I decided to treat my daughter to a little girl time with Mom this evening. Just she and I headed out to the mall for dinner and a little shopping. She needed some clothes but we bought those as quickly as possible and then spent most of our time in the wonderful arts and craft shop, DeSerres. I think she was just thrilled to have some special attention and I was happy to indulge her. What a beautiful way to start the weekend.
I wasn’t feeling 100% today and most of the winter I feel cold. I have this blanket that was made in Scotland and sold through the Hudson’s Bay Company years ago. The kids can’t stand it because it’s mohair and wool but I find it very cosy. Not only does it make me feel physical comfort, it also comforts me in a sentimental way. The blanket used to belong to my grandmother. It’s a beautiful feeling to be comforted by someone who has long been departed but who still lives on in our hearts.
Well, it’s Father’s Day and, as usual, I’m spending it away from my dad. Life has taken us in different directions, physically. It’s probably been a couple of years since we’ve seen each other, a fact I rather regret. You see, it’s not intentional, it’s just that I have kids and he is getting older so time and ability to travel, on both sides is, limited. As I write it and re-read it, it sounds kind of lame, really, this reason for not getting together but it’s the truth. We don’t talk often on the phone either. Maybe once a month; twice if we’re lucky.
With all this in mind, you might think we were estranged, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I think of him often and fondly. I think he does the same but also with that parental worry attached, as every good father does. When we talk on the phone it’s always a pleasure for me. Hearing my father’s voice is like snuggling up to a childhood stuffy or blanket. It’s so familiar and so comforting…even if he’s reprimanding me in his very subtle, between-the-lines kind of way that he’s very good at.
Yesterday, I drove up to the cottage by myself. I needed to mow the lawn and vacuum amongst other small projects. It was one of those perfect June days; sunny with fluffy clouds in the sky, a warm breeze, crickets and birds singing in the grasses. As I drove along the winding roads of the countryside, I could feel every tension in my body release and I suddenly wondered why. I wondered why it was here, in the middle of nowhere, and nowhere near home, that I felt most at home. I didn’t grow up on a farm but rather a small-sized city. My dad was a history teacher at one of the local highschools. The countryside was a place through which we traveled to get from town to town.
Or was it? Suddenly an image came to me which brought a smile to myself that I couldn’t turn off if I’d wanted to. It was of my dad in a bright orange Cat Diesel Power cap rested just on top of his mat of wavy hair, which, if you knew my dad, was the antithesis of who he really was. But my dad always enjoys the dramatic approach to things; the eccentricities he can conjure. Anyway, that hat marked the days of the auction sales! My mom and dad were both antique enthusiasts and enjoyed running an antique business on the side. Almost every Saturday of the summer we rolled over the hills and through the valleys of Perth, Waterloo, and Oxford counties in our stationwagon (my sister and I sitting unbelted in the very back) in search of sales or for the purpose of setting up at table at a flea market or antique show.
Auction sales were always at farm estates, big beautiful open spaces with old homes and old barns. There was always a fence or a tree to climb, and an adventure to be had. My sister and I roamed like gypsy children while mom and dad focused on the goods for sale. I think it was a time when we were the freest. Mom let down her guard a bit and dad seemed happy to just be away from the classroom as a completely different persona. Certainly, my sister and I weren’t always agreeable about going back then, but I’m happy to look back fondly on it now. It really was some of the best times of my childhood and that explains a lot.
So there you are, Dad, you can dress up all you want but you see how you are in my memories?! As a parent it goes to show you that of all the things you do for your children, the things you do to make yourself happy, if you can include your children, can created the fondest and longest lasting of memories. I’m glad you didn’t abandon yourself, Dad. I’m glad you side a bit on the eccentric. I’m glad you are you and you’re my dad! I’m glad I have you to think about. Thank you and Happy Father’s Day! I love you.
We all know mothers. Whether they are our blood, adoptive, or even surrogate they all hold special places in our lives. Sometimes we are fortunate enough to have a multitude of wise and loving older women in our lives who give us wide range of perspectives and support. I am lucky this way. Being adopted as a newborn I grew up in a tight-knit family with a very loving and wonderful mother. The same year I lost her to cancer, I found my birth mother with whom I’ve developed a very close and loving relationship. I have also known several women in my life who became like a Mom-away-from-mom and they are loved and appreciated for their significant roles in my life as well. It’s amazing how these bonds are formed and can never be shaken throughout our lives.
About a month ago I was travelling in North Country New York state in the quaint and lovely villages just south of Syracuse. While perusing the local artisan shops, I came across an artist whose work I could not ignore (nor did I want to ignore it). Bright, lively, and happy is the only way I can start to describe Lori Portka‘s work. Her mixed-media paintings bring colour and warmth to any room. In fact, I bought two prints for my office which, as soon as the space is ready, I can’t wait to hang. These days, when you find an artist whose work you admire, you look for their website which I did with Ms. Portka. Her most recent posting highlighted her newest painting called “Love Always” which she had copied and printed as Mother’s Day cards. This beautiful painting (shown below) and its message was the motivation behind this post.
The inspiration for this post is, of course, all the women who came to mind when I saw the painting. To my mothers who have loved me without reservation or condition, Happy Mother’s Day. I love you always. To the women who took me under their wings and cared, you’ll always be in my heart. To the rest of you who are mothers and have mothers. Happy Mother’s Day. Celebrate well and love always.
No…not Wham!…Wake me up before you go-go. Wham! The ball is out of the park! Softball season has arrived once again much to the joy of my son, who played last year, and also my daughter, who is playing for the first time. Each of them has already had one practice and we’ll be out for my son’s first game tonight.
I used to play ball when I was a kid and absolutely loved it. In my late 20′s I also got into playing on a mixed adult slow-pitch team. That was great fun and did it for quite a few years. So, in a city full of soccer kids, I rather delight in my children’s choice in softball instead. Oh, don’t get me wrong! I very much enjoy soccer but the leagues here tend to fill up quickly and cost a pretty penny too. The other thing is that I’m much more knowledgeable about skills in softball than in soccer so I can help my kids to learn.
As I was watching my daughter’s first practice today, a woman in her 60′s passed by walking a dog. She stopped to watch the other little girl on Anna’s team learning to hit. It’s a mixed team but mostly boys and I think the woman delighted in seeing the young girls giving it a go. We struck up a conversation and she told me she lived in the neighbourhood near the diamond and always saw groups of young kids learning to play various sports. She had coached soccer and we marveled together how wonderful it was to see how quickly kids pick up new things and to watch their progression over a season.
Anna came up to practice her batting. The coach gave her some instruction and then came the pitch. Wham! Another pitch. Wham! And another. Wham! “Your daughter’s a natural! I’m actually full of pride right now.” the woman exclaimed and, naturally, I beamed with pride. She’s very athletic, I admitted. “Well, good for her. She’s going to do very well.” I decided immediately that I liked this woman whom I would probably never see again. She had a great spirit. Of course, we’ll play and practice at the same diamond again so she and I may cross paths another day…I hope.
Later that day, as the evening sun glistened through the new spring leaves and cast a magical glow about the park, I watched my son hit a triple at his game. The smile on his face made me very happy. One because it’s satisfying knowing that this was not something I pushed my kids into. They chose the game for themselves and are learning to love it for themselves. And two because I remember how it felt when the ball came in contact with that perfect spot on the bat and it just seemed to fly and I’m glad my kids can experience it too. It’s not something you can ever explain to someone. I guess it’s just another cherished connection between us.
Can you tell I’m looking forward to the rest of the season? Enjoy your “season” whatever it happens to be, sport or otherwise, and making meaningful connections between people.
It’s Christmas day and all the presents have been opened. The turkey dinner is a few hours away and the kids are restless already. It’s a beautiful sunny day in Thunder Bay where we’re visiting relatives but, with the windchill, the temperature is a frigid -23 C (-9 F). Too cold for the kids to play outside – definitely not good for tobogganing – and the stores are closed. So what can we do? Although Thunder Bay doesn’t have a lot to offer commercially, I’ve always admired it for its scenery. I love to take drives along the railroad tracks to see the massive grain elevators and paper mills, or down to the harbour that offers a gorgeous view of Lake Superior, or up to High Street to look out over the roof tops of Port Arthur. Further afield there is boundless natural beauty from Mount MacKay in the South to Sibley Park in the Northeast, and Kakabeka Falls in the West. Over the years of visiting here, the kids have seen all these places (often more than once) and enjoyed them. But there is one important stop we have never made – to the Terry Fox Memorial Lookout.
I was 11 when I first heard about Terry Fox. He started his Marathon of Hope shortly after my birthday in 1980. It didn’t take me long to become completely enthralled in learning about the man and his mission. In fact, I still have the scrapbook I filled with every newspaper article and photograph I could get my hands on. I followed radio and television news reports and interviews and wrote a school project on my new Canadian hero. I couldn’t believe the struggle he went through every day and his determination to push on as far as he could for the benefit of all Canadians, and cancer victims of the world. I was crushed when I wasn’t able to see him run through my home town. I don’t remember the reason why I couldn’t go, just the indescribable disappointment of not being able to see my hero and losing the chance to possibly thank him in person. When he ended his journey on September 1st in Thunder Bay due to the discovery that his cancer had returned, I think there was a huge dark cloud of sadness that enveloped all of Canada. He had run for 143 days and 5,373 kilometres (3,339 mi).1
I remember the day Terry died, June 28th, 1981. I was in Muskoka with my grandparents. Everyone had hoped Terry would overcome the cancer but it was not to be. I also remember my Grandfather crying. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was already sick with cancer himself. In Terry’s remembrance and to raise money for cancer, every year Terry Fox Runs are held all over Canada and throughout the world. My children have been involved in the run at school for the last 5 years. Before the run, they are educated in who Terry was and what he stood for. This year my son, who is 9, seemed to really take the experience to heart. He remembered, on his own, his Grandmother who died from cancer when he was only 2. When he came home and I saw his running bib, I was filled with pride and emotion. Later he told me everything he had learned about Terry in school and that his desire was, when he grew up, to complete Terry’s run. At that moment, I thought that it would be meaningful for him to see the memorial the next time we were in Thunder Bay.
I was right.
The monument has a powerful presence. Although it is difficult to see it from Highway 17, the view from the memorial is stunning. It overlooks the highway where Terry ran, Lake Superior, and the Sleeping Giant near the horizon. It is quiet and peaceful…especially on a cold Christmas day…and is surrounded by the beauty of nature. My son and I made sure to discover and read every part of the memorial. We looked up at the statue of Terry a long time. The sculptor had caught the intense difficulty, perhaps even pain, of Terry’s daily run but also his incredible physical strength, determination and amazing courage. As we walked away, back to the car, I turned and looked one last time. I realized that he was positioned forever facing West…immortalized in his quest to reach his home in British Columbia and to fulfill his mission and his dream.
Although my purpose of writing this post was merely to impart to you my experiences, I will include a link below if any of you wish to donate to the Terry Fox foundation.
I would not consider myself to be a monarchist. In fact, I really have no patience for pomp and ceremony. I’m especially sickened by the huge expense put forth to hold events for people of royalty when so many others in the world are starving to do death and living in substandard conditions. That being said, however, I do have a certain nostalgia for Canada’s loyalist past. It is a huge part of our Canadian heritage which is difficult to ignore. Back in 1952, when Queen Elizabeth was crowned, she became the first British monarch to receive the title “Queen of Canada”. Even before that time, and especially since, Canada has been struggling with its independence from Britain. Surprisingly, the last entrance in our independence timeline was only 8 years ago, in 2004, when letters of credence from ambassadors were to be addressed to the Governor General and not to the Queen.¹ Legally, we want our independence, but emotionally, we can’t quite let go of the monarch.
I think the reason for the inability to let the monarch go is that it was ingrained in us since childhood to feel a loyalty to the crown. When I was a child in the 70′s we sang “God Save the Queen” in school as well as “O Canada” but “O Canada” was not officially adopted as our national anthem until 1980. My grandfather flew the Canadian Red Ensign on his flagpole in his backyard for as long as I can remember and never updated it to the Maple Leaf flag. Today, as it was since 1858 with the introduction of the Canadian dollar, all of Canada’s coin currency still has an imprint of the ruling monarch on it. The Governor General, the representative of the Queen in Canada, still has an official position and duties. The Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Canadian Navy (recently returning to their original names from Canadian Forces Air Command and Maritime Command) clearly state their allegiance to “Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada”. These songs, symbols, memories, names, and titles take us back to yesteryear and appeal to our sentimentality.
Which actually brings me to my point. I hadn’t given a moment’s thought to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee until my friend and my daughter’s Brownie leader, Karen, excitedly announced that she had managed to get Diamond Jubilee badges for all the girls in her Brownie group and that they were being sent all the way from England. That’s great, I thought, and then kind of forgot about it (sorry Karen). This past weekend, however, changed my apathy. My 7-year-old daughter attended her first ever Brownie camp. She was absolutely thrilled to be there and when she came home she told me about the weekend’s events. The first thing that she spoke of was learning to sing “God Save the Queen” and then she showed me her badges. Suddenly, when I saw the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee badge, I was struck with a massive load of nostalgia and a realization of significance of what Karen had done. Thanks to Agnes Baden-Powell, sister to Lord Baden-Powell, and Lady Baden-Powell, Girl Guides was started and grew rapidly in England and by 1910 reached Canada. Guides was, and is, a place for girls to learn and to grow and to accomplish. A goal of respecting one’s country and creating a better world is deeply ingrained in the Guides’ code. Knowing and understanding one’s history helps a person to move forward in such a positive fashion by giving them a secure foundation and a perspective on what needs to be fought for and preserved, as well as changed and improved.
Anna and I sang “God Save the Queen” at the tops of our lungs and I enjoyed every second of it. No, it didn’t propel me toward the tv in hopes of catching sight of the Queen on her Royal Barge, but it did give me a feeling of comfort and a rush of memories of childhood, my grandparents, and my country’s past. It also gave me a deeper connection to my daughter, in that she was going through her childhood and learning the things I learned. She is likely too young to appreciate the significance of the song or the badge but she saw its importance to me, and her Brownie leaders, and she was even more happy to have learned it. I really can’t wait to watch her mature in Guides and to experience what I can of it with her.
I will never be a monarchist but I do so love our topsy-turvy, eccentric Canadian past and I fully accept that the monarchy is a huge part of that past and present. So, here’s to you Elizabeth! Happy Diamond Jubilee! But more importantly, here’s to all of the women who are working hard to positively influence our children in an effort to improve our world. Cheers!
This past week has been interesting to say the least. Interesting in a good way, of course. Friday the 13th saw us driving to Cornwall, Ontario…a city I’d never visited, about an hour from Ottawa…to see the exhibit of the Titanic/White Star Line collector, Rene Bergeron. His family business, Bergeron Sleep Shop, was located on a side street of a quiet residential neighbourhood in the south central part of town. He had moved aside some beds in his small showroom and had a long row of tables covered with beautiful artifacts from the three sister ships (Titanic, Britannic, and Olympic). Most interesting to me was to see the tiny piece of the Titanic’s grand staircase, as well as a beautiful and intricately carved piece from the newel post of the Olympic. It was a piece that had been salvaged after the Olympic was dismantled for scrap. At the end of the row of tables were a few pieces of furniture. I was fascinated to discover that one piece had been a teak deck chair from the Titanic that had floated ashore in Nova Scotia. What a strange feeling to be only inches away from something with that much history! But, to be honest, I paid far less attention to the display as I did to my son’s reaction to the experience. As I explained in an earlier post, he’s been a Titanic buff for more than a year now, and I worried if he’d be underwhelmed by the small exhibit. Boy! Did I not have to worry! He loved it and the reason for that (besides the quality of the exhibit), I credit to Mr. Bergeron himself. He took the time to speak to all of his visitors and we were lucky enough to be there at a time when my son could ask as many questions as he wished. I think my son found it thrilling that an adult had this kind of enthusiasm for the Titanic, so much so, in fact, that he didn’t want to leave. He did eventually walk away from the exhibit very happy. I walked away with a renewed belief that true role models can be found if we look closely and pay attention to our children’s’ passions.
Next came Orthodox Easter on Sunday the 15th. It was decided that, in true Greek tradition, a full lamb should be roasted on the spit. The kids had mixed reactions about this endeavor. One was for it (my son), the other was not too keen on it (my daughter). I have to admit, that I feel the way my daughter does (perhaps because it’s not part of my own tradition) but I also feel that my kids should enjoy the traditions from both sides of their family. My son actually really rose to the occasion and bravely tasted parts of the lamb I would rather not think about. I was impressed but felt rather nauseous at the same time. This may account for the reason I forced a small piece down my throat for dinner and gorged on salad instead. In fact, very little of the 30 pound lamb was consumed which left me with A LOT of leftover meat. I spent the entire week taste-testing leftover lamb recipes which you may want to try if you find yourself in a similar situation, or, more likely, have purchased stewing lamb or ground lamb and you’re not sure what you want to make with it. So here are the five I’ve tried: Open-Faced Lamb Sandwiches, Leftover Lamb Casserole, Moroccan Lamb Stew with Chickpeas and Prunes, Spaghetti with Ground Lamb and Spinach, and Spicy Lamb with Chickpeas. The best, by far, was Oprah’s Moroccan stew! Believe it or not, even after all that cooking, I still have leftovers. Tonight I’m making soup. Lesson learned…leg of lamb is sufficient for next time.Finally, I suddenly found myself Head coach of my son’s softball team. Big deal, you might say. Well, it kinda is! When I volunteered, I never imagined being head coach. I mistakenly figured they’d already found head coaches and were looking for assistants. Anyway, it is what it is, and I’m gonna put my best food forward. I played softball both as a youngster and as an adult so I’m familiar with the game. I’ve just never coached…anything. Apparently there’s a lot of administrative work involved too. Emails back and forth with parents, the president of the association, and the essential police reference check forms. But hey, when it comes down to it, it’s a bunch of nine-year old boys that just want to play ball. We don’t have to win, we just have to have fun. Right? Now I have to step up and be a role model. Patience, mother, patience! I’ll let you know how that goes. Our first game is next Tuesday evening. GULP!
Yes, I know, this post could have been split into 3 separate posts over the last week…well, sorry…I was kinda busy! Hope you’re having a great week!
Today is the 7th anniversary of my mother’s passing. I normally don’t mark the day as I would rather remember her on her birthday – only 15 days from today. It feels more positive, I guess. This year, however, I had a task. There’s a long story behind why I still have some of my mother’s ashes in my possession. Certainly some people keep ashes but that was never my intention. I always wanted to free them. It seemed wrong to keep them confined as they had been for so many years already. So today was the day to do this and what a perfect day it was.
Mom enjoyed being by a lake. Her favourite was Lake Huron, its magnificent shores outlining the South Western edges of the province of Ontario. As a child she spent summers by the water or tooting around in a small motor boat. As an adult she took every opportunity to be by a lake until she and my father were able to purchase a cottage of their own in the early 1990′s. I can still clearly see her sitting relaxed in her beach chair in the sand, a golf hat perched on her head, her large, blue-tinted sunglasses and big, happy smile decorating her face. She was definitely in her element there.
Unfortunately, I don’t have easy access to Lake Huron. It’s a good 9 hour drive from Ottawa. So I decided that Lac De L’Argile, the lake at which my cottage sits, would be an appropriate memorial place both for her and for me. Today, Lac De L’Argile sparkled like a pool of diamonds. It really couldn’t have been more beautiful. I brought the ashes with me to the dock and sat for a long time, in solitude, admiring the view. Then, as I struggled with the thought of releasing what was left of my mother, the tears came. I never imagined it would be that difficult.
I could have wallowed in my emotions for a long time, but suddenly I heard her voice in my head, pragmatic as always, “For God’s sake, Isobel, stop crying and let me out of this container!” I had to laugh out loud, and, with that, clambered down upon the rocks at the side of the dock. I had no idea then, if there was a right or wrong way to release a person’s ashes so I stuck my hand in them and tossed a handful into the wind. They didn’t feel as I had expected. They were more granular. The thought of what that could mean both unsettled me and comforted me. I stuck my hand in a second time and watched the ash catch the wind and then settle into the wavy waters.
To be honest, the effect was less than overwhelming. I’d always imagined a wisp of light ash being carried across the lake like a veil and I would feel my mother’s soul being lifted and freed from the bounds of the earth. But then my imagination always has a streak of romantic unreality to it. What else was I to do then? Let the water carry them away? I upturned the container and the ash slid into the waters just beyond the shore.
That is when the most unexpected and beautiful thing happened. Instead of floating on the water’s surface, the ash began to sink and appeared like a white, linen sheet obscuring the view of the bottom. Then slowly, as the waves continued to gently toss them, the ashes began to plume and then roll along and over the underwater rocks like mists. Long, scroll-like tendrils reached out, swirled and then disappeared, over and over again. It was like an ever-changing, ever-extraordinary work of art. It took a long time to dissipate, maybe 30 minutes, and I found I was so intrigued by it I couldn’t take my eyes off it for a moment.
I climbed back onto the dock and stood to take in the extent of what the day had to offer. As the sun shone on my face, I smiled from the heart. My mother’s body and soul were finally free. Funny thing is, I thought I was doing something for Mom, but I think she did more for me – just as she did in life. Her one last gift is an experience of unexpected beauty I’ll never forget. Thank you, Mom. I miss you and love you. Rest in peace. <3
Hello all you wonderful readers! I hope you all enjoyed your weekend. For those of you who celebrated Easter, a belated Happy Easter. Whether you’re a believer or not, Easter always turns out to be a lovely time for family, food, and fun. My family tends to focus on the traditions of Easter more as a celebration of spring. We decorate eggs, organize and execute the chocolate egg hunt, and eat…a lot.
This year we were fortunate enough to go to the cottage for the weekend. The temperature hovered around 14 C (57 F), which, under cloudy conditions can feel damp and cold. But we had wall to wall sunshine! I don’t think I stopped smiling from the moment I got there until I had to pack to leave (which always makes me grumpy but that’s a good story for another post).
One of the most satisfying things about going to the cottage, besides the obvious, is that my kids turn from screen (tv, Wii, computer, Nintendo) magnets to outdoor and card game enthusiasts. Their imaginations burst forth like the first spring flowers, full of colour and inspiration. I could sit all day (on the deck, in the sun, with a drink and a good book in my hand) and just watch them and listen to their banter.
Sunday morning the sun glistened like starlight off of the waters as they lapped at the shore in the small bay. I stood on the deck, clutching myself against the north wind, and sighed deeply. Nothing but fresh, cool air filled my lungs. Across the lake snow was still resting upon the banks indicating that the water was still quite frigid, but it was a brilliant blue, like shimmery denim (if there were ever such a thing). It was that kind of blue that brought back memories of summer. I felt the sun on my face, then, and I knew I’d be back again soon.
Welcome Spring! Bring forth summer!