Collisions with moments of the past

Tonight I attended a gala event associated with an industry conference.  These nights are pleasant occurrences, with the best of the host province’s arts and culture.  This night had local folk music, entertainment, fiddlers and some very impressive rap artists. Sitting beside me was someone new to the industry but unbeknownst to me a person from our family’s past.

As the night wound down, I felt quite satiated. The food was great, the dessert was decadent and the entertainment, as I said, was tremendous.  It was now possible to talk to others at the table. We carried on the ordinary chit chat, right down to where we each spent our careers. Suddenly, a little brown mouse scurried across the banquet floor! I raised my feet to the seat of my chair while I shrieked.

The gentleman asked, “You have spent your adult life on a farm, surely you are fine with mice?” I stared at him quizzically.  I knew this acquaintance had told me he worked in the policy arm of the Department of Agriculture, but I hadn’t realized he knew my family was involved in farming. It turned out that part of his career coincided with an abrupt change in my husband’s business career.

Let me explain.

At the tender age of 17 years, I met my husband for the first time. He was “older” than I, at the mature age of 21 years. He impressed me with his vision of where he was going.  I was mystified that he was someone who grew up in the city, but was embarking on a farming adventure. He was setting out to build a hog farm in the country.  The land was cleared of its trees, rocks were picked, land was tilled, new soil sown for hay and the foundation of two hog barns had been established. He had a big tan coloured truck and a rather attractive tan of his own.  I was a smitten!

Kate, my older sister, had told my mother that this new boyfriend of Mo’s was a bit of a hard ticket. He apparently had numerous traffic accidents and for the first time in my existence Kate wanted to keep me safe! Nonetheless, this new boyfriend won not only my heart, but my grandmother, my mother, sisters and brothers admiration as well.  My father reserved judgment and waited more than twelve months to even say hello to him. Hog farmer or doctor, this new boyfriend was the real deal.

Five and half years later we were married. I moved from the lights and noise of the city to the dark skies and quiet of the country. My first year married was a little on the frightening side. I was used to the sounds of buses, transport trucks, fire trucks and ambulances outside my house. I had traded that noise for an occasional dog barking at night. I quickly learned how to bury my head in the curve of my husband’s back, drape my arm across his chest and snuggle in until the first light arrived in the morning.

My husband’s farm was well established from a production perspective by the time we were wed, but we struggled to make the venture viable.  It took many years and a lot of sacrifice to get it in a sustainable position.  But my husband seemed to be born with all the skills to create a successful farm venture. Throughout that farming career, we also created our family, energetic boys to keep us on our toes.  Our boys had their own unique family stories involving hog farming, their first rubber boots, coveralls, helping Dad in the barns and running their obstacle races around the bales of the hay. They had an idyllic upbringing.

Compared to my husband, I am the naïve one. I thought our life was impossibly challenging when we were first married, then it was a matter of taking control and showing the farm debt agencies we were no fools, then it was clear sailing from there.  But naïve I am no more. Tonight’s encounter with someone from the Department of Agriculture brought 1993 back with a sudden jolt.

In 1993, my husband and I were in our thirties.  Our son’s were 12, 9 and 4 years old. The province was struggling with its deficit and a new government was recently sworn into office. Agriculture was a traditional industry but not a particularly large one and segments of it were considered expensive to support. Unfortunately for us, we were in one of those expensive segments.   We had a disease free hog herd and while seen as an accomplishment and a marketing advantage, it was small and inconsequential.  Dairy and chicken were more mainstays of the province’s agriculture industry.  You could hear the economic storm winds stir around our precious farm. My husband was quietly considering options, but I was naïvely distracted. My days were busy with accounting and raising my children.

By the day of the government’s budget, the writing was on the wall. The hog industry, with the stroke of the budget pen, was to be no more in our province.

My husband was a pillar of strength in the days that followed.  He took quick decisions to save as much capital as he could. He confidently moved with the change, not wasting time lamenting the apparent unfairness. He sold our stock immediately, shipping our breeding stock and growing herd to a farmer in another province.  He then disassembled our equipment and penning and sold that to a farmer, again outside the province. With time on his hands, he and his fellow hog farmers set out to make their case to the governments and their agencies that they had dealt with over the years. Many other people outside our industry added support to our cause. By the end of six months, my husband and his fellow hog farmers had negotiated a suitable deal for our industry’s exit from the province.

What seemed like a nightmare to me at its outset, ended amicably and gracefully. The life lessons gained from this challenge were a reward in themselves. Yet tonight, when this new acquaintance shared his connection with my family’s past, I was bombarded with old unpleasant memories.

I would like to thank this blog for bringing me back to the full story. I wouldn’t change a solitary moment in 1993.  We had an opportunity to rise above the turmoil of that day, tackle the down draft of a bad economy and come out strong enough to set root again. Many of us face the unexpected and hopefully stories like these will give others faith that the sun will rise on a new tomorrow.

You know that waking up is hard to do!

This past week was so busy I can hardly believe the amount of work I was able to squeeze out in a day for the “blogging project.” The reality is, there is truly no more than twenty four hours in a day. Yet, I like to think, time is what you make it. When required, I can somehow double or triple my normal efficiency. That concept of time and effectiveness made me wonder…..

In reality, time passes and humans have learned to measure it.  The clock goes tick-tock, and scientist and the humanities analyze much of human behaviour with a reference to the passage of time. Yet, when measured against cognitive awareness, time can also disappear, evaporate before your eyes. Now Management Consultants have lucrative businesses built around time management. While the clock ticks, the tock doesn’t always register. All usage of time has not coincided with a productive result. When we waste time, there is little record left of precisely what we have accomplished. True, isn’t it!

Take waking up in the morning, for me it the epitome of time loss!

There are those wonderful humans who self describe themselves as the sort who hit the ground running the second they wake up. They are also the ones who go to bed, place their head on the pillow, and fall asleep.  These human beings are most likely blessed with well developed and superbly functioning glands nestled somewhere in the middle of the brain, specifically the hypothalamus and the pineal gland. As a result, they produce the perfect dose of melatonin, allowing them to react to the setting of the sun and the rising of the sun. So, all of you reading this blog in the middle of the night are likely not that element of human kind.

By the time I am aware it is dawn, I sigh, blink, and it is 20 minutes later. I don’t even recall willfully wasting time. I then lie in bed and tell myself, as much as I would like to stay beneath my comfortable duvet, I must get up. With my eyelids glued shut, I gingerly nudge my toes outside the protection of the bed clothes, then force out the rest of the foot. With all my will power, I allow my leg below the knee to extend over the edge of the mattress. The leg and foot, with no assistance from the eyes, tries to determine where the floor might be. SMACK! My once warm and comfy toes hit the cold hardwood, so shocked by the extreme change in environment, it yanks the rest of me behind it. Like a battery operated toy with its battery expiring, I move slowly forward.

Next thing I know, my reserve power storage is unleashed and I open one eye. Then begins the one eyed trip to the kitchen. Two eyes are not advisable when they are both on different networks. One is asleep, that would be the closed one. The other is blurry but operational. My opened eye happens to be my left one. I rely on that precious eye to navigate my way around the kitchen island to the sink. There I stare blankly at the sink for longer than a couple of moments, waiting for the confusion to pass.

Minutes drift by, like fog entering and exiting the mouth of the harbour. It dawns on me that it is now okay to open my right eye! My lowering level of melatonin atleast allows the two eyes to work in a coordinated fashion.


I am in front of the stained stainless steel sink for a reason. I want tea! Usually, the next thought is really a complex one, a lecture to the brain to release norepinephrine and orexin and to lower melatonin further. Okay I admit I am not doing the lecturing. It is involuntary.  There are 11 neurotransmitters and hormones that somehow get generated in the right sequence to allow me (and all of you) to experience wakefulness.

Once sufficiently awake, I begin to recognize my confused state is somewhat related to the kitchen renovation and the folly of the logic used to lay out the counter space and cupboard space. Ha. The only logic at 6:30 a.m. is 31 years of experience making my morning tea in the old illogically laid out kitchen! Is the kettle to the left or right? Mugs are where? Whose idea was this to place mugs at the opposite side of the sink away from the kettle! Sigh, a full 20 minutes have passed. All I have done is found my way to the kitchen and turned on the kettle.

Another ten minutes are used to mix my cereal with fresh berries and Greek Yogurt. Damn! The tea is over steeped and tepid. My brain is speeding up though. It is now merging Frere Jacques (my childhood favorite song) and my desire for a clear brain. I start humming to myself….,

Serotonin, Serotonin,

Where are you? Where are you?

I’ve got to get a move on, I’ve got to get a move on,

Ding, Dang, Dong! Ding Dang Dong

Miracle of Miracles! I am awake! It is 7:30. I have exactly 30 minutes to wash, style my hair, apply makeup, dress suitably for whatever is on my blackberry agenda and start the commute to work! Time suddenly seems to slowdown enough for me to catch up. I accomplish everything in 30 minutes, plus plan out the day, tidy as I go, smile politely at Hubby as he takes the left overs for lunch, while I remove lunch money from his wallet.

My professional conclusion is that I don’t believe in the consistency of time. It is merely a state of mind. I believe someday, a brilliant scientist will discover true time measurement and reset it to the rhythm of the mind.

Advice from our contractor

Every now and again, someone changes your life.

Choices to make,

Budgets to consider,

Sacrificing to consider,

Decisions to make.

It was a mauzy day in March. My husband and I had made the decision to renovate, one last time.  As you close in on your retirement, there are things you need to do before you start down that next segment of life.

Like many couples, we wanted to be budget conscious and live within our means. This was a big initiative and serious choices were necessary. We realized that we wanted to stay in our neighbourhood, we wanted to brighten up the house, upgrade our appliances, heating system and be as senior accessible as possible.

Every decision was sensible and our plan gave us the structure and budget we could live with.

One evening our contractor arrived to chat about our plans. We had worked with Roy for a long time and he was the person we trusted.  We spoke about our plans and Roy wondered if we wouldn’t be better off selling our home and building nearby.  It is easier and cheaper overall to build than to renovate. We smiled and said staying exactly where we were was decision number one.

We discussed each logical and serious decision we had made. I was beginning to realize that we were serious and not exuberant.

Roy took out his measuring tape. He asked my husband how old he was. Hubby answered 57! Following that, our trusted contractor and friend rolled out 73.5 inches. Roy explained, “Hub, an average Canadian male can expect to live 73.5 years. This amount of tape signifies the life you have to live.”

Next, Roy clamped the measuring tape at 73.5 and asked me to hold the tape at 57 inches. I did so. The tape dropped to the floor, all 57 inches of it.  We looked at Roy, not particularly excited about where he was going with this analogy.

Roy continued, “The full 73.5 inches represents your full life. The long piece drooping to the floor is the life you have accomplished, a full and happy 57 years.” 212

“This short piece, 16.5 inches, is the time you can reasonably expect from here.”

I took a good look at the comparison.  We were all silent for a long and uncomfortable minute. Hubby and I had more thinking to do.

Suffice it to say, our home looks wonderful today! While we didn’t go crazy, and start buying everything to live in the moment; we did not focus solely on being senior ready and the extent of our budget. We certainly refocused on a happy 16.5 years ahead and stopped putting life on hold. Each day matters more and more. Exuberant is much greater than serious.

Cuba vacation 173

Twenty four hours with our pooch, Heidi

It was bedtime on a cold December night in our busy home on the East Coast of Canada.

Our beloved 15 year old chocolate Labrador, Heidi, was uncomfortable. In spite of gentle care, her hip was interfering with her gait. I worried as I assessed Heidi’s ability to maneuver over the stairs and to circle her L.L. Bean doggy bed before laying down. You could detect the strain in her eyes, and the defeat in her shoulders. My youngest son was soon leaving for his two week hitch up North, he paced and sighed. My husband, son and I gave Heidi a gentle group hug.  I lingered to give her a tender kiss on her perfect head. I looked longingly in her eyes.

I fought the panic in my chest.  The previous winter she also lost strength in her legs and overcame that set back. Looking at her, I assured myself she was uncomfortable but she would persevere.  Surely it was early days if something was wrong.

Heidi’s deep brown eyes reminded me of my father. I secretly felt that she was my conduit back to Dad. Even that night, I knew we were in contact.  Dad was deceased almost 32 years. Mom was now living with me having reached the glorious age of 91 years.  Dad’s presence would not falter and leave us now. Heidi would hold all of us together.

With a firm reassurance, I patted Heidi and turned in for the night.  My husband is one of those people who puts his head on the pillow and falls asleep. Opposites attract, for 32 years of marital bliss, my husband has slept soundly while I toss and turn. On that night, the air was still.  I could hear every sound.  Heidi moaned, Mom snored, my husband snored and our son slept restlessly, like his mother.  Correction, I didn’t sleep.

Heidi began to cry.  I lay rigid in bed. Listening sympathetically, I prayed that she would settle down, shift a bit on her bed and find a comfortable spot. She struggled with her pain. I scolded myself, “what are you accomplishing here in bed. Heidi needs comfort and that dog bed isn’t doing it.”

I crept out of our bed and into the hallway. Heidi had slept outside our door since she graduated as a pup from her dog carrier. When my husband travelled, I would leave the bedroom door open. I would have left the door opened that night but she could only have been frustrated by her inability to jump up on the bed. I took my place next to her on her bed. Heidi accepted the company but her discomfort wouldn’t let her settle in.

After a disconcerting period of consolation, Heidi stiffly rose to her feet.  Even with her grey hair, slumping back and awkward gait, she was the most beautiful dog I ever knew. Those brown eyes were the pathway to gentleness.

How long had it been since her last acetaminophen? I didn’t want to upset her stomach as she was eating less and less these days. She was evidently in a lot of pain.  We looked long and hard into each others eyes. I decided to take the chance and placed the pill in a marshmallow. Heidi stared at the marshmallow, previously the treat of choice, the highlight of her summer bonfires. Hesitantly, she gently took it from my outstretched hand.

The pain was hanging on resolutely, never leaving that hip. She tried to stand up again. Standing was too great an obstacle. Confused, Heidi winced and moaned. Her crying was continuous. I sat nearby, nesting my head in my hands. We caught each others gaze and we cried together. I left the chair and lay again on the floor, by her side, and held her as we continued to cry.

I choked down the lump in my throat. Breathing was nearly beyond my capability. My forehead seemed clamped by an invisible band. In pure panic, I grappled with the possible loss of my faithful puppy dog. It wasn’t welcomed. How could my world be immersed in such turmoil? I needed my family. Mom and Heidi, they only needed to stabilize.  No one could falter. Our balance was tenuous.

After what seemed like hours, Heidi gave in to her exhaustion. She slept. I needed to face the morning, so I allowed myself to return to bed and sleep.

Tossing and turning, I thought about my son and husband quietly confiding with each other before bed. Brushing off sleep, I took on a catatonic stance. No one, I told myself, will take Heidi away. If there was any discussion of the vet, I would merely end the discussion.  I was not ready to say goodbye. And that was that!

Sleep arrived at 6 a.m. and for once I was grateful for the late winter sunrise.

When I awoke at 7:30, Heidi looked exhausted.  She gingerly made her way to her bowl. The pain in her hip equated to the pain in each of our hearts.  I made Mom her breakfast. One fried egg and one slice of whole wheat toast.  I knew she would take two hours to eat it. Tara, Mom’s homecare worker, arrived at 8 a.m. sharp.  Somehow I managed to prepare for work.  I took my own acetaminophen, brushed my hair, applied makeup and lip stick and searched for sunglasses. The regular rhythm of the day was leading me step by step.

I carefully and lovingly hugged Heidi. My husband had left for work. Mom tackled her egg and my son slept fitfully. As dour as it seemed, we had conquered the night and my heart was set on another day of normalcy.

I don’t remember the drive, but I arrived safely at work. I sat skittishly at my desk and felt the descent of gloom and foreboding.

I picked up the phone and called my husband.  His accountant answered. I asked to speak with him. She apologized and explained that our son had arrived and he was in my husband’s office and the door was closed. I stiffened, “Patch me in to the conference please.” With a nervous laugh on the other end of the phone, my call was transferred to my husband. I don’t remember how my husband explained things to me, I only recall my response.  “No. And don’t think for one moment you are going behind my back. Heidi is our dog. I am going home now.”

As quickly as I arrived at work, I left. I made it home to see my husband and son kneeling next to Heidi, her lead in my son’s hand. The dye was set. We were going to vet. In denial I boarded the car. My plan was to control the discussion with the vet.

As we entered that waiting room.  Heidi seemed to recognize the change in Karma. As we sat, I held her lead tightly in my hand. Heidi got up, I observed she seemed more agile. She lead me to the door.  It was her signal that it was time to go home. My husband rose, patted her gently on the head, said nothing and guided us back to our seat in the waiting area.

I convinced myself all was fine.  Heidi was feeling better.

The vet called us in. The four of us descended upon the sterile stainless steel room. Upon examining my precious pet, the Vet explained that a growth in Heidi’s hip joint had pushed her femur out of place and was interfering with her pelvis. It was not likely that this hard growth would subside on its own. I asked about surgery and if the Vet thought it was cancer.  Could she take a biopsy? Was there medication? I explained I wasn’t ready for this.

My husband and my son took over the conversation. They asked if Heidi would be in pain.  The answer was obvious, yes she would be in great discomfort. The Vet commented that it appeared that we arrived at the veterinary hospital seeking direction but the immediate decision was ours. We were left to make the decision.

I prefer not to write or speak about the short time we had left with Heidi that day.  We had all lived a wonderful life as a family together. Heidi was a joy to behold, a beloved child in so many ways.

We did not take Heidi home that day.

I arrived home shattered. I looked at my mother and nodded. I sat at Mom’s bedside in silence.  She told me I was exhausted.  I nodded, words wouldn’t come. She raised her blankets and I climbed in beside her. Silently the minutes passed. We mourned together and slumber came.

Post script

Heidi rests in our yard next to our fire pit, a place where she playfully chased hot embers as they spit from the bonfire.

I can’t wait until

“Mommy, I can’t wait until I go to school like Kate!” I said at the tender age of five years old. 

Our family of eight was fairly regimented in a perfect kind of way.  Dad went to work around 7 a.m. every morning, just about the time when I was just crawling out of bed.  By 8 a.m., my two brothers had started out for their downhill walk to their high school, Holy Cross. By 8:30, Mom was scrambling to get my older sister Kate ready in her important school uniform. It was a black stiff uniform with a white shiny collar and white cuffs.  Kate’s hair was blond, not like my jet black hair. My hair was not brushed by that time in the day, it was tangled and straggly. Kate’s hair was delicate and feminine, it had been combed with a hundred strokes and the ends had cute curls.

Grammie “K” would say, “Aren’t you cunnin’ child, precious little Kate!” My grandmother always used the word “cunning,” which was an adjective that meant attractive especially by means of smallness or prettiness or quaintness. I was usually a cunning child when I was up to mischief or if I was sick with a temperature and everyone was worried about me. It didn’t sound quite the same when anyone used the word cunnin’ to describe me.

I remember my sister saying, “I pity the poor teacher who ends up with Mo!”

“Mommy, I can’t wait until we move back to the cottage! Is it summer yet?”

When I finally was sent to school with my sister, I doubted my own judgment. School was scary.  The Nuns had a lot of rules.  In Kindergarten I have one distinct memory to share.

I loved my uniform, my oxford black and white shoes and my knee socks. I was given Kate’s old book bag and Mom bought Kate a new one because she had more books to carry. I particularly loved my school supplies. My book bag held my recess, my exercise books, my first reader, a song book and my pencil, ruler, crayons and glue. Oh and there was a white doily to place my hands on so the teacher could tell if my hands and finger nails were perfectly clean.

My clearest memory was of my exercise book, or scribbler. It was the less expensive one, half the length of my sister’s.  My scribbler had brown paper and my sister’s had white paper.  In Kindergarten, we were learning our alphabet and how to print our letters.  Apparently, I was either not listening or totally disregarded Sister Anastasia’s instructions. I was not to use my eraser on my pencil.  I can remember thinking, the small letter e I had painstakingly printed was backwards.  I quickly turned around my pencil to use my eraser, the hard dried up red rubber eraser on the top of my pencil. It took no time before I dug a hole through my page. I carried on and finished my printing, as best as a five year old could and never imagined the Mortal Sin I had just committed.

Sister told us to keep our scribblers open and place our hands neatly on either side of our work, as proper young ladies are trained to do.  I complied.  I sat up straight in my little desk and laid my hands on either side of my scribbler.  I was waiting for another Angel sticker for my great letter Ee achievement. To my chagrin, Sister stopped at the desk, raised her ruler and smacked my cute little hands.  I had no idea it was a grievous crime to use the eraser and create a hole on the sheet.

Worse than that was the letter Ff. You see Sister had subscribed to the frugal ‘waste not, want not’ philosophy.  You finished one page with the letter Ee and you turned it over to learn how to print Ff. Low and behold, there was the other side of the hole I had sinfully created. Lordy, wasn’t I the school stooge. When Sister saw I had a hole on the page with the letter Ff, I deserved a big whooping.  My hands were not sufficient.

To this day I avoid using that stupid red eraser on the top of a pencil! It must have been the devil’s creation.

“Mommy, I can’t wait to go to camp!”

I may as well admit it, I wasn’t particularly popular in school.  I was a C student, always talked when the teacher left the classroom and given my aversion to erasers, had poor penmanship and messy assignments. I brought that talent to Girl Guides as well.

When it came time to go to camp, the Guide leaders had to decide who they would take.  I was born at the tail end of the baby boomers. So, there were a lot of girls who wanted to go to camp. Our Guide Camp was only so big.  We couldn’t all go.

My hopes were high nonetheless that I would get selected. I did all that I was told. I had my navy blue uniform and beret always clean and pressed. I earned points for my uniform, my cleanliness and my behaviour.  Grammie K and I worked on badges and I would then sit with my Guide leader and present my work. My grandmother even taught me how to sew the badges on my sleeve. Except for all the times I was asked to sit down or stop talking, I remember being next to perfect.

I was ultimately told I wasn’t selected for camp.  I was devastated. Mom said I sang Kumbaya My Lord as well as the rest of the them! I knew 100 bottles of beer on the wall, a 100 bottles of beer….admittedly, Mom warned me that was very annoying. All that practice and I didn’t have a seat on the bus.

Mommy and Grammie took me to visit Aunt Thurly and Uncle Robert in Upper Stewiacke and then to see Aunt Catherine and Uncle Fred in Litchfield.  I think I had a better time.  I was in time for the church strawberry shortcake festival in Upper Stewiacke. I was really impressed that Aunt Catherine had miniature Mars bars and let me watch soap operas.  The rest of the over-achieving Guiders didn’t get all that!

“Mommy, I can’t wait to go to Nursing School.”

My mother was a nurse.  She went to Nursing School in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1942-1945. She would reminisce over those years.  Like little old Mo, Mom had her scholastic challenges.  She had scarlet fever when she was in junior high and missed math instructions on fractions.  But everyone in the nurses residence rallied around Mom and taught her fractions so she could learn how to determine doses of medications…scary! While Mom was in nursing school she met my father.  They fell in love! A Baptist and a Roman Catholic, a match made in heaven in 1945. Obviously, nursing school was the answer to many dreams.

I wanted to be like my mother.  My mother’s name was Mary.  When my Grade 2 teacher, Sister Mary Assumpta told me to pick my confirmation name, I picked Mary! They thought it was in honour of Our Holy Mother. I corrected them, even back then. I wanted to grow up to be just like my mother and with her name, Nurse Mary, RN!

We lived across the street from “the hospital.” Dad worked at “the hospital.” Naturally I applied for the nursing school across the street and attached to “the hospital.” There was an “other hospital” further down the street. My high school guidance instructor told me to also apply there. I didn’t want to seem impolite, so I applied to both hospitals. I wish the instructor told me that the “other hospital” did the entrance exam for all the nursing schools.  I received an envelop instructing me to take a psychological entrance exam in the Spring. I noticed that it was sent by the “other hospital” that did not employ my father. I thought a psychological exam was a silly idea that the “other hospital” came up with.  I threw the letter in the garbage.

I am not a nurse!

“Mommy, I want you to live with me forever!”

My mother was almost a saint.  Had the Pope met her, perhaps she would have at least made the B list for North American Saints. It was the rest of us little nuisances that kept her from the A list.

Mom had great genes.  She lived independently until she was 87 years old.  She had the same klutz genes we daughters seem to have.  Mom smashed her elbow, had four concussions and a lot more other damage from her run-ins with the ground. She pretty much needed to live in a bungalow in her last four years. I had a bungalow! So I was able to spend another four wonderful years with my mother.

I am still teary eyed even thinking about Mom not being here.  I type my blog in the room where she passed over. As her time to leave approached she used to say, “I am just waiting, dear, for the train to stop and take me yonder.” So I wait here and wish the train would bring her back to me.

Daily Prompt: Spending my day with Bridget Jones

I admit it, I love to read for entertainment. It doesn’t bother me one iota to read a light hearted, satirical piece of fiction.  One of my favorite character’s has to be Bridget Jones. She won my heart with the first novel. I even read the sequel and watched both movies based on Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding. The material just resonates with my cohort, it is truly funny.

By now Bridget is firmly in her new relationship and I believe she could use a friend from Canada.  Living on the East Coast, I could take a quick trip to Gatwick and motor to her flat outside London. Our flights always arrive before 7:00 a.m. in Gatwick.  I might then try to pick up something suitable for breakfast for Bridget and her children. They would have just enough time to gulp down the donuts before driving the children (late) to school.  Seeing we know the teacher, I doubt that will be a big problem for us or the children. Alternatively, Bridget’s other BFF across the street can take the children to school again!

No matter what Bridget is up to in her current life, I have the uncanny feeling I will be able to relate. I am thinking we will spend time trying out younger looks with trips to the hairdresser for a new cut, colour and hair extensions. We will need collagen treatments and new super elasticized under garments to bring us closer in appearance to her latest nemesis!  All good strategy to restart our new careers. We can always spy on the She-Devil Nemesis to discover how to better compete.  Who knows what trouble we can get into.  A trip downtown with a Bobby wouldn’t be all that bad!

I may be just what Bridget needs.  I am fairly calm and down to earth.  I have scads of parenting experience, with a specialty on sons though.  I did not have a daughter but contrast is always good. I am a mediocre literary talent, which would place Bridget well above me.  Once again, Bridget would be charmed. Best of all, I can finally find someone who will understand my fascination with writing down everything I wore for four months. She will also understand my struggle with diets, losing weight and staying on course with exercise. We could decide which of my outfits must go, which to keep and I would no longer have to struggle with outfits on the watch list!

Wait a minute! We would not send my clothes to goodwill, we would plant them in the She-Devil Nemesis’ closet and take all her clothes to goodwill. We may want to fight over the She Devil’s shoes.

What I want to know from Bridget is how to break into the movie business.  With Bridget’s television and movie production career, I would concentrate on following in her footsteps. Every step of the day we would tweet messages, monitoring if we picked up any new followers. Every misstep would be rewarded with high carb treats, wine and trip to the scale to determine how much weight we lost. For penance, we will go to the gym and watch, “The Devil Wears Prada” while we tough it out on the elliptical machines.

Luncheons and after work receptions would connect us to Bridget’s crazy, supportive friends. I could listen to their advice and if they didn’t have any, I could listen to the tales they tell.

After supper at home at Bridget’s I would charm Bridget’s second husband to take Bridget out for the night. I would ask if they could call Hugh Grant to come over to help me babysit!

All in all, Bridget would be pleased. She has become so successful, she is mentoring me!

And that’s a wrap.

Prejudice: Where did that come from?

For as long as I can think clearly, I will ponder prejudice. I will bounce perspectives back and forth and try to determine if something is or is not reasonable, founded or unfounded. Is the comment harmful or merely a generalization? Are we all capable of prejudice? It isn’t as if we all don’t have some prejudice that we use to simplify our lives.  Often you can hear unreasonable, preconceived judgments coming out of me and others. I may have made quick judgments about people in certain occupations without having any basis of fact.

“Kindergarten teachers are just so creative and caring!” Obviously this quote is a safe prejudice to admit, but it demonstrates exactly what prejudice is founded on.  I understand kindergarten teachers from my own value system. I haven’t studied or conducted research on the creativeness and kindness factor of all kindergarten teachers.  In fact, I know roughly less than thirty such people all from the province of Canada in which I reside.

The funny thing is, I know fewer Syrians, I know primarily Caucasian Canadians and New Englanders. I would like to know more Syrians and people from many other cultures, but I didn’t live near many cultural groups.  I am the epitome of vanilla.  I am not particularly proud of it, but there is little I can do about my cultural exposure now, except travel. (In my defence, I do like to travel.) I also like to comment on current affairs without doing much research. My information comes from the news primarily.

In my bland world though, I am not immune to examples of prejudice relating to diversity.  Diversity in my small corner of the world would generally include gender, sexual orientation, disability, country of origin, indigenous origin, and racial origin. Please excuse the limitation of those categories.  I can think of many other interesting categories as well. How about musically talented, scientific, literary, athletic, artistic, dramatic, illusionist….. all can apply to each diverse category to yield a very diverse group!

So, what got me started on prejudice tonight? It was actually a somewhat subtle comment. A well intentioned colleague approached me today, quite alarmed and sympathetic toward one of our other co-workers.  His dilemma was the other co-worker had “replied to all” on a request of our human resource department to update our personal information for the personnel files.  In this information, disclosed to some 300 plus colleagues, the other co-worker indicated his “significant other” was male. My colleague was worried that now everyone knew about the co-worker’s sexual orientation. This was both the alarming part and the sympathetic part of the story.

Had “I” replied to all,  would it have caused such sympathy?  Unlikely,  as I have a pretty common marital status that would not have attracted attention. It also isn’t new information. When we read information we screen for what is noteworthy or different.  Maybe, instead of worrying about something being different than our norm, we could focus on what is quite nice, such as our co-worker is in a committed relationship with someone. In my instance, the co-worker is living with a man who I actually know slightly, and I like his parents.  I would be more worried about my co-worker disclosing his personal information on voluntary insurance and other matters that people like to keep private. Otherwise, I think it is quite healthy to be able to admit you are a whole person and you can introduce your significant other. I do all the time!

Tonight, my co-worker’s disclosure made me dwell on all the types of prejudices we live with daily. It is common for East Coasters to be stereotyped as goofy, less intelligent and more awkward than the rest of the country’s folk. I grew up expecting to be mocked by people who visited us or by those who we visited. I remember exaggerating my accent and using ridiculous phrases just to satisfy their desire to be right about people who lived on the East Coast.

My maiden name happens to originate from Ireland. My name means one who is dun coloured. Apparently my ancestors were dark in complexion, something I am not. I often wonder about who my ancestors were to have been given that name. I only have been able to trace back as far as the mid-1800s and nothing stands out as particularly interesting. I hope to link our name to the Claddagh Tribe of Galway, but I am merely romanticizing now.

My father was of a dark complexion, most people thought he was attractive!  During the second world war, he bought suits for university at a clothing store owned by a man of Jewish faith.  The store owner had whispered to my father as he rang in the price on the register, “less 10% for being a student and 10% for being one of us!” The owner would not have recognized my father, as he was from another country, but he believed my father to be Jewish.  He gave Dad a discount, a gesture which my father was appreciative of until the day he died.  It doesn’t matter if the owner was just being kind to a young man of very meagre means or if he made a judgment that my father looked Jewish. It was kindness, at time when everyone lived in fear.

I hope that my Grandson grows up not knowing there is a difference in the colour of skin, hair or eyes.  I want it to be irrelevant. We will always bring our upbringing with us and I am hopeful that my children and grandchildren will accept differences with enthusiasm and seek out diversity. I hope they eat all kinds of spices and can smell of cloves one day, garlic the next and curry the day after that! I hope that identity as LGBTQ is part of their world but not apart from their world. I also want them to find opportunities based on their skills and interest and not by stereotype. I don’t want them to have a future workplace that needs to identify people by group in order to assist with gender or sexual orientation issues, because in the future I hope there won’t be any of those issues.

I know many eloquent writers have expressed these views a lot better than I have.  I am just fed up with the slow pace of change. I do care about who a person is, I am interested. I just wish all of us could be more interested in who people are and not sidetracked by basic differences.

Writing 101: Day Ten – Update Your Readers Over A Cup Of Coffee #GlobalGoals

This deserves your time to read and to keep as our to do list!


Today’s Writing 101, day ten:

No matter what type of blog you have, it’s sometimes necessary to post updates: from project news to personal messages about what’s going on in your life. One creative approach to an update post is a “virtual coffee date,” as seen on Kate Goes Global, which is like catching up with an old friend over a cup of coffee.

In her post, Kate begins each paragraph with If we were having coffee right now… and then adds a detail. You can share any details you’d like and include as many as you want, as long as you begin each with If we were having coffee right now… (or a variation of this phrase, as seen on Girl with the Red Hair).

It’s a simple idea, but offers a bit more structure to your post — and is a lot more fun. So today…

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Let’s meet for a latte?

My little Sister, Trisha found her way West.  She settled in Kelowna, British Columbia, where life is beautiful.  I don’t get to visit all that often due to the hefty distance to fly across Canada, it’s from the Atlantic to pretty much the Pacific. Trisha and I have a lot in common, from our up bringing, to the love of wine country. Trisha loves cats (a lot of cats) but she has flirted with a dog.  I love dogs and have cared for Mom’s cats. One thing we love to do, is find a time to chat over a latte!

Trisha: Hi, What’s up?  I can drive up Westside Road to the Resort to pick you up around 11.  Will you and Hubby be ready?

Mo:  Sure! But I can drive you know. Why not meet down by the Lake?

Trisha: Nadda. You don’t know how awful that road is, and you are likely to get run off the bank.

Hubby: Tell your sister she doesn’t have to do all the driving. We don’t mind.

Trisha:  Tell Hubby to keep his shorts on.  I am grown up at 51, I will pick you both up at 11.


Hubby: Why not go somewhere normal like Vernon? We can go to Kelowna tomorrow. That way we can avoid that drive down Westside!

A couple of hours later, we were all moseying down the road in Vernon.  It was July and it was hot. We found a reasonable café and we all said, “want a coffee?”  Zip- we were in the Café. When you come from the East Coast of Canada, you don’t know the majesty of trees like you do in BC. Our trees are shorter than BC’s totem poles.  BC takes every opportunity to show off the prominence of their forests.  Even with their café tables!


Trisha: So Mo, what do you think of today’s latte?

Mo:  Slurp. Ummmm. Sweet! Its just nice to rest my feet, so the swelling goes down. How about you? Does it meet your fancy?

Trisha:  It is a nice cup, but I should of had a double shot. My back is nothing but trouble, I didn’t sleep last night.

Hubby: You have to pace yourself, Tiss. We can beat the trails and meet up later?

Trisha:  I am pretty sure that I can keep up with my big seester. (Fun snarl) She just thinks she can out walk me!

Mo: (Eye brows raised.) Slurp.

Trisha:  It’s true! I am doing fairly well post the cortisone shot.  But, I will take it easy.  How were the Kootenays?

Mo: Sis, I get how peaceful this place is.  It is like heaven on earth. But really, these forest fires. I would rather the rain, drizzle and fog.  I mean, the other morning in the Kootenays, I turned over at 7 a.m. in the morning and I started to realize it was like I was in M.A.S.H. or something. That woke me up!  I just knew a fire musta broken out close by. I timed it. I was lying in bed, catatonic! Every four minutes, a chopper flew over the house.  Every four minutes! At the time I thought it was one chopper.  That would be 1.5 minutes to fly down the hillside, one minute to dip the bucket and 1.5 minutes to fly back to the fire. Scary!


Trisha: Okay Mo, deep breathing, remember.

Mo: (Breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth. Focusing on the stomach not the chest. Crap I can’t figure out how to breath through my stomach! Grrrr, my lungs are behind my ribs.) Slurp. Good Latte?

Hubby: My tea’s not half bad. (rolling his eyes and shifting on his seat.)

Mo: (Fighting tears and struggling to talk) Alright, I know I am nervous.  But the Chalet was 1.5 kms from the highway, scenically nestled in the woods! IN THE WOODS DURING A FOREST FIRE! The dilemma wasn’t lost on me, you know. (Breathe, for crying out loud! You didn’t burn in the loft or anything. People think you are an idiot. BBBreeeathe.)

Hubby: Yah. Mo picked the place. She was on for two weeks. She was down to two spots.  She said one looked so quaint, but she decided on the one overlooking Slocan Lake. She came to the conclusion the other one was haunted.  She said it reminded her of a book she read where a person was murdered.  What was the book?

Mo: The Shack.  Thanks for reminding me.  That really helps, I’ve gotta say!

Trisha: Haha. Nice café, don’t you think?

Mo: (Glaring at Hubby. Hubby shrugs his shoulders.)

Hubby: Did you say there was Croc farm close by?

Mo: Oh God, he wants to kill me.  I am never gonna sleep as it is? (Whine.)

Trisha: Yep, Hubby.  It isn’t too far from here. I think you’d like the guy.  Your type really.  Reminds me of your next door neighbour back home.

Hubby: (LOL chokes on his tea.  Couple at the next table stares.)

Mo: Can I finish my story? (pause, looking for silent acquiescence and getting it, nods and all) Well, the Chalet has curtains everywhere upstairs except over the loft signature window.  So, as the chopper, corrections…the choppers… (looking pensively at Hubby) the choppers flew over the house, I could detect that one was red and one was blue. That was good obviously, so it was at least twice as far away as I thought.  I crept out of bed and downstairs and watched.  I kept timing the choppers. I realized there were two red ones and one blue. Much better. Hubby got up.  I suggested we pack our bags as a precaution and put them in the trunk of the car. You know he said no! (Look of righteous indignation)

Hubby: She is only mad because I was right.

Mo: I suppose you want me to be wrong?

Trisha: (Look of complete confusion)

Mo: Anyway Hubby thought we needed to walk the 20 minutes down the steep hillside to the dock for our swimming day.

Trisha: (Looking ridiculously hopeful and quite condescending) Now you would love that Mo.  I bet it reminded you of the Lake in Litchfield, Maine.

Mo: Oh yah, right! The only thing I had to worry about in Maine was the sunfish who spawned at the end of the dock and kept nipping me if I stepped off the rock in her direction!

Trisha and Hubby: (Glaring by this point and trying to force me into a happy mood)

Trisha: Time to lighten up, Big Seester! (Smile, or was it a smirk?)

Mo: Alright,  after breakfast I was better.  If the pilots knew we were there, and if the fire got bad, I figured they would send someone or maybe warn us. Sigh, we went to the dock.  It was nice, actually.

Hubby: The helicopter pilots even waved. We were fine.

Mo: Hubby’s logic was that if the fire got to the Lake, (rolling my eyes this time), we just have to jump in! Like we could just wait and do that ….


Trisha: Mo, that couldn’t have been much of a fire, by BC standards.  Did you see anything?

Hubby: No.  We went to a great café in Silverton.  I asked the guy who runs it what he thought.  He said the fire was just across the highway and it  is well contained.  No worries. Smile Mo! (It was a demand, not sympathy)  He made you the best latte ever. The one with the bear. It went well with the bear bells you wore all the time.


Post script: In spite of the record forest fires around Kelowna, BC, and Washington State, we are headed back next year.  I am picking the month of May! I will definitely wear my bear bells! Gotta love bears and lattes, don’t ya think?

An Open letter to Boo Boo


Dearest Boo Boo,

You are a handsome short haired tabby cat, beloved companion of Mary, my/ our mother. It took me the better part of a decade to love you. I found you hard to connect with, you needed to do something about your breath and quite frankly, you drool.

Boo Boo, you probably could sense I didn’t particularly like you. Given your sense of smell, I suspect you already knew I was owned by Heidi, the chocolate Labrador. Heidi and I saw you as a threat. In fact Heidi was ostracized because of her apparent threat to you! Boo Boo you know I saw through that hoax.  You would run and take cover hissing at that gentle Labrador.  You know full well that you would take my sweetheart down with one swat of those sharp claws. Your childish histrionics were such a façade to keep Mom on your side! It took me a decade to understand that I would have done the same had I been a cat.

Boo Boo did you see it coming? I didn’t expect your whole world to be put on its ear either.  Your lair was pretty much unchanged until the fatal day of Mom’s fall.

All Mom needed to do was drop her car off at the garage, she did that often enough with that old clunker. It was close to your meal time and Mom needed to prepare your tilapia to go with your Fancy Feast. She was such a slave for you!  So she called the local taxi company and they sent a van to pick her up.

Now the garage was in the country and the parking area had crushed stone.  Mom was already 87 years old and Boo Boo you kept her in such good shape the lazy taxi driver presumed she was in her late 60s. But taxi drivers don’t get out of their vans to help people get in.  That courtesy is long gone.  A van is a high step off the ground and Mom couldn’t see a handle she could grab.  Boo Boo you know Mom, she was filled with personal pride. She was 87 and she should have known it was too difficult for her manage. Her attempt resulted in a bad fall on those awful crushed rocks and she sustained her fourth concussion. That lazy taxi driver didn’t even notice. He drove her home, took the fare and let her stumble up the stairs.  Didn’t he notice the blood on her head or even the blood stain on her leg?

Thank God for our sister, she was the first to arrive to Mom’s rescue.  Boo Boo you must have been stressed. I called in the doctor and he did a pretty good job.  The morphine he gave her was a little too much.  Between the concussion, the coccyx injury and the infection in her leg, she just couldn’t stay at home with you. If she only had a bungalow and lived closer to her daughters, she could have managed.

So I won Mom and you lost. It wasn’t ideal for either of us Boo Boo.  You still needed to be feed and the kitty litter changed.  You were as important to Mom as we were and Mom’s direction was firm.  We were to feed her Boo Boo at all costs. Let me tell you, for a dog lover, that commitment was onerous.

You were so sad. You seemed to think I was Heidi.  Every visit you welcomed me with a hiss.  I couldn’t pet you because you didn’t trust me. Do you remember when I would sit on the stairs and place my head down so you could eventually come and sniff my hair? After many weeks of that routine you eventually let me scratch you under your chin. You were so lonely!

Eventually that loneliness got you ill. Our sister told me to catch you and put you in the cat carrier so we could take you to the vet. By that time you trusted me!  Regrettably, it turned out you were smart.  No carrier for you and scratches for me! I was stupid, because I tried it again.  Thinking back on it, you were awfully desperate for affection or I doubt you would have let me pick you up twice.  I could not get you in that carrier.

Our sister managed you the next day. Perhaps you couldn’t fight anymore.  We met at the vet’s and you were so afraid.  You shook with fear and you looked up into my eyes.  Darn it Boo Boo, I had to fall in love with you that day! Any of my brave talk, “that leaving you in that house alone for over a year was cruel and required compassionate euthanasia’, went quickly to ether. You needed a home. I was going to find one!

You only had bad teeth. The antibiotic worked. You managed to get worms and we got rid of them.  I was beginning to think you really liked me and you were getting sick to make me swoon over you!  But you would vomit and I would get over that fantasy.

I did find you a home over Christmas. Thanks for crying for all 12 nights. It was nice to get you back! I had my short haired tabby stress ball back! But you were still alone for 23 hours a day.

Our sister found a home for you! Only six hours flying time away in Winnipeg. But it was with our niece, the cat whisperer, and her cat friend. Oh and who knew the vet had Paxil! Paxil for cats! We medicated you for a week and boy, oh boy, you were better prepared for the cat carrier. You made it to your new home and Mom and I got your letters and pictures regularly.

Boo Boo, I am sorry we didn’t get along for our first ten years.  I am glad we sort of liked each other for another two.  You were such a bad boy and girls often fall for that kind of guy. I love you and wish you well.  Mom loved you too!  She has already left us for a better place.  I know some day we can all get along together, where cats and dogs can coexist and it is peaceful and bright.  Until then my furry friend!