Thursday, March 29, 2007

the cottage

Every year, we would go on a summer vacation to "the cottage". Our long, or though it seemed, 45 minute journey to Lake Erie was an adventure in itself. Our family probably influenced the local policy on seatbelt legislation because at that time it was merely "recommended". We pushed the envelope on many occasions! Auntie Barb had an old classic '63 Pontiac. It was royal blue, loaded with chrome, electric windows and a very big steering wheel. We all felt like royalty driving in that machine, which comfortably fit three adults in the front seat with the twins on their laps and six other bratty kids in the back- with the promise of a good old fashioned fight over the window seats! I wasn't a lap kid. Although I was one of the youngest, I was big for my age and usually had Susie sitting on my knee. We'd share secrets along the way. One unfortunate day, Susie (who wasn't on my knee for this particular trip) managed to get dragged by the car as she held on for dear life. After much commotion, we pulled her back to safety and continued on our way after Auntie Barb inspected her knee.

We'd arrive at the cottage which was at the end of the gravel lane. It wasn't huge but it was perfect for all of us. The cottage backed onto a big, scary corn field. This was the perfect setting for ghostly tales at the campfire. We believed there lived a native tribe in the centre of that corn field and we were sure we heard them drumming at night, as they performed their own campfire "rituals".

Bed-time was a favourite. We'd usually line up (3 to a bed) and tickle eachother's backs and then rotate while someone in the room narrated a ghost story sending shivers down our spines, then into the blankets we'd go, peeking out every so often to see the moonlight shining through the window. Aside from the odd prank, we usually slept well because we knew what tomorrow would bring- the beach! We needed all the rest we could get!

Morning would come and we'd be off to the beach as soon as we gobbled down cereal and juice. Sometimes we'd even have pancakes! Usually we would proclaim our independence by riding our bikes to the beach. Only the select few got to ride in Auntie Barb's car with all of the adults and beach gear piled high. Towels, sand buckets, first aid kit, snacks and a cooler.

Auntie Barb and Uncle Joe always housed a vast collection of bicycles- mostly older ones that weren't very cool but each year, they added new ones to the collection. Sparkly, banana seat bikes and some even had baskets on them. I remember falling in love with a purple one and a black five speed. The rules were that we never rode with no hands, we were mindful of the on-coming traffic, we used our hand signals but most of all, we had to take turns on the "cool" bikes.

My day came! It was my turn on the cool, black, sleek looking five speed! I got so excited, I lost sight of all of the rules and just peddled away to my own drum. There I was showing off to the car that slowly passed as I waved and continued riding with no hands, grinning from ear to ear. The brake lights of the car suddenly went bright red. The car came to a halt! There was Auntie Barb getting out of the car with her hands on her hips. She meant business. It suddenly dawned on me what I had done. I plead no contest, turned the bike around and headed back to the cottage. My cycling privileges were suspended for the day and I would have to wait days now before it was my turn to ride that favourite bicycle again. I blew it!

There was never a dull moment at the cottage. I felt so lucky to have all of these cousins to play with! We had enough kids to have one very competitive baseball game almost every night. It would usually get pretty heated when Carrie Ann or Robbie were losing. They were sore losers! I think one day a baseball went through a bedroom window if I am not mistaken. We'd also play bocci ball, badminton, hide and seek and board games. In the evenings, we'd watch our favourite movies like "Grease" or we'd entertain the adults with our own musical performances. Poor Robbie- the only boy out of 8 of us! He put up with so much of our "sissiness".

Although rainy days meant we couldn't go to the beach, they still had their special moments. I loved sitting on the sun porch playing monopoly, colouring, telling stories, braiding eachother's hair, listening to the rain falling on the roof and the smell of Auntie Barb's sauce simmering on the stove.

We always ate very well too! Auntie Barb, Auntie Jen and Mom would sit at the kitchen table having "adult talk" as they made dozens upon dozens of home-made meatballs. We'd sit as a very large family on the sun porch and eat a delicious meal together at the end of our day and share much laughter. I cannot imagine how much work it must have been for those women who loved us enough to give us this summer holiday with eachother. I never remember them relaxing like we did. They always seemed to be cleaning, cooking or supervising us as we played.

Uncle Joe would make small appearances to fix and repair this and that or to bring up more supplies. He didn't say very much but his presence was enough. We respected him and knew better not to misbehave! I often wondered "where did he go" as he drove off and I even felt bad that there wasn't enough room for him to sleep in his own bed. I am sure he was happy to leave the chaos! I don't think we thanked them enough, he and Auntie Barb. They never expected anything in return. Auntie Barb was the activity coordinator, the referee, the disciplinary, the first aid personnel, the cook, the lifeguard, the cheerleader, the kid at heart. She was always fair. Though she could play hard ball when required, it was always for good reason- whether for safety reasons or just plain old justice for the underdog. She taught us good lessons and we took them with us into adulthood. Except for Carrie Ann- she still refuses to pay for ice-cream!

The winding road home was always bittersweet. We'd sit silently and wave good-bye to our favourite beach until next year.

amateur photography

I am an amateur but I was quite pleased with these! It helps when you have a cute subject.

happy feet

These beautifully shaped, pink feet belong to our baby. We call them happy feet because they look so friendly, just like him.

These feet are 6 months and three weeks new. There are no signs of wear and tear yet. We have some high hopes for these feet.
Dear happy feet,
We hope you will take care of yourself. Get lots of pedicures and wear good quality shoes.
We hope you will be kept clean and not stinky for the most part as you grow.
For now, jumping in mud puddles and walks in the sand will be good for you but don't walk on glass like I did many times as a youngster.
We hope you will keep yourselves planted on the ground while you reach for the stars!
We hope you will walk thousands of miles in this life and find what you are looking for.
We hope you will run as fast as you can when you see something you like! Go for it!
We hope you will take your time as you walk through rose gardens, nature trails and sandy beaches.
Your happy feet will be rewarded if you use them wisely and well.

saying good-bye

I have avoided this topic for long enough. I have put it off in my thoughts, dreams and discussions with others. The loss of my beloved pets. I have buried the hurt, the guilt and the pain of losing you. Today, I felt ready to face my feelings openly and honestly. I finally looked at a picture of the two of you and it was very hard. My heart ached for you.
I have heard it's helpful to write a letter to those you have lost, in order to find closure and say good-bye. Here goes.
Dear Barney,
You were my first child. You came to me in 1992 for what was supposed to be a weekend. I was pet-sitting you. Your name was Mineau at the time and you belonged to my dear friend Leah. She asked if I wanted to keep you and I shouted "YES!" I quickly changed your name because you were a boy and you were born in a barn. How clever. You were the only kitten in the litter to survive. I felt so lucky.
I used to put you on a leash and take you for walks. I would take you outside my apartment building for picnics and we'd sit on the grass. I thought you would enjoy the fresh air. Instead, you would crawl into my shirt and sleep while I read a magazine. We used to play hide and seek and you'd run down the hall and hide in the closet. When I found you, you'd pounce out and meow- like "there, you found me!"
We moved alot in the beginning. It seemed the more I moved, the less material things mattered to me. I left alot behind. As long as I had you and my photos, I knew I would be fine. I would reassure you along the way to our new home saying "Don't worry Barney, we're on the road again and it's going to be okay because we have eachother."
In 1996, I introduced to a hyper but loving dog, Sable. You were annoyed with her at first but you grew to really love her. You soon became fast friends. One day I came home to find an exhausted mouse in between the two of you. From what I could gather, you must have been playing "toss de mousey" all day long. We finally let him go!

I wish our time together could have been longer but you grew tired and old and it was time to say good-bye.
Dear Sable,
I first laid eyes on you in 1996 and your name was Pewee. How pitiful. You were mal-nourished and emotionally fragile. You were born on a farm and being mis-treated. You were often left to your own devices, scavenging for food and shelter. The first day I brought you home, you ran away! You didn't know where to place yourself. You were so insecure and unsure of my intentions. I went looking for you and found you at the animal shelter. I think you were happy to see me and I won your trust. We started off on the right foot after that day. I brought you home and you spotted my cat. You tried to eat him. I promised you that you would never have to hunt for food again and gave you a big bowl of dog food. Before long, I could trust you with Barney. You grew healthy and strong. You now suited the name Sable. You were lean, beautiful and sleek. Though your new found confidence turned you into an Alpha dog, you always remained tender and sweet. You'd comfort me when I was feeling down, you'd turn into a lap dog when I needed you to. I felt I had my very own family with the two of you.

The day came when I had to let you go. I couldn't take you with me to a smaller apartment. I was so devastated but thankful I found someone who loved you like I did. Chris took you for the last couple years of your life. Though your passing was sudden and tragic, I am at peace knowing you spent your last days on this earth running free in fields, knowing you were loved. I don't know if I will ever be able to own a pet again because the loss seems so unbearable at times.

Rest in peace my furry children.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

taking time to stop and smell the tulips

As spring fast approaches, I am reminded of an adorable little boy who didn't need prompting to stop and smell the tulips in his very own garden. My Justy Boy. He was so little back then but I am glad he hasn't forgotten to stop and enjoy the simple things.
Time really does go by quickly and in the midst of it all, you capture some of the most precious moments with family. As his Auntie, I stand back in awe of what a little gentleman he has become. He has always had eyes for his Momma but he even offers me some attention every now and then. He has grown into a smart and fun-loving little man. Often times when visiting, Justy will greet me with his "big baby blues" and bright smile and say in the sweetest voice "Hi Auntie", as he wraps his arms around my waist and gives me a hug. I love to smother his face with kisses and despite all of his coolness, he still lets his Auntie love him up.
I love when he is excited, you can hear it in his voice and see it in his eyes. There is no holding back! He loves to hear stories (especially funny ones) over and over until his belly aches. As he grows up, I have to keep some "cool" stuff in reserve because I fear he will grow bored of me. Then just when I least expect it, I make him laugh his head off again and I walk away delighted! He told me he wanted to learn how to "beat box" and I don't think he knew I had a clue what he was talking about until I burst out with my very own beat box beat- it was pretty good, if I don't say so myself. His expression was priceless! I don't think he could believe his ears! His auntie actually knew how to beat box and she was pretty good! He kept asking me to do it again, do it again! I humoured him all the way out to the car where his mom awaited! We busted out into one big belly laugh and waved goodbye. That is the toughest part. The goodbyes. I miss them so much when we have to go home!
I wonder what Justy will be when he grows up? I wonder who will steal his heart? I wonder what he will think about his sister when he's in his 20's? I wonder......

my favourite things to say as a kid

Hey- I didn't say they were nice. However, I used them sparingly and with just cause (most times). Please note: at least none of these were racial or prejudiced in any way. I was taught never to use such content at a very young age. Thanks Dad!

  • Leave me alone. My Dad owns the street. My Dad's the mayor.
  • Sike!
  • Shut up, you stooge (as in 3 stooges)
  • Come here you little bugger (to my dog who I loved)
  • Fine then, see if I give a care!
  • You're not my best friend.
  • Like, gag me with a spoon.
  • I'm not allowed to lend (when I didn't feel like sharing)
  • My sister will beat you up.
  • That's totally gnarly.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

the writing on the wall

I took my sister home for her 35th Birthday. It was one of the the most powerful experiences in my life (so far). You see, I wanted to return to our favourite childhood home. I wrote to the owners (who, to my surprise were the ones who bought the house from us in the 80's). They remembered us for more reasons than one. You see, the owner explained that we left a big piece of us when we moved away and the writing on the wall remained after all these years! I couldn't believe it.
My father began renovating the bathroom just before they separated. My mother allowed us to use it as a mural because it would "eventually" get covered with new dry wall. The job never got done! We moved and left the bathroom in this condition and the new owners were going to finish the job.... only they left it for 20 years!!!
Carrie and I used it as a canvass for self expression. We used to write poems on it, names of our favourite bands, our favourite boyfriends and we'd also get our friends to sign the wall! It was covered in people's signatures!
For whatever reason, the new owners learned to live with this unsightly mess and they grew fond of it. Never did I expect that this wall would still exist when we returned to our childhood home. The new owner explained that though they loved the wall, I called at the right time because they would finally be covering the wall within a month. Talk about fate. That wall needed to be seen by us again. It represented so much to my sister and I. Our identity, our past, our wonderful adolescent years; our growth, our loss.
So there we were. We drove up on a lovely October afternoon in 2004. Over twenty years later. I blind-folded Carrie and told her I had a surprise! We walked up the stairs and into the bathroom. Off came the blind-fold and there we stood in front of this wall. Carrie looked at me in disbelief. It was the most exhilarating experience. I could hear our hearts pounding out of our chests. It felt like we had transcended back into time together.
We were home again.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

the winding road home

One thing I miss about living in a small town was the winding road home.

The drive home was a chance for me to pay attention to my surroundings, clear my mind, reflect and watch the seasons change before my eyes. On one particularly beautiful spring day, I met a new friend. To my right, there was a barn and some cattle. In front of the barn was one lonely minature pony. I called him Charlie. I would look out for Charlie everyday and wave to him. He would be grazing or trotting in a small circle every time I drove by. I finally told my husband about him and he began looking out for him too on his way to work. Despite all of his cuteness, Charlie looked really lonely. He was put on a long leash out in front of this barn and he would sometimes look up at the cars passing him on the country highway. I made sure he knew I noticed him! I promised him out loud that one day I would stop along my way to work to make a formal introduction.

One day, I noticed Charlie was gone. His leash was wrapped around the fence. I imagined the worse. I went home and cried to my husband. "Charlie is gone", I said. "I will never be able to pet him like I promised." My husband tried to reason with me and said there could be lots of reasons why he wasn't there. He could be warming up inside. I didn't believe him. For days, we both were on the look-out for Charlie. Nothing. No sign of him. I gave up hope. We both did, I think.

I finally trained myself not to look at the farm when I drove by because it only made me sad. Until one day, my husband came home and announced "Charlie's back!" I was so excited! We had to take a drive to see him. This time I got the chance to stop and say hello, in person.

As soon as we drove up, Charlie walked over to me at the fence. Call me silly but we were fast friends and I think he recognized me. He had an odd expression for an animal. There was a familiarity there. Perhaps we were friends in a past life or something. I kissed him and talked to him for a long, long time. We fed him lots of long grass and he even showed off for us and began trotting around like a "show pony". I think he liked the attention. I told him we were so happy he was back.

For another season, I got to enjoy Charlie. It was fall and the leaves were now turning. I would stop and pet him and talk to him about my day. He became a very good friend to me. I would sometimes beep my horn as I drove by when I was running late and couldn't stop to say hello. I never once saw anyone pay any attention to Charlie. Not his owners, not anyone else driving by.
I lost sight of him again come winter and he never re-appeared this time. I prepared myself for that possibility. I am still sad when I think about him but so glad we got to know eachother a little bit.

Monday, March 19, 2007

the shape of a mother

I stand in the mirror. It is not so uncomfortable afterall. Took a good long look at myself. Though the image is not perfect and hasn't been for many years, something looks different.

I turn to the left and turn to the right. Long pause. I admire this and that. I have strong hopes of becoming physically fit but I am still strong. My husband tells me almost everyday that I am beautiful. I know he means it. He is a man that goes without saying things unless they are sincere. There is something comforting in knowing that even when I don't feel very good in my own skin sometimes, I still have one person in this world that thinks I look "like a greek statue"- his words.

I smile in the mirror at this shape of a mother. I shall embrace it.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


She stared at the man standing at the phone booth. She looked closer and recognized him. His posture, hair, stature and voice were all familiar. He turned around and caught her glance. Big smile. His laugh lines were even more endearing.

They walk and talk and enjoy a spontaneous light lunch in Jackson Square. Get caught up. He asks for money. Hesitatingly, she hands him her last twenty dollar bill. They laugh. He walks on with his day and greets a friend to his left.

He told me "Homeless people are human beings just like the rest of us."

He is my uncle.

congrats to my blog sista

My beloved friend Laurel is celebrating her 100th blog anniversary. This means she has shared over 100 stories of courage, laughter, fear, love and loss, milestones and pondering reflections! Bravo Laurel! We embarked on this blog journey together, knowing our stories would free us in some way.

We are gals who are always looking for forums in which to make sense of things and to challenge ourselves in ways that aren't always comfortable. That is, to know our limits and reach beyond them. To seek to understand ourselves and our loved ones and to continue to grow as human beings. We know we are far from perfect. We just try to conduct ourselves in a real way. Sometimes fumbling and finding out the hard way but overall, we have turned out okay!

I love you Laurel. Thank you for inspiring me to continue to write, despite my fears in doing so, at times. Thank you for challenging me when I second guess myself and for leading me to the light.

We will always be two school girls reaching out to eachother. Vulnerable yet so wise.

Love to thee.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Though the clocks sprung forward this week, I clinged to time standing still. Funny how despite my yearning for spring, I have made a conscious effort not to wish away time. You see, for every season or occasion in the future that I long for, means I pay the price with time. I actually listen to my old fashioned clock tick sometimes and just look at our baby and snuggle with him longer.

I have told my niece that though there are many things to look forward to in life, nothing is more precious than the present. It is what we know, it is the here and now and that's all that counts. We have control over what we can do with our moments and how we can savour them all.

It is what we call soaking it up. Time well spent.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

John Travolta

It doesn't matter what film he is in. He makes me weak. He makes my heart melt with his younger roles in Welcome Back Kotter, Grease, Saturday Night Fever or Perfect. John seemed to disappear for a while though and we didn't see him age too much on television. I've seen some interviews and movies but none for a while. Last week, some girlfriends and I went to Moms and Strollers at the theatre. Great time had by all! The movie was Wild Hogs, starrring you guessed it- John Travolta!

He is now in his early 50's and he is still a heart throb! I will always have a soft spot for this man!

Hubba Hubba!

Monday, March 12, 2007

the baby whisperer

I was given a book to help me on my mission towards a settled baby. Way back, three months ago, I reported that I felt our baby was entering "the settled baby stage". That lasted all of two weeks. It was wonderful when it lasted.

Now we are at the six month mark. I REALLY need some more solid sleep so I can function and escape this groggy fog I sometimes feel throughout the day. The party's over! It's time for him to settle for longer periods through the night. No more two hour intervals!

I have quickly learned that this baby market is exceptionally vast and lucrative! There is a book for everything you could imagine! There is a product for everything you could imagine where babies are concerned. I have fallen for a few marketable products that just didn't pan out for what they were worth. For instance, the Bumbo. It is a cute "ergonomic" chair for babies to support them in sitting properly and comfortably when they are too young to hold themselves up. You can use them for many versatile reasons- feeding, playing, bring it to the beach or over to your mother-in-laws! It's made from non-toxic durable plastic in Africa and it's very light-weight! Sound appealing? Our baby tolerated it for maybe five seatings. He squirmed in it and wanted out- FAST! I sold it last week to another new mother who has been "drawn" in like I was. I took the money and ran! Hey- I was upfront, I told her that my baby just didn't enjoy it like I knew her baby would! haha!

So now I read this Baby Whisperer book in two nights. I found most of the stuff common sense and some of it helpful. However, there are so many schools of thought. I have been guided in so many directions by "sleep experts" and nothing is the right approach. It confused me more than anything. This whole "is your baby sleeping through the night concept" is a hoax. There is no-one that can tell me that they have a baby who does this- consistently in the first year! If there is, send her to me and I will be the adult whisperer and give her a piece of my mind. I say this with a lighthearted kind of kidding. Really. I just have to persevere and go with my gut. That is what I have learned! I know our baby well enough now that I have an idea what is going to work. Time, patience, consistency and warmth.

I should write a book and call it "I don't know everything but you've gotta start somewhere!"

Look for it on bookshelves next year when I am more rested!

Good night!

body image

I was horrified today watching a television commercial from LA weight loss! Its premise was that "skin was in and food was out". My goodness, what is this world coming to?

I am really worried about the young girls growing up today. They are subjected to this crazed body image stuff at such a tender age. They grow up way too quickly and this added pressure is just not fair.

A friend of mine hosted a birthday party last month for her 8 year old daughter. The evening promised to be fun filled with an "all night dance party" for five of her girlfriends. "All night" just made it sound really appealing but they crashed at eleven after dancing the night away in the living room to their favourite music! My friend baked a delicious chocolate cake for the party and when she brought it out, there was no response! The only person who had a piece of the cake was the birthday girl herself. One girl piped up and said "Oh, I can't eat that or I'll get a fat butt."

I think it's wonderful that kids say no to eating junk food often or they are health conscious but this came from a different place. It represents the fear, worry and anxiety young girls have about their looks when they really should be free-spirited in this time of their lives. Cake is a wonderful treat to bring out on a special occasion!

How sad.

I want all of the young girls in my life to be healthy both in body and mind. I want to reach out to them and say, yes- nurture your bodies, treat them right, stay active, eat your veggies but for goodness sakes, be a kid! Go out and play and have a happy heart! Don't concern yourself with such matters.