Sunday, 31 December 2006
Saturday, 30 December 2006
For Christmas, my brother and his wife gave our 4-year old a book we all love; a book thousands of people apparently love - Animalia.
This book, authored and illustrated by Graeme Base, was first published in 1986. But 20 years on, it continues to be the visual feast for all who behold it.
What we loved about this book, is the detail. Each page or so offers a tribute to a letter of the alphabet. There are many such books around, but the detail of this book is fabulous and exciting, turning it into a game of hide and seek.
While "A" appears to be about alligators and aardvarks, a closer look reveals a virtual swag of "A" delights to be visually lured from the page; an apron, an abacus, an alien, an ace, and album, with pictures of apes, admirals, athletes etc. on the open page, there were ants, an accordion, an ambulance, an alarm clock with the picture of an archer on it, an antenna, an anaconda, apples, asparagus, an aeroplane, an astronaut and an anchor...I am sure there were other things that we missed...and that is just the letter "A".
This book is well known, I am aware of that now. But if you are like me and had not heard of this delightful book for kids and their parents (because some objects are a bit obscure), then see if your library has a copy or perhaps the book store. I love books that prompt a child's reaching, over and over again. Don't you?
Friday, 29 December 2006
Amusing utterances heard in the "warming house" at the George Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary....
- 9 year old girl says- "Look Mommy, there's an orange legged butt diver" - (a.k.a Mallard Duck)
- 6 year old girl says - "Mommy, I love you more than all the people I don't know and some stuff"... the reply..."errr, gee....thanks!"
-6 year old girl asks..."Mommy, why have they stuck an X to all the windows?"...the reply..."so the windows don't fall out in a hurricane, honey"....and the counter reply by the 9 year old sibling..."I think it is so the birds don't fly into them". (I haven't heard of too many hurricanes occurring in Vancouver).
- mother #1 commenting on the items in her picnic basket ..."the things I brought are all unhealthy". Mother #2 -"well I have packed oranges and dried fruit and sandwiches. My kids don't eat many of those snack foods "....priceless child response after surveying mother's healthy lunch..."Yuck".
-Mother#1 "Do you like Shari's haircut"? Mother #2 "Yeah it is nice. Melanie is growing hers and it is soooo gorgeous and shiny. Its because we mix flax oil into our breakfast juice"...priceless innocent child response "then why isn't your hair nice like mine?"
-"The back garden only has one door....The back garden only has ONE door....The BACK GARDEN ONLY HAS ONE DOOR!" (increasingly pnicked ramblings of a man seen attempting to exit the park while wading through a slew of hungry ducks...I didn't get it either!).
Thursday, 28 December 2006
I had to go to the doctors office today.
I had a morning appointment - 10am.
I had been in and out of that office numerous times over the past couple of weeks with the kids. Now it was my turn.
My usual doctor was away on vacation, so I really just had to see whomever was available. I had never been to this doctor before.
It was a man.
When I got there, I was kept waiting but a minute before a hollow voice called my name and I was ushered into his office. Inside, the energy, the silence, the view...it was all really quite grim.
There at the door, stood a tall stooping rail of a man; simple gold rimmed glasses were poised at the end of a long straight nose. His skin sagged on his solemn face with about as much life as an animal skin draped over a tanners rail. His eyes nestled softly in their sockets, though without one glimmer of joy, not one ray of light nor sparkle of hope, shining forth. The eye lids drooped sleepily, as if they just wished to shut forever.
And upon his face was etched a narrow line of a mouth, which mumbled a determined indolence in not having to express anything other than the necessary- they being words. For his mouth noted neither token smile or disapproval. Like an oafish teenager upon a three-seater lounge suite, it simply refused to move any more than it had to...it just lay there across the lower portion of his face, full of contempt and resignation; bitterness and gloom.
This man was not a grumpy Dr Becker by any means. He was professional in his mannerisms, he listened to what I had to say and prescribed the necessary cure-all, but this man, was such a miserable sight; a rumpled, heart broken-like creature; a man that appeared so entirely closed, that it seemed he had given up the quest for tenderness and retracted his once quivering outstretched pleading hand, retiring it from all such pursuits... with regrets.
I watched him type up the prescription, half his left ring finger was missing....
What had fate delivered him over the course of a lifetime to have reaped the appearance of such bitter fruit? Perhaps it was a recent calamity that had left this man so dishevelled. Perhaps I had simply caught him on an extremely bad day. I hope so, but somehow I think not.
At the end of my appointment, I put on a cheery voice and thanked him for his time with much gratitude and energy, but neither gestures moved him to make even the slightest indication of a smile...not even the kind we give in acknowledgement or just in order to be polite....he simply could not muster it, the apparent heaviness in his heart and dark cloud over his head were too much to bare without the added burden of such superficial formalities.
Who nurtures the nurturers when they are down? I believe we all need someone....we DO all need someone.
Sunday, 24 December 2006
At that point, we weren't to know that it would be our last Christmas in our former home, but there it is...that was the last Australian Christmas we had.
Everyone who attended was understandably, a little shell shocked.
My Grandpa suffered a brief unprecedented bout with cancer....and was suddenly gone.
My Mum had planned a great big family Christmas at her house, that year. "It would be the first year that everyone, on both sides of the family, would be there" - she had enthused.... but it wasn't to be.
In the end, given the circumstances, the Christmas she had planned, was cancelled. The family she longed to unite and see celebrating, never arrived. Instead, we all broke off into out immediate family groups, and had our Christmases separately.
My house became "the venue" for our family. Everyone in attendance that day, had recently lost a pivotal male figure. My Gran - her husband; My Mum - her Father; my Dad - his Father who had also died earlier in that same year; my brother and myself - a wonderful pair of Grandfathers; my children - Great Grandfathers.
And so, on that day, a day for familyand celebrating; for fullness and love; a day of plenty and of joy; we also felt the very contradictory, yet overwhelming, feelings of emptiness, strangeness, sadness and in a way, paralysis.
The pendulum of life swings back and forth with even consistency. And with every journey that pendulum takes, at one point, it always must return to centre; neither back... neither forth, but momentarily is relieved of all momentum, and is balanced.
Sometimes the heavy aspects of life seem to dominate. Sometimes the lighter moments of joy appear so unreachable and distant, that we can draw no strength; no hope and no inspiration from its memory or influence. But the lighter moments do still remain, just wait until the pendulum swings forth once again, as it inevitably will.
There will be many an empty chair at family dinner tables these holidays, but where there is emptiness there is also a potential to see fullness - look a little harder, a little deeper...perhaps try widening the perspective.
2004 was also the year my daughter was born.
As long as we remember those who are not physically present, then in some small way, we open our grieving hearts wide enough, to let our lost loved ones share in and enjoy a place at every celebration. For once claimed, no one can truely escape our open heart.
Tuesday, 19 December 2006
Monday, 18 December 2006
When I was thirteen, and during the final week of the summer holidays, my Mum and Dad bought me a blue, secondhand ten-speed bike. I loved it. I even remember the day when I first learned that it would be mine.
Sunday, 17 December 2006
This morning my husband asked me to go to the local hardware store and get him a new hammer and some sand paper. (Shudder, pasty white face, anxiety chest pains, hot tears) "Sure", I said smiling through clenched teeth.
Mister, Missy Mopps and myself bundled into the car and off we went. It was just before lunchtime, so chaos was not yet reigning, or so I thought......
My plan was to go in, grab the stash and get out as quickly and as quietly as possible, with minimal damage; much like a thief planning to hold up a bank.
In the early stages, the plan was going well. We had managed to infiltrate the building. The most direct route to the hammers was found. With the hammer stash secured, we vied our next target. The sand paper was quickly located. There was now only one obstacle between us and the get away car - a solitary cashier. Unfortunately that is when the plan went to hell.
I had to wait until this one cashier was done serving 5 others before me, and also those requesting information on the constantly ringing telephone.
"Come quick and look", he says pulling my arm.
"I can't right now", I responded in a terse tone, "I am in the middle of paying for this stuff".
"Missy Mopps took her pants off", says Mister.
Bugger the stuff! I dropped my bag and ran.
Missy Mopps had indeed taken her pants off and her nappy (diaper), and was found standing at the display of toilets chanting "poo....wee".
"NOOOOOooooooo!" (that was me....pleading to the God's!)
I did manage to reach her in time and no "damage" had been done - if you know what I mean.
It was so embarrassing. I dragged her clothes back on, paid for my stuff, shuffled the two of them off to the car and vowed NEVER AGAIN to kids and hardware shops, which means that my husband will just have to go to the hardware store alone in future...or perhaps I should send HIM there with the kids.
Saturday, 16 December 2006
Yesterday, the rain unrelentlessly pummelled the earth and winds were said to be worse than a typhoon that swept through in 1962. I watched people brace themselves before submitting their bodies to the mercy of the heavens. They ducked for cover, and raced haphazardly toward the nearest dry safe haven, as if they were under attack by enemy fire; an experience that was destined to leave them wind beaten, drenched and shivering.
While I fiddled with the car thermostat, in an effort to dry my own clothes and warm my body enough so as not to chip the remaining enamel off my violently chattering teeth, I noticed one poor bugger who I have longed pitied - the sign shaker for Little Caesar's Pizza.
We had these poor unfortunate souls in Australia too, although they worked for a different pizza chain. The sign shaker job must be one of the most boring, unstimulating, torturous, demeaningly mind numbing jobs I can possibly think of.
As you might expect, the staff turnover for this God awful job appears to be high, but can you imagine what the poor bugger on shift today might have said or felt when he got up this morning and saw a howling gale outside and sheet rain teeming down so hard the drops appeared to bounce off the road like rubber balls. My guess is, "F@*# that!" and then suddenly felt a migraine coming on.
Regardless, someone was out there in those dreadful conditions, and my opinion of Little Caesars went down very swiftly (not that I had any real firm opinions of them in the first place mind you).
But realistically, the establishment could have given that person something else to do - fold pizza boxes, cut up vegetables, roll dough, clean the oven, tidy the store, brainstorm some more dignified winter promotions and less humiliating advertising strategies...I don't know - do I have to think of everything?
Friday, 15 December 2006
I have been so busy that I haven't even told you about the hair cut I had recently.First the history lesson... I hadn't had a hair cut since November 2005. I think it stopped growing as well, either that or it became so dried and brittle that it simply snapped off.
Well I took the plunge and booked myself in on a Thursday night, so Ashley could watch the kids. I was a bit excited about it, because the hair thing had been a bit of a misery point for some time.
Not knowing any of the hair salons in town, I just had to try my luck with one and have faith. I guess I should have seen what was coming when I was told that "Tami" would be cutting my hair (no offense to the number of Tammys I know, but "Tami", who the hell calls themselves that)?
Anyway, the appointment time came and I was the last appointment before closing. "Tami" and her co-worker, a much older and disinterested gal were on shift that night. Tami was styling her sisters hair, and the "old bird" sat whinging and whining about wanting to go home, while pleading to God that no-one else come in requesting a trim before they could "get the hell out" of there.
For the first 15 minutes I waited and was ignored, which was making my blood boil. I had arrived early, the old duck could have got me set up while "Tami" finished yakking to her sister, instead of moaning and groaning while sitting on her lazy clacker. Of course I said nothing. Soon enough I would be at the mercy of "Tami" and her scissors, so I put up and shut up.
Finally when it was my turn, Tami asked me where I was from, "Australia" I replied. Oz-*#*!^)$'n-stralia!" snorted the old girl. I simply raised my eyebrows. I thought that was a bit rude.
After Tami washed my hair she directsed me to sit in the cutting chair with a wave of the finger and "ok Aussie, sit over there". I was floored by the disrespect, but the attitude was simply to prepare me for perhaps the worse haircut of all time.
She whizzed through it in 10 minutes flat, leaving once to take a call from her husband, telling him to come now to pick her up, because she would be out by 8pm. It was 5 minutes to....
True to her word, must give her that, she was out of there to meet hubby at 8pm ,and she certainly gave me no such guarantees of an acceptable hair cut. I am far too embarrassed to reveal my nasty do, so I thought these lovely ones in the pic were reasonable enough to wrap your laughing gear around. Not to leave you entirely in the lurk, I will give you two phrases that might inspire some visual imagery as to what the hair style might look like: Rough as guts, being one of them, and gnawed by rats, being the other.
Thursday, 14 December 2006
I took the kids to gymnastics today. Afterwards I was in the change room layering the kids in the necessary winter garb, ready for the mad chilly dash to the car. I noticed a woman with two young boys, doing the same. She was dressing the youngest one, who was perhaps 2 and a half, while the older boy, perhaps 5, announced he was going off to the bathroom. Now I don't know what took place in the moments in between, but as I was walking out into the centre foyer, I happened to see the same woman, minus the youngest child, but now with a sheer look of terror on her face....she could not find her young boy. She asked everyone if they had seen her child, "blond hair, blue eyes, answers to the name Noah". But, no one had seen him.
She begins frantically calling his name, centre staff guard the door to prevent any motherless child or suspicious adult from leaving. Other parents joined in the search, we don't know this boy, but we can imagine or might even know that same feeling of dread when our own child has disappeared out of sight. They do not answer our bleating call. They do not rush back to sooth our panicked voice. They do not suddenly emerge into sight when a sea of people begin to disperse.
The mother, fearing the worst, runs outside into a cold gale which threatens snow, and begins calling her child's name with wild abandon...nothing.
We scour every toilet stall; the ice rink; the ice rink stands; the centre corridors; the stair wells and every inch of the gym. The mother is now out of her mind with worry; eyes darting, mind racing, disbelieving how this could have happened. We can almost hear her thoughts, "but I withdrew my eyes for only a second.... just a second. Forgive me for that one second of neglect. Please return my son to me".
It is cruel and unfair, but that can truly be all it takes for a mother's worst fear to be realised.
Having searched the entire premises, we start over again - he simply HAS to be here - we all want him found.
Finally a staff member, a gymnastics coach, finds the little boy. He was there all along, hiding from his heart sick mother behind the girls change room door. Mother and Son reunite. We watch the mother run to her boy, arms outstretched and then drawing her child tightly into the empty cavity in her chest...the only antidote for this kind of broken heart. We hear the mother lovingly scold the child, "what were you thinking, I was worried sick", before we leave them alone together...to breathe.
The little boy need take just one look at the agony written over his mothers face and glance into her misty eyes to know that he should never EVER try that again.... and I doubt he will.
We bought our house 18 months ago, and ever since, we have been elbows deep in renovations - MAJOR renovations.
A couple of weeks back I was on the front lawn painting the unhinged front door a lovely hue of midnight something-a-rather.
It just so happened that a huge slowball tournament for the "beer league" was taking place that weekend, so there were an abnormally high number of passers-by stopping to talk and give house and garden tips - yeah thanks mate!
Later in the day, a twenty-something guy walked past staring at the house; he just smiled. Later, he walked past the other way muttering "memories, memories, memories". Moments later another guy walked past and stopped to talk to Ashley. He tells him that he is a friend of the previous owners son, pointing to the guy who had just walked by. The comment made me wonder what he thought, seeing his childhood home.
I have lived in a few places, and it kind of creeps me out to see where I used to live - like something in the house recognises an escapee or something, or perhaps fragments of my energy are somehow locked into the fibres of the house and are reaching for my soul as I stand there gaping for the few moments I can bear to look, before I feel compelled to slam on the accelerator and skid away as quickly as possible. Has anyone else ever had that experience or is it just weird old me? Not all places have that effect, just the significant ones.My earliest years were spent in a small rural community in the Murray Mallee. The house was an old federation style stone and red brick home, with high ceilings and cool thick stone walls. There was a pink blossoming almond tree out the side and the place was backed against scrub-land, which was an amazing lush wonderland of greenery, moss and bridal creeper during the cooler months, but a virtual snake pit in summer, and avoided at all cost.My room was painted in the loudest version of aquamarine you could possibly imagine, with white trim. The rooms were huge. There was a three sided veranda skirting around it, which was wide enough to do whatever really. It was great. I loved that house. It will forever be preserved as the perfect childhood memory, because we moved from there when I was 10, and a couple of years later it burned to the ground. My Grandparents lived on the adjoining property, a mile or so away. I have great memories of life inside that house too. The house has now been condemned and it was eery and terribly sad to see it a few years back; deserted, neglected, unloved... forgotten. Memories, memories, memories, indeed.
The next house my parents built. It was a large light brown brick home. Everything in it was modern and new, unlike the old place. I remember playing "lifestyles of the rich and famous", welcoming imaginary film crews and a TV host to wander through, while I gave them all the royal tour- pretty funny. I lived there until I was 17. I dream about that house a lot, and recognise that it has sort of come to represent a particular developmental stage in my life.
At 17 I moved away from home and lived in a dodgy boarding house inhabited by lonely old men, potheads and ex-crims. When I first moved there, I was one of two girls in the place, but soon after, I was the only girl to last more that 48 hours with that group of societies outcasts. I lived there for 10 months - I have no feelings of connection to that place, but if I had a blog back then - gee would your eyes bulge ... crazy times!
Then I lived in a flat on a glam street in a posh part of town. It was a safe place to live and close to everything - I could even walk to work. I enjoyed living there for about 18 months or so with my brother, who was attending secondary college at the time. There were many flats in that complex and many people have probably come and gone since I lived there.
I then moved back in with my parents, who had since moved, and were in the process of building another house, in a different town. It was a nice place; two storey and near the beach, which is what I loved and remember most. I didn't spend a whole lot of time there really, since I worked quite long hours, so when I see that place now, it is kind of weird, because I witnessed its creation, but nothing of me remains there.
Ashley and I then bought our first house. It was a sweet little house, with a huge, parrot filled gum tree out back and a to-die-for view of the distant mountains. We had grown out of the place when we sold it to come to Canada, but we loved it and it reflected so much of ourselves that we might just have put up with the various inconveniences and lack of space, just so we could remain there. We miss our old place; so many of our happiest memories were spent there. I dream about it quite a bit still. It was funny. A year ago when we were briefly in Australia, we drove by and it looked just as we left it; almost felt like it was welcoming us home after a long holiday. It was good to know that someone else appeared to love it, as we had.
Presently, I feel no connection to this current place, despite the hours of hard labour put into it. I don't feel it is very reflective of us. I can't really put my finger on it. Maybe time is required, or perhaps we have to stop DOING stuff to it, so it can settle and get used to its new self. Change is more than an external happening, it must also take place in the essence, or maybe the energy of the original owners remains, haunting and seeping from the nooks and crannies where neither paintbrush nor broom can reach.
Wednesday, 13 December 2006
Yesterday I received a large envelope in the mail; the type you would attribute to holding a small item - not the norm amongst the usual white envelopes with transparent windows. So you could say I got a little excited.I love getting personal mail - any mail really (except junk mail or mail addressed "to the householder"). Sinks does my heart when the letter box remains uninhabited with the desires of thy soul - (a note from the gas company can have that effect on a girl - NOT!).When at school, I would write letters continuously. I loved reading about my friends lives and what they had been up to. I also loved the stamps.
When I was 10 years old I joined an international group that connected writing enthusiasts from all over. I had no less than 7 pen friends at the peak of my involvement, and they were just the international ones - it was like hands of friendship stretched across the the globe.
Whenever I received a letter I would diligently write back within the week, and while some pen friends would return my letters with equal efficiency, months would pass before I would hear from others. There were two girls in particular, with whom I wrote on a very regular basis; an English girl called Emma and a German girl called Sonja. I started writing to Emma as a ten year old. She was a lot of fun and there was the expected amount of silliness for girls of our age, within our exchanges. I think her enthusiasm for letter writing waned upon entrance of "the boyfriend".
I started writing to Sonja as a 12 year old. She was a year older than I, and we continued to write until I was 18. I had moved out of home at that stage, and she had found work in a bank and was about the start a commerce degree at university when our connection ran dry.
I also wrote to friends who had moved away, and friends from my "old town" - all letters were written in a similar style. There was a familiarity that history created, shaped and carved through the exchange of thoughts and ideas. Old friends were seldom seen again, despite the writing, and there was never any expectation of meeting the pen friends, so in a way, writing to them was sort of like a diary - something I never kept, despite the obsessive adolescent writing frenzy.There was indeed something therapeutic about releasing the thoughts; spilling them onto a fresh sheet of paper and mailing them off to some place far far away.
I wonder if that international organisation exists today. I am sure it does, but with the onset of the Internet, email, blogs, MSN and the countless other pockets of cyber-society, I wonder whether the handwritten word is exchanged as frequently...I guess not. These other outlets do provide the pent up writer similar opportunity. Nevertheless, I sure did appreciate the time and energy put into the long handwritten letter I received yesterday. The exchanging of words on paper - the paper upon which another had poured his or her emotions into; words physically presented..... and the words left unsaid, edited from the physical eye, but thoughts felt through the clutching of paper. Thank you.
Tuesday, 12 December 2006
Why do we really perpetuate the myth of Santa Claus?
I remember when I was in grade 3; it was almost Christmas time, and also the end of the school year. I was in my class room, talking with some school friends about plans for the coming holidays and what Father Christmas might bring us. I remember our conversation being filled with great anticipation, and our minds oozing with excitement, magic and fantasy. That is, until Nola Bennier wrestled her way into our discussion and snuffed out a magic that was reserved for children, but conspired, conjured and indulged in, by adults...
"Father Christmas is NOT real", she blabbed.
This meant WAR!
"How would YOU know?" began the rapid fire.
"Yeah, how would YOU know?"
" Yeah? "
This was largely the sum of our counter attack.
Then the unexpected reply...the reply that won the war for Nola. The reply that ultimately burst the fantastical bubble for all who heard her damning words of truth....
"My Mum told me!", she announced smugly.
Her Mum told her...
We were speechless...there was nothing left to say. Although David, with courage enough to question the words supposedly spoken by a parent, staged a last ditch effort to salvage the doubt that is really at the basis of our feeble beliefs - the what-if-there-really-is-a-Santa doubt, that ensures a child will hang onto such beliefs because they inspire the imagination, either that or for fear that Santa might not come if we were to disbelieve and announce him a fraud, a fake, a phony, or even a CONSPIRACY development by parents to control and manipulate innocent young kiddies into being on their best behaviour and help out during the flurry of Christmas preparation! Ok... not likely words from a seven year old, but I am sure you get the picture.
"Well, if Santa is not real, then who puts the presents under the tree", says David, thinking this will surely stump Nola Bennier.
"Mum buys the presents at the shop and my Mum and Dad put them under the tree when we are asleep."
And with that, the fantasies and the magical possibilities that were scripted into our child-like Christmases, were crushed and then evaporated into the plume of illusion that they always were.
Silence....Nola walked away, leaving us with the tragic wreckage of what had been our lively discussion only moments before.
Did we feel jibbed? Did we feel angry at our parents for the deception? Did we feel we had to rush home and question them about the truth and plead to know why they had conjured up this ridiculous fabrication? No, not really, but once the shock of Nola's confession had subsided, we were angry! But not at our parents, because deep down, I think we knew that the whole Santa thing was just slightly unrealistic, but then again, Santa IS magic right? We were mostly angry at Nola for repeating her mothers confessions - to us. We didn't ask HER if Santa was real - she volunteered the information. We were blissfully happy with our delusions - THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
I know I didn't rush home to confirm the tragic news with my parents, and I don't think my friends ever raised the issue again, or to anyone else....well, until now that is.
I think the real magic of the whole Santa myth is the excitement and creativity, along with the fantasy and nurturing that our parents give us through their attempt to perpetuate a similar Christmas fantasy that was perhaps theirs, when they were children.
As a parent, we start off the idea of Santa very early.usually with the child's first Christmas. We show the child Santa, perhaps in the mall. We tell the child that Santa will be visiting on Christmas Eve. As the child gets older, they start asking questions, like..."we don't have a chimney, so how will Santa get in our house"? "How does Santa know where I live?" "How do his reindeers fly?" "What do you mean the Diego Rescue 4X4 is out of stock? Santa will make me one in his workshop...won't he?"
Such questions require creative answers that fill the child's mind with possibility, magic and wonderment...or a pack of lies, as Nola's Mum would suggest. It is a tradition- right, wrong or indifferent- for parents to subscribe to the Santa myth, and nurture that sapling idea. It is not what Christmas is ultimately about, I know that. But the original nativity suggests the miraculous, a long journey made by important people bearing gifts, and a gift to the world laid out for all creatures, both great and small, to partake in, not just on Christmas Day but for always, whenever the story of hope, peace, magic and miracles is remembered within us. Perhaps the Santa myth is nothing more than capitalist inspired hoopla, or perhaps it opens the door of possibility for children, who first know magic and miracle through the idea of Santa, and are then able to adhere similarly outlandish concepts of possibility, hope and belief to both a troubled real world, and also into the realms of glorious spirit.
Ashley and I had been talking about it for months ... okay years...well, it is not like we have not taken action over that time - we have, moments in between were just a little fleeting, that's all. I am talking about the cutting down of desserts. In fact all sweets in general. We love 'em.
Many an evening, when the kids are safely in bed asleep, or out of ear shot, we have broken out a block of chocolate to go with a hot cup of coffee, or delved into a fine selection of hand chosen delectables to compliment the odd glass of red wine or champers...Mmmmmm.......
We are terrible really, and it had been getting WAY out of hand. So, it was time to do the responsible, honourable, the mature...the only right thing, and sever the source of addictive joy. "So what?" I hear you say, "a little chocolate is supposed to be good for you. It is FULL of antioxidants and .... ummm...stuff". Yes, I believe that study commissioned by Cadbury's did only suggest...a little chocolate. Unlike my parents, who seem to have the will-power of the enlightened, and ration themselves to ONE chocolate an evening, Ashley and I are incapable of eating "a little" chocolate. In fact, we more likely to ration ourselves to one BLOCK of chocolate an evening. You see the problem here folks?
Well over the course of the past month or so, we have scaled back the consumption. At first I only bought a limited chocolate supply, and then no chocolate supply and now I haven't any form of processed, pre-packaged sweets in the house at all. If we want some, we have to drive all the way to the store in the cold and dark to buy it, or I have to go to the effort and bake something, which isn't all that bad an idea really. But of course, Ashley and I thank dearly and kindly, all the blessed souls who sent chocolates for my recent birthday...they went down mighty fine. What? I didn't say we wouldn't eat chocolate IF it happened to somehow come into our possession. I was simply saying that I was limiting the on tap supply - the readiness of its access. Chocolate should not be considered a staple like bread and milk...well, not by us anyway, for the chocolate would likely disappear before the first slice of bread were even buttered.
So what gain have we in limiting some of life's simple pleasures..."where is the joy in such cruel dull restriction". Well, I can sleep better not having had a belly full of caffeine laden delights and that has a flow on effect that makes the angels sing...beautiful restful sleep - Arrrhhh! The downside is that I have been a little cranky this week, without the usual buoying effect of that afternoon sugar prop, that that will pass. Although, having said that, today I went to the neighbours house to welcome the new baby girl - Ella Samantha ..... and they just so happened to be giving their well wishers Purdy's chocolate mint meltie cigars.... Mmmm oh my, does chocolate ever soothe the deprived souls of savage beasts - yes indeed.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch.... "I can't live without chocolate - Ashley" was taking the no chocolate challenge very well indeed. On Sunday however, all was revealed. He had a work emergency over the weekend and since Alex loves going to Ashley's work, we all trotted off to the office to hang out while Ashley did his thang. I noticed the office assistant's office across from Ashley's and I also noticed the large box of Purdy's on top of her desk....I had to divert me eyes and bite down hard on my lip, but I kept walking.
After a couple of hours we emerged from the office ready for home, when Ashley volunteers information about the box of chocolates...
"Want a chocolate?" he asks.
"Won't Phoebe notice some are missing?" I question.
"Well, they ARE for us?" says Ashley unconscious of the cul-de-sac he has just walked into.
"What do you mean - US?" I ponder bemused.
"The whole department. We can take one whenever we like", says Ashley confidently removing the lid of the chocolate box.
"Really", I respond hesitantly, "well, there aren't many left".
Now the clincher.....
"Na! There are another twenty boxes in the boss' office," says Ashley oblivious as where the conversation is leading.
"WHAT!!! You mean I am the only one living the no-chocolate thing. No wonder you have been so fine about it. And to think, here I was thinking...poor Ashley, having to go without his sweets," I roar full of accusation.
"err....ummmmm.......", says Ashley.
Much laughter followed.
And as for me "living the no chocolate thing", well....hardly! (hee hee).
Monday, 11 December 2006
I had a bit of a social weekend.
I did have three social occasions in the mix, but a sick child meant the cancellation of one. Never mind, we can always re-schedule.
I went to a friend's house for a lovely lunch on Friday. I chatted with my friend as the kids played, it was so nice to do that. We discussed needs and pains, and we vowed that we would support each other in our apparent isolation as full-time migrant mothers, and gift each other with some unprompted, unannounced "time out". We both agreed that it is so hard to ask for help, and overcome that guilty feeling that we are burdening someone else with what should entirely be our own responsibility.
So, I would like to kick it off soon, to show my commitment to what we had discussed. I think one of us just has to bite the proverbial bullet and make the first deposit into the "favour bank" or it may never happen.
The evening was spent entertaining a fellow Aussie who was in town for a couple of nights only.
He and Ashley had worked together in Australia, although I had never had the pleasure of meeting him prior to Friday; not that he hadn't already made his impression on me...which was annoying, basically. He is a bit of a ditherer, who panics about all aspects of decision making and responsibility. He is the kind of person who will ring at 6am with a burning - can't wait until a civilized hour - question. The itch, that is his query or point of contention, must simply be relieved then and there, and any consideration for other peoples lives or their need for sleep, must seem inconsequential in relation to the discomfort his worry must be causing him. For it could be the wee small hours of the morning, the middle of the night, minutes after Ashley's plane has touched the tarmac after weeks of working along side this bloke, Christmas day lunch, Sunday church, your best friends wedding...who cares - everything else palls in comparison to his apparent emergency! ...sigh.
This bloke resides in a different state, which is why I hadn't had the pleasure of meeting him before, but I had picked up the phone to his abrupt demand to speak with Ashley - pronto..."Ashley there"! There would be no hello, no small talk...BLOODY RUDE and I hoped he could feel the agitation in my reply as I bit down on my own tongue to prevent me from spitting at him, "How about a HELLO and a PLEASE shit-for-brains?" But Ashley would always try to sooth this guys pains like a mother hen tending to her chicks, so I figured if he could put up with this guys constant and often needless and over-exaggerated panic attacks, then the least I could do was be civil and pass the phone over quietly. So when, last week, I was informed that this guy was in town and would be coming over for dinner. I was a bit blazae - "Oh HIM.... I suppose".
I actually love entertaining. I hate cooking as a general day to day rule. But I do enjoy making a bit effort when the need arises and make something special. I enjoy more, the talk and discussion after the meal...so beware all who dare venture over for a couple of nights in February...I expect CONVERSATION....and chocolate! That was a JOKE.
Anyway, I met the guy. He didn't look ANYTHING like the man I had conjured up in my mind. He was polite and didn't talk obsessively about work, like I had been warned that he would do. He had done some house renos of his own, so he was interested to see and hear what we had achieved. He wanted to hear what life is like over here in Canada, since he is contemplating taking a job over here. He was also fascinated by the snow and wanted to see photos of what it was like after last months deluge. Like us, he had never experienced snow. He even confessed that he needs to pull on a sweater when the mercury plummets to a foul 17 degrees...that IS Celsius people (North American eye rolls permitted).
Well, at the completion of the night I must say, I enjoyed myself. Perhaps I was just happy to hear a familiar accent, or perhaps it was the joy of having someone over, and discussing life matters with another human being. Regardless, I had a good time and if ever he is in town, he is welcome to visit us again - anytime. As for the bleary eyed rummage in the dark for the phone, well that is another matter entirely!
Presently in Australia, the Ashes Test Series is underway.
For those not in the know, The Ashes refers to a series of five, five day games of cricket between bitter arch enemies England and Australia. The Ashes that the two teams are playing for, refers to this tiny little trophy cup pictured to the left, and as legend suggests, the trophy apparently contains the burnt remains of cricket equipment, albeit a ball, bail or stump from the wickets used in the original game between the two nations in 1882. Nevertheless, The Ashes are a big deal. There are many countries in the British Commonwealth that compete in the game of cricket, but none seem to inspire the nation as much as the traditional Ashes Test series. I think most countries involved in this game are happy to see England beat, although Australia has dominated the competition for so long, I wonder if this remains true.
While England are rubbish at practically every sport they compete in (ha ha), surprisingly they managed to prise the Ashes from the grip of skilled Australian hand last time the Ashes were played. But it looks like the victory will be a short lived for the Poms, because Australia is set to win them back in glorious style.
I say all this with tongue firmly in cheek, since I find Test cricket to be about as interesting as watching paint dry, most of the time. And Shane Warne...ughhh...he may be a highly skilled cricketer and sure to go down as legendary for his antics both on and off the pitch, but seriously, most will agree that he seems to be a pig of a bloke. I can't bring myself to watch five whole, largely monotonous days of men prancing around in white uniforms, but I will watch the end of a live game, especially if it is a nail biter. Ashley however, is an avid, fanatical supporter of the game, and has been somewhat out of sorts since we are over here in Canada, a non-cricketing country, while The Ashes Series takes place in Australia, capturing the imagination and excitement of a nation. It is incredible how sport can do that. Take World Cup Soccer for instance.
During the World Cup I went to the mall in nearby Richmond to collect my watch; it had been in for repair. It was about 2pm and the first day of the school holidays. I was walking casually around, just looking at stuff and taking in the strange energy that usually resides in such places; where many people mingle and mix unknowingly, and mostly unwantingly in the true sense of contact. When, from around the corner, came a thunderous multi-voiced roar, and what followed was equally bewildering and altogether intriguing. People who had been strolling without a care only seconds before, erupted into a gallop of panicked proportions, sprinting for what appeared to be their lives and disappearing on mass to somewhere around the corner, though in the direction of the thunderous roar.I too quickened my pace, although I felt no need to sprint, I was merely interested to know the cause for all that commotion. And there it was.....a throng of perhaps 150+ people, huddled around half a dozen large TV sets facing out from and around a sports store. It was one of those moments that I regret not having my camera, for there was every visible race, gender and age represented there. Asians sitting among Caucasians cheering for Italy together; others booing Italy in light-hearted mirth; Muslims in the hajib jumping up and down while recounting the action over a cell phone; Punjabi teenagers punching the air; old men sitting transfixed, wide eyed, beaming; others wandering past with confused looks of interested curiosity, stopping to watch the jubilation on every face rather than the televised game, like I was. Then the crowd exploded into a deafening fever as Italy scored its second goal in as many minutes, to claim victory and its place in the World Cup final.
Alex was a bit shaken by the noise and wanted to leave immediately. He didn't understand what was going on, but I picked him up and showed him the TV and the soccer and explained the situation. I still don't think he really understood why so many people were enthused by a game of soccer on the TV. Or why this game in particular brought so many together, captured their imaginations and interest on this day. I had to wonder at that myself, but if a simple game of soccer being played thousands of miles away between two teams, neither of them offering local representation, can have such a drawing and bonding effect of all those around them, then maybe the World Cup should be an annual event. Why do we have to wait four years for such promising scenes as these - and I am referring to neither soccer nor cricket.
Sunday, 10 December 2006
We bought a house two weeks after we arrived in Canada, eighteen or so months ago. It was a bit of an unsightly thing both externally and internally, with garish decor, loud colours, an over abundance of mirrors everywhere we looked, and whole rooms that were completely unfinished...and this house was already 30 years old. But....it was within 30 minutes to Ashley's work, in a nice part of town and relatively cheap, and cheap was all we could afford. So we endeavoured to do what we could with the place and fix 'er up.
Closer inspection revealed, dodgy wiring, leaky pipes and rotten floors beneath the scary carpet, but we sighed and got on with it and the transformation inside was something to be proud of, considering we only had two weeks to do it all in and a very limited budget.
In the warmer months we got to the exterior. Ashley started the reno season off by diminishing the hazard that was a rotten beyond repair garden shed in the back yard. We also had to replace the rusty gutters and repair the roof, but the gutters had to wait until we had painted the exterior of the house.
After the agony of trying to match the existing colour on the house walls, we decided to bite the bullet and repaint the entire house in a new fresher colour from Benjamin Moore. Originally we had a dreary Nantucket Gray with Heritage Green trim. We opted instead for Green Gables with Classic White trim.
Ashley did the preparation work, while I painted (except for the area I couldn't reach). It turned out great and I got a real work out from the experience. I had been wondering how I could get myself out of the physical slump that has lingered since the shock of my first Canadian winter, so I definitely recommend painting the house - although it might not be for everyone.
Well, not wanting to let this new energised me wane and evaporate into not so thin air, I thought about re-joining a gym. Yes...re-joining. An Australian friend recommended a gym that also happened to exist here in my town. I looked into it, but the Canadian one has no creche (typical) - what is it with Vancouver services and their failure to acknowledge the needs of potential customers? Don't they realise that their client base would improve significantly if they provided the minimal means for women to actually attend their services i.e a free minute or free arm. This particular service claimed that its 30 minute workout was designed "for busy working women and moms" - I guess they just don't need the profits. GRRRRRRR, it is soooo frustrating. (SIGH), but I digress.....Once a week I have taken Alex and Olivia to the local indoor swimming hole for a play in the kiddie pool. And since I recently went to the excruciating effort of purchasing the most abhorrent of all garments (a bathing suit), I thought I might as well use them.
Last night I fired up; determined to go. The pool opens at 6am and closes at 10:15pm, so one can't really fall back on that convenient old adage that "time prevented me of going". So there I was, standing at the waters edge at 9:15pm, ready to take the plunge and plow through the water like a torpedo just fired from an enemy warship. Many may not be aware of this, but it was my childhood fantasy to become an Olympic swimmer - the next Lisa Curry (scoff!!). I did actually attend the local swim club when I was in years 6 and 7. I trained there four nights a week, but it was just a pipe dream really.
Straight off the bat I did 4 laps of breast stroke, revelling in the fact that I was keeping pace with a man in the neighbouring lane - never mind he was pushing 70 (oh the shame). All in all I managed to do 10 laps of the pool on my first attempt; in a variety of strokes I might add. Pitifully I exited the water at 9:30pm, a full 15 minutes after my hopeful and exuberant entry. As I staggered back to the change rooms, my heart was working at such a frantic rate that I thought it might splatter hard up against the adjacent wall, if not for my rib cage to contain it.
By the time I started walking to my car a terrible thirst appeared and thoughts of blackening out invaded my almost static mind ("Captain, do you read me.... we are losing transmission... over"). When I finally reached the couch, in the ego-saving privacy of my own home, I collapsed in a heap with my feet nesting on a pile of cushions, in the hope that the blood would pool back into my oxygen deprived brain. After a short while, I declared to all who cared, that I thought I might just throw up. YEAH...I am so FIT!
Saturday, 9 December 2006
I guess you could say we brought it all on ourselves. Ashley (husband) and I did the unthinkable today. We took the kids to the store after spending the entire afternoon running non-stop at a birthday party - two tired and sugar high little kids are neither a good starting point nor a good combination in any circumstance, but locate the scenario inside the gigantic box-like mega hardware store, and well.... it just adds a whole new level of crazy to the mix.
Friday, 8 December 2006
I was in hell's prior residence the other day- the supermarket - minding my own business and unloading my grocery cart. The kids were good - although it did take threats and bribery to get that level of co-operation.
Halfway through unloading my cart a woman stood behind me in line. The cashier, a slight woman in her late 30's of Asian origin, with a very prominent accent, politely informed the woman that her register's lane light was off and so she was not taking anymore customers. The woman nodded and moved on. A little later the same thing happened, this time the person being asked to move on looked a little annoyed, furrowed her brow, but moved away without a word.
Halfway through bagging my groceries, yet another woman approached the register and began unloading her cart; oblivious to the dead light at the top of the register. The customer was a large woman in her late 30's, with a thick English accent, a boofy shag of golden blond hair, and a big brightly painted mouth; her stature appeared to loft over both me and the cashier.
Once again the cashier was forced to stop what she was doing to politely inform the customer that her register was closed; a gesture that inspired a barrage of abuse and accusation onto the poor cashier.
"Where is the sign to say you are closed?"
Cashier points to the dimmed light above her register.
"How the hell am I supposed to see THAT? WHERE IS YOUR SIGN?"
"No sign only light".
"Well I have to pick up my son from school, can't you just let me through"?
Looking at the woman's overladen cart, the cashier shrugs, pastes a regretful smile on her face and says "Sorry".
Yelling now, "So YOU are willing to have ME be late in picking up my son AND you haven't even bothered to put out your $*?!'n sign? I can't believe you! Halfway through a customer and NO SIGN. That is insane, how bloody STUPID!"
I was shocked - such unnecessary behaviour. What was the cashier supposed to do? Cashiers must get that all the time, I thought to myself...crap treatment from customers. I know I have in the past when I worked in stores. It is so unfair.
The cashier, meanwhile, continued serving me. She maintained her politeness and professionalism, but she was quiet, seemingly hurt and embarrassed by what had just taken place. I would have been too.
"Your kids very cute", she said, more to break the uncomfortable silence than anything else. "I wish I had daughter".
"Thank you. You have a son? " I asked her.
"Yes. Two", she replied.
silence.... "Then you probably have a son to pick up from school too."
She looked up momentarily, briefly catching my gaze, then smiled before going back to the task at hand, "Yes", she said, "I already five minute late".
This interaction stuck with me. We are often so caught up with out own lives and needs that we fail to consider another person's situation, requirements, feelings and even the day they might have had that might have caused them to break.
I was on the receiving end of a disgruntled elderly customer two weeks prior. He had sent a torrent of foul mouthed venom my way, because my kids were making too much noise while we both waited at the same cashiers station. He verbally abused my kids and then he started on me and my apparent incompetency as a parent. I don't know what was going on with him, but his unjustified attack had me seething for hours afterward, while he probably shuffled off home either feeling satisfied and lighter having just off loaded all his pent up anger in a bout of self-righteous grandstanding or perhaps he felt worse after releasing the poisons darts of his soul.
Flip the card over and consider this humanity salvaging observation.... my hair stylist was telling me that HE was in the supermarket this week and witnessed a mother doing her shopping with an hysterical screaming child strapped in the toddler seat. As he watched, the mother broke down in tears - she could take no more. He said that his heart just broke for her, as did mine when I heard that story. I have been there too. The hair stylist then went on to say that an elderly woman approached the mother; they didn't appear to know each other, but the elderly woman knew what the mother needed in that moment. She took put her arm around the mother and spoke quietly to her. The mother then walked to the other side of the cashiers station and sat down on the seats. The elderly woman pushed the shopping cart to the side and took the screaming child out of the seat speaking calmly as she did so. The baby continued to cry, but the old lady was not affronted, she just let the mother sit quietly for a minute or two so the mother could muster the strength and composure continue on.
I think if someone had done that for me I would probably have cried harder knowing that someone cared, that someone saw my humanity through the crumbling facade of my being.
Thank God for the dear souls who can momentarily put aside their own agendas and distractions in life, to recognise the needs of others, for things are not always what they seem. Thank God for people like that elderly woman who not only recognised, but chose to stretch out an experienced hand to firmly suggest that tired mother take a break. Life is complicated, there are many layers and reasons why to every single thing we do and how we react. We all have stressors...we all have lives of our own. We have choices, and among those choices is how we respond to fellow human beings.
Wednesday, 6 December 2006
So here we are....face to face for the first time. Well, this is awkward...standing here in the spotlight in front of this crowd - lovely crowd too, I might add. I have kept a private blog for a couple of years now and through the gentle encouragement of well-meaning, kind friends and folk, I am now flouncing about on the international stage, well...at least I am making a shaky kneed attempt at flouncing. Regardless, I am taking the giant leap out of my safe, dark and rather confined private cyber-sanctuary, to gather my first impressions of the world beyond, and in the midst of this sea of unfamiliar faces, I can assure you, it sure is roomy out here.
So why the sudden change? Why burden humanity with the burnt offerings of my feeble mind, not to mention blind editting faux pas' (dear me)? I don't know really...I guess I felt it was time....time to take a risk - Fortune does Favour The Brave...as I am sure you are all too well aware.
So what is this blog about? Themes, hmmm.... I don't care too much for themes. People provide me with my greatest inspirations and I love to write about the insights people give me whenever I allow myself to open and observe the surrounding world. I also love nature - I have often found a multitude of metaphorical answers to many a heart pain whenever I have casually placed the burden of my soul on the alter of the observable natural world...if you get my drift!!! No? Oh well. This is my poor attempt at introducing myself. To look deep into the future, or even to simply scour the horizon of next week to suggest some of the things I might favour to write about, is almost impossible, for one never really knows where inspiration might lie. So bear with me - we might both be surprised.