Friday, November 30, 2007

Bye bye NaBloPoMo (don't let the door hit your ass on the way out)

I am not going to pretend that it hasn't been hard.

It's been hard. It's been kind of a hard month in general.

There was the incident with the car. There was the incident with the other car. There was stress at work. A lot of stress at work

There was a birthday party that was perfectly lovely but an immense amount of work.

Did I mention that tomorrow is my work's annual children's Christmas Party? We're expecting about 400 people. We are taking 20,000 square feet of completely empty studio space and transforming it into a winter wonderland: lights, music, food, rides, decorations, arts and crafts, face painting, snow, gifts, a magician, elves, Santa. Did I mention I'm organizing that?

No - it has not been easy posting every single day during this National Blog Posting Month. But I did it. And I feel proud. I feel really proud of this. And this. And especially this.

And I feel excited about all the new readers I have gained, all the fantastic blogs I have discovered and all the cyber-friendships I have forged.

I will not be posting every single day from here on out, but I will be posting frequently - I am aiming for 5 days a week.

Thanks for reading. And thanks for pushing me to be a better writer.

NaBloPoMo 2008 here I come!

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Pure cheese, with a side of love

It was baby shower time at work yesterday.

And it wasn’t just for the yummy Thai food that I enjoyed every minute of it.

The truth is I enjoy many of the corny rituals that some people disdain as hopelessly pass̩ or silly Рthe office birthday cakes, the wedding and baby showers replete with games and gag gifts and silly hats for the honoree.

And yes, I know these rituals can be awkward, sometimes downright cringe-worthy. More than once I have rolled my eyes and desperately tried to think cool thoughts as they unfolded. But regardless, I continue to believe that they are important, imperative even.

In a weird way I feel it is a testament to the human spirit that we force ourselves to push through the embarrassment and self-consciousness that accompanies these attempts, however lame, to acknowledge the milestones in the lives of our fellow human beings.

Because I think we need rituals. I know I need them and I would go as far as to say that the human race needs them and has needed them throughout the ages. Today more than ever, we need to celebrate together, even when we aren’t quite sure how and therefore fall back on traditions that seem old fashioned and anachronistic.

We need to even though it feels safer and easier to affect boredom and wrap ourselves in jaded hipster irony, which boiled down, is really just an excuse for distance.

I’ll deal with the cheese because it is inevitably served with care and concern. I will forever remember both my wedding preparations and my pregnancy as some of the best times of my life. I never got seriously irritated with people touching my belly or offering me advice or even asking questions that bordered on inappropriate. I felt connected to my fellow (wo)man like never before. I felt like people noticed me; that they cared about me. That they cared about my child.

One of my very favorite posts ever was about this co-worker’s pregnancy and how it has taken me back to my own journey two years ago. In the fall of 2005 I was blessed with three wonderful baby showers. There were cousins and doting aunts and childhood neighbors at one, co-workers with silly smiles hiding their packages from me at another and my best girlfriends at the third one where I was forced to wear a feather boa and a princess hat in a public restaurant.

And when I am old and grey, I will count those celebrations among my very fondest memories.

Even if a princess hat and a feather boa really isn’t my best look.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wordless Wednesday

What mommy resorts to when daddy vetoes a real faux-hawk.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Even more celebrity madness

Just a few weeks back I wrote a piece about celebrities and addiction.

Today I am writing about my own addiction.

I have become addicted to a certain celebrity gossip site which shall not be named. You know the one. It’s run by that ubiquitous, pudgy blogger famed for photo-shopping nasty drawings and observations over photos and generally being the snarkiest snark that ever snarked.

At first his cheery pink site seemed like such fun. I like to think I got on the bandwagon earlier than most people and as such I felt a certain amount of pride in having discovered him.

And as someone who works in the industry he lampoons, I took no small delight in seeing him mercifully expose certain celebrities as the horrible human beings we all know they can be.

But somewhere along the line the worm turned.

I’m not sure if the content of his site has gotten nastier over the last few months or if the same old nastiness, piled upon itself day after day has culminated in something that suddenly seems inexplicably dark and sad.

Maybe it's his refusal to stop making fun of the children of his celebrity targets, given my recent and sincerely heartfelt musings on bullying.

Maybe it’s his continuing potshots at Brittany Spears who appeared to spiral into a full-blown mental-health collapse right on his gleeful cue.

Maybe it’s my own shame at hypocritically bemoaning our culture’s crass obsession with celebrities, while still making the crassest self-promoter of them all rich with my guilty, surreptitious clicking.

At any rate I think I’ve hit rock bottom.

I’m not having fun anymore. I don’t feel good about my participation anymore. A pastime that once seemed harmless, if edgy and entertaining, now just seems skanky.

And while I don’t delude myself that it’s going to be easy, I’m ready to kick the habit. I’ve even decided to redirect my clicking to my favorite blogs, when the urge to surf the dark side becomes overwhelming.

Who’s with me?

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Hot mama indeed

I think I'm a relatively hot mama.

Key word: relatively.

The older I get, the more I realize that attractiveness is all relative and that realization is what allows me to feel good about myself despite the fact that I will never, ever look as good in a bikini as I did 15 years ago.

There's lots of talk out there about how thin models are, how airbrushed they are...

They're young! They're so very young and I am not. And if you stick me with a group of 20-year-olds I'm gonna look like a hag and I know that and I'm okay with that.

Check out the rest at:


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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Learning to fly

God, I love flying.

I love the freedom of soaring through the sky in a small plane: the power of the machine, vibrant and alive dancing on the wind.

I love that I am a pilot. A woman. And a pilot. A woman who can slap a float plane into submission, make it heel, even as the wind tugs and begs like a spoiled child.

It is in my blood this love of flying machines, passed from my father, but not from his – an Irish immigrant who thought planes the devil’s work.

I have already introduced my son to this love and it is my hope that he not take it for granted as I did in my youth

Flying was just something that my Dad did. As a teenager I flew with him only occasionally, indulging him, really. He would offer me the chance to try my hand at guiding the machine he revered, but I wasn’t interested. More interesting was the cache my Dad’s plane lent me with my friends and boyfriends. His lot was to show up at afternoon barbecues and take my friends flying. And afterwards I would kiss him brightly on the cheek and wave him off into the sunset.

My twenties were hard. I fell apart. I put myself back together. In the process I realized that learning to fly was inevitable

And, just like he had always been, Dad was there.

Few people without a pilot’s license truly appreciate how much work it takes to get your wings. Dad and I spent countless nights at the kitchen table studying air law, poring over maps, plotting practice journeys and calculating ground speed, weight and balance and fuel burn.

He was at the airport when I did my first solo flight. He praised my “decision-making” when I had to overshoot the runway on my first approach. He didn’t mention how the plane bounced three times when I finally landed it. A few months later when I failed to find the Burlington Airport during my first cross-country flight he confided he suspected the “bugger was hiding” on me.

After I became licensed on wheels I began my training on floats in earnest. Float flying was my Dad’s forte and it was a whole new, very difficult, ball game. Hour after hour, weekend after weekend, for months on end we did endless circuits.

At times the frustration was unbearable. I wanted to scream when once again upon landing Dad had to take the controls to prevent a stall 10 feet off the water.

And Dad did scream - more than once. “Power!” he would yell when I settled into a landing attitude too high above a glassy surface. “Rotate!” was the cry when I appeared to be heading into the water nose first.

He had to yell, I should explain. He always waited until the very last second to give me the opportunity to do everything myself, but any Dad who is willing to let his daughter get him get that close to a watery grave, needs to know that the necessary command to arrest the situation will be heard loud and clear.

Dad always felt bad about yelling anyway, especially after we were safely down and I assured him that I had been just about to add power or rotate, as the case may have been.

"I probably should have given you more time,” he would say. "I’m not a very good teacher."

But that’s where he was wrong. Dad taught me so much.

His unending confidence that the girl who nearly failed grade ten mathematics could master the physics of navigation taught me that nothing was out of my grasp.

His insistence on mastery through repetition taught me to slow down and discover patience that I never knew I had.

His ability to spot a moose at 500 feet taught me to never stop taking time to marvel at the world around me.

The older I get, the more I realize that some of the most poignant moments of my life have been spent crammed in the front seat of an airplane with my father. There are certain things that are easier to say while you’re navigating the winds, far above the minutiae of the world below. There are certain things that can be left unsaid, yet still somehow understood.

Flying, my Dad taught me, is like life.

It’s about striking a balance between freedom and caution. It’s about learning how to temper exhilaration with patience. It’s about hard work, discipline, thoughtfulness and respect. And it’s about those moments when you think your heart will burst from the sheer beauty and the wonder of what you see around you.

Thank you Dad, for teaching me how to fly.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Does this new blog design make me look fat?

Just kidding.

I'm pretty sure it makes me look fabulous. More fabulous than I deserve really. And it's all thanks to Sam at Temptation Designs (see button, bottom right sidebar).

Even though she's preggers and suffering severe morning sickness, she remained stalwart and gracious through a process that saw quite a bit of back and forth.

Ya, that diva moniker? It's funny 'cause it's true.

And now I have the site to match.

Thanks Sam.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Fear and loathing

While I lamented the endless screaming that accompanied Graham’s trip to the doctor earlier this week, I neglected to mention one rather important outcome of the visit.

Graham has an appointment with a pediatric orthopedic specialist next month.

He has an appointment because he is pigeon-toed and by that I mean that his toes point in, causing his legs to flail out like little windmills when he walks and especially when he runs. And while that is a relatively common condition among two-year-olds, the doctor agreed that further scrutiny would be wise given that it is quite severe in his case.

He might grow out of it, but it’s best to get it looked at and see if it can be corrected before he gets older, she said. You don’t want other kids making fun of him.

Her words stopped me cold.

Making fun of him. Other kids. Making fun of my Graham.

It is terrifying, this thought that anyone could possibly reject the gifts my precious child offers. That anyone could diminish him just for being so wonderfully, uniquely himself.

Years ago a co-worker talked to me of his two teenage daughters. They are identical twins, but one was more outgoing and was thus considered prettier and more popular by their peers. They had come home from a dance in tears, he said, after the extroverted one informed her quieter sister that the young man she last danced with had made gagging faces behind her back to the amusement of the other kids.

I’d like to **@$#** kill that kid, he said. I’d like to rip his *%#@** face off.

I remember being surprised by his vehemence, by the rage in his face. But now that I’m a parent I understand it completely.

We will send our children out into the world and the world will sometimes be unkind – it is ever thus. But still, the idea that the apple of your eye, the heart of your heart, will be rejected or humiliated even, and that you are powerless to stop it, is sometimes too much to bear.

I imagine my Graham, running joyously out into the world with his dear, little legs flapping like windmills. I imagine his peers laughing and him stopping short, blinking in surprise to have been met with ridicule and derision.

And just the mere imagining of it produces a frustrated, impotent rage that gnaws at my chest like a demon possessed.

But in addition to my rage there is fear.

There is fear because despite having endured this and this, I’m afraid that the very hardest part of parenting still lies ahead.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007


No more Mama! he said.

And he grabbed the spoon.

And Mama clapped her hands in delight, but her heart swelled with bittersweet yearning for the little boy she fed dinner to yesterday.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I don't know where he gets it

That screaming you heard this morning? Yeah, that was Graham at the doctor’s for his two-year-old check up.

Yup, it’s official. My boy’s got Daddy’s sleepy eyes and Oma’s adorable juggy ears.

And Mama’s Irish temper.

Obviously no child, or adult for that matter, really relishes a trip to the doctor. But few kids actually attempt a beat-down on the nurse while being weighed (fully clothed!).

I swear to God, I thought she was going to call security.

Things only got worse when the doctor actually got to examining him. I had to hold him down as he flailed wildly and screeched MAMA at the top of his lungs when she checked his heartbeat.

And when he actually had to get the needle for his Tuberculosis test?

Let’s just say there were a few people in the Ukraine who had to turn up their television sets.

I’ve already established this kid’s got a fire in his belly. I think I wrote quite eloquently (if naively) about purity of his emotion.

But whoa Nelly, I have caught a glimpse of the future and it looks like a big helping of work with a side of frustration.

Anyone else thinking military school?

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hunting for meaning

Graham’s not the only one who got gifts on Saturday.

My dad showed up with the following goodies for my freezer: bass fillets, venison stewing meat, moose chops and wild boar steaks.

And I couldn’t be more thrilled or more proud.

I am thrilled because I love to cook and I especially love to cook with food I know is delicious, fresh and organic. I am proud because my father, an avid hunter and fisherman who has long preached the virtues of harvesting your own food, has finally found himself in vogue.

In 1991 I was working as a summer student at this newspaper when I wrote a scathing editorial lambasting meat-eaters who criticized hunters as hypocrites. It was cut out, laminated and hung for years at a store in my home town which sold ammunition, bait and tackle. I was 21 years old and full of self-righteous indignation at anyone who disparaged the rural cultures and traditions with which I was raised.

And while I am still quick to proclaim my love of small towns, these days people like my dad don’t need me or anyone else to defend them.

Today people are more concerned about the systemic cruelty in factory farming and its effect on the environment than they are about a person or group of people venturing into the woods to track and kill their dinner.

In fact, I think people like my father who have the skills, the stamina and, yes, the moral fortitude to hunt, kill and clean the food that lands on their kitchen table are more admired than reviled.

The environmental movement and the popularity of bombastic chefs like Mario Batali and Anthony Bourdain have forced people to start confronting the fact that eating animals is bloody business. Hunters have always known this, unlike some urbanites who only now seem to be waking up to the fact that their veal shanks were once baby cows.

My sister-in-law, the very portrait of an urban foodie, practically salivated when I shared some of the bounty with her. And when I told her that the deer providing the venison had been taken down with a bow and arrow, there was no mistaking the admiration in her eyes.

It felt good to see it. It felt good because I spent my teenage years with a bit of a chip on my shoulder. The community I grew up in was then, and is now, overrun with wealthy city folk on weekends and holidays and many times I chafed at their expectation of what kind of people lived there year round.

Even when I became an urbanite myself, I spent many a dinner party rallying against stereotypes of people who lived in rural areas and arguing that the perspective I gained growing up only enriched my understanding of society in general.

And so this weekend, when I savour my favorite venison stew, loving prepared from a recipe from the chi-chi Inn On The Twenty, I will reflect proudly on all of the gifts my rural upbringing has provided.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

NaBloPoMo - Day 19

Nineteen days in.

This National Blog Posting Month shiz is hard y'all.

It's been a real struggle to post something every day, but it has really forced me to push myself as a writer. I've come up with some stuff this month of which I'm proud. Really proud.

And...I've posted some stuff that isn't likely to get me on the short list for a Pulitzer anytime soon. (No need to link that!)

Give me some sugar readers, bloggers, fellow divas. Any ideas welcome. And, if you're on this crazy NaBloPoMo ride along with me, dish. How are things looking for you on this day 19?

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

I'm gonna make a memory

If you've been reading over the past few days you know that last week was an extremely trying one for me.

Though there were indeed moments when I felt my sanity was in doubt, I never considered not forging ahead with a 2nd birthday party for Graham yesterday.

When I was a kid my mom simply didn't believe in gifting me with a toy or an article of clothing for no reason. If I saw something I wanted, really wanted, it might possibly be bought and put away for one of the two most special occasions of the year; Christmas or my birthday.

Small wonder then that my birthday was so anticipated, so fraught with excitement. For me it was the culmination all of the year's longing and my parents always made sure it was special. I do not think I was a spoiled child by any means, especially by today's standards, but boy were my birthday parties something. I still remember them as the highlights of my childhood and I am committed to making those same memories for my Graham.

The party started late Saturday afternoon. Eighteen people gathered to celebrate, first in our pool which boasted water at 83 degrees just for the occasion.

A few hours later we moved upstairs to enjoy lasagna, curried lamb and salad before the birthday boy opened all his wonderful presents, only two of which (mega-blocks and twisty tunnels) were from mommy and daddy. I will happily spend my time and my labour to spoil Graham, but I'll save the debt for his Harvard tuition.

After the gifts came the cake, decorated with Graham's two favourite things: Elmo and a beach ball...

...both of which caused him to react just as I knew (hoped) he would.

Ya, it was a pretty good end to a pretty bad week. Look at that picture. Graham is covered in surgarey goo. There's a kid climbing over my head to get a better look at the cake. I've just been whacked with a noisemaker. And my face: oh yeah, I'm gonna make a memory, even if it kills me.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Birthday by numbers

83-degree-water in the pool.

18 people.

5,000 hours of preparation (maybe more)

4 pounds of curried lamb.

3 million presents (approximately)

2 lasagnas.

ONE heck of a second birthday party!

(pictures tomorrow - must SLEEP now!)

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Of celebrity moms and other madness

If you’re a gossip hound you probably heard this week that Marie Osmond’s 16-year-old son is currently in rehab for an undisclosed addiction.

Hell, you don’t even have to be a gossip hound to have heard this, so entrenched are the latest indiscretions of celebrities and their spawn in the so-called “mainstream media”.

But that’s a whole other post.

Anyhoo, this is what mommy dearest had to say about it: "My son, Michael, is an amazing young man, shown through his courage in facing his issues. As his mother, I couldn't be more proud of him."

To which I say: “Are you freaking kidding me?”

She couldn’t be more proud of him? Really?

See, if Graham goes to rehab at 16 and I feel compelled to release a statement to the international news media, I think it will go something like this: “My son, Graham, is a collossally screwed-up young man, shown through his inability to face his issues without abusing drugs and alcohol. As his mother, I couldn’t be more riddled with anger and guilt.”

But maybe that’s just me.

And maybe it’s just me, but I think that part of that young man’s problem is probably that he has been steeped in a culture that preaches it’s easier to say sorry later than it is to get permission in the first place.

I’m sick of seeing adulterers, criminals, abusers and drug addicts tearfully admitting their transgressions while Oprah and her ilk nod their heads sympathetically, strike up the applause and praise them for their courage in admitting their moral failings.

You know what takes real courage? Acting in a half-way moral fashion in the first place. Not cheating on your spouse when you need an ego boost. Not breaking the law when you think you can get away with it. Not succumbing to violent urges or drug and alcohol abuse when you crave a release or a quick emotional fix.

I have seen people struggle with addiction, real addiction, that for whatever reason seems to live like a parasite in the very core of their being. Few who seek recovery are inclined to do the press circuit. They are too busy putting their heads down and getting to the very difficult business of getting well.

Without the applause, without the compliments and without the praise which, incidentally, might be more effectively used to flatter people who have nothing they need to tearfully confess.


Do I sound especially pissy today? I am. Remember this little $900 incident with my car? I had another bizarre and costly incident with the other car yesterday. Give. Me. Strength.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Crazy Eights!

It's getting downright bonkers around here, what with us bloggers scratching our heads and trying like mad to churn out daily posts during National Blog Posting Month.

That's why I'm happy as stink to have been handed a topic to write on by virtue of a tag from MommyK over at Great Walls of Baltimore.

It's called Crazy Eights my friends and it goes like this:

Eight Things I am Passionate About
1. My son
2. My marriage
3. Writing – it’s my gift and I ain’t too humble to say so
4. Flying
5. Red wine
6. Music
7. Travel – I have been saving to go back to Africa with Graham since I was 5 months pregnant
8. My extended family

Eight Things I Say Often
1. I don't give a care
2. Mommy loves you
3. It's no skin off my arse
4. Gentle with Horace (our cat)
5. I am so friggin' tired
6. For real!
7. Why is everyone such an idiot?
8. Is it too early to start drinking? (only half-jokingly)

Eight Books I've Read Recently
1. Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
2. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
3. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
4. Heat by Bill Buford
5. Frommers Travel Guide to Ireland
6. Why Mexicans Don't Drink Molsons by Andrea Mandel-Campbell (a great read written by one of my BFF!)
7. Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill
8. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (Hubby's currently working on the movie)

Eight Things I Want To Do Before I Die
1. Do non-profit work in the Third World
2. Help teach my son to fly an airplane
3. Design and build my own home
4. Spend the whole winter at our place in Mont Tremblant and ski every day
5. Learn to sew really well and make my own clothes
6. Hike the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island
7. Perfect my French
8. Dance at my 50th wedding anniversary

Eight Songs I Can Listen To Over and Over
1. Better Together by Jack Johnson
2. Seven Nation Army by White Stripes
3. Landslide by Dixie Chicks
4. Miss You by Blink-182
5. Virtual Insanity by Jamiriqui
6. History Repeating Itself - Propellerheads
7. At Last - Etta James
8. In My Life - The Beatles

Eight Things That Attract Me To My Friends
1. Loyalty
2. Sense of humour
3. Sense of fun
4. Curiosity
5. Common sense (I don't deal well with flakes)
6. Smarts (or idiots)
7. Empathy
8. Tolerance (mostly for me)

Eight Things I Learned In The Past Year
1. Worry does not change outcomes (I'm working on it at least)
2. My son is a genius (for real!)
3. The Internet can bring people together
4. You get sick a lot more when you have a kid around
5. Cheese on rice crackers rocks when sprinkled with curry and microwaved for 20 seconds
6. Parenting is sometimes harder and sometimes easier than everyone says it is
7. My husband is still not ready to get a dog :(
8. The hand that rocks the cradle really does rule the world

You're next Laura, Karen, Mac and Cheese, Gabriella,and Kristen

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Falling for Joe

I have to confess: I have a new boyfriend and I'm crazy about him.

At first I wasn't so sure he was deserving of my passion. He's pretty cheap. Okay, really cheap. And he doesn't exactly hang with the cool crowd. Truthfully, I was a little embarrassed to be seen with him at first. I'm a diva - for gawd's sake!

But over the last few months I've really come to appreciate all of his wonderful qualities: he's stylish, accessible, unpretentious and, I must say, solidly built.

Check out the rest at:


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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Daddy's best boy

Daddy works long hours. Really long hours.

He wanted desperately to get home in time to kiss his boy goodnight on his birthday yesterday, but was stuck at work until after 10 p.m.

But being the wonderful daddy that he is and fully understanding his son's greatest obsession, he made sure there was a big surprise waiting for Graham when he woke up this morning.

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Monday, November 12, 2007


Not an easy day today.

Marked by:

Work-related stress that I can't and won't get into here for these reasons AND a costly automobile repair that is an urgent priority seeing that my brakes completely and totally gave out when I attempted to stop at an intersection this afternoon.

Did I mention that today is Graham's second birthday?

This is what greeted me in the early morning gloom.


Wish I could have put it in my pocket and carried it around all day.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

I remember

How do you remember something you have never experienced?

It’s a struggle isn’t it, to try and fully respect and appreciate the suffering inflicted by war? You hear stories and you try to imagine what it must have been like, but for the most part our lives are so comfortable, so bountiful, that the horrors of war seem like a distant passion play.

Like all of you, I have read about the impact of war in countless history books. I have proudly worn my red poppy every November. I have listened to pundits and veterans talk about their experiences.

But it was only in a Rome hotel room seven years ago that I truly heard, and began to understand, how war had shaped a person I love.

In the fall of 2000 a girlfriend and I visited Europe, along with my mother and the woman who would became my mother-in-law. Our destination was Prague by way of Vienna but we had a stop-over in Rome and spent a full day and night in the city.

After a red-eye flight and a day of exploration we found ourselves in a tiny hotel room with a view of St. Peter’s Basilica. Mom and I hunkered down in one room together, but we were jet-lagged and couldn’t sleep.

And so we talked for a while. About life, about family, about a million dreamy, inconsequential things. Then there was a knock at the door. It was my-mother-in-law. She couldn’t sleep either and had heard us talking. Could she join the conversation?

There is something about the darkness, I think, that frees people to speak of the things that are too raw, too fragile to withstand daylight’s glare. And so as the moonlight streamed across the ancient city’s rooftops and into our room, she talked.

It had been years since she had been in Rome, she said. Just being in Europe brought back memories.

My mother-in-law was five years old when German forces attacked the Netherlands. She lived in the capital De Hague throughout the Nazi occupation.

She remembered that they were always hungry. That they boiled and ate tulip bulbs to stave off starvation. There were no dogs and cats left in the city, but even as a little girl she knew better than to ask where they had gone.

They were always cold in the winter, she said. There was no heating fuel so they burned everything they could to stay warm. City residents would bicycle to the outskirts of the city to forage firewood but the Nazis would set up checkpoints and confiscate their findings when they returned to the city.

She chuckled remembering how she and her little friends would ride their bikes out beyond the checkpoints to warn people to take an alternate route. She remembers the Nazis discovering what they were doing and how she peddled furiously away on her little girl bike as gunshots rang out behind her.

It was probably four in the morning. We were mesmerized. Her voice was quiet, but strong with a lilting Dutch accent. I remember meeting my mother’s eyes across the room and seeing that she too, was crying. I remember bowing my head and not wanting to make a noise, lest it break the spell.

She told us about her brother Eugene who was in the resistance movement and how she felt so proud of him, but was riddled with anxiety for her mother, who could barely function, so terrified was she that Eugene would be caught. She remembered that he would return home occasionally with a precious block of cheese that all the neighbors would share.

She remembers the Nazi officers searching their home for her brother. They found him eventually, she said. He was sent to a concentration camp.

No one ever saw Eugene again but after the war one of his cellmates from the camp tracked down her family and knocked on their door. He presented her mother with a note Eugene wrote for her before he died.

Her mother died shortly afterwards, mostly of a broken heart.

My mother-in-law was ten.

Her father was never the same, she said. He remarried a woman who didn’t like her so she joined the air force as soon as she turned 18 and immigrated to Canada at the first possible opportunity a few years later.

Her remembrances, that surreal night in Rome, are something I will never forget. When I told Rob, he said I had learned more in that evening about his mother’s childhood than he had ever known. I am not surprised. Our parents are not like us. They do not value the constant self-analysis in which we indulge. Their hearts are strong because they protect them, they do not bear their souls for the quick fix of a sympathetic ear.

My mother-in-law today is a happy, vibrant woman. She plays competitive tennis at the provincial level. She is a superb gardener. She plays so energetically with Graham that the mere mention of her starts him shrieking and running about the room.

When they play and the rise and fall of their laughter echoes throughout our beautiful home, I wonder if she is struck by the incongruity between the childhood she had and the one Graham is experiencing.

Does she look into his eyes, so full of unbridled joy, and feel sorrow for the little girl whose childhood was marked by fear and hunger, loss and death? Or is Graham’s fearlessness, borne of absolute security, representative of the ultimate triumph of good over evil?

She must know that this child, this flesh of her flesh, will never fully understand what her childhood was like. She must know that none of her children or grandchildren will. It is a testament to her grace that she reads my musings here and isn’t disgusted by the pure self-indulgence of them. Small wonder that she only smiled bemusedly at this recent post in which I worried that I had somehow scarred Graham by administering a smack in response to what was clearly unacceptable behavior.

How do you remember something you have never experienced?

It’s not easy to take a step back and realize that most of choices we agonize over are pure luxuries, most of our worries as inconsequential as dandruff.

But when I find myself worrying about time or money, or feeling hurt or slighted or frustrated or uncertain, I take a step back and remember the stories my mother-in-law told me that night in Rome.

I remember.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Friday, November 9, 2007

For the betterment of supermarkets/ retail establishments the world over

Dear every supermarket/retail manager in the greater Toronto area,

Hello from Don Mills!

I’m one of your customers, or potential customers anyway, and I want you to know that I think you’re doing a great job. It’s not easy working retail, I know. I used to be waitress, which kinda sucked too, but at least I got tips. And free food.

Anyhoo, I’m writing today with a simple, heartfelt request that, if granted, would really make a world a better place for me and, I wager, other moms too.

I’d like you to lose the balloons.

You heard me: the balloons.

I know you think they’re a nifty way spruce up your displays, add some colour to the store - maybe draw people’s eyes to the items you’re looking to move.

But balloons make my life a living hell.

I have a toddler, you see. And don’t get me wrong, he’s a super little guy – a real live wire as they say (ha, ha), but he’s got a bit of a fixation with balloons.

Okay he’s obsessed. So obsessed I’m not even sure it’s normal. When we go into your store and he sees a balloon he gets all crazy, see. He starts out chanting under his breath, Ba-oon, ba-oon, and craning his neck to get a better look at them.

Then the chanting gets louder and I start to get nervous and I try and just grab what I need and get the heck out, but before I know it, the chanting has become screaming. So I head to the checkout, but by the time I get there he’s freaking out and crying and throwing himself in the general direction of the balloons.

And I try to hold him back and calm him down, but the guy ahead of me is paying in pennies or doubloons or something and my son has determined that he will self-destruct if he does not get a balloon. I get really flustered ‘cause everyone’s giving me that I-can’t-believe-you-are letting-your-child-act-like-that!-look. (Except for that one lady who always says Are you okay? so nicely it almost makes me feel worse because it’s so obvious that I am LOSING IT!)

So you can see my dilemma.

Now, sometimes one of the people working in your store takes pity on me and cuts down a balloon and gives it to my son. And that’s great, don’t get me wrong, but I worry it might make him think that driving mommy BAT-SHIT-CRAZY is the best way to get what you want. (Even if it is).

So anyway, if you could just refrain from displaying balloons in any way, shape or form anywhere in the vicinity of your supermarket/ retail outlet that would be great.

Thanks a lot.

Oh, and if you could maybe move the bins of apples, oranges and other roundish-type fruits and things to somewhere in the very back of the store, that would be great too.


Don Mills Diva

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Waiting for Graham - 2 years on

* In four days Graham will be two years old. Last night I stumbled across this long-forgotten essay I wrote exactly two years ago today. I have never published or shared it. Save the links I have added, it is unedited. Reading it today I am struck by how much has changed and yet how little. It seems like yesterday: the breathless anticipation, the fear, the excitement. And the love. Even before I kissed his sweet face, the love.*

November 8, 2005: I can’t be sure when he will decide to show his face.

He might thwart a daily routine I have planned or even violently rouse me from a peaceful sleep. Before he settles in I expect to experience anxiety, fear and unimaginable pain.

And yet Graham’s arrival is the most happily anticipated event of my life thus far.

I am currently pregnant with my first child. My due date is the day after tomorrow.

My baby is a boy, of this I am sure. A product of my generation and perhaps too accustomed to instant gratification, the thought of letting the sex be a surprise seemed too impossibly self-disciplined to consider. My husband and I have snuck a peek at every opportunity, even forking out for a 4-D colour ultrasound during which we marveled over our son’s long, thin features so much like his father’s.

We have decided to call him Graham. It’s my family name and a nod to the large, sprawling Irish-Canadian clan which eagerly awaits his appearance. He will carry his father’s middle and last names.

But there are other things of which I am not so sure: so many things.

I am a mass of contradictory emotions and I never know which one will surface at any given moment. Tears rise unbidden. Yesterday while sipping my morning tea I wept with joy imagining my mother reading Graham a bedtime story. Just a few nights earlier I glanced at my husband and an overwhelming wave of sadness and fear washed over me. Our marriage is so happy, our lifestyle so carefree. What if things are never fun again? What if family life sucks the life out of us? What if I, dressed to the nines, never again enjoy his appreciative glance as we head out for a night on the town?

Every day I pray that Graham will be healthy. That he will arrive chubby and pink with a lusty cry. I cannot consider anything else. Sometimes I push myself to think about what could go wrong, as a kind of exercise in mental strength and preparedness, but the knot of fear in my chest stops me cold. One can never prepare to face their worst nightmare. It is fruitless to try.

I have been off work for only a week but already time has started to stretch out endlessly. I feel lazy and languid. I putter. I sleep. I daydream. I wait.

I wonder what kind of a child my son will be, what kind of a man will he become?

Will he be serious, introverted and scientific? Will he be outgoing and dramatic?

Will he inherit the same passion for music his father has?

I imagine my husband and me, 20 years on, occupying an out-of-the-way table in a dingy pub when Graham performs his first gig. I can already feel my face flush with pride and picture his good-natured acquiescence when we insist on discreetly picking up the tab for a round of drinks for his friends.

Will he be nutty for airplanes like his mother and so many members of my family?

I imagine his bush pilot grandfather standing to applause when Graham, piloting his first commercial airline flight, introduces him as an inspiration to the other passengers.

I feel a little foolish exposing such fantasies to the light of day. It seems I am already a walking cliché. Although I’m not even a mom yet, I am already filled with hopes and dreams for my son.

And for me, I guess.

Already I sense that this will be the hardest part of parenting – separating the hopes and dreams I have for him from the hopes and dreams he has for himself.

I’ve heard it said that deciding to have a child is agreeing to let your heart walk around outside your body for the rest of your life. That sounds about right to me. I already know that it involves ceding power over much of your happiness, much of your destiny.

I know there are ways Graham could hurt me that I can barely now imagine. He might be contemptuous of my interests and pursuits. He might reject the values his grandparents hold dear. He might spend a lifetime clashing with my stubborn husband, never once recognizing the extraordinary kindness and sensitivity his father also possesses.

My son may break my heart in many ways, but I’m grateful I can’t foresee exactly how. There are things no parent is able to control. Our children will be who they will be.

My only job is to try my best. To be steadfast and firm, but also loving and patient. I may indulge in hopes and dreams, but I must also remain confident that Graham will direct the course of his own life, just as he will decide the time and nature of his arrival.

And so I wait.

I wait for Graham to reveal his dreams to me. I wait for the secrets of humankind to unfold through the joy and pain of parenting. I wait to learn things I don’t even realize I don’t yet know.

I wait to meet my son.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Tilting at windmills

"What we see there are not giants but windmills," said Mommy. "And what seem to be their arms are the vanes that turned by the wind make the millstone go."

"It is easy to see," replied Graham Quixote, "that you are not used to this business of adventures. Those are giants, and if you are afraid, away with you, while I engage them in fierce and unequal combat."

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Deep thoughts

I was truly honoured to receive this little piece of hardware last week from MommyK over at The Great Walls of Baltimore.

She tagged me after being inspired by this post which got her thinking that Halloween is sometimes more about parents showing off their kids than anything else.

It's nice to be recognised for your humble contributions to the blogosphere, especially when there truly is so much inspiring stuff out there.

This award is also a meme and it works like this:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to five blogs that make you think.
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.
3. Proudly display the “Thinking Blogger Award” with a link to the post that you wrote

So, in the interest of spreading love and deep thoughts, here are the people and the blogs that made me think this week:

Dayna over at A Bug's Life - I am constantly inspired by the strength, grace and wit she brings to the challenges of mothering three chronically-ill children. Today's post moved me to tears.

Slouchy Mom over at Slouching Past 40 - She writes exquisitely, is completely established and has oodles of fans, yet remains self-depreciating and wonderfully welcoming to newbies like me. This recent post on mean girls really touched me.

Laura at Lunatic Fringe - This women has 3 kids under the age of four and she is taking up the challenge of posting every day for the month of November? And cooking up cool things like this? She makes me think I should just shut up about how busy I am.

Catherine at Her Bad Mother - Man can this girl write. This post about Brittany Spears is probably one of the most poignant things I have ever read. And if you check out her best-of archives you'll find even more great stuff. Her skill inspires me and make me want to continue to push myself to be a better writer.

The always engaging Bub and Pie always has something that makes me glad I dropped by. I especially love this post about embracing the failure when it comes to parenting. I think I'll take her advice!

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Monday, November 5, 2007

I had the time of my life

At last Saturday's showing of the new stage musical Dirty Dancing that is.

And I realize the above title and opening line are ridiculously cheesy, but I also think, just like the play itself and the movie on which it is based, they're still cute.

Super cute actually. And super fun.

It's Dirty Dancing people! Remember Dirty Dancing? The adorable, girl-next-door, pre-nose-job Jennifer Grey meets the slinky, brooding, pre-where-is-he now? Patrick Swayze?

God knows, I still feel like a young ingenue, but the reality is I was almost 18 when the movie premiered 20 years ago in the summer of 1987. And though I fancied myself a rock 'n roll chick back then, it was still Dirty Dancing that provided the soundtrack for one of the best summers of my life.

Check out the rest at Mommyblogstoronto...

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Sunday, November 4, 2007

Happy Birthday Rosie!

Two things I promise my beautiful niece:

Aunt Kelly can always be counted on for cool (preferably pink) clothes...

...and cousin Graham will always be available to test any and all toys!

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Saturday, November 3, 2007

Of ponies and nightmares

Is it possible to qualify fear?

Does it make sense that while, of course I fear that someone could harm my child, my most gut-wrenching fear is that somehow Graham will come to harm as a result of my failure as a mother?

To be a parent is to be afraid that a boogeyman lurks around every corner. That’s a given. But it is stories like this that reach inside my heart and squeeze.

Last week a 17-month-old baby died after being left in his mother’s car when she forgot to drop him off at daycare. She only realized she had left him in the car when she returned to it after finishing her seven-hour shift as a waitress.

Stories like this break me apart because they force me to search a deep, dark corner of my soul and confront my worst fear and my reoccurring nightmare: that I am that woman.

Let me explain.

When I was about ten years old I became completely enamored with horses. I wanted a horse in the worst way and the acquisition of one soon became my obsession.

My father was skeptical that I was mature enough to handle one, but I promised to get up before dawn to feed and water it. I begged, I pleaded. I vowed to devote myself, night and day, to the care of that animal.

My father finally relented and called a farmer who kept Shetland ponies up the road. We acquired Star, a frisky stallion who had never really been ridden and was used to roaming several acres unfettered, with a number of adoring mares.

Not surprisingly, it was a bit of a disaster. Star didn’t like being ridden and he didn’t really like me either. His care was a constant struggle. I got up every morning and tended to him before school. I raced home to graze him every evening. I spent countless hours trying to break him into a saddle and was nipped, kicked and thrown for my efforts.

After about a year my father suggested that perhaps Star would be happier back in his old home. I feigned sadness, but mostly I was relieved. Star was too much for me. While he had never, ever been mistreated, I was simply too young and immature to shoulder the responsibility of his care. So back he went and that should have been the end of the story.

But it wasn’t.

The nightmares about Star started when I entered the teenage years with all their attendant pressures. They have continued on a semi-frequent basis until less than a year ago. They are always the same; I am enjoying myself with friends, laughing and carefree when suddenly it hits me, Star! I completely forgot about him. It has been days, weeks since I have tended to him! He must be starving, perhaps even dead!

I awake, gasping for breath, overwhelmed with guilt, fear, and a crushing sense of shame and inadequacy. Even after reality sinks in, I am shaken to my core.

These kinds of dreams, I am told, are common for people like me: people who have inordinately high expectations of themselves. They are textbook, really. It doesn’t take a psychoanalyst to determine that Star is symbolic of my fear that I will let down someone who depends on me.

What does this have to do with Graham?

In a practical sense: nothing. My child could not be more loved or better cared for. But in a metaphoric sense: everything. Motherhood is fraught with feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. Of fear that somehow we are not meeting the needs of our children.

In the dark recesses of my soul I fear that Graham is my Star. He is the responsibility I will never be able to live up to: he is the gift I do not deserve.

And while my heart breaks, shatters really, to think about that dear little boy who died when his mom just forget about him, I can’t help but also feel shattered for his mom - the woman who is quite literally living out my worst nightmare.

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Friday, November 2, 2007

Somebody stop me!

It's official, I'm insane.
Don Mills Diva is playing nice with other bloggers and participating in National Blog Posting Month 2007. In order to earn my net cred I have to post every single day in the month of November.
Thirty days, 30 posts. God help me. And God help you poor readers who are going to suffer through this odyssey with me.
I'm going to need all the encouragment I can get so check back every day, keep cheering, keep commenting and if I post something you like, e-mail it to a friend.
And yeah, I'm counting this as a post. But I promise they won't all be this lame!

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Thursday, November 1, 2007

Okay, so I'm a lazy mom...

...and I didnt take Graham out for Halloween this year. (he's not even two! there would have been no one home to hand out candy!)

But that doesn't mean he didn't participate. He had stuff to do... like making sure the scarecrow was comfortable...

...testing the lights on the pumpkins...

...checking that the candle for the jack-lantern was still burning...

...and protecting mommy from the vampires.

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