Friday, November 30, 2012


Well it arrived with little warning - the first wintry blustery day of the year - just in time for my day off. I thought I would break with tradition and start my Christmas shopping in November. And as I braved the mall that was fully decked out in seasonal glitter, humming along with tried and true Christmas favourites I couldn't help thinking about an email I had received about my Women for Women sister I sponsor.

Claudine lives in the Congo and if you have heard the news lately, there is a serious outbreak of violence that is teetering on civil war.

It's surreal... While I was wandering around a Mecca of commercialism deciding what gifts to buy my kids, my WFW sister on the other side of the world is trying desperately to stay alive and protect her children. Her country is known as the Rape Capital of the world and sexual violence against women is rampant. In short - she is living a nightmare. Is she surviving? I can only imagine what she thinks about in the darkness of night. 

And so I will suspend my concern for my "first world problems" and be grateful for the bountiful life I lead; for the warmth and safety of my home; and for the love and support of my loved ones. This precious season of giving and peace is the perfect time to pray for those who do not have even  the most basics of life - food, water, shelter and safety - and are deprived of human rights and dignity. Women for Women International works to help women affected by war to become self sustaining by matching them with women sponsors. WFW has had to suspend the program while the violence has escalated but will resume the programs as soon as it is safe for their staff and clients.

Tonight, in the darkness of night, my thoughts and heart will rest with Claudine, my Congolese sister.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Checking In

This time of year is always hard; and this day - a little harder. It's your birthday but you are eternally 58. You passed exactly a week after your birthday - a week after I presented you with my Tupperware container of homemade lasagna (your request); a week after you unwrapped the bath pillow and said that your mom would really like it - even though she had been gone for 5 years already.

But that was the end, and tonight my thoughts are with the present...

The kids are growing up quickly. One of them has your petite build; another shares your slightly droopy "Paul McCartney" eyes, and everyone says that Dar is the spitting image of you. And at least once a day I start a sentence with "my mom used to tell me that ..."  When we have a famjam the grandkids congregate at their end of the table, laughing, teasing and catching up with one another.They genuinely love spending time together.   The evident love they share for one another warms my heart and I can't help but wonder what you would think of it all.

Would you tell them how proud you were of them that they had grown into thoughtful, caring, contributing members of society? Would you marvel at their confidence and  resilience, and tell them they already had everything within that they need to be happy? Would you wrinkle your nose at the piercings; tell them that they are perfect, just the way they are; that being their authentic selves is enough?

Your advice gets dispensed regularly, by proxy of your four children. Your voice rambles around my head at the most critical moments and sometimes, at the quietest of times. Your funny little laugh hasn't strayed far and the markers you left behind sustain us when we miss you most.

Guess what I am trying to say is that you live on Mom, in all of us - your kids - and in the grandchildren who speak your name and carry on your legacy of love. So today, on what would be your 73rd birthday, I can tell you that we're doing OK Mom; you prepared us well. The longing for you hasn't faded - we miss you desperately but but we today and always, we celebrate all that you were, and are.

Happy Birthday Mom.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Crispy brittle mornings
frosted car windows
are those sub-zero temperatures??
... flirting with winter.

Canvas exchanged for down
shoes for boots
where did I put my hat??
... preparing for winter.

Shorter, dim days
comfort food please
where's that ice scraper??
... welcoming winter.

Naked trees and
piles of leaves
what - no snow yet??
... dreading (just a little)

Monday, November 26, 2012


Within the space of one week I have been to two funerals and two birthday celebrations - milestones from opposite ends of the spectrum. But it has me thinking about our rituals.

Although both funerals were held in churches, they couldn't have been more different - one was filled with music and soaring voices, expressed grief, and jubilation for a life well lived; the other was somber and restrained, consisting mainly of biblical inspired comfort and congregational hymn singing. Both, I suspect, offered the grieving families the solace they needed.

There seems to be a growing trend of people choosing not to have funeral services or commemorative services. I can think of at least three incidences in which the families did not do anything other than have the body cremated.There was no public invitation to say final goodbyes; no chance for far away family to gather to collectively remember. And the saddest part, no opportunity for the family to learn what their loved ones meant to others; to the world. I think without rituals and traditions we lose important opportunities to come together as community and family for sharing, grieving and healing.

Doesn't each and every life lived deserved to be celebrated and honoured? And so it is with our famjam birthday celebrations. Some have said that we make too big a deal out of birthdays but I couldn't disagree more. These milestones are building blocks of family memories and opportunities to celebrate, visit, feel loved and cherished... and heaven knows that in these hectic times, it is a challenge to pull everyone together.

Doesn't each and every life lived deserved to be celebrated and honoured? For one thing is for certain, in some way - big or small -  the world is changed because they walked the earth.

Monday, November 19, 2012


We said our final goodbye in a church packed to the rafters with family, chosen family and church family. We celebrated the life and sung the praises of this tough lady, and sung our hearts out to her favourite sacred music. It was a rousing, inspirational, spiritually uplifting home-going. Words were said; tears were shed. As the pastor (her son) so wisely articulated, he was not sorry (for his loss) - he was sad. And so it was on a sunny Saturday in November, after 91 years of hardships and triumphs, that this fine lady was put to rest, and her beloved sons and their families gathered on the curb to watch the hearse roll slowly out of sight. Another chapter closed.

And later that same day, the tribe congregated to eat cake! Family came from far and near to fulfill my eldest daughter's birthday wish to be immersed in the love of her family to commemorate her thirty-year milestone. I tried in vain to get a female superhero (she likes that stuff) put on her cake but they were fresh out. So she played the starring role as superhero on her own cake, and in the end, it was far more fitting. Her party was a team effort, decorated with sisterly love, and served up in true famjam style. Words were said; tears were shed, and we celebrated the woman she has become. She glowed - and her happiness showed.

And so it goes... celebrating life.

Friday, November 16, 2012


Life is circular - no straight lines here!  It indiscriminately serves up doses of pain and delight, devastation and celebration,  laughter and tears - often at the same sitting. And so it is today as I cook, clean, and wrap in readiness for the birthday party I am hosting for my daughter's 30th birthday that we are holding on the very same day we put a cherished elder in the family to rest. It feels like I have a foot in two worlds... grief and jubilation; an ending and a milestone of life.

And even though it seems somehow awkward or out of order, it really is just a testament to life. The pendulum of emotion swings rich at either end of the spectrum. It does not pause, but rather, is in constant dynamic motion while we do our best to handle whatever it dishes up. But it does not stop.

So while we celebrate a life well lived and say our final goodbyes, so too must we celebrate a life being well-lived. The common denominator for me is the presence of family. Through the hardships and euphoria, sickness and health, births and deaths as well as the mundane daily occurrences. it is the support and presence of family - the precious circle of loved ones - that add colour and purpose to my life.

There is so much to celebrate. And for that, I am truly grateful.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Decades of Daughter

I remember being a young mother calculating how "old" I would be when my first born turned 30. And now that day has arrived. Over blips and blurs and on the wings of time, three decades have passed ...

Her milestone is my milestone: thirty years of mothering and thirty years of more joy and love than I could have ever imagined. She was my firstborn -  my teacher - and the brunt of every misstep and mistake I made. As a "gourmet taster" (breast feeding mom's will know what this means) she taught me patience. She enjoyed "milking" the moment and had an easy disposition. As a small child she was a one woman show entertaining us with her re-enactments of fairy tales, and later, making videos starring her cousins and sisters. I have a vague recollection of a pregnant Barbie being dumped by Ken....

As a teenager she forced me to dig deep and remember to be her mother, and not her friend. She was a homebody and even when the day came for her to move out, she didn't move far. She bought a place just down the street, just past my Dad's place, and stayed close to her tribe.

Now as a middle aged *choke* woman, I enjoy a special relationship with my daughters, just as my sisters and I shared with our mother. I read somewhere that our children are not our own to have and hold; that they are merely passing through. And I suppose if we have done our job, they will choose to stick around.

Thirty years ago a precious gift came my way, and I am privileged that she chose me to be her mom. Happy birthday to my strong, independent, nurturing daughter. I couldn't love you more.

Monday, November 12, 2012


Fritz is passed out on the couch, possibly in a deep sugar coma. I spilled a big jug of jelly beans all over the floor and then it was game on: me vs the mutt to see who could eat/pick up the most candies. I think he won. That little furbag is lightning quick - especially where edibles are concerned. I countered by eating way too many of the remains.

Now my skin is itchy and I swear I can feel the sugar calories racing to congregate on my belly and thighs! Damn those jellybeans! And damn that Fritz for eating all the red ones.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

We Remember

The air was fresh and woodsy; typical for a fall day. Walking without talking, deep in thought, kicking the leaves to hear the crunch, making my way to the local Remembrance Day service.

They arrived beneath the tall pines from all directions; all ages; hundreds of people, poppies pinned, congregating in eerie silence. The wistful strains from the Salvation Army ensemble got louder upon approach.

We stood a little taller, straighter, waiting by the cenotaph. The front row was reserved for veterans, experience mapped in the lines and creases on their wizened faces. Some stood tall and proud, while others sat hunched, bundled in blankets. 

The mournful call of the bag pipes sounded in the distance, and the rhythm of the marching parade drew closer, signalling the start of the proceedings. As we sang O Canada the breeze picked up the flag that was hung at half mast.

I studied the faces of the old and the uniformed. What was going through their minds as The Last Post was played? Did memory reels of horrific and tragedy replay? I saw a lone tear roll down the cheek of a tall elderly veteran as he stood at attention, saluting. 

The weight of sacrifice hung heavy in the air, and I couldn't help be overcome with emotion. I was saddened by the waste of war; that such a sacrifice is asked of our soldiers. I mourned the lives unlived, and the lives that were devastated and forever changed by that which they endured, survived and witnessed.

The carnage and human toll of war is unfathomable. And I walked away wondering when we will collectively decide there has to be a better way to resolve conflicts. I walked away with a deep respect for the grace and honour displayed by our men and women who have served, and who serve.

And for my part, the least that I could do, was pause for two minutes under the towering pines, in the fresh autumn air to remember.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Democracy in Action

How is it that four years have passed since that historical victory for hope -- Barak Obama? And even though I am Canadian; even though I watched him fall short of expectation as he faced obstacles of mammoth proportion; I find myself once again on my couch perched in front of my television as I watch  election returns dance across the screen, my chest tightening with every result as if I carried an American passport.

Democracy in America is not easy it would seem with some states reporting endless lineups and erroneous voting machinery. We can put a man on the moon and beam signals to remote regions of the planet but somehow, we  can't make voting easy. Shame on the powers that be for making voting an act of heroism and endurance. My heart goes out to those who are trying earnestly to exercise their democratic right to vote for the leader of their country.

As for me - I am hoping that the President will have the gift of a second term to finish what he started, without the cloud of re-election hovering.
Couldn't go to sleep without finding out the outcome of the election, and thankfully, I will slumber peacefully, content in the knowledge that Obama has a second chance.

During this - Veteran's Week - we are reminded that the sacrifices were high to preserve our democracy. And for that, I am grateful.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Weekly Roundup

Time to breathe.
In the past week I've been to the East Coast and back; met a heroine of mine; got and fought the flu; held the hand of a surviving grand lady; wrapped my arms around the neck of another who is thriving; celebrated the birthday of my daughter; wished my "ex" a happy one too; offered a little TLC to my ailing hubby; and walked with my sister and Fritz through the forest, in the fresh autumn air. I made long and short distance connections with my daughters and parents - and ended my Sunday with spaghetti and meatballs.

I love my life! My heart lightens with every conversation, call, and connection. And really, isn't that what life is all about -- human connection. I am fortunate in that I live immersed in and surrounded by loving souls. I have lots of people to check in with and my phone rings often. What a sweet sound - love calling (except for those guys trying to sell me windows and doors). 

I got a chance to meet Barbara Coloroso in Halifax last week. She wrote a book, "Kids are Worth It", more than twenty years ago that saved my parenting @ss.  Kidlet got the full benefit of the wisdom I garnered from the book but it was a lifesaver for me. Ms Coloroso was speaking at the conference and I was able to tell her how much she meant to me and my family. This tiny, feisty lady packs a punch that belies her diminutive stature. "If I had known how much fun being a grand parent would be, I would've skipped parenting!" Yup - she's funny too. 

And the bonus, icing on the cake, was to wake up and, only after I finished my morning coffee, discover I had forgotten to turn my clock back; an hour in my pocket.

So after a long, full day I will go to bed with visions of elections dancing in my head. Life is good, and for that I am truly grateful.