as the din never ceases!

At the end of the day, the pots were piled high, the house was littered with food remnants, and half empty wine glasses, and hubby and I were exhausted. At the end of the day we all agreed that it was one of the best Christmas' ever -although we say that every year. Kidlet gave me keeper moment when she spontaneously wrapped her arms around me and told me she was happier than she has been in a really long time.

At the end of the day, it was grand. And I am still basking in the afterglow of Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It's a Wrap! Not!

Countdown is on - and it's not days, but rather, hours. Thought I was ready.

tick tock

Laundry to do. Bedding to change. Presents to find (the ones I tucked away in really good spots).

tick tock

Rugs to vaccuum - or maybe burn! Toilets to scrub. Floors to wash. Presents to find (I hid them so well even I can't find them). Pictures to print.

tick tock

Food to buy. Camera battery to charge. One more gift card to buy - and more if I don't find those hidden presents.

tick tock

Dog to bath. Fridge to wipe. House to clean.

tick tock

What's that ticking??? Of course - It's the sound of Christmas thundering towards us- ready or not! And I thought it was a wrap ....

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Gifts that keep on giving ...

Amidst all of the usual "news" and weather doom and gloom forecasts on TV this morning, a story on a unique "green company" caught my attention. Now I know where I will be buying my Christmas cards next year ... Botanical Paperworks. They are based out of Winnipeg and produce eco-paper products made from 100% post consumer waste. And that isn't even the best part -- the paper is embedded with seeds and when you are finished with the paper, you can plant it and voila - something grows - wildflowers, herbs etc. How perfect is that! Eco-friendly, green, responsibly produced, Canadian, and a gift that keeps on giving. Now that is my kinda gift!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Let the fun begin

The best part of the Christmas season is about to begin ... the seemingly endless get-togethers with family and my special friends. As I write this I hear the hum of snow blowers in the background and see the "smoke" streaming outside from our furnace. I haven't ventured outside yet.

I thought I was so well prepared and ahead of the game but now as I sit amid the laundry that needs to be put away, the floor that needs serious cleaning and the odds and sods from kidlet, wrapping remnants and other stuff that has accumulated on our coffee table, I can feel the rumblings of panic setting in. Yikes. I still have to buy drinks and wrap a few things to bring to our first big family party this afternoon. And then there is that baking I haven't started. Oh - and I better remember to shower!

What to do first ... Calm down. Don't get overwhelmed. One thing at a time. Exhale.
Geesh, that felt good.

I just have to remember the point of all the preparations -- family-time! I can't lose sight of the forest for the trees. Priorities! That being said, it's time for me to get off the computer and get ready to go. Start living the fun - instead of just writing about it!

UPDATE: A wonderful time was had by all ... and just as we were leaving, it gently began to snow and one couldn't help but feel the peace and see the hope glistening.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Stormy Weather ...

Today was the first storm of the year. Welcome Christmas! Welcome winter! Left for work early this morning in clear skies knowing that the ride home would be a treat! Managed a few shots on the drive home (thanks to auto focus).

Visibility was zero in some places on the highway ...

Our street looking so very peaceful.

Home sweet home. Benzie (my car) came through and won me over. Jeep rules!

Hubby duelling with the shovel!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Lives of Poo!

I had been complaining that I've been having a hard time trying to find gifts that are responsibly produced and "green". Then today - after all of my shopping was completed (of course) - I stumbled across the most interesting website with the best gift ideas ever ... Ellie Poo! Paper products made from elephant dung collected mainly from elephant orphanages from Sri Lanka (and then distributed by Mr Ellie Pooh.) Doesn`t get much greener than that. They have a wonderful collection of handmade journals, stationary, scrapbook/photo albums and paper.
Hits all my hot buttons: eco friendly, environmentally sustainable, "green" environmentally conscious company.
Definitely something to keep in mind for next year. And it reinforces that old adage -- when life hands you poo, make pooper -- paper!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Let it snow ...

Today I woke up to a fresh white blanket of snow. Perfect! Things are really coming together for a perfect white Christmas. While everyone around us have been shovelling the stuff for weeks, my little town somehow dodged the snowfalls, leaving a very bleak, gray landscape. Not now!

My hubby didn't share my enthusiasm at 6:15 am this morning as he donned his touque and shovel ... however he did clean off and start my car for me so he obviously has the Christmas spirit in there somewhere ...

For some reason Canadians forget how to drive in the snow over the summer. Even though the snowploughs had already cleared the highways, cars were chugging along at a snail's pace as if they were terrified, braking every few seconds as if to test that the brakes do in fact work. Ugh! i tried not to get impatient and instead found a radio station with Christmas music and sang my little heart out all the way to work, waving happily to the truck drivers as I sailed past them. Corny - I know. And another thing I know is that I need driving glasses. As my optometrist predicted, these "aging" eyes can no longer see the white lines on the highway if it is dark and rainy. I rely on lights on the cars in front of me and hope they know where the heck they are going. And the drive isn't going to get easier as the winter progresses. So an eye exam is on my "to do" list!

Getting back to Christmas ... the parents arrived last night from Florida and I stopped in on my way home from work. We opened a bottle of wine and sat back to catch up on the last few months. It wasn't long before little sister stopped in too. Another bottle of wine! As we sat gathered around the coffee table munching and chatting (and sipping) I got that warm glow in my tummy that signals absolute contentment. Life is indeed good.

And today is my company's Christmas luncheon ... another bead on the Christmas string. So for now -- at this very moment -- all is calm and all is white!

Monday, December 15, 2008

With every Christmas card I write ...

Love this time of year. Lots of deliveries (Internet shopping!!) and mail. And amongst the plethora of flyers, newspapers and bills piled high on the kitchen table are the gems -- Christmas cards! There are those from special people close by and then there are those annual communications from friends and family from far away, those who use this opportunity to fill you in on all of the news of the past year. Today I came home to three -- one from a high school friend that included a family update letter, one from my aunt who lives out of town and one from a lady who was a close friend of my mother and father who lives up north, and remembers me every Christmas. They join the ever growing display on the kitchen buffet. Ahhh. Love it!

Isn't that what Christmas is all about -- our relationships. Reaching out for that connection, gently fanning the spark on brittle kindling to coax a flame. Tonight I am sending out my own communications, or at least writing them. I am thumbing through my address book to build my list and putting the final touches on my family Christmas letter. With any luck I'll have 30 cards to drop into the mail tomorrow (or at least Wednesday). Sowing seeds! The harvest is love.

I suppose I am fortunate to have 30 people in my life I want to reach out to. (Note to self to not take that for granted). Tomorrow my dad and stepmom migrate back from the south for two weeks of Christmas cheer and a healthy dose of winter. Kidlet and I dropped by their house to turn the heat up and stock some essentials. The pieces of the Christmas puzzle are coming together and I can't wait! No coal in the sock for me. I've been a good girl and I just know my Christmas wish is going to come true. It already is ...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

It's Beginning to Feel Alot Like Christmas

Tree is up! Our eclectic (fake) tree adorned - each ornament either a piece of family history or a gift from someone special. The Christmas music is loaded into my MP3 player - a really good assortment I must add - and is all hooked up to my sound system. I am finished my shopping and this weekend I even got everything wrapped up. I didn't buy wrapping paper and I decided to only use my cloth bags, reuse my gift bags or old boxes I had kicking around. I am getting in touch with my creative (s)elf. Label me Christmas Wiz (or not). At least I met one goal - to get all of the shopping and errands out of the way early so we could be freed up to actually enjoy the company of our family and friends. What a concept!

It looks as though that is going to happen ... this is the year that our whole family - my parents, daughters, sisters and brother and all of the nieces and nephews are all together for Christmas Day. My girls love when we have the "big one", as do I. Not sure if it's my imagination but it seems as though people are in particularly good moods as they go about their Christmas errands. Surprising considering the times ...

Anyway -nothing can dampen this girl's Christmas spirit. Soon the house will be filled with the smells of Christmas -- as soon as I move kidlet's stinking hockey bag from the front foyer and start baking! But that is for another day!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Laws of Attraction in Action

It's been nice lately to have someone to chat with about the laws of attraction, dreams, books and what is important is this life. My new cube neighbour at work and I share a belief in the principles of creating your own reality, power of thought, visualization and much more. Before our day gets started we exchange "success" stories and anecdotes, coffee mugs in hand. It reminds me how important it is to have someone to share with. Those lively heart-to-heart chats reinforce and inject positive energy into the otherwise stale office air and help set the compass for the day.

Today we were talking about how we can look back on what seemed like times of chaos and disorder and see it all as pieces of a puzzle fitting together perfectly. That unplanned pregnancy that lead to a bigger apartment. That first job with a tough boss that taught us our work ethic. Sometimes our "vision" is limiting -- so defined that we don't leave room for even greater possibility.

At lunch we joked about the laws of attraction -- as she tried to take one piece of bread, but got two stuck together. She really wanted that extra starch! But as Richard Bach says in his book Illusions, "every person, all the events of your live in our life are there because you have drawn them there. What you choose to do with them is up to you". My cube colleague and I -- have something to learn from one another -and that's no accident!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Giving As a Way of Living

During this season of giving, I am uncomfortable. I am restless. It seems everything I am giving, is easy for me to give. I need to give something deeper - more - something that I would be parting with, a sacrifice of sorts. That volunteering notion is nagging me again, creeping from my subconscious to activate my generosity switch.

As we drove past a maximum security corrections facility for youth I thought aloud that maybe I would like to volunteer there ... maybe run a writing group or something. My accomplished teenager asked me (rhetorically) what I knew about running a writing group. A cauldron of emotions boiled over inside me and it confirmed what I already knew (apart from the fact that my daughter seems to know nothing about me personally); I have to be a living example of the change I want to see. I have to do it for her, for my community and most importantly for me.

As a teenager I volunteered at an organization for mentally and physically challenged people. I have never know such joy and fulfillment. I spread my time between the workshops, stores and my most favourite - the group home. I came home every night bubbling with stories of the affection and attachments I was forming with the special people I was supposedly helping. In actuality, we helped one another. They taught me about unconditional acceptance and love and most importantly, I learned about myself. I learned that I had alot of love to share as well as alot of care. I learned that when you volunteer, you always get back tenfold what you give. That's not the reason to give, but it is a reason to live - more abundantly, spiritually and authentically.

The right stream will present itself to me, and when it does, I am ready.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Making a List ...

I pledged that no matter what - in every preparation, activity and event related to Christmas that I was involved in - I would have love in my heart. I vowed not to say I was stressed out, complain, nor get grumpy in the crowds. I want to wring every possible joy out of this special time of year; to simplify; be more authentic in my giving; and to give while I live.

I set out to buy gifts that are responsibly and ethically produced. This has turned out to be harder than I anticipated. Discouraged after wandering big box stores and reading Made in China labels, I came home and went online. What a pleasure to browse and search in the comfort of your comfy flannels. I think when we find ourselves stumped on what to give someone we are supposed to know so well, because "they have that already", it's time to give a gift that keeps on giving.

I especially love the Hunger Site; it provides a ton of options for gift giving - benefiting a whole host of causes ranging from literacy, animal rescue, hunger to rain forest, breast cancer and child health. I have ordered everything from luggage tags to education for Afghan girls over the years. is especially dear to me. I love that the organization works to help people in need become self reliant and speaks to the ideal of giving a hand up. This year I am also giving Kiva gift credits. For $25 people can become micro loaners to people all around the world who are trying to build better lives for themselves. I find myself pouring over the stories of the waiting entrepreneurs and coming away inspired. They should have an addiction warning on the site cause once you start -- you can`t stop!

We give for many different reasons; personally, I love the good, warm feeling I get from watching the delight and pleasure on the faces of my friends and family as they open the gifts I have chosen for them. With Kiva and Heifer gifts, the satisfaction and good feeling come from knowing you are helping someone live a better life. And there is no greater gift than that.

So - I`m making a list and checking it twice.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

It's The Real Thing ...

Today was a great day; one that marked a very important tradition in our family -- decorating our Christmas tree. Old dusty boxes were retrieved from the various storage nooks and my hubby set up and readied our artificial tree. Yup - artificial. For years I felt that I was taking the environmentally friendly option by not killing a living tree for the pleasure of having it in my living room for a mere two weeks. I now feel very differently ... regrets -- I've had a few.

I am embarrassed by my unnaturally perfect, unnatural tree - that - once I am finished with it - will end up in a landfill, not decomposing forever and ever. The other problem I have is that half my family (me included) are seriously allergic to the live trees. What to do??

For now I have decided to keep using my already purchased artificial tree until it can be used no more. It would be pointless to retire it to a landfill prematurely solely to assuage my shame and guilt.

One thing that isn't artificial though - the warm and fuzzy feeling I get watching my girls "Christmasize" our home. Lights, stockings, garlands and ornaments. Finally - it's beginning to look alot like Christmas -- and it's the real thing!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

View From My Cube

At work I usually keep the blinds down in my work cube. The view of the alley and graffiti isn't particularly inspiring. Especially on those gray, overcast days - it seems easier to block out the real world and create our own inside, comforting zone. I think many of us feel that way about the situation with our government. The situation is messy and somewhat dismal and it is easier to look away or pull the blinds down.

The view may not be pretty but these are definitely interesting times for Canada. Our minority government has been suspended (prorogued -- gotta love that word) until the end of January during a time of great economic strain and public unrest. Many thought that another election was inevitable, and then there were those who were against the coalition government. I for one was all for a coalition government.

Considering we just had an election, and the fact that Harper is exploiting the minority situation - banking on the other parties not wanting to force and election and fall into disfavour with the public - and is trying to push his garbage through) - I am all for a coalition. I think the parties would have to focus less on partisan positions and pass legislation etc that are at the core of what is important to Canadians. The fear mongering about the Bloc is a smoke screen, as the proposed coalition government consists only of Liberals and NDP. The Bloc has pledged their votes. I only wish that the Liberal had a stronger leader however I think Layton and Rae will have strong voices.

I think the next two months will be filled with lots of Conservative ads promoting the party position. They have the money to spend. It will be interesting to see where it all ends up.

Like I said, the view may not be pretty, but it sure is interesting.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mothers and Daughters

I was sitting in the food court yesterday with eldest daughter, chatting happily away, content in the moments I was sharing with her. We spotted an elderly lady sitting at a table close by, patiently waiting for her lunch. Daughter told me that she sees the lady often with her daughter and that they go to the mall every week. Out of no where my throat clenched, my eyes welled up and tears (the big fat kind) escaped my temporarily abandoned guard. I was flooded with "missing" and memories ... memories of times spent with my beloved grandmother; trips to the mall I had taken with my own mother; resignation to the knowledge that was, will never be again. My heart swelled with longing... and the controls to my emotions were hijacked.

I sat staring at my bewildered daughter as I tried to regain my composure and watched her eyes fill as well. I explained that I was remembering my mother and grandmother and how much I had loved spending time with my mom; that I was sad that I would never again have trips with her to the mall (or anywhere for that matter).

She got up and came over to put her arms around me and comfort me. And in that split second it became clear; there would be trips to the mall for a mother and daughter in my future.

I had the privilege of coming from amazing, strong women and now I have three such women that have come from me. I have so much ...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Happy Birthday Mom

Today is the birth date of my mother. She would have turned 69 - however - she will be forever frozen in time at 58. I think she would like that. She passed one week after her 58th birthday after a heroic battle with lung disease. She fought for a lung transplant and endured unspeakable medical horrors for the privilege of living. I was fortunate in that I was her caregiver during her 2 year fight, and she lived in our home. She always taught us to seek the gift in every adversity and when it became clear that she was gravely ill, I did just that. I found the gift in her illness. We shared countless hours together driving to and from dr appointments, lung treatments and clinics and I was by her side as she was infused with medication, rushed to Emergency, waiting for procedures .... all time that was filled with humour, conversation and tender moments. What a gift.

I witnessed her strength and dignity as she endured countless invasive, painful procedures and I can say with all honesty that I never heard her complain - not once. There was a time when she was having a spinal tap procedure, at the hands of two young residents who after several attempts, struggled to get the puncture in the right spot. She winced in pain and my sister and I held her hands. We were totally distraught at witnessing this and she opened her eyes and said to us, "Don't worry. It's painful but I won't remember it later".

She enjoyed a full year of perfect health after her transplant and she lived each and every moment of every day - consciously and fully. She found joy daily and sought out new experiences to make the best of her life. Sadly, her fight with organ rejection started almost to the day of her one year anniversary of her transplant. She spent the next 12 months battling hard, never losing hope. My heart sank though ... a part of me knew that my time with her was going to be shortened. She used to say that the only difference between her and others was that she had more information. She had a better idea of what was going to take her life and that she had a finite amount of time left -- as do all of us.

But her story is not about her death. It is about how this petite, modestly educated, gentle spirited woman lived as a shining example of unselfishness. She gave much, loved with all of her heart and soul and made each of her children feel that maybe we were the favourite. She was iron strength in a small package. She was the centre of our family.

"To live in hearts we leave behind, is not to die"

By this definition my mother lives on. Her name is spoken daily by her four children and eight grandchildren. I hear her voice when I need it most. Her advice is shared and her legacy is alive and well. Her many handwritten notes surface as frequent reminders as if to say, remember me.
Don't worry Mom. I remember - and I feel your love. If only I could feel your hugs -- just one more time. Happy Birthday ...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Giving Back

Tonight I find myself reflecting ... part the reason may be the night sky tonight. My hubby called me to the window to show me two of the brightest stars in sky that I ever remember witnessing. They are so bright that we speculated that maybe they were satellites or some time of stationary aircraft. A quick check on the Internet confirmed that it was Venus and Jupiter. Stars in the sky ... stars in my eyes.

The desire to give back in some meaningful way has been burning inside me for some time now. As a young mother with a career I felt the tug then - but couldn't seem to find the time nor the energy. My mother encouraged me with "all things in their time. You will have your time". Now, my time has come. As someone who has been blessed with a properous, rich, peaceful life, I want to and need to give back.

So the search begins. Where do I channel my efforts? I have so many options and interests; should I invest in the younger people and help affect a change in the early years? I am passionately interested in helping women and children recover from abuse. I also have a love affair with older people - who are truly the most interesting sector of our society. And finally, there are the people who are living out their final days ... and could use a hand to hold and a caring soul to usher them out of this earthly life as they pass to other side.

The season of giving has me wanting to give more than I get. And one thing I know for certain - volunteering is the way.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Anti-social media

Today has been spent doing all things "social media". Most of it had to do with my job and the day started with a webinar on this very topic. The session lead to a lively discussion with my colleagues about the way we communicate - how it is changing - and what it all means.

Twittering.Blogging. Facebook. Wikis. The means of communicating online is endless - and instant. Maybe it's a little dangerous too. With a few keystrokes from our keyboard we can express our innermost feelings, reactions and opinions on an infinite number of topics. But express them to who? Quantity vs quality? Is it relevant? Who cares what I think on any given subject? What credibility do I have? Where is the context?

Why do I blog? I asked myself that very question when I first started my blog. It was a big step for me to share my writing -- with ??? Anyway, I write for myself - to express myself. I blog to exercise my writing muscle with unabashed abandon - a different exercise than the work writing. I write to stimulate and organize my thoughts.

It's ironic that all of this online communication is called social media. There really isn't anything social about it. It is impersonal at best -- we really don't know who we are communicating with - the individuals we engage with are strangers to us -- projecting personas of their own creation. I can see the attraction and appeal; we can be who we want to be online and have virtual conversations with people who we may share common interests with. Loneliness could be a thing of the past.

Anyway -- enough of the mindless meandering about social media. I have a blog to post to, Facebook profile to update and pictures to upload. And and on top of it all -- I am feeling anti-social!

What am I doing right now (in 140 characters or less)? Going to bed.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

One Month to Christmas

One month until Christmas! Can you believe it? I have a goal of being done all gift shopping by the end of the first week of December. This will free me up to fully embrace and enjoy all of the wonders and socializing of the season that I love so very much. Ambitious? For me -- very!

Another goal I had set for myself was to make every effort to purchase goods that have been ethically and responsibly produced. That is turning out to be more difficult than I anticipated. In my two trips to the mall I was overwhelmed by the blatant commercialism (I know, it's nothing new) and sheer volume of STUFF. I don't want to buy stuff for the sake of buying stuff. I want to find meaningful, thoughtful gifts that show the people who I love that I know their wants and interests. I resorted to doing alot of my shopping online. I have found several sites that provide a wide assortment of special gifts (lots of organic stuff) that have been handmade from artisans around the globe or that benefit causes that are important to me and others. From the comfort of this laptop I can search, review and select the gifts I want without the chaos and air sucking environment of the mall.

I am also in the midst of planning special activities for our after (Christmas) dinner family time. This year it will be a family trivia game. It will be a time for us all to get to know one another just a little bit better, and for the youngest members of the family to learn about their heritage.

So -- one month to go! Countdown to the ultimate famjam is on! Now where is that credit card???

Saturday, November 22, 2008

New Benz

Had my day off planned yesterday - to get a start on my Christmas shopping - when I got a call from the Jeep dealer that my new car was in. Quick change of plans. Bank drafts. Call to the insurance company. Quick clean out of the old Jeep (I am now $2.57 richer AND I have an extra pair of socks??) Mixed feelings abounded; happy to be getting a more fuel efficient (but homely) vehicle; sad to be saying s'long to my beloved Jeep. Lots of good memories go with that Jeep - not to mention the smell of sweaty hockey equipment that seemed to be embedded in the very fabric.

I ordered my new Jeep Compass in the fall in anticipating of my lease expiring. The escalating cost of gas sent me looking for a 4 cylinder car. Not ready nor willing to give up my 4 wheel drive, I settled on the Compass. Pure practicality. Couldn't afford a hybrid this time around but I have promised myself that my next car will be electric or something that reduces my carbon footprint. I convinced myself I would get over the fact that it is God awful ugly and that I was making a sound choice.

My hubby came with me to pick it up ... I tried to hide my nervousness over the fact I couldn't really remember how it drove. Buyers remorse already??

Pleasant surprise! Passed the black beauty (OK - it's still not pretty but let's be kind) in the parking lot looking all shiny and new and had to smile. I was getting a little excited. My crazy friendly salesman couldn't contain himself when he told me that the new plates read "BENZ". I started laughing, "wishful thinking is more like it!" I suppose people will think they were the plate from my previous vehicle ... from a Benz to a Jeep. Too funny.

Needless to say the drive home was fantastic. Benzie has more bells and whistles than I remembered ordering (check that bill of sale!). Best of all, she (yes, SHE) has a seat warmer. No cold a$$ for me anymore! She hugs the corners like it's Christmas and hums along with me as I sing. We are already quite a team, she and I. She is even nice to Daughter when she drives her.

Best of all - she smells really good! I wish I could say that will last .... However I can tell that this is the start of a beautiful friendship ... Benzie and I are gonna go places!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fast Lane

Drove home last night in my first snowfall. It was the beautiful kind of snow -- light and fluffy, giving all of the naked trees an impressive dressing. The driving part was not so pretty. Why is it that between spring and fall people - most of whom were raised in the rugged Canadian winter - forget how to drive in the snow? Major memory lapses. Vehicles race up the car in front, panic and break. Panic transfers to the whole line of cars that follow .... yikes.

Fear dominates the ride home, so much so that the fast lane is virtually empty. I take a deep breath and make the pass into the fast lane and get my Jeep up to the speed limit. I sail past the timid, turn the radio to my favourite station and sing all the way home.

Lesson learned -- life can be calmer - a little lonely maybe - but easier in the fast lane!

This morning I left for work at 6:30 in a winter wonderland. Winter has been ushered in .... let the fun begin!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Baby No More!

Yesterday my first born turned 26 years old. As I mentioned in an earlier post, her birthday is a memorable milestone for me too. As a mother, you can't help but be transported back to the moment your baby entered this world. I was a young wife of 22 when I first gave birth. Lyndsay was a gift -- I hadn't tried too hard to prevent conceiving, however we certainly hadn't planned it. My husband and I had just been married for 9 months and where living in my one bedroom four storey walk up apartment (on the top floor, of course) when I discovered I was pregnant. We were barely making above minimum wage, we had no where to put a baby and we were battling a new infestation of wildlife -- mice -- after just getting the cockroach problem under control. Definitely no place to raise a baby.

However not even all of that could dampen my unspeakable joy at the sight of the positive pregnancy test. I took pictures of the test, gleefully touting it as my baby's first picture! Within minutes I was on the phone to my parents, sisters and brother to share the monumental news. I could hear the cheers of joy that was echoing around my parent's house as they shared the news as I sat on the other end of the line. I reiterated all of the reasons why I should be concerned ... and my mom sluffed them off. She explained that there was a reason it took nine months to grow a baby -- it provided enough time for the universe to shift, and help us ready for our baby. She enthusiastically reminded me that new life is a gift that should be celebrated and that there is nothing more fulfilling nor important. She encouraged me to enjoy the magical moment and told me that this new baby would bring out the deepest, purest, unconditional love I would experience. When my dad asked me what the due date was, he joked that I was calling when I was only 10 minutes pregnant!

Well, my parents were right. In the following nine months, my husband and I got promotions at work, and we moved to a spacious 2 bedroom (wild life-free) apartment. My daughter was born after a long (23 hour) but uneventful labour. That first glimpse of the baby who had been the tiny occupant of my womb, sharing heartbeats and my body - was the best. I was instantly hit with a tsunami of love, acceptance and the knowing that I would love this little person unconditionally - whatever the circumstances.

My baby was patient as a new mother navigated her way around motherhood, learning how to be a little less selfish. As a baby my daughter was loving, easy going, mellow with a non demanding personality. She was maternal when her sister came along and I remember negotiating time with the new baby (from Lyndsay) as she was convinced that her sister was her baby. Today Lyndsay has retained her maternal outlook with her sisters and cousins -- and yes, even me. She took a little time to figure out her place in the world and now she is enjoying the fruits of her labour. She is an independent, thoughtful woman - who spends a great deal of her time being concerned for the well being of her family - namely her many grandparents.

I am fortunate in that she lives down the street from me and until she gets her drivers’ license, we drive to work together in the morning. Yesterday, just after I dropped her off and continued on to my workplace, I realized I hadn’t wished her a Happy Birthday. Ugh. I made a quick call the moment I got to work, sheepishly apologetic. She laughed it off and reminded me that I did that last year too. Strange. Embarrassing. But I take comfort that this gentle soul with a sometimes crunchy exterior will be in charge of my elder care! She taught me things about myself and we navigated some difficult times together and thankfully – came out the other side in love and respect.
Happy Birthday Baby – my baby who is a baby no more. Just a wonderful woman!

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Last night I had one of those evenings spent entirely on the phone; some of the calls I made; others came to me. The longest call was from an aunt of mine who does not have family close by. She often tells me how fortunate I am to have my parents, siblings and my girls all living in my neighbourhood - or at least in close proximity. I know she would give anything to have that.

I must confess that there are times when I pick up the phone somewhat begrudgingly ... you know the excuses ... I'm tired; I don't feel social; I don't want to give up my whole night. But once I hear her voice on the other end, and we start to chatter I hear her voice get stronger and her laughter more hearty and free, and I feel ashamed myself. She appreciates every gesture of kindness and even the smallest activities that we take for granted -- getting a coffee at Tim Horton's, buying nicnacs at Walmart, or makeup at the drugstore -- give her such delight. It takes so little to uplift her and make her happy. An hour on the phone -- sinfully easy for me to give -- begets a big happy dividend for her. And as it turns out -- for me too.

These chats I have with people create connections - delicate threads weaving together stories, memories, and relationships into the intricate tapestry that is my life. The richer and more frequent the connections, so is my life enriched.

As usual. when we do something kind, we get back so much more than we give. Then I am reminded how fortunate I truly am. Now I just have to keep that in mind the next time the phone rings...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Day of Remembrance

Today is Remembrance Day - and because my workplace closes, I have a day off. I always look forward to this day - as a gift of sorts. I traditionally spend it Christmas shopping. So in keeping with tradition I set out early this morning. I couldn't help but notice how many people were wearing poppies and suddenly felt self conscious about the empty space on my jacket where my poppy had been pinned - until it blew away.

I shopped the morning away and just as I was making my way to the checkout, arms laden with goods and goodies, a young female voice came over the P.A. system and started to read "In Flander's Fields". Most people stopped in their tracks, looking confusedly about as if unsure of what to do next. Some ignored the voice altogether, oblivious to anything out of the ordinary. When the reader reached the end of the poem she asked everyone to honour a minute of silence. Everyone - save the newborn screaming for its lunch - fell silent. I have never witnessed such orchestrated, public silence. I found myself reflecting on the words of the poem I had just heard. I marvelled at how even 90 years later we are honouring the sacrifice of the young people of that generation. I thought of the young men and women who are at this very moment, serving in a god forsaken dust bowl in unbearable heat, another world away from their loved ones and all that is familiar to them. They are serving without the comforts of home -- or any comforts at all. They are missing family dinners, as well as milestones - weddings, graduations, births, deaths ... Their lives are in limbo; they are serving in a place what can be likened to purgatory - neither heaven nor hell.

And I wonder when their day is done, and silence falls around them, where do their thoughts take them? Do they know that their efforts are appreciated? Do they know that they will come home different people, forever changed by their experiences and hardships? If they could hear me now I would tell them - thank you. I remember.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Countdown to Christmas

Can you believe that it is only 46 days until Christmas? I haven't done anything so far to prepare for the festive season, however I have made a decision. Wherever I possibly can, I am going to vote wisely with my consumer dollars and purchase goods that are either local, or at least responsibility and ethically produced.

Last year I vowed not to do or buy anything for Christmas without love in my heart. It worked ... I found myself humming happily along as I chose special gifts for my family and friends. If I couldn't find something that I thought they would like, I gave them something I wanted them to have or that meant something special to me.

Much to plan. Much to buy. Much to do ... much ado about ... Christmas. And it is just around the corner!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Yes We Can -- Wish They Could

In the afterglow of an election that seems to promise that everything is possible, I almost forgot that the same election put barriers squarely in the paths of a whole segment of society. Gay marriage was banned in the U.S.A.

Having a dear friend and daughter who is gay, I find this outcome archaic and to be a regression.
People usually marry for love and commitment, however it is also a legal status, with rights and responsibilities. Shouldn’t two people who love each other and who are committed to spending their life together, be allowed to do so with all the rights and freedoms that other couples have?

In Canada we not only have gay marriage, we have Common Law status, that is automatically granted to a couple who cohabitate for a period of time. This status affords couples with all of the rights and responsibilities of a married couple. This does not exist with the same rights and freedoms in the USA.

My daughter has not found love yet. However when that day comes, more than anything I wish her and her chosen one a life of shared dreams and love -- and a legal, fully recognized union -- a marriage and family. These are the same hopes I have for my other two daughters.

This is just another one of those times I am grateful to live in our welcoming, inclusive country. My daughter can say, "yes we can". Sadly, for gay Americans, "no they can't".

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Morning After ... the Morning After

The reality and enormity of the election results is still sinking in. Funny -- on election day I spent the five hours culminating with Obama's anointment, watching the milky images on my TV through teary eyes, burning through an entire box of tissues. I was sure I was depleted of all salt and moisture. Wrong!

I spent the following day recounting memorable moments with my colleagues and then of course, my father. After work I fell back into my pre-election ritual of surfing between CNN and other news channels to absorb even more commentary on the results. Snippets of Obama's speeches as the soundtrack for slow motion images moved me to tears yet again. Images of black tear stained faces in the Chicago crowd, and video of a jubilant world ... choke hold and more tears.

A day later, I continue to be mesmerized by what is unfolding and I confess I am a little envious. I long for Canada to have a leader who inspires, who empathizes and who articulates a vision - a way forward. Stephen Lewis is that for me. Justin Trudeau may be ... in time. Until then, I am going to peek over the fence into our neighbour's yard and enjoy the festivities, and the view.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

America Chose Change

History in the Making

Tonight is the culmination of almost 2 years of U.S. presidential election campaigning and coverage. Being Canadian, there are those close to me who are more than a little baffled by my keen interest (borderline obsession) in the political gymnastics south of our border.

I admit that I am completely engaged in this presidential election - and in Barack Obama. From the first time I heard him speak at the 2004 Democratic convention, Obama captured my attention and my imagination. With every speech delivered, he has resurrected hope for a more peaceful, inclusive America. He has stirred hope and inspired optimism in ourselves and in our fellow man. He reminds us about the best parts of humankind and the power and strength in unity. What is a leader if not one who inspires and moves another to action?

Tonight I sit in front of our large TV screen, hanging off every morsel of coverage and results. And I confess that, like a good book that I don't want to finish, I want to savour every second of this momentous occasion.

Tonight is history making. I want to remember it well so that in future years to come I can tell my grandchildren how I felt and what I was doing the day the Americans elected a black president; the day that proved anything is possible and dreams do come true.

Now, back to Barack.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Twenty-four Years of Harmony

Today is my daughter's 24th birthday. As a parent I can tell you that the milestone is as much mine as it is hers. I can't help but flash back to the hours and moments leading up to her birth. I was a young mother of 24, filled with hope and anticipation for the future, harbouring a secret fear that I wouldn't love my second baby quite as much as my first. How could I? With my first child my heart had filled - with complete and utter unconditional love - to overflowing. I wondered if my heart was capable of expanding...

My mother (who had 4 children of her own) reassured me once I timidly confessed my worries. She told me that she had also had the same concerns with every new addition but that nature was wonderful that way ... that my capacity for love would grow, accommodate and surpass my wildest expectations. She was right.

I had reserves from the deepest part of my being that I never knew existed. From the first moment my Harmony burst forward into this world, I was overcome with a tsunami of emotion. Every minute milestone - the smile, giggle, roll over, kiss, and so on - was celebrated and applauded as if we were first time parents. Her personality was decidedly different than her sister's and gave us new fuel for fodder.

Today Harmony has lived up to her name; she is a unique, artful independent woman whose easy-going demeanor is not unlike the grease between squeaky wheels in our family. It's been several years since she has occupied the private basement bedroom painted the colour of the sun ... and I miss her every day. Tomorrow she is moving into an apartment with the love of her life -- a new milestone.

Milestones are the markers of our lives. Today I toast one of my most precious treasures and her milestones. Here's to a lifetime of Harmony!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Turning Back the Clock

Tonight is one of favourite of the year ... the night we turn the clocks back, and gain a full hour.
It is amazing how much difference an hour can make ... to sleep in, to lie around in my PJs, to stay up to watch the full episode of Saturday Night Live (cause we can crash the next day) ... in short - an extra hour that is truly a gift; mine to squander as I please.

It also marks the official changing of the season ... closing the door on autumn and peeking through the crack in the door at winter. For that I am not so pleased. November holds alot of special meaning for me. It is the month of birth of two of my daughters, my dearest childhood friend and my mother. It is also the month in which my mom started her five week journey from here to the afterlife. The milestones are deeply etched into my very being, and I am reminded on any given day what transpired and what pain and indignity she so bravely endured.

Tonight I will turn my clock back an hour ... but truth be told, I wish I could turn it back 15 years, to just hear her voice one more time. But tonight, an hour will have to do.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Best Seats in the House for Obama Drama

Can you feel it mounting ... the excitement leading up the to US election? It's hard to put your finger on it, but you can just feel the winds of change blowing over the country -- and not just in America. I think Canadians are enjoying a view not unlike that from a theatre box -perched nicely up high to the left, unnoticed by most, but with a bird's eye view of the scene being played out below. We applaud when we are moved and sigh in disappointment when we are not. Regardless - we are captive voyeurs of the drama and potentially history-making politics being played out south of our borders.

I can't speak for all Canadians, however I can say that I can't remember being this engaged and opinionated (impassioned) by a political event since the Referendum. In Obama I see the embracing of the new America - one that is not pasty white with membership in the ruling class. He is youthful, invigorated and optimistic. Even more important is his ability to stir emotion, and extract that desire in us to want and do more. To step up.

Gosh - I wish I could vote for Obama. But then again - that would mean I was American. I think I like the view from my box seat just fine after all.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Unexpected Connection

Today was a day of random connections - of the best kind. My morning started off on a happy note with the smiling face and voice of the middle aged woman working the McDonald's drive through who handed me my coffee, wished me a wonderful day and offered me a free newspaper. I drove off feeling surprisingly uplifted and thinking how small gestures can affect the world -- my world. I made a mental note to try to pay it forward today.

My lunchtime trip to the mall for a bite offered a few interesting opportunities. I was looking for a spot to each my sandwich in the crowded food court when I noticed a table for four with just a tiny elderly lady sitting at it. I asked her if I could sit down and she gave me the biggest grin and an "of course Honey... I am just waiting for that young fella to bring me a cart". She was dressed for a special occasion -- several strands of pearls, lipstick with her wig slightly askew on her head. She seemed so happy to be out and about, and made sure to say her goodbyes before leaving, leaning heavily on her cart.

She no sooner left and I was joined by an elderly gentleman in his seventies. He asked if he could take me to lunch, winking as he asked. Then he said he couldn't be blamed for trying. My mouth was full of chicken salad however I nodded and smiled. He launched into one story after another about the weather, his tower climbing days and the jobs he held when he was young. His face lit up and his eyes twinkled as he told me his stories. I couldn't help but wonder what it was about these elderly people that warmed my heart so. Could it be that we see our own grandparents/parents in the faces of these sweet souls or that we get a glimpse of our own mortality? As I collected my crinkled sandwich wrapper and got up to leave he apologised for holding me up and thanked me for a delightful lunch.

I told him the pleasure was all mine -- and I meant it. I went back to work energised and revitalized from the chance encounters with the nameless people I had shared some special moments with. I made a mental note to try to pay it forward .... whenever I can.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


In a country well governed,
poverty is something to be ashamed of.
In a country badly governed,
wealth is something to be ashamed of.

- Confucious

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

More of the Same

Maybe I am just one of many fellow Canadians that woke up this morning with an election hangover. Thankfully campaigns in our country run for weeks and not months and even years. You would think that a federal election campaign could capture our attention for such a short time. Sadly however this was not so. I felt that our campaigns were lacking in focus, issues and message. I was optimistically hopeful that we would get a change -- restore our commitment to the Kyoto Accord as well as our respect in the international community.

We need a leader to inspire and unite the people. It is not enough for the party leaders to be intelligent and honourable. They must demonstrate strength and vision. We are starving for it. Leaders are individuals who people want to follow. There wasn't a single candidate on the ballot who I wanted to follow. I can only hope that the leaders within the parties rise to the top like cream in the milk bottle, and that the next time we are called to the polls we can feel as though we have true choices.

With our Canadian election behind us, I turn my attention to the American race and the presidential debate. What can I say ... I am a political junkie and would give anything to cast a vote for Barack Obama.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is a day to remember all that for which we are grateful. It's our special time to give thanks ... not only for the obvious, like food and our homes, but also for the countless fortunate moments, the multitude of blessings that we receive each year.

For reasons unknown, we often tend to remember the bad things more easily than the good. We can reprogram ourselves to learn a new reflex -- the positive one. With practice we can learn to see the light in our lives first and foremost, and reduce the negativity to mere shadows.

A good way to begin is to start keeping a gratitude journal in which you jot down at least five things for which you are appreciative. It is an effective way of ending your day on a positive note - no matter how the day went - and setting your compass for the next day.

Write down 5 things. You may find that your entries will be very different - depending on the kind of day you had. Some days you will be able to fill pages of experiences and things that made you feel grateful. On other days, you will take great pains to find even 5 things to write about. I have had many of such days. At the end of such a day, my entries are about the most simple of things. " I am grateful for the soft, warm duvet on my bed that brings me comfort and a good sleep" or "I am grateful for the strong hug myhusband gave me after dinner that is a reminder of the love we share", or even "I am grateful for the perfect, hot cup of tea I had after dinner that warmed my insides and relaxed me".

Think of all the good things that happened in your day. Focus on what you have. Think about people you've known that have made you thankful for their existence. They can be family, friends, collegues or even people that you've read about or seen on television.

Think about the animals that have given you joy: Dogs that love you with every inch of their hearts, cats that think your lap is the best place to nap in the whole world, birds whose songs uplift your spirit, squirrels whose antics put a grin on your face and so on.

Think about the places that make you smile: A favorite restaurant, a wooded trail, an exciting city, a great spot from which to view the sky, or walk by the water. Give thanks for all these things.

Today is a day of Thanksgiving ... and I just know that once you start counting your blessings, you will find that you have countless. In our country, most of us are truly fortunate to live in abundance, security, beauty, peace and of course, the best of all - love. For all of this - I am profoundly grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The End of the Week

It was a long week and once Friday arrived, I was beyond tired. I found myself dragging myself through my day fantasizing about getting into my comfy sweats and planting myself on my couch. The day ended on a high note. On the 45 minute drive home, I was reminded of the beauty and wonder of each and every day. Just as I thought a storm was on the way -- a full rainbow appeared across the entire expanse of the highway. I was ushered majestically into my weekend. Life is indeed good.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sunday Night Dinner

There was a moment, just before falling asleep when I asked myself what I would do differently if I knew I only had a few months to live. The answer was a simple - nothing. I wouldn't do anything differently with one exception - I would have dinner with my family more often.

So - at the beginning of the summer I made a goal to have my Dad and his wife over for dinner every Sunday night. The thought was that even though there would surely be some Sundays that we would have to cancel, we would get together more than if we didn't plan.

Sunday night dinners can be alot of work. More importantly, they can be a magical time for families - special times that make all the work worthwhile.

It starts with a quick knock at the door followed immediately by the sound of the door opening and greetings of "hello -- we're here ...". Chaos ensues - Fritz (our mini schnauzer) barks wildly, crushing hugs are exchanged with kisses and greetings and laughter. We relieve our guests of their culinary contributions of pie plates and roasting pans - the whole time busily chattering. Corks are popped, wine flows, and the family affair swings into full gear!
There is a scene from "Annie Hall" where Diane Keaton and Woody Allen have dinner with Woody Allen's character's parents. Everyone is yelling across the table at one another, standing up to reach for things, engrossed in their own conversations. The conversation was the main deal - and the food - secondary. Kinda like our family dinners.

Tonight our table included my dad and his wife, my husband and two daughters, and my step-mom's 91 year old mom. It wasn't long after my dad retold the story of his childhood friend Stumps that conversation turned to debate - about the US presidential election. Things got lively! My dad played devil's advocate and my daughters bit. The 16 year old gave three minute dissertations with barely a breath and my 25 year old served as fact checker, correcting as she saw fit - quoting bits of wisdom from the blogs and boards.

We have a nasty habit of finishing one another's sentences and talking on top of one another. My husband has pointed this out to me on several occasions. Maybe that's why he pops a Motrin before dinner and gently massages his temples amid the chatter.

At the end of night, just as we started to leave, my dad said that he was so pleased that he had two granddaughters at the table who were interested in and knew about politics and what is going on in the world. Of course he extended his pride to his four children (me included) and used the moment as an opportunity to expound on the importance of voting and participating in the democratic process.

The wine was corked. The table cleared and the cooks praises sung. Hugs and kissed were exchanged amidst giddy agreements that tonight was great; that our family is great; and aren't we lucky to have more to look forward to.

I am lucky. My girls are lucky. Each dinner is a treasure trove for the memory box and satisfies our hearts as much as our bellies. Sunday night dinners -- a sacred tradition - worth the effort.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cleaning Closets

Today was rather gray, humid, and somewhat unpleasant - weather-wise. The kind of day that gives you a guilt-free reason to putter the day away inside ... With it being the start of fall and all - I fully intended to tackle my closet. To bring order to chaos. To purge the unused, outdated, sentimental antique clothing that consumes so much of the space in the closet I share with my husband. I dabbled a little, getting caught up in the memories that each piece of clothing holds. It got me thinking about people and closets ...

There was a time when I started noticing subtle changes in my eldest daughter - withdrawal from her friends and our family; significant weight gain; becoming increasingly non-communicative an agitated. Something was amiss. My cheerful, chatty, social daughter was retreating into her own safe cocoon. High school brought added anxiety for her. I began to think that she had been traumatized in some way. Sexual abuse? It seemed unlikely however I decided to raise the issue with her. She seemed believable when she said that nothing like that had ever happened to her. I asked her if she thought that maybe she was gay.

I have friends - one very special one in particular - who are gay and I have witnessed the pain they have experienced from not feeling that they were free to be themselves. As I raised my children I tried to consciously create an open environment in which they could speak freely. We spoke of my friend and how people are different and the challenges those differences can bring. I openly told my girls that I hoped they would never have to "come out" of a closet. I never wanted them to feel that they had to go into one in the first place.

When I first asked my daughter about being gay, she appeared surprised and alarmed. She asked me why I would even ask her that. She said she didn't know ... It provided me the opportunity to tell her that if - down the road - she discovered she was gay, that our love for her would be unwavering. I told her that as a parent my deepest desire for her, was that she be able to be herself, and to live a happy healthy life - in love.

I took a pre-emptive step with my family and told them that I wasn't certain, but that there was a chance that my baby may be gay. I asked them to be respectful and to try to not be presumptuous around her ... " do you have a boyfriend yet?" "when you get married" etc. My family were great and responded with love and support. I think we grew as a family that day.

Years later when my daughter turned to me and simply said "It's official. I'm out. I'm gay", a humongous lump formed in my throat, we high-fived and I was at peace. My daughter didn't come out of a closet, but rather, she came out to herself - when she was ready.

Closets can be a dark and dusty place - filled with baggage and chaos. Definitely no place for people. Absolutely no place for my baby - or anyone else's.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Book Worm

One of my most favourite things to do is read. It's been that way as long as I can remember. Since pledging to read my way - systematically - through my parents' extensive book shelf at the age of 8, books have been my friends, passion and stimulants. I was the kid who played librarian, had a book repair kit, spent all of my extra money buying books, and over the years, amassed a huge collection.

I lovingly saved all of my childhood favourites for my own future children - none of who were terribly interested in the old, musty volumes - most of which were not illustrated. My family and friends fed my passion by begifting me the latest and greatest from my favourites authors. Eventually I began to run out of space to display and store these treasures. The day came when I had to decide exactly what were the timeless treasures (keepers) and what were just " good reads". My " Hand of God" bookshelf was borne.

Funny enough, I am not religious, however I am deeply spiritual. I have extensive collections of my favourite genres - auto/biographies - as well inspirational writings from Og Mandino, Richard Bach, Leo Buscalgia, Norman Vincent Peale, Ghandi, and a host of other wonderful writers. I place these treasures in a dedicated bookshelf that also holds my special treasures and keepsakes. It is truly satisfying.

Now the bad news .... I have sadly outgrown the three thrifty shelves and my collection is spread about the house like foster children awaiting permanent homes. I have decided I want a library of my very own. Don't tell the dining room though ... mutiny must be avoided.

I can't help feeling that for the 4 times a year our dining room is filled to overflowing with family as we celebrate the holidays and special occasions - the room is underused and somewhat neglected. The side wall begs for floor to ceiling built-ins with even a sliding ladder to assist with the retrieval of those volumes stored in the highest of places. My husband reminded me that our ceilings are low enough that he can reach the highest shelf without need of a ladder - but what is a library without a ladder???

Anyway - enough chatter about that. Only time will tell if the inner book worm within my will win out ... I can hear Leo's poignant verses calling from the spare bedroom ... YES Please!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Proof Positive - It is Possible

Tonight I had the privilege of celebrating a special birthday of someone very dear to me. Technically she is my step-mom's mother - however Doris is so much more to me and my family. At 91 she embodies excellent health - the kind that comes from leading a good clean life. She is quick witted, sweet, loving and full of life. She is one of the most open-minded individuals I have ever encountered. I remember sharing the news with her that my daughter had " come out" and was gay. Doris - without a second's hesitation - said, well there you go! Now she can find someone special to love. It's love that is important, not whether it's with a man or woman. I was awestruck by her reaction -- or lack of one.

At her party, after she had opened all of her gifts, Doris smiled at us all and said that when she has to go, she hopes she can just " go" in her sleep. It's as simple as that. Doris has a way of seeing things in very simple terms. She is not a complicated person - what you see is what you get. And there is great comfort in that. She makes you feel loved and warm all over.

But don't be fooled. This feisty senior citizen has a rebellious streak. Don't tell her not to climb up on things, or not to go near the pool when someone isn't around to help her. Cause you can just bet that she will seize that as an invitation - a dare of sorts - and before you know it, you will find her straddling the kitchen sink and the countertops as she reaches for that dust atop of the cabinets. Or you will find her sweeping around the pool in those hard to reach spots - just to show you she can.

We love Doris not only because she is a joy to have in the family (cause she is) - but also because she reminds us of what is possible. A long, fruitful, healthful life surrounded by loved ones. Sound good? Sounds like a dream come true.