Monday, October 29, 2012

Stormy Weather

It's funny sometimes how events in life converge, and literally put you in the eye of a storm. I am on the east coast of Canada for work, as the news reports warn of Frankenstorm and the monster storm bearing down on the American coast, and warn my home town to make preparations for 72 hours without power.

I called hubby to remind him to look up from his computer and make some preparations ... like buy a case of water, find the flashlights and fill the tub with water. Why? I can't remember but who knows -- we may need an emergency bath! He assured me he filled the camping water jug and that he and Fritz have enough oatmeal for three weeks. I hate oatmeal.

So as I turn in, my bed soft and warm with the wind whipping at the window, my thoughts are with those who are not so lucky -- those who have or will have the wrath of Sandy blowing through their lives; and I think of my family back home and hope that they have flashlights, candles, food and water close at hand. And I hope they feel the love I am sending across the miles on the wings of every raindrop and bluster.

Friday, October 26, 2012


We accept that which we cannot
control, understand, or change.
Life is a course we must navigate - wrought with both
uncharted perils and incredible vistas.

And if by chance, or the grace of our Creator
we live every moment allotted us;
squeeze every molecule of life out of our earthly body,
the end may not be glorious.

For a body that, for more than ninety years,
has served as trusty vessel for spirit that has
soared across abyss and weathered swells and storms
finally wearies, and bears the scars of every voyage.

The end, like the beginning, is a process.
Death - like birth - is not to be hurried or coaxed.
And sometimes, bearing witness to suffering and unspeakable pain,
Bears unspeakable pain and suffering for the beholder.

And sometimes, the remedy for the soul departing
and the onlooker is the same:
love expressed; tender whispers, and hand held close,
And for we who escort their loved ones to the precipice of their eternity
it is nothing less than a privilege -  for which I am truly grateful.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Lethargy Lament

Fritz is flopped at my feet, apparently exhausted from his long day of lounging, sleeping and lounging. He's starting to show his age - like I'm one to talk!

These wet, dark, dreary starts to my day zap my energy. Maybe it's the thirty minute commute of me hunched over the steering wheel, driving glasses perched on my perky nose, trying desperately to see the dotted lines on the highway. [Note to self: check date of last eye exam] It doesn't help when the lanes are jammed with transport trucks leaving a wall of spray on my windshield, blocking the centre lane. By the time I get off the highway my shoulders are up around my ears and I am desperately in need of a yoga intervention. [Note to self: investigate yoga for stiffs]

The crummy rainy weather means I skip my much needed [understatement] noon hour jaunt, and spend yet another hour on my backside in my cube. I am bringing new meaning to "static". And how ironic that the less I move, the more tired I am.

So I talked it over with Fritz and we are both going to make more of an effort to work our joints and move our tails. After all, we aren't getting any younger...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Throne Drone

Yup - this is was our bedroom
The drip had been constant for the past month; the leak - a stubborn one - resistant to a variety of new hardware. What to do about it? Why, replace the toilet with the new porcelain throne  that starred this summer in our cottage adventures in toilet replacement. The gleaming, water efficient toilet was an inch too deep (discovered only after securing the base and trying to mount the tank). Thus it was returned to its packaging and retired to our basement, only to be resurrected this weekend with high hopes.

Alas, it was not to be. An inch once again came between a happy hubby installation and the wall. The bedroom started looking like a graveyard for wayward toilets. We made a desperate dash to our neighbourhood Home Depot for a quick solution. The sales clerk's sympathetic head shaking did little to assuage our  anxiety. He warned us there wasn't anything in stock that would be a good fit. Not to be deterred, hubby and I examined every floor model for a "slim fit" and took our chances on a sporty new model with the dual flush feature. With fingers crossed hubby loaded the 90 pounds of porcelain glory into the car.

I stayed out of his way as he performed an encore installation. As he neared the moment of mounting the tank for a final fit, I crossed myself, genuflected and prayed to my Higher Power for divine intervention. It was too close for comfort - but it fit! The masterpiece was installed, the throne restored,  and we all lived happily ever after - that is, after we flipped for the privilege to be first to sit upon it!

So tonight we will sleep in quiet, devoid of drips, and wake up to a beautiful new toilet. Lucky us. And for that I am truly grateful.

Parts for the easy installation

You can pick a "lite" or bigger flush

Isn't she lovely? Easy on the knees as well as the eyes!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Debate Diet

I'm a little bit of a political junkie, getting my fix watching the Romney - Obama debate; sucking up every nuance, gesture, eye-roll, dodge, retort, snicker and snort.

And as much as I love a contentious, political debate, I long for transparency and solid journalism. Why is it so difficult for our politicians to simply state their policies and positions? They should be able to articulate their stances on issues near and dear to their hearts and stand by their convictions. Why the need to contort and morph to suit every situation? The rhetoric is disappointing and exhausting. It deflates trust and fuels cynicism.

Perhaps our omnipresent social media, camera phones, and tradition media has made "movie star" a requirement of the job. Today we want our politicians photogenic, slick, politically correct and generally flawless. Authenticity can be generally unattractive and unwelcomed -- to the masses, but not me.

I like the facts delivered straight up with little flourish - like raw vegetables; there for the taking and dicing and slicing as you see fit. Sadly we are force fed soft factoids along with what we are supposed to think about them - a fatty diet of slop.

That being said, I still sat on the edge of my couch riveted to the TV and the twitter feed on my laptop, as the debate unfolded. And within minutes of it ending, my phone rang and it was my Pops calling from Florida to ask how I thought the debate went. Maybe that was the best part!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Until Next Year...

Well at least it wasn't raining - not while we were working anyhow - as we made our last trek up North to close up our beloved cottage. We traditionally close up the weekend after Thanksgiving and this year, it was a little earlier than usual - which means there was no snow and some leaves remained on the trees.

When we arrived it was late at night, and only 2 degrees Celsius inside the cottage. Hubby started a fire and I gave a quick silent thank you for electricity as I plugged in the 2 space heaters. The plan was to get a jump start on the closing proceedings the next morning. I couldn't wait to see the glorious foliage and it did not disappoint.

It is a sad day for hubby and I as we strip away the comfort and cosy from the cottage - pull the water lines, strip the beds, empty the fridge, prepare the dock for winter, and store away all outside furniture. By the time we lock the door for the final time, the cottage is stark, cold and unwelcoming, fit for hibernation.

I snapped a few shots before we got busy -- slumber well, oh place of peace.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

My Normal

Today is the first ever International Day of the Girl. What better way to celebrate it than have my youngest daughter, Kidlet, hijack my blog  be a guest blogger and share her perspective on gender roles, family, and her "normal". This is her post:

When my parents were young the concept of family was different than my concept of family today. I believe that often times the environment we grow up in is what we mimic when we get older. My mother was taught that a nuclear family was what was expected of her. She did not grow up with divorce or a family outside the box. However, my reality was much different then hers. Today many families break the traditional concept of what family is in North America.  With a 50% divorce rate,  there are more single-parent families and blended families.  Family dynamics have changed and women now make up a major portion of the labour force. Even the gender norms are being bent and changed to represent gender as more of a spectrum rather then a binary scale. Marriage is no longer essential so more and more couples are living common law. Same-sex marriage is now legal in Canada so the idea of have two dads or two moms has completely stepped outside the idea of the traditional nuclear family and has changed gender role expectations.

I grew up in a very blended family. We like to call it the tribe because it is so big and extended. I like to use my family as an example of a modern family because I think it best represents how, though the make-up of family has changed, the value of family has not. My Mom has had 3 husbands in her lifetime. I have 2 half sisters who were from her first marriage who I grew up with but I never considered them to be anything less than whole sisters. I was born into my Mom’s second marriage of 15 years. I now have a step-dad of 10 years and counting. We have multiple sets of grandparents between the three of us girls and our Dads. My aunts and uncles have also been remarried and have children with different marriages but we all consider each other to be family.

Growing up in my house meant you had a working Mom and Dad. It meant that you went to daycare, sometimes spent days at different parents’ houses and lots of times had your entire family (yes, including all the Dads) all in one place for birthdays or holidays. In my family we have many different cultures, religions and political view points. You could call us the United Nation of families. Even though my family looked vastly different then my friends’ families, it was my “normal”.

I grew up learning a different set of gender norms. For me, having both parents work was normal and for this reason I believe I will be a working Mom. Newman refers to the fact that, “once women have children marriage decreases their earnings because many mothers choose or are forced to reduce their hours at work”. Though, it may not have always been easy, my Mom was able to maintain a full time job while being a full time Mom. My family puts a huge emphasis on education for both the females and the males. For this reason all the grand kids have pursued post-secondary education. I have a gay, Jewish sister but in my family all cultures and sexual orientations are accepted so I am now accepting of the same thing. I watched my Mom and Dad share housework based on efficiency and convenience so I have learned that the man does not always need to be the breadwinner and the woman does not always need to bear the brunt of the housework. I watched my parents mutually respect each other so I will expect that in my future relationships. I grew up as a girl who was not only allowed - but encouraged - to play sports and pursue my passions. My Mother raised us girls to have a voice, stand up for ourselves and learn self-sufficiency. Her teachings were not necessarily common when she was growing up, but has made it common for my sisters and I. The differences in the way my Mom and I’ve been brought up show how gender norms and family norms have changed.

My Dad is a single Dad. When I stayed  at his house he cooked, cleaned, did the laundry, made my lunch and got me to school. He takes on all the roles because he has to and because he grew up knowing how to be independent. He broke gender norms by being one of two dads in my elementary school’s parent council. Parent council was often made up of stay at home moms but my Dad made a point of staying involved in my education. He broke a stereotype that Dads take on less of the household chores because he is the only one there to do it.

There are still gender norms in  my family that are traditional - such as my parents always want to meet the boy we’re dating before we go out with him. We have been taught the importance of marriage and commitment and maintaining family connections. To me, the concept of family has changed in North America. I believe 50 years ago there was a bigger emphasis on traditional gender roles and division of labour but the goal of family was still to be loving and have a place called home. I look at my family and though we aren’t an example of a traditional family, we are still a place where behaviors are taught a learned. I come from a family of strong women and noble men who have taught me about being your authentic self and giving others the respect to allow them to do the same.

Guest blogger: Kidlet

Monday, October 8, 2012

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving ... giving thanks. It was a wonderful weekend bursting with all things beautiful, delicious, and precious. And when I glanced down the long extended table, lined with the chattering, smiling faces of my loved ones, I gave my own silent prayer of thanks for the abundance in my life.

Canadian Thanksgiving ushers in the brisk cool mornings, brilliant foliage and conjures up inexplicable cravings for root vegetables and comfort food. I love this time of year! And this Thanksgiving weekend was the perfect mixture of frosty temperatures and sunshiny blue skies outside - and cosy warmth inside. Hubby and I hosted my family for a phenomenal feast.

Today we took in a local fall fair as we do every Thanksgiving weekend, and then made our way over to my MIH's for a delectable encore turkey and ham dinner. Now I know why we call it stuffing...  Hubby and I left stuffed with feast and contentment.

And now we face a week of left overs, and a whole pot of squash soup that I forgot to serve. Today I wrote out my gratitude list and intentions... the most important of which is to make a conscious effort to appreciate and express my gratitude daily, and make every day, a day of "thanksgiving". As it should be.

Here are some captures from my weekend.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Weekend Ready

Turkey's thawing in the fridge -- all twenty-two pounds of him (or is it a her?).

Wine is chilling - a great big box of it!

Soup is on - or should I say - done. Roasted butternut squash and apple.

A robust bouquet of sunflowers is bursting with goodness and sunshine.

The remnants of the soup wafts in the air, mixing with the spiciness of my pumpkin candles.

I'm happily getting the jump on the preparations for our Thanksgiving feast that we are hosting.

Sour, sweet, hearty. and warm - Thanksgiving is in the air - and I can't wait!

And for that, I am so very grateful.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Inspired Youth Inspired Me

It's been almost a week since We Day and it's taken that long to reflect on what we witnessed, absorbed and felt. It was awe-inspiring spectacular - and a privilege to be there.

Twenty thousand youth - social activists each and every one  (cause you have to be to get to We Day) - filled the stadium. They don't sell tickets; you have to earn your seat by working for a local and global cause. Twenty thousand youth hopped up on optimism, passion, and belief that the change starts with them. The place pulsed with high octane excitement and the energy was palpable.

Kidlet and Megz and I sat glued to our front row balcony seats, soaking everything in like thirsty wanderers would take to an oasis. It was sensory overload and to tell you the truth, I needed the recharge.

I could go on and on about the dazzling entertainment; the lineup of speakers that are nothing short of heroes and legends; and how I had to fight to hold on to the last bit of mascara on my eyes ... but I think a few select quotes will give you the picture:

"While acting is what I do for a living, activism is what I do to stay alive" -Martin Sheen 
"You are part of a new generation that I call the generation without borders" -Romeo Dallaire
"We have everything we need. We have the technology, the tools... the only thing we don't have is the will to act… The will to act is a renewable resource. It lives in your heart. Wake it up!" –Al Gore
"We need to give ourselves permission to ask for help." Spencer West
Justice Murray Sinclair encouraged the new generation to right the wrongs of Canadian aboriginal residential schools. “Tell your schools you want to know the true story of the Aboriginal people.” 
You can get a taste of We Day for yourself; they are posted online. The event was kicked off by a diminutive little girl who spoke boldly about "lighting our sparks and turning them into a flame" : Watch her.

After We Day was a reception of reunions for Kidlet and I. We already had Megz with us and the icing on the cake was seeing our Maasai friends Wilson and Jackson again. We had time to chat with them and reconnect. They are now published authors and seemed surprised at the little children lining up to have them sign their book. So humble. And then, if that wasn't enough for one day, our friends Denise and Laura - both whom we met in Kenya met us for dinner. 

Who would have thought that two years ago as we sat under the stars of the Mara, warmed by the fire in a clay pot reflecting on all that we were seeing and learning - that we would once again meet - this time under the Canadian skies - to renew friendships and once again reflect on how lucky we all are. 

So as you might have guessed, my heart is full to overflowing and I thank my lucky stars for taking the leap and making the trip to Kenya. It was a gift I gave to myself, and one that has kept on giving and giving. And even more - it changed my life forever.

Now it is my turn to give, and I picked up a few good ideas!

Me and Megz
K'Naan - Is anybody out there?

Romeo Dallaire - a Canadian treasure and my hero
This is what 20,000 young change makers looks like

Wilson and Jackson back in town - centre stage

Nelly Furtado and First Nations dance troupe
Spencer West redefined possible by climbing Kilimanjaro on his hands

Spencer gives good hugs

Trading in traditional rubber sandals for warmer footwear

Kidlet gets Jackson to sign her copy of The Last Maasai Warrior
Our little group that started in Kenya - reunited (missing Lisa)
Thanks Kidlet for sharing the day - the gifts of our journey keep on giving ,,,