Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Rain, Water and Ice

The rainy, dismal of November is coming to an end. The rains have been torrential; the winds have been relentless. Driving has been a treat. Not. To top it off, I have a pond in my car. Yup. I'm not kidding. I opened the back door of my car to throw my suitcase bag in and there it was -- 2 inches of water on the floor. It was a swamp -- no -- a pond.  The only thing missing were the ducks!

I guess I should've guessed something was up; after a rain when I turned a corner sharply, water would pour out of my overhead light. It isn't easy driving with one hand on the wheel and the other with tissues pressed against the light to catch the drip. Some seal must be gone on my car and I am guessing it has something to do with my sun roof (which should really be called a rain roof). Someday soon I'll get it into the dealership for a fix, hopefully before I have a skating rink on my hands.

Welcome December. I am holding you to a higher standard, so you better deliver. : )

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Love Lives On

You were close by today; I could hear your voice telling me to slow down and drive carefully in the rain; and memories of you and your laughter wove in and around moments in my day. It was after all, the anniversary of your birth. I try to conjure a picture of you at 72, but that won't be necessary. You were spared any ravages of aging and your spirit is forever young. I still miss you as much as I did that night when you left us. But my longing for you is a strange brew of comfort; the little space of empty - a reminder of the exceptional mother who used to fill it.

Happy birthday Mom. Your love lives on.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Step Up

What a difference a day makes! Yesterday when I went to visit my Dad pain was like a cling-on pal who couldn't take hint. Pain was his bedfellow and it was evident in his restlessness, in the creases lining his face and most of all his eyes. He put up a good front but he was clearly agitated. I felt a little downhearted when I left him meditating the pain away.

But today it is a whole different story. Mama T tipped me off that he was in a better space with the pain under control and being up and around a little more. I popped in after work to see it for myself and I am glad I did. He was beaming, sitting up in his bed (30 degrees) having just polished off a delicious (yup - his words) chicken dinner. I scanned the tray and it was seriously licked clean! He chatted happily with Mama T by his bedside and boasted about the fact that he had gone 5 hours without pain meds. He actually did some stairs today and had lots of walking in. Mama T and I think he looks taller ... they say this operation can do that to a person (take note all you shorties out there).

Best of all (thankfully) he finally had a shower!

His talk is all about his recovery and his plans to make it as speedy and successful as possible. When I kissed his stubbly cheek (he hasn't shaved) and walked away, I couldn't help but marvel at his progress and fortitude, and what a difference a day can make.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Forever Friends at Fifty

Look how big our smiles are ... I am smiling because my body shaping undergarments are cutting off the circulation to my heart and Jill is smiling because she is younger than me and doesn't need foundation garments!

Today is her 50th birthday - an achievement in which she lagged behind me. There aren't many things I do better than her: I squeaked out one more daughter - and a few more husbands; my bra size is definitely bigger; I have more sibs; and I talk a whole lot faster - and more!

But the thing is, we were destined to be friends. Aside from the shared taste in fashion (we basically mirrored one another's wardrobe, starting with our matching pantsuits and boy's survival jackets), we had the coolest Moms around (who we lost a year apart), we love to write, we have solid social consciouses, and she is a good listener and I am - well you know ...

We are there for one another, rescuing when necessary and at other times, celebrating the joys and milestones of more than 40 years of friendship. Our bond has never been based on activities or defined by time. Instead we have an omnipresent peace and confidence that goes with knowing that we have that one special person who has our history; with whom we've shared the navigation from childhood to womanhood to motherhood - and beyond. We are soul sisters assigned to accompany one another on this fantastical journey that is our life.

When we were little girls we talked about being old together and guess what? We are! 

Happy birthday to my forever friend Jill.

Weekend Wrap Up

Visit with my dad was brief this afternoon. He hasn't slept alot since his procedure and they had him on a tour of the facility today in his modest, open backed hospital issued gown for a plethora of tests: ultrasounds, x-rays, scans, blood work and the list goes on.  He was spent by the time he got back to his room but managed to organize us and his space for optimal comfort. We adjusted the TV, applied cold cloths, tried to slide his onto his side, exercised his leg, and arranged his water, eyeglasses, tissue, earphones within his easy reach. He has this hospital thing down pat. But we could see the weariness in his eyes from physical exertion, pain and little sleep, and kept our visit short.

Give a Little: I discovered a giving circle that awards $5000 grants to nonprofits working to make the world fair for girls. In the give a little spirit, I donated $5 to 5 for Fairness. Love this concept of accumulating and then dispersing critical amounts to organizations that the members of the circle vote on.

We wrapped up a busy day with family time with hubby's parents: roast beef dinner (compliments of Papa Pete) in a silvery, sparkly Christmas wonderland compliments of MIH.

The tree was up, candles flickered and the Christmas cactus showed off tiny pink buds that will burst into  a mighty shade of pink by Christmas. I wrestled Mr Tibbs the Shar Pei to the ground and he retaliated by putting my whole arm in his mouth for a mock chomp. Papa Pete served up his pot roast on platters -- each of us got our own platter -- followed by lemon cake. Comfort food!

Relaxing back on the couch admiring the sparkle, I could feel the stirrings of Christmas excitement. I think this year the best present I could get would be to see my Pops home safe and sound enjoying new found pain relief and possibilities.

So all in all, it's been an eventful weekend and tonight I am signing off with peace and hope in my heart and prayers for Dad and T for the challenges they will face in the coming weeks.


Platter full of comfort

Nosy Mr Tibbs 
MIH and Papa Pete

Friday, November 25, 2011

Walking Tall

When we stepped off the elevator first thing this morning, there he was ... leaning heavily on a very tall walker, tentatively shuffling along in his flimsy hospital gown and running shoes. Vertical 16 hours after surgery. Standing tall, sitting pretty and clutching the button for his morphine pump, his eyes showed the breadth and depth of his pain. But he swears that it is exactly what he expected.

He is a model patient; no complaints; just grit and determination. His roommate is also a retired teacher so there is no lapse in conversation between them, although I could see weariness setting in with the excessive chatter. His first day post op was a busy one with a plethora of medical therapies, mini milestones, visitors, pains and gains. Most importantly, he finally got his hair brushed and spruced up.

It is not easy to watch someone you love suffer. It is painful to witness vulnerability in one who is steadfast,  solid, the rock of the family. But it is absolutely heartwarming to see hope and possibility abound once again and to envision him dancing at my daughter's wedding.

The road in front of him will get easier with each passing day and it won't be long before he is walking tall once again.

So Thankful

It's been a long day of angst, reflection, anticipation and Tim Hortons coffee. The third time's the charm. My dad finally got his spinal surgery after two bouts of medical mishaps and confusion, and  unlike the first time, we made no auto assumption of success. We knew the murky waters he would navigate. And true to his super hero self, after four hours in the operating room and two in recovery, he was smiling and chatting happily as they wheeled him out of post op to his room on the ward. The staff remarked about how awake he was for someone who just came out of surgery. When the surgeon came to fill us in on how the procedure went, we asked him if our dad was awake. He smiled, nodded and said "oh ya ... he's awake -- and talking". A really good sign!

And talking he is. Sure, we know it's the morphine helping him along, but his thinking and recollection are crystal clear. He is not foggy, groggy or soggy. Wait -- I can't vouch for the third thing. They asked him if he wanted his water with or without ice. I asked him if he wanted it shaken or stirred. He smiled and said he would like rye and water.

All I know is that I can barely describe the jubilation I felt when I saw his bed being wheeled out of the recovery room, and got a glimpse of his tired but smiling face. It is fitting that on the American Thanksgiving Day, I would be filled with more gratitude, faith and love than I could ever have imagined. It has been a good day. And for that, I am truly grateful.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Take Three

I go about my day, survive my commute, drop in on my Dad, but there's background noise. In a couple of days he's going in for the second try (third if we count the aborted procedure) at his spinal surgery. After the last bout of nail biting, gut wrenching drama and trauma, he is facing this procedure more prepared than ever. He has had the tests. He's met with the specialists and understands the plan. He's practiced rolling out of bed and his walker is oiled and ready for deployment. Heck, he even has his new Christmas tree up.

I would be lying if I didn't admit there are some nerves bantering about like free radicals. However in another part of me resides steadfast calm and confidence in a positive outcome. I just know he will endure whatever comes his way and come out the other end victorious.

He has been writing his memoirs for a few years now and I gave him some homework last week. I asked him to think back in his life to times when he experienced failure - and to write about how it made him feel and what it taught him.

From my daughter vantage point with my head turned upwards to observe -- I watched him contort every failure or disappointment into a springboard from which he would catapult to new heights of achievement. He managed to get where he wanted to go, be who he wanted to be - eventually. And I can't see why now - facing a medical hurdle - it should be any different.

So Pops, as promised, I will contain my black humour and refrain from meddling in your care, but I will be close by Mama T's side with my sisters when the doctor emerges to tell us that your are busy writing bossy notes.

But let's be real -- you may have to take a pass on the jingle bell rock this Christmas - or not!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Give a Toilet and a Little Empowerment

Photo credit: Gates Foundation
Thanks to a nasty headache that landed me on my assets for most of the day, I am not feeling like the day was particularly productive. The bright spots were the initiatives I found to support for my "give a little" effort.

I have been lax in blogging about my weekly give a little challenge so please bear with me.

In honour of World Toilet Day, and the 2+ billion people who do not have access to a private, clean place to poop oh don't be a prude - we all do it, I donated to World Toilet Org. I can't help it -- the thought of doing my private business in public is unfathomable so anything I can do to support the cause to improve the situation ... The mission of this organization is to improve sanitation conditions for people globally through advocacy, inventive technology, education and building marketplace opportunities locally. Like the Gates Foundation, they are supporting efforts to reinvent the conventional toilet; to find solutions that are not water based. It doesn't get any more basic or revolutionary than that!

Wendy Smith, author of Give a Little inspired me yet again with her suggestion to donate to the Imagine Rural Development Initiative (IRDI). This Zambian non-profit organisation is providing free skills-training in moringa cultivation to 30 previously unemployed local Zambian women. Moringa is an affordable and highly-nourishing superfood that can fight malnutrition, improve health and eradicate poverty. Sound good? Many of the local women taking the training are widows and breadwinners in their families and take care of not only their own children, but also grand-children and orphans who have lost their own parents due to HIV/AIDS and other illnesses. The donations help sustain the families while the women take the 6 month training. Wherever possible sustainability is key for me in my "investing" efforts. Don't we all want the same thing; to be able to take care of ourselves and our family and provide the foundation on which to build dreams?

So although I spent most of the day horizontal with reruns of "Love it or List it" playing in the background (helps me sleep), I feel like somehow I made a small, positive contribution and the day wasn't a total write off. And so another week begins!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sparkles in the Gray

Oh gray November, you held sparkles in your dismal with so many reasons to celebrate.

We came together as a family to celebrate birthdays of my two oldest daughters and my future son-in-law. The feast was bountiful with gluten free, starchy, grainy, meaty dishes and the table was customarily too noisy with cross conversations being exchanged in outdoor voices. The house burst with life - and love. Tears were shed (and not only over my daughter's gluten free cake attempt), and the best gift of all was my dad's emotional reaction to the gift of his family's history, neatly bound, and presented to him by my niece and nephew. These treasures of the past become that more precious and meaningful as we age, and get farther away from our beginning.

Last week I made two separate trips into the city to meet friends for dinner. Ironically each of the three have logged more than 36 years of friendship with me. We knew one another as kids, swapped vinyl records and listened to AM radio in the days of soft faded Levis, wedge haircuts and school band. As I drove the four-lane expressway into the city it occurred to me that to have friends from childhood still such a large part of my life is truly remarkable. One more reason to cut November a little slack, even if she did spill a little snow last Thursday.

And today hubby and I went with my engaged daughter and her beloved to choose the spot amongst the tall pines where they will make their vows next summer.

So many spots of light flickering amongst the gray and cool damp of November. And for that I am truly grateful.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Tradition of Remembrance

It's become a personal tradition. I get Remembrance Day off at work, so for the past five years I have used the day as it was intended. I, along with so many others in my community, make my way down to our local cenotaph. There is an eerie silence - save the crunching of dead leaves - that hangs in the air as people walk the sidewalks leading to the park. We come in a varieties - white headed, bent elders with hints of elegance and pride in posture shuffling along, young parents with kidlets in tow, service personnel from all branches, multi generational families walking arm in arm, and lots of dogs.

It was a prophetic event. The day was gray and dismal - typical for November in these parts. Bystanders pulled their coats tightly around them and pulled scarves over their faces to shield from the wind. The pastor opened the ceremony with a prayer and introduced the trumpeter who would play The Last Post. As the first melancholy note  sounded, the sun burst through the clouds, shining a spotlight on the band ensemble - so bright, I could barely take a picture. And as he played the final few bars, the sun disappeared as quickly as it came, and tiny, misty tears fell from heaven.

It seemed that the deeds and sacrifices of our service people were being remembered by all, everywhere.

Last Post

Thank you.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


It's dark when I go to work in the morning and dark again by the time I get home from work. I want to make like a bear and hibernate in a cave - at least until the dismal, damp of November passes and I can rest away my weary.

But - I am not a bear.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

It's a Date!

Well, it's legit; on; set in soapstone. My daughter's engagement has materialized into a wedding date. Now the fun begins. I have been watching reruns of "Say Yes to the Dress" so I will know how to scrunch my face disapprovingly and effectively impose my opinion as my daughter models wedding gown hopefuls. NOT! I only have ten months to excavate embarassing details from her childhood, polish the speech, fine tune my dance moves the slosh, chicken dance, the hustle -  lose a few hips, transform into a viable monster-in-law and perfect the art of meddling.

All joking aside, there is something exciting about having a date attached to what will surely be the ultimate famjam. I was chatting away with my daughter about the endless possibilities when her phone went dead. I still had so much yet to cover. Come to think about it, that's been happening alot lately. I think I am going to have to reign in my enthusiasm a little and pace myself. I don't want to overwhelm her too early or she may make like a turtle and our collaboration will be shortlived. 

I can picture her now: a delicate little bride standing hand in hand with her beloved, and me, waterworks and mascara running down my face, digital camera in hand and king-sized Kleenex wrapped neatly around my schnozz as I howl witness her nuptials. But in the meantime, I will be on my very best behaviour; a portrait of grace and dignity as I resist the urge to interfere, dominate and micro manage. This is Harmony's time and really, all I can do is wish her and her beloved a life together that will see their love grow stronger and expand through the years, just as mine has for them.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Still Giving a Little

I haven't kept up my weekly posts about my give a little challenge - but I have kept up my giving. I am suffering some arm overuse issues so I have had to greatly reduced the number of posts to my blog, and that included not maintaining the weekly posts about the organizations and causes I found to "give a little" to.

In the past few months I have focused my giving on charitable organizations that address hunger, disease and women's issues. The famine in East Africa and the poverty issue in my own community earned my donations to help provide sustenance to my fellow human beings. Diseases that are affecting my loved ones and friends have garnered my attention and I tried to give a little to organizations with a focus on research and services. You can see an updated  list of these orgs on the Give a Little page of this blog.

It has occurred to me that giving money is the easy "giving". I want to step things up and start giving a little more than money; maybe some time as well as my expertise and skills. This weekly challenge I set for myself was intended to set my internal compass to seeking out charitable opportunities. If you have any suggestions I would  be grateful to have them.
Read about my Thursday's Give a Little Challenge and other posts. I have to give ongoing props to Wendy Smith for her inspiring book, Give a Little. Consider giving it a read.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

And That's the Kind of Weekend It Was ...

The clock says it is only 8:35 but I am fighting to keep my eyes open. Sleep beckons; clearly my body did not receive the memo about the time change.

It's been a good weekend with lots of time to reorganize, rake fallen leaves, wash bedding, talk wedding plans, visit and catch up with my kids, sis and parents. Weather-wise it was a perfect autumn weekend with bright blue skies and earthy coloured leaves still clinging to the branches. It's odd how some trees are still green, while others are dressed in various shades of gold. And then there are the trees that stand bare, having already shed their leaves. Where is the rhyme or reason?

I had ordered a documentary entitled "Triage: Dr. James Orbinski's Humanitarian Dilemma" so I snagged hubby to watch it with me Saturday night. pay back for Howard Jones It did not disappoint. Maybe it wasn't the best choice for date movie night (eating as we watched footage of the genocide and refugee camps), however it left me with lots to process afterwards and reinforced my admiration for James Orbinski. I read his book An Imperfect Offering last summer and it made a lasting impression on me.

Health is going to be a keynote this month. My father-in-law is trying to get answers to some health issues and is awaiting results of the tests. My dad is preparing himself for the second take on his spinal operation near the end of the month. We'll all be logging in some hospital time this month and as I do, I will say a silent prayer of gratitude for the health care system in my country that makes it possible for all - regardless of economic standing - to receive the tests and treatments they need, at no cost.

If health is the overriding theme for the month, friendship will be the theme for the week with lots dinners out and catching up to do. And I wonder why I'm fat.

Post Publish Update: As he was out for his last "rest break" for the night, Fritz found himself nose to nose with our friendly resident skunk and yes, horrors of horrors, managed to get himself blasted once again. I cannot begin to describe the stench of our house, yet again!

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Our fantastically ferocious frenzied fearless Fritz is not one to be bullied by bigger animals ... so when he so brazenly confronted a HUGE skunk in our yard to let him know who was boss - Fritz was left in a haze of the most vile odour imaginable. Unfortunately it happened right at bedtime; fortunately it was after everyone had gone home after the parents "meat and greet" party. Of course the first thing our distressed little schnauzer did once inside was race around the perimeter of the family room rubbing his furry dogface along the couch skirt as he did. It was overpowering; nauseating; there are not enough words to describe the stench! Hubby grabbed Fritz and tossed him into the shower to douse him down with some chemically enhanced fragrant shampoo while I ran around the house wildly spraying Febreze.

Just as we settled into the trace skunk smell in our home and got the scent under control the speakable -- he got sprayed again. Yup! He's an overachiever our little furbag and couldn't leave it as a one-off. He had to prove that it was no fluke - it could happen again twice in three days! Hubby repeated the shower drill and I exhausted my can of Febreze. This time around though, the skunk odour is lingering here, there, and everywhere - and on everyone.

My shining moment came when my cubemates at work gave me the sniff test - and their wrinkled noses and looks of pity told me I failed. Horrors! My workplace is scent-free and I was anything but. My colleague emailed me this nifty webstie: Get Smell Out. I rummaged through my desk looking for something to spray myself with ... an old can of hairspray had to suffice. Anything is better than skunk!

So today I tackled my house with renewed vigilance. The windows were open wide and I took my bedding right down to the mattress cover to be bleached and washed. Everything is being washed and deodorized, including me.

A lady I met on my dog walk warned me that the smell would probably linger for 6 months or so.  And that was the kind of week it was; skunkworks and something to smell about.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Harmony's Gifts

I can remember exactly what I was doing 27 years ago. Birthdays are like that ... especially when it comes to those of my daughters. Today my second born is celebrating her birthday and I can't help but reflect on and celebrate her life. From a feisty, creative, unique child has emerged a self assured, theatrical, unique woman who lives an artful life.

Things I love about Harmony
  • she was a feisty womb kicker and managed to crack my ribs foreshadowing her spirit
  • she has been known to buy her clothes by the pound ultimate recycler
  • she has cut her own hair for years and that takes some kind of confidence
  • she makes the most heartfelt cards and gifts - the kind you keep forever
  • she is "family sentimental" and cherishes heirlooms and traditions, even the ones that aren't pretty
  • she willingly tagged along with me whenever I asked her to - and even when I didn't
  • she is a petite package of strength and steel just like her grandmother
  • she is able to live a full, rich life on very little
  • she was unplanned but just what I needed
  • she loves her sisters, and they, her
Happy birthday Harmony. My world is brighter with you in it.