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.