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.