Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Rambling and Reflections

The blaze of Christmas glory has blown through the past week, carving indelible memories, leaving a trail of  wonderful in its wake.

What to say? The anticipation, the last minute surge of housecleaning, shopping and preparations were all worth it. The dividends were large and permanent. Each day was crammed with family, food and laughter. And that is to be expected. However it was the little moments of bliss that made my Christmas truly special ...

The girls were home; the beds were no longer empty, the table was full and so was my heart. Watching my dad's eyes well with pride at his grandchildren and the special gifts they made him really moved me. Our living room  burst at the seams with sibs, nieces, nephews, parents and just as many simultaneous conversations.  Sis brought a coffee cake from Mom's recipe that triggered a memory with every biteful. Hubby showed his love with the feast he prepared for us - cause nothing says I love you like dinner!

Life is busy and I have come to treasure these rare moments when we manage to gather the whole gang together - everyone under the same roof at the same time. We snapped a family shot in the morning (missing a couple of Henry's) and the collective smiling faces create an impressive picture. It's hard to comprehend that this large, healthy, close knit family is the product of a young couple who met and married young and built a life from the ground up. We are the living legacy of our parents, and those who passed before us.

So going forward I will regard Christmas as a season of reflection ... each season building on the last.  Christmas' have become about creating these moments of precious to be savoured all year long. And I can't help but feel grateful to have my Dad close by. In all my 50 years I have never missed spending Christmas morning with my Dad. Isn't that a gift in itself?

Today is my MIH's milestone birthday and tomorrow we will celebrate it with her (but it's a secret). I call her my marriage bonus - my kindred spirit. I can't wait to give her a little of what she does for us all year long.

I'm off to bed before I am yet another day later posting ... so much to share and where to start.

I guess I just did ....

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Random Encounters With the Spirit of Christmas

He appeared out of nowhere, suddenly there, yanking me out my daydream.

“Hey lady. I’m hungry.” His voice was hoarse and slurry and he struggled to pronounce his r’s. “Do you have some change for my brother and me? We haven’t eaten in two days”.

Caught off guard, my mind whirled into overdrive trying to process …

“No one will give us any money.” He stood in front of me, dressed in his well loved ski jacket and toque, shifting from foot to foot, obviously anxious as well as cold.

“Why do you think that is?” I mumbled and fumbled with my scarf trying to buy myself some time as I decided what I was going to do.

“Cause it’s Christmas lady! No one wants to part with their money.”


“I will give you all the change I have,” I said as I opened my wallet. I can already hear the collective gasps of protest from the side that says this only perpetuates the problem. I had $4.57 in coins which I immediately handed over to him. He counted it out and then looked up at me and smiled. “Thank you Mam. Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas to you too.”

Would he buy food or drink the money? Frankly I didn’t care. I don’t want to be blind or pretend I don’t see them on the sidewalk. Them - the homeless, the disenfranchised, the ones who talk to themselves as they push their carts along the road; the ones who wander aimlessly, detached and alone; the ones from which we avert our gazes. I don’t walk to step around or over them. I want to see everyone. And darn it all, if I have a pocketful of change to share, I am going to share it. And I am going to start sharing more than that … I think he may have given me something far greater than the change in my pocket. This  quote from Mother Teresa is my inspiration.

Let us not be satisfied with just giving money.
Money is not enough, money can be got,
but they need your hearts to love them.
So, spread your love everywhere you go.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Remains of the Day

Kitty can't wait!
Things haven't turned out exactly as planned. Somewhere along the line my perfectly concocted activity timeline fell off the rails. So I am kind of in a state of disorganization -- or what I like to call organized chaos. To save myself a thousand words, here are some pictures of my current state of affairs ...

Pre-platter fruit for Christmas morning ... laying in waiting.

Adventures in baking - currant and cranberry scones.
 "Green" adventures in wrapping.Tea towels anyone?

Casualties of baking ... mess!

And more mess ... how many sleeps until Christmas??
So these busy, crazy days leading up to Christmas are to be cherished and enjoyed. So what if the cookies are a little burned crunchy or the house - a little cluttered; that's what closets are for! I am staying the course and avoiding the "stress" word. It's all good. The gift of Christmas is in the doing, not the booing. And this good cheer is a present to myself.

Two more sleeps ...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Four More Sleeps

There is still much to be done ... presents that need disguising (in my signature tea towel wrapping), baking that looks like it just may not get baked, cleaning and delousing (talking about the dog here), last minute grocery shopping and stocking stuffers to be acquired and located (downside of shopping then hiding too early). I had a talk with myself and we agreed to focus on the socializing and family side of Christmas, and not sweat the stocking small stuff.

The best part of the holiday season for me is the visiting and family time - and cookies -- and eggnog --- and turkey. And the party has begun! Last week featured the work party and hubby's big family get together. Next up -- the annual Christmas dinner with Adventure Girl and Tender Heart at AG's magical Christmas house. In between the myriad of activity I have been enjoying heart to hearts with Pops and my step mom garnished with hot tea, chilled wine or like today -- rich, frothy eggnog laced with love.

And in four more sleeps my girls will be home. The empty beds will be filled with their warm little bodies and the house will burst with giggles, laughter, banter and bickering, Ahhh ... the soundtrack of a happy family. So as the washer chugs and beeps to remind me that the sheets are ready, I remind myself that tis the season to be jolly -- and grateful. Four more sleeps ...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tea Party

I'd read about it -- mostly in Jane Austen novels -- seen advertisements for it -- and decided to give it a try. I am talking about high tea. And even better - high tea at the inn where Hubby and I were married. So I extended and invitation to the ladies in my life - MIH, little sister, T and Doris to join me for what I hoped would be the perfect Christmas starter.

It did not disappoint. The inn was decked out in full Christmas finery with a towering tree drooping with gold and cream balls and sparkling ribbon. A fire was blazing in the massive stone fireplace and I was thrilled when the server motioned to the table poised beside it. Christmas card perfect!

We nibbled on dainty little cucumber sandwiches and I resisted the urge to belt out "where's the beef" (remembering that it was "tea" not lunch). There were lots of "mmmm's" and "yuuuummmm's" as we munched on cinnamon scones, fresh strawberries, shiny little cakes and slightly dried out sandwiches, washed down with potfuls of tea (and coffee). The chatter was light and we exchanged pleasantries and asked about one another's kids, husbands and family. We critiqued the latest entertainment news and talked about our jobs, schedules and plans. We sipped lazily, luxuriating in this little snippet of time we carved out for ourselves for no other reason than simply "to be".

From my cushioned place at the round table, I studied the faces of these women I love so very much, each for different reasons. I marvelled at my good fortune to have them in my life, and knowing that life can be unpredictable and unforgiving, I burned the image into my heart and soul ... as a keepsake. For at that moment - on that day, the table was full, and our hearts were happy.

PS -- Far Away Sis - you were missed.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Season Cheer and Jeer

I am a certified Christmas fiend. I love everything about the season -- the cheer, the tree, the traditions, family, the gift exchange, the turkey and stuffing. But my favourite part are the childhood memories that cascade with every trigger. Lucky for me, those memories spark joy and rekindle every fibre of happiness that was my world. Sadly, for many, Christmas is a struggle, a painful, lonely season. It may be that they have nothing to rekindle, or that they do not have loved ones to share the season with. Whatever the reason, I can see the sadness in the eyes of my colleague who has no plans for Christmas, and in my friend with the tiny family of elders who tries her best to ride out the holiday with as little drama as possible.

There are people with little or no families; who have suffered loss, who are struggling with illnesses or financial stresses. Mustering holiday cheer requires an effort of monumental proportion, if possible at all. I have seen this first hand in my circle of friends and family.

The magic in Christmas is created when the memories of Christmas' past merge with the present. If either versions are anything short of wonderful, there can be no magic. I realize that I have to be more sensitive to the feelings of others and not assume that everyone's reality matches mine. I can see that a big collective hug is in order to spread the love. How to put sparkle in saddened eyes and inject an inkling of joy to resigned postures of dread?

For me, Christmas cheer. For many, Christmas jeer. And I wonder ... how can I bring the magic to the people I care about?

Monday, December 13, 2010


Tonight the snowbirds fly in, exchanging their chilly Arctic Florida weather for the authentic Canadian winter experience. They are coming home for Christmas and the happy festive factors keep stacking up.

They left me on house duty in their absence; home protector extraordinaire, plant caretaker notsomuch! My dad and T pride themselves on their enormous green thumbs and the lush flora and fauna they grow around themselves. They left their favourite sole survivors of the houseplant variety in my care. The instructions were fairly straight forward - water.

I am not sure what went wrong ... I watered like they said; waited 2 weeks then returned to repeat the deed. The Christmas cactus's were still moist and contented. The leafy green monster was wilted and yellow. What the heck?? I skipped her (she was apparently drowning) and watered the rest of the plants. I returned in 2 weeks to find the cactus STILL happy and moist but I watered it anyway and the leafy green monster had turned from wilted yellow to crispy brown. Cr@p! I peeled off the crunchy bits and ate the evidence - and stressed over whether to mention the health of the plant to Pops. I didn't. I'm an optimist with an unyielding confidence that leafy green would turn a corner and reincarnate.

It didn't happen. I slaughtered that plant. Over the weeks after removing the dead, brittle bits we are left with a Charlie Brown Christmas plant of one lone leaf. Last night when I dropped around with some milk and bread and cranked up the heat in the empty nest, I sat on the floor in front of leafy green. She was alive but barely. Pathetic is an understatement. I apologised silently and then scratched a note out ... I miss my mommy and daddy ... and tucked in the very moist pot. She needs tender loving care that only a parent can give. Little sister never lost a plant on her watch so this failure is hard to face.

What can I say ... I am a plantslaughterer, stemkiller, green thumb orphan. Sorry Pops and T. Want the key back???

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Feeling alot like Christmas

Ahhh ... after spending a full 8 hours in a shopping funnel yesterday, it is a welcomed respite to finally sit back and exhale. I have my feet up in front of the fire with my first eggnog of the season in hand. The homey smell of my tortiere baking is wafting from the kitchen and I am consuming an endless diet of Christmas movies -- some a little cheesy - others a little smaltzy. No worries! This is not the time to develp a palate for the finer things in life. Pass the nutmeg please!

Tonight it feels like Christmas. Peace and calm resonate through me like a happy hum. And I am soaking up every droplet of the festive spirit I can. All is well in my world. and for that, I am truly grateful.

My Christmas wish for you ... I hope that all is well in your world too.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Well Hello Winter!

Okay - I heard you the first time. You left a smattering of snow on our lawn to announce your arrival. Apparently you thought I didn't get the memo, so you knocked a little louder. It was darn chilly this morning when I slipped into my car and planted my backside on a frozen slab thank goodness for seat warmers. Minus 13 Celsius.  Fitting for this time of year, no? And with virtually every community outside of the bubble of three that hug our lake, having been buried with the white stuff, we have been spared. Our area remains an insulating oasis of calm and order amidst heaps and banks of snow, school and business closures and icy roads.

While others cosied up in their homes and kids romped with glee over yet another "snow day", my fellow citizens soldiered on to work and school every day, not missing a beat nor lifting a shovel. Hubby is thrilled about that but I not-so-secretly want the white stuff.

So Madame Winter -- just in case you felt slighted upon your first arrival, let me extend a hearty welcome. I'd hug you if I could. Now - if you could manage it - maybe just a glistening coat for Christmas?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Droplets of Happy

I love sorting through a stack of mail only to find - in the middle of the pack lodged in between the menu from the new Thai restaurant and the Canadian Tire flyer - my first Christmas cards of the season. Thank you Aunt J and MIH! In this age of instantaneous communication and electronic wonders, there is a warm comfort in the tactile experience of oh so carefully ripping opening the envelopes to get to the festive, sparkly Christmas cards with handwritten, warm and loving sentiments.

Can't beat snail mail, and it sure beats the bills.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Couldn't Hurt

These days just a trip to mall involves navigating a labyrinth of pleas for donations, charity tables selling raffle tickets for homemade quilts and Christmas cakes, contributions for toy mountains and of course, the Sally Ann soldiers poised stoically by the kettle putting the "jingle" in bells. Then there are the workplace fundraisers ... clothes and toys for women's and homeless shelters; charitable payroll deductions and canned goods for the food bank.

The need is great and and the "asks" are plenty - pretty much at every turn. So you can imagine my hesitation to add to the mountain of expectation by throwing out another invitation to help you part with your hard earned money. But then I thought - what the heck! There is no pressure; and it doesn't hurt to ask if you want to participate in this opportunity to feel really good ... after all, I wouldn't want to deprive you.

Se'lah over at the Necessary Room is trying to put together some toys for kids from families in great need in her comunity in the States. She asked "if at all possible, won't you please join me in spreading the gift of love to these few children in need? Let's be the Village! Thank you most kindly, from the bottom of my heart. one love." 

If you are interested, all you have to do is click on the wish list at Amazon to order the gifts that will be sent to Se'lah for delivery to the organization - who will distribute to the needy children. Check out her blog for more details.

When I was explaining to Se'lah that I was uncomfortable hitting up my circle again and again, she understood entirely. She offered this response in her email:
It's hard asking the same people to do stuff all the time. We all have wonderful hearts. Imagine if we had unlimited resources...we'd fix the world  ;)
So I guess you may have noticed, that in the spirit of the season of giving, I reconsidered. Really - it doesn't hurt to toss it out there. After all, we are all one big village. And as Se'lah always says, One Love.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Ready, Set, Snow!

What a wake up call -- brilliant sunshine reflecting off a blanket (albeit a thin one) of fresh snow. I like to think that maybe yesterday's Christmas decorating was the catalyst to this promising festive season. Hubby and I bundled up and braved the bitter wind to stroll the quaint shops of our main street. The shop keepers had pulled out the stops to create magic in their storefronts. To top it off, horse drawn wagons with a smiling Santa in the back were coaxing the merry out of even the Scroogiest.

The garlands are wrapped around the banister and the across the fireplace mantel and the tree is up and draped in every ornament collected or made over the past 25 years. We argue about who is allowed to hang what, which ornament was made by who, and when this one was added to the collection and how. It's a family tradition!

There is something so very satisfying and comforting in sitting back at the end of the day to admire the lights and soak up the peaceful beauty that is the very essence of our Christmas season.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Season Opener

The Christmas season officially kicks off in our home tomorrow - a week later than usual. Kidlet is home for the weekend and in the morning, after a very good night's sleep, the transformation of our home will begin.

I will blow the dust off my Christmas CDs, and as the festive strains fill the air and camouflage the sibling squabbling (can't decorate the tree without the squabbles), the wreath will go up on the door, garlands will hung and the spicy warmth of cloves will seal the deal. I will snap shots of hubby joyfully wrestling with the tree lights and  of the girls posing with their Chrismukkah and Santa hats (we're a multi cultural tribe).

The Christmas cactus is heralding the onset of the festive season with a spectacular eruption of fuchsia blooms.

After the decorating cyclone has passed I will darken the room, flick on the Christmas lights and sit quietly in the corner comfy chair sipping a goblet of eggnog and rum -  and simply absorb the wonder.

The season will start with a pause before the games begin!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Turning the Page

So today is the first day of December. I feel a kind of excitement over new beginnings - not unlike when my odometer rolled over to 50,000 kilometres this week.

A brand new month; a clean slate; a blank canvas on which to create any reality of my choosing.  A new month heralding in a new season. Mother Nature attempted to show her support by choking up a few gratuitous snowflakes -- not enough to be declared the first snow or anything, but nonetheless, a showing.

Everywhere else in the country has had some snow -- the robust flavour that accumulates on the ground. Jealous!  I find it hard to get in the festive season without the white stuff. But listen to me being so rude ... I didn't welcome our guest:
December, come on in! It's wonderful to see you again. You look like you are travelling light but I know you well enough to know that you no doubt have a few surprises in store. And although alot of Canadians like to talk about you behind your back, I can honestly say that I love you. You come bearing gifts and I kinda like that. You are also a big part of what makes us feel Canadian. So hang around ... at least until the end of the year.


Stephen Lewis, my hero,  calls it the AIDS pandemic ... 

"A pandemic is an epidemic of infectious disease that is spreading through human populations across a large region; for instance a continent, or even worldwide."
Human rights are often at the epicentre of this pandemic, here at home as well as around the world whether via inequitable access to health care and treatment, personal privacy,  discrimination or education.

His organization The Stephen Lewis Foundation is dedicated to turning the tide of HIV/AIDS in Africa by supporting women who are ill and struggling to survive; orphans and other AIDS-affected children;  heroic grandmothers caring for their orphan grandchildren; and sustaining associations of people living with HIV and AIDS.

AIDS is a threat to humankind; it touches all of us. On this day, maybe take a moment to Google AIDS or HIV and spend even a few minutes educating yourself on the issues. Even if you learn one new way to prevent HIV or about the struggles of people struggling to live with AIDS - it will bring us all one step closer to understanding the issues.

Go to http://www.worldaidscampaign.org/en/World-AIDS-Day to learn more.  Not a sermon - just a friendly suggestion. After all, we're one world.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Life Lessons From My Mother

Happy birthday Mom. It is hard for me to imagine you as an aging lady; you are frozen in time at 58. It's almost 13 years ago that you left us, and I swear a day hasn't passed in which I haven't spoken your name, shared some snippet of wisdom you imparted or thought about something you did or said that made me smile.

Today I celebrate your special day by sharing some of the lessons you taught us ...

To those who did not know her well my mom appeared a small, timid person; easy going and pleasant; a contrast to Dad’s flamboyant, outgoing personality. To those closest to her, she was an unwavering rock; deeply philosophical, spiritual person in a very private way. She meditated regularly to help achieve an inner serenity and peace that was so critical to her maintaining her trademark optimistic disposition.

The number one most important principle she taught us was to seek the gift in every adversity. She believed that we are here on earth to evolve and mature spiritually and therefore have many lessons to learn. She felt our earthly life provided us with the opportunities to experience, make choices, feel consequences, learn from them and aspire to greater understanding. It was because she was so busy trying to find the lesson in every hurdle that she did not perceive herself as having “bad things happen to her”.

She once used the analogy of life as a hurdle race …. You start the race expecting hurdles and when each one is encountered, you make your very best attempt to clear the hurdle with the finest of style. Regardless of the outcome, it is the attempt that is important. With this attitude, no time is wasted mourning the fact that a hurdle has presented itself but rather how the hurdle will be tackled. It was with this amazing attitude she tackled her own health problems. She wasted no time complaining or bemoaning; she assumed full responsibility for her own well being and busied herself with making herself well.

She was a firm believer in the mind, body, spirit connection long before the rash of self help books came along. She believed that thoughts materialized and so it was very important to her to keep her thoughts focused on the higher good rather than dwelling on the negative. She taught us that "as we think, so shall we be" - the power of thought. I’m certain it was from her belief in this principle that sustained and empowered her through her many grueling health challenges.

Something else Mom taught us was the importance of  visualization. I can remember when I was eleven, after a particularly long day of me complaining, whining and fighting with my sisters she took me over to a mirror and said “See this little girl. She not very likeable.” She went on to point out that I hadn’t made a positive comment from the time I got home and that I was forming a habit of acting negatively. So at the age of eleven she gave me Norman Vincent Peale’s “Power of Positive Thinking” to read. She convinced me that if I could create a mental picture of how I wanted my life to be and the kind of person I wanted to be, that my picture would soon become reality. I live this technique every day of my life.

Live every moment, and live it consciously. The life Mom and Dad had together was a wonderful example of a couple who took an incredible journey together, taking all the back roads to savour the scenery, hopping on the freeway once in a while just for the thrill of it, stopping to refuel occasionally but never stopping.

In the past years of her life, my Mom was on a little journey of her own. When she received the ultimate gift of a lung transplant, she was supremely grateful and immediately set about cramming as much living into very day as she possibly could. She traveled to see my Dad in the Arctic, accompanied us to Mexico, bought a new bike and used it, exercised daily, went to her first Raptors game, her first stage play, tried Indian food … you get the picture. She urged us to do the same. Every morning she would enthusiastically ask me what I was going to do that day. On one such day when I was still a little groggy I said - “I don’t think I want to do anything”. “Good", she replied, “just make sure you do it consciously so you can really enjoy it! Otherwise you may feel as though you didn’t accomplish anything at the end of the day.”

Life is unfolding as it should. Often we question or think that the events in our life are tragic or unfair … and we struggle to make sense of them. Mom believed that life was unfolding exactly as it should be .. that our failure to realize this lay in our inability to see the big picture. After witnessing the magical way the choices my parents made roll out into perfect synchronicity has reaffirmed my faith in the greater power that moves amongst us in our lives. Looking back on my own life I realize that the events and times that once seemed chaotic, were actually perfect pieces of a puzzle that fit together seamlessly; a perfect plan.

Now every famjam we have is the bittersweet portrait of a happy, wholesome family, united and enjoying and supporting one another; a wonderful testament to a mother who left our hearts full and overflowing.

But there will always be a little space, in the place  her presence used to fill.

Thanks Mom - you taught us well.

Other posts about my mother

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Musical Good-bye

I expected it to be difficult - even gut wrenching. Funerals are like that. But the moment that kicked open the floodgates was when my little friend took her place in front of the piano to honour her departed husband. She poured her anguish and love into every note of her powerful musical good bye. Her body followed her hands racing up and down the keyboard, and as she reached the segue in the piece she took a big breath, her face wrenched in utter grief, tears rolling down her cheeks - before plunging powerfully into the change up.

The notes sang her reluctant farewell to the husband who she loved for more than 24 years. And after she was finished, the room erupted into spontaneous applause.

You did good Mouse.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Conspiracy Theory

Something's up! I have retired my love for salty potato chips (wahhh), sweets (save the odd Twizzler), loaded up on green food and veggies, and hit the gym three times a week. Yup - I'm sticking to the plan - keeping the commitment.

Here's the snag. I haven't lost an inch or pound. I may even be up one or two. But I'm not buying it! The scale belies the fact that it takes me less time to run my 2 miles at lunch; that I can run for longer stretches without becoming breathless and that I see a shadow of a bicep when I flex. The waistline is still MIA. It's obvious the measuring tape is conspiring with the weigh scales to throw me off my path.

But you should know - it's not going to work. You're holding out on me but I know that one day when I step onto you, the needle will waiver, quiver and slowly slide ... down towards my goal weight.

So I'm sewing the buttons back on my pants and lacing up the runners. Is that success I can smell?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Passages, Messages and Connections

Hard to believe a week has passed since my last post. Let me tell you, a lot of life can happen in a week.

In the last seven days I
  • travelled to the east coast for a rainy two days;
  • caught up with West Coast Cuz via phone chat marathon
  • talked wedding with MIH (about sis-in-law's upcoming nuptials)
  • spent an hour on Skype debating politics with my Dad (who is in Florida) and swapping weight woes with my step-mom; 
  • had dinner with Harmony (middle daughter) who made an impromptu visit in from the city;
  • made Kidlet tuna sandwiches like the "old" days (she was home again for the weekend);
  • conspired with Jilly to do something nice for our friend whose husband was sick with cancer;
  • made a call to my friend whose husband passed away (we're still going to do something nice);
  • caught up with friend for life Carman ...  to tell him the sad news.
East coast, west coast and south coast. Weddings and funerals. Family and friends. Life was the mighty agitator, swirling emotions, relationships, debates, passages and conversations into that uneven pathway that marks our journey. Did I mention I slept alot? Sometimes living can really make you tired!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Channeling Martha

Today is my eldest daughter's birthday. I wanted to do something a little special for her on our famjam today -- throw my heart and soul into  a cake mix rather than take the civilized easy way out and just buy one. Oh my intentions were noble indeed. I think I inhaled a little too much flour dust because my enthusiasm got a little out of hand and I decided to also tackle a gluten free cake for my middle daughter, whose birthday was just over a week ago.

"Go for it!" my inner domestic goddess voice shrieked. In a matter of minutes pans were being greased amid a flour storm of baking activity and copious amounts of gluten free flour and organic raw sugar and honey were being tossed into the gooey stew of apple cranberry cake. I was in baking ecstasy and feeling pretty darn proud of myself -  until I tasted the batter. Maybe I have been eating wheat too long, but the uncooked gluten free cake had a consistency like plaster of paris and tasted alot like corn starch. I added more cloves and cinnamon and hoped that the cooked version would be edible.

The gluten free apple cake sat queued on the stove waiting while the marble bundt cake baked. The heavenly smell of cinnamon baking filled the house - and the anticipation mounted. One down and the other cake baking away, I flipped the bundt cake over and gently  pounded the tin with my hammer. Then ever so slowly, I lifted the pan to reveal my culinary wonder. Cr@p! Half the cake stayed in the pan --- another "avalanche" special (my signature dish).

Thanks to a healthy application of icing, the cake made like Humpty Dumpty and was carefully put back together. I admit as I sat wilted covered in flour amid the clutter of dirty spatulas, bowls, and batter splattered countertops I felt defeated - and regretted my ambitious intentions.

I needn't have worried. According to my daughter, the apple cake was the best gluten free cake she ever tasted. I slipped her a twenty and hugged her for joy. My eldest daughter pretended not to notice the slight sagging of the marble cake as the icing slowly melted down the middle. She happily blew out her candles and no one seemed the wiser. She gets a twenty for tact and diplomacy!

To be totally cliche, all's well that end's well.  I dodged a bullet but I think I am going to hang up my apron for a bit.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Lifting of the Veil

Maybe it's because I am the mother of three girls, or that I have sisters; or that I am a "girl" myself. Maybe it's my deepened love for humanity, our global family. Whatever the reason, I had a heck of a time getting through the introduction of "Half the Sky" by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. A knot in my stomach tightened with every statistic, words evaporated under a watery blur with each horrific example cited, and I am shakened to my very core.

I bought the book ages ago and true to my habit I immediately thumbed through the pages, devouring random snippets from the beginning, middle and last few pages. But my full attention to this read was on hold until I could finish the other three books I had in progress.  another habit of mine
Women hold up half the sky.     Chinese Proverb
Like a delectable dessert, Half the Sky sat in waiting for a time in which I could completely digest each juicy morsel. That time finally arrived. The statistics are astounding, unfathomable. The book is a testament to the global "gender-cide" against women in developing countries and the marginalization of women on our own continent and society: sex trafficking, rape as a weapon of war, abortion of female fetuses, violence, oppression, slavery and discrimination.

My hero Stephen Lewis has been bellowing this message for years now, heart outstretched, passion erupting from every podium, microphone and interview he has addressed. He has made it his life's work to not only get the word out about that which he knows to be true, and what he has personally witnessed, but also to get funds to the grassroots groups championing the causes, that lives may be saved and quality of life restored.

For the past few years I have had the time and clarity of purpose to explore and learn more about the challenges that face humanity. I involved myself and my chequebook in causes that I deemed to be important however I struggled to weave the threads into a cohesive mission for myself. I think I am on to something now ... the veil is lifting and I have a feeling it's going to be a girl thing.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Reflections and Remembrance

They seemed to come from all directions, walking purposefully in silence, poppies pinned above their hearts. The cenotaph, nestled among the tall oaks and evergreens created an ethereal stage for the Remembrance Day service. The crimson flag gently waved in the breeze as though to welcome the onlookers, urge them closer; the crowds that were twice the size as last year.

They were all there - the Scottish Regiment, the air and sea cadets, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the firefighters, police, first responders, the Salvation Army, the Canadian Legion and of course, the vets. Flanders Fields was haltingly recited in a voice that remembered.

The faces - many of them weathered with experience - remained solemn. A community stood in quiet contemplation - in solidarity for those who served and serve; for those who sacrificed and sacrifice. We mourned the loss of what went before and for that which is to be.
There was something oddly comforting about standing with my fellow townspeople, united in thought, saying a silent communal thank you. For no matter how our thoughts and opinions about war and politics may differ, we all agree that we owe a debt of gratitude to those women and men who voluntarily serve our country, willingly make the ultimate sacrifice. So much to ask - and to expect. Even more to give.

Post script: after walking the half mile back to my car, still processing the emotions that were swirling in my head, the tears still damp under my sunglasses, I was met with this surprise:

A warning that my license plate had been recorded and that if I parked there again, I would be ticketed. The yellow slip is a $30 ticket - guess the bylaw officer had second thoughts about just warning me ...

But the morning ended on a happy note. I took this message to heart and when I read it, I could actually feel the love ...

Lest we forget ... don't worry, we remember.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Frazzled Fritz

Fritz is reminding me why I nicknamed him "Dinner". He's been stationed, sprawled on the second last step in our entrance hall barking incessantly for the past three hours. Where the heck is the Dog Whisperer when I need him? Seriously, this dog is incorrigible. Too lazy to constantly pull my  backside off the couch I let it go on for two or three minutes before yelling - in my most authoritative top dog voice - for him to shush. That buys me a few more moments before I have to go on a recon mission and wear him back to the couch like a furry accessory. I plunk him at my feet ... or maybe I should say I wrap my feet around him tightly as he squirms to escape. He forgets he is a prisoner for a bit and I feel him relax under my grip. Just when it looks like he is about to doze off I ease off the pressure. Duped! My sly little conniver bolts for the front door and resumes hyper little yappy dog persona.

He doesn`t usually act this way. Kidlet hates when I say that he mostly acts crazy when she is around. She was home today for a bit and it is almost like his Kidlet radar was hypo-tuned to her.

Whoosh ... was that just a power surge I felt erupting ... just in case I forgot I wasn`t a teenager ..

Back to the regular scheduled programming: Kidlet packed up her books and laundry and headed back to her institution of higher learning and I swear the barking stopped almost immediately after she shut the door behind her.

Which makes me wonder - what is it about Kidlet that frazzles Fritz?  And was is it about power surges that frazzles me?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Falling Back

This is one of my favourite days of the year ... the day after we roll the clocks back and steal and extra hour from Father Time. What a difference an hour makes! Suddenly the day expands to include extra precious minutes to do whatever my heart desires. It's a gift - unaccounted for and off the grid. Even better, we forgot to turn back the clocks last night so it was only after we were up puttering around that we realized that it was actually an hour earlier. Sweet.

Last night we had our girls with us as we celebrated the engagement of my sister in law. Everyone was gussied up and struttin' their stuff as they navigated around their new acquaintances. The families of the bride and groom-to-be were meeting for the first time. MIH and I broke from the pack, took the plunge and sat at the opposite end of the table to get to know the other family. I was seated beside MIH and the sweet little 83 year old grandma of the groom. Grandma was a dear white haired little lady dressed in a smart outfit with a string of pearls. She had us in stitches when she turned to me, raised her middle finger and whispered "what does this mean?". I told her that it was a way of summoning the waiter. It was a fun night.

So today after Harmony and I celebrated her birthday over scrambled eggs and home fries, I took Fritz on a photo shoot through the woods. The air was fresh and cool and Sunday lived up to its name. It was like Fall's last stand before he takes leave and Winter comes knocking.

It was a glorious weekend and those extra 60 precious minutes made it simply the best.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fifty, Fabulous and Other F Words

I’m fifty, fabulous and fit ... or at least fitter.

Maybe it’s the endorphins from the exercise surging through my veins or maybe I am just plain happy – whatever the reason - I feel fantastic and inspired. It’s been a few weeks now of sticking to my decision to exercise every second day and I am feeling the results. Okay, truth be told I haven’t lost a pound – in fact I may have even gained a few. But hey, my rock solid, iron butt and cut arms must weigh more than the jiggles and jelly that it replaced. Maybe I am exaggerating just a little, but I swear my tummies are flatter – I can see my knees unobstructed.

I am having a love affair with my running shoes and I don’t shriek so loudly now when I catch an unexpected glimpse of myself in the mirror getting out of the shower. I can run longer without becoming breathless, I can breathe easier in clothes other than my sweat pants and I can almost do up my jacket.

Happiness is ... buying large sized Spanx to wear under my dress two weeks ago - and finding out that I don’t need them now!

Let’s celebrate the small victories.

After years of chomping on my fingers, I have stopped this disgusting habit and now have healthy looking fingernails. I have reduced the copious amounts of coffee I was drinking to one delicious, savoured cup a day. I am eating mostly things that are really good for me .... What? There are no healing properties in Snickers??

I deny myself nothing but my desire for things that pull me off my path to health has diminished. I want to live fully, actively for many years to come - to 107 to be exact. I want to live to hold my future family in my arms and teach them lies about their parents; I want to live to see Africa claim its power and give back to its people; I want to see women in half of the ruling positions in the world; I want to see a world united in a goal to surthrive. And I want to see my tribe expanded to include colour and rainbows.

If I don’t choose health and fit now – then when?

I am fifty and fabulous and I am working on FIT. And those are F words I can live with.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

All That I Did, and Am

Tonight is my Friday - lucky me, I have tomorrow off. Just to recap this week:

I laughed
my guts out when an all staff memo went out to remind staff not to drip coffee on the floor as it is a hazard AND to please put nail clippings in the garbage as they are a b!tch to get out of the carpet!?

I forgot
to get off at my exit on my way home; and I watched Oprah all the way through - commercials and all - before I remembered that it was recorded.

I remembered
the overwhelming rush of love I felt in those first few moments of my daughter's life ... and I remembered to get her a card on her birthday.

I cried
when I learned that a precious someone I love was bullied and hurt.

I committed
to my exercise regime and only ate a few packets of Swedish berries left over from Halloween.

I talked
alot! What else is new. But I also talked to my dad in Florida, both my sisters, my MIH, all of girls and my gal pal. I also talked to the nice man on the phone selling windows.

I cooked
a big pot of stew.

I ate
stew, three nights in a row (and some candy)!
I achieved
a blogging milestone with 600 posts.

I hugged
someone who needed reminding that they are loved and pretty darn special.

I enjoyed
Hump Day (aka Wed date night) with hubby, staring across the table into his blue eyes and at his rugged unshaved face.

I want
to close the fundraising gap for the school in Africa.

I admire
the elderly couple from Truro NS who won 11 million dollars in the lottery and found enjoyment in giving away every last penny.

I love
my life.

I am
happy, strong, tired, determined, fortunate, caring and

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


“You’re my daughter and I love you. I don’t care who you love,” she said. “But that is best kept private anyway.” The momentary relief from hearing the words she had waited years to hear evaporated with those last few syllables ... “best kept private”. She’d being doing that her whole life; keeping the “private” part of herself - the part of her who dreamed, desired and loved in technicolour – stored neatly in a virtual closet.

She exhaled a long, slow, wistful stream of air to momentarily relieve the knot in her chest, just enough to breath again. That permanent knot that expands and contracts depending on …
She was certain that if she did not find a resolution soon, she would surely, eventually, strangle.

Her mind drifted to the ideal … the words that would yank the knot from her body, free her from self loathing, and bring light into her life:

I love you. You are enough – in fact perfect – just the way you are.


For any young gay kid who is feeling weary and isolated, watch the video below and know, IT GETS BETTER.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Confessions of a Closet Halloween Dreader

Image Credit: Biro-Art  http://www.biro-art.com/jack.html
The trick or treating was fun – a one night chance for a candy haul of a lifetime – or at least a year. In a time when our parents did not routinely disperse or buy candy for no apparent reason, Halloween was a fantastical free for all. The goal was simple – fill your pillow case as many times as possible before your parents made you call it a night.

My anxieties over Halloween started when I was a little kid, first centred on the costume we were expected to wear to the mandatory classroom party, year after year. We were a household of homemade costumes, fashioned from the odds and sods from our tickle trunk: billowing velvet church hats, cast off shirts from Dad’s closet, glittery belts, scarves and the occasional remnant from the school play. The pressure was on to look as least as good as my classmates.

One year in particular my mom came up with the ingenious idea of dressing me like Aunt Jemima ... no doubt inspired by our breakfast of frozen waffles. She showed me how to apply black shoe polish over cold cream and tie a red bandana around my head. She sent me proudly off with pillow in hand (to stuff under my apron) and the promise of a great get-up. All hopes were dashed though when the teacher gave the announcement for the students to get into costume for the party – and she added that make-up was not allowed. Cr@p! My heart sank as I stuffed the pillow up my “dress” and tried in vain to tie the kerchief around my head.

“What are you supposed to be – a hobo?” Damn those “best costume” contests!

As a working mother of three, Halloween was a frenzied night of racing home from work to feed the kidlets, carve the pumpkin, and get them painted and dressed up before heading out into the cold night. The night costumes were different of course from the ones I sent them to school with -- they had to be able to fit a winter coat under them for trick or treating. Ideas! I usually ran out of them but like my childhood, we used the contents of the tickle trunk to create a costume.

Don’t get me wrong – I love seeing the kids dressed up – eyes dancing and squealing with excitement. Truth be told, I enjoy it a whole lot more from the sidelines as a dispenser of treats than I did as a mother of trick or treating monsters. The pressure is off and the battle scars are almost healed.

Remind me to tell you about the disastrous homemade ghost costume (KKK to the neighbours) calamity...

HAppY HAllowEEn everyone ... on this ...my 600th post!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Baby Steps

Just a short note to say that the little "talk" I had with myself is working. I have a renewed zest for Bran Flakes and exercise. I went to the gym this week for the first time in 4 months! Do you know what work out clothes smell like when they have been in the bag that long? And maybe, just maybe I forgot to wash them the last time I wore them; and maybe, just maybe I forgot to open my bag since then. Yikes. But it's a great strategy to get alone time on the treadmill. I cleared the joint out fast. I felt like Pig Pen on Charlie Brown, with a little cloud of mustiness following me around.

Anyway, the good news is that I think I actually lost one of my rolls! And I was surprised at how long I could run on the treadmill without becoming breathless ... although it always helps when you are trying to get away from yourself. Every once in a while I would spritz a little of that cleaning disinfectant into the air to disperse the "cloud".

I have a lot of work to do to tone up these sagging "muscles" but when I stand in mirror. I swear I see the shadow of six pack struggling to be freed. Then again, I wasn't wearing glasses ...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Friend requests. They’re popping in like crazy: school chums, co-workers from as far back as my first job, college pals and distant relatives. Being Linked in, Facebooked, and blogged has its perks. With each special person I add, I feel another connection to my past – to my whole. Every meaningful relationship I have had in my life has served as a tether, anchoring me to my memories and the events and milestones that shaped me; each one owning a different piece of my history.

What happens when we start to lose those anchors? I have always said that it’s no wonder a lot of old people are cranky. Imagine the losses they have survived. They have buried grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, friends, spouses and many – their own children. Most of their tethers have been severed. There is no one alive who remembers the young version of themselves; as a baby or youngster full of spirit; as a fresh faced teen full of dreams and in love; and the dancing, laughing, vibrant, playful version of themselves.
We look at the faces of our elderly, wrinkled - their experiences mapped into deep creases, eyes that are slightly recessed and droopy – and I wonder if we are fooled by their appearance. It’s easy to miss the beauty, for now it is found in different places. It is no longer in the sway of her hips, or the glisten of her hair, nor in his commanding posture or strength of his hold. It is in the tone of her voice, softened with time; it is in the wisdom born of accumulated experience; it is in the endless hours they spend sharing what they have learned; and it is in the unconditional “thank you” they whisper in your ear when you have listened to them. It is in the tightest of hugs, embellished with sincerity and the disbursement of unencumbered advice. Our elders are free from the shackles of perception; they live authentically in the knowledge that nothing is gained by nor does time permit, reinvention.

I was fortunate in that I was raised in the safe, nurturing bosom of a large extended family. Some of my favourite memories are of nights I spent at my grandma’s apartment, drinking coffee (and later on – beer) when I wasn’t supposed to; learning the fox trot and cha cha; playing cards for pennies and interrogating her for hours about her girlhood. She answered freely – how she dealt with her first period; her wicked obsession with playing baseball in Sundays (long pants concealed under her dress); about the love she didn’t get from her mother; how she found love; and provided juicy details about the advice her mother gave her on her wedding night. As she would talk, she would transform before my very eyes … I could see the dark haired beauty swinging the bat and standing nervously at the altar … I could see her as a girl and a woman, not so different than myself.

Now with half my life lived, I have lost some important tethers and I feel my anchor fraying. But in our family, we are blessed with the love of conversation and sharing. We keep our memories alive and vivid with each recount; with each famjam. Watching my girls, nieces, and nephews chatting with my Dad, T and Doris, listening to their stories, asking questions, debating issues - warms my heart. They know there is much to be learned - the juicy stuff – and all they have to do is ask - and listen. And THAT is what lodges the anchor permanently.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fog and Faith

I drove into work this morning in fog so dense that I could only see the tail lights of the car in front of me. It was surreal; the towers of lights that line the highways wore halos and gave off a soft glow and everything else was shrouded in white thick mist. Perfect for Halloween. Happy to have my new glasses.

It occurred to me that driving in fog is alot like living - with only the road directly in front visible to us. We are aware that there is more, that other roads and possibilities are within reach, sensed but not seen, and they become revealed to us gradually, in their own time with shifts and changes. I suppose that is what faith is … the confidence in knowing that if you stay the course, life will be revealed as it should. And it has.

How exciting is that?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Eyes Have It

It's quite an adventure, driving to work in the dark. It's a crap shoot guessing which lane the cars in front are driving in and it gets really "thrilling" when I can't discern if the oncoming traffic is in my lane or on the other side of the meridian. But it's time to quell the daredevil inside me and face the truth -- I need glasses.

I don't know why I haven't dealt with it sooner; maybe I didn't want glassed permanently perched on my already less than attractive nose, probably looking more like a senior than I want to. Maybe I don't want something else to misplace (after all, I burned through 3 pairs of sunglasses in 10 days this summer in Kenya). And probably I am just plain lazy.

Tonight I exercised due diligence and went in search of glasses. I had my eyes examined and the news wasn't all bad:

Doc: Wow - they're really nicely shaped
Me: Really?  Haven't heard that in a while
Doc: Your retinas are fantastic looking.
Me: Gee thanks. **blushing** No one's ever said that to me before
Doc: You've gotta be pleased with yourself
Me: Well ... I guess I do OK...
Doc: Seriously -- FIFTY and you still have a great pair.
Me: Excuse me?
Doc: It won't take much to help those FIFTY year-old eyes see the highway better.
Me: You lost me at FIFTY ...

So tomorrow I will pick up the sturdy but inexpensive (pulled the frames from the "limited" selection in the clearance bin), glare resistant, shatter proof, UV coated glasses that will help me see the road. The highways just got safer ... and that's a good thing!

Actually - it was good news; although I struggle to read the microscopic print on the back of pill jars, my eyesight still did not warrant bifocals (per the Doc). My weak drugstore cheaters will do just fine.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

To Self - With Love

Dear Self,
I have been wanting to write to you for a while now, to remind you of a promise to made to yourself. You have been fifty for more than six months now and you had wanted this to be the year you got fit and healthy. I noticed that you have been complaining alot lately about your stiff and sore joints. You had been on the right track, exercising regularly, eating healthy and things were really looking up. You almost found your waistline ... but I hate to break it to you -- you are way off course.

Let's start with the obvious ... do you like your chin? Which one? You are sporting a collection! And those extra flaps around your arms will come in handy should you become airborne - you'll surely land safely. Your waistline is once again MIA and you have muffin toppers on top of your muffin toppers. You have to suck in two big breaths to button up those jeans of yours -- and don't even think about exhaling. Belly fat has congregated around your middle and is holding a rally! I know how you hate the way your back cleavage rivals your front ... but what are you going to do about it?

You used to go to the gym three times a week and take noon hour strolls. Now you have planted your posterior in your seat for hours on end at work, and filed exercise in the bottom drawer. The result -- other than an a$$ flatter than a pancake -- is a general sluggishness about you. You are looking bloated, are experiencing pain, and I can tell that you feel stuck in a rut.

But I have known you all your life and I know that once you set goals for yourself, internalize them and then take those first steps towards them, you can achieve anything. I think you deserve to have your outside reflect your youthful, energetic, optimistic spirit. You will need your body for years to come to take you where you want to go, and to live the life you are creating for yourself. It's time to give yourself a gift of health and fitness.

So Self, I hope you don't mind me being direct with you; I thought you needed a swift and sturdy kick in the behind. But hey, it's all because I love you. Keep in touch.

Until next time, with love,

Monday, October 18, 2010

More Women for Women

I just got word that my Women for Women sister Monica will be graduating from the program at the end of October. It is hard to fathom that a year has passed already since that first glimpse of her in the black and white picture sent in the WFW sponsorship kit. I can remember thinking that her stare was that of someone who harboured alot of pain and her face bore evidence of hard living.

Monica is from the Sudan - mother of seven children at age 23. I wrote her many letters as recommended and although we are cautioned that the women may not be able to reciprocate, I had hoped to hear from her -- how her life was going. No matter. It is my deepest hope that the year spent being loved by a far away sister and supported by Women for Women has given her stable legs and renewed strength to go forward with her life. I have to write her a final letter that will serve as our goodbye -- and then -- I can look forward to learning about my new sister.

Women have been supporting one another forever as long as I can remember. My mom once likened her "coffee dates" with the neighbourhood ladies to a support group. I would hear snippets of their conversations as they stirred their instant coffee as I wandered through the kitchen - invisible. Brainstorming ideas -- how to afford night school; who could babysit the kids; birth control issues; how to meet the demands of husbands and kids. They would clean one another's houses, watch each other's children and pool together to sew curtains and paint bedrooms. Women supporting other women -- and that is what I love about WFW.

I just hope Monica has someone who loves her enough to wrap their arms around her weary shoulders and tell her that they love her. I hope Monica can feel the love and power of half of the planet's population pulling for her-- yearning for her survival and sur-thrival.

Stay tuned for future introductions to my new sister ....

My other posts about Women for Women

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Beautiful Weekend

When last I was at the cottage, the cooler autumn air had moved in however the leaves were still decked out in lush green finery, save the odd crimson maple leaf. Something I have been thoroughly enjoying is the endless array of photography opportunities and as I lay stretched out on the dock, I imagined how great it was going to be to capture the colourful autumn splendour. It was not to be.

During the weeks that have passed since that notion on the dock, autumn arrived along with high winds and was pretty much out the door by the time we landed back up North this weekend. The trees lining the lane way were mostly bare with only a few tops dusted in burnt orange and yellows. My dream of experiencing my favourite season at my favourite special haven will have to wait. But there was still beauty to be found.
Dock in Hibernation

Designer Wood

Autumn Skies

Birches in Waiting
So I went up North hoping for something - and getting something different - but it was all good. The weekend served up two perfect days of clear, crisp sunny weather; for the first time ever we had hot water (yippee) and I even managed a shower in the claw tub. Hubby kept the fire burning and we even got the temps up in the cottage up past 9 degrees Celsius -[translation] we couldn't see our breath. Lots of hard work chopping and piling wood and lots of time to reflect, read and be with Hubby and Fritz.

Hope wherever you are, that your weekend was filled with the beauty of the season - even if it wasn't quite what you expected.