Dec 29, 2011

It's the simple things in life

As another year expires and another begins its journey, it's the simple things in life that we should appreciate. The rest, well it will come and go and although it will leave an imprint, it won't last deeply and spiritually.

Here's to the simple things:

- A New Years Eve surrounded by the people that matter to you most in the world and a countdown that is really a count forward of hope and what faith does with it.

- A walk in the cold winter snow talking about real things with someone who listens because they care about what you have to say and from where those words come.

- Cooking, laughing, hugging and catching the eye of someone across the room who has already caught yours.

- Reuniting with family and friends who may be spread across the map but when you are together it's as if you were never apart.

- Welcoming a new member of the family - a baby, a significant other, a friend who would otherwise be alone for the holidays and suddenly feels as if they matter and belong because that is the way everyone should feel.

- Memories of those who are no longer here in this life, on this earth but they are somewhere, a place we haven't yet been and from that place, they join us, they smile, they surround us and we remember never to forget them.

- Travel to a place far away as a family knowing that as your children grow and go their ways, this vacation, this time together as a family, the family you created is invaluable and precious.

In celebrating your family and friends, your time together all in one place, your words, your heart, your soul, you celebrate life. Because you can and because nothing else really matters.

It's that simple.

Dec 19, 2011

New Years Eve - Who will you miss?

New Years are bittersweet. They come at a time of holiday, celebration, reunions with loved ones who are alive and well and memories of those who are not.

When I was a kid and we would have family dinners - I mean real family dinners with cousins and 2nd cousins and my Grandfather's sister's husband's sister I thought it was the greatest thing. There were games, good food, cousins to run around and get into trouble with,gifts, pinches to cheeks(okay that wasn't so great nor were the soaking wet kisses from old people who smelled like eucalyptus and tobacco)and everyone seemed happy just to be with everyone. No one was off in a corner texting, bbming, surfing the web. It was all about being up close and personal and intimate with each other.

As I grew older I would look around the table at Rosh Hoshannah Dinner or Passover Seder and my heart would sink at the sight of each empty chair that was not empty the year before. As the years went on my Grandparents on both sides passed away as did many other younger relatives who were unexpectedly and tragically taken too soon. And when I would look into the eyes of my uncle who lost his wife and my cousins who lost their mother, I would see vacancy and then I would see ghosts.

Do you ever close your eyes when it's really quiet and you are by yourself and you try to bring forth a vision of a face belonging to someone you loved more than life itself? Do you see them right there and then? Does it bring back moments that seem to have frozen in time? Do you feel them feeling you thinking about them? I do. I close my eyes and I see those I have lost along the way and I find comfort in knowing that I can see them whenever I need to and that I will not forget their faces. I will make damn sure I never forget them.

The expression "Life Goes On" is one of the more sensible, realistic and truly factual ones that we hear again and again when someone is faced with the loss of a job, a girlfriend/boyfriend, wife/husband, finances and inevitably the death of the person who was closest to them.

I see my Grandmother (photo in this post) joking with me as she laid in a hospital bed having just been diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. Her face and figure still full before the dreaded wicked disease would transform her into a desperate shadow of herself. She wanted me to get married and stop "fooling around". She yelled out to a very handsome orderly "Hey - Javier - you know I love you - you take such good care of me - do me a favour - marry my Grand daughter." That didn't work but it was a good try (and btw Javier was delicious).

Within a month of seeing her daily, she eventually lost the ability to speak and see. It wasn't long until she fell into a coma. The morphine continued to drip and then it dripped some more and she was gone before I was able to make it back to the hospital to say "Goodbye".

I don't know about you but every year on New Year's Eve when the countdown begins I flashback in a black and white slide show of all that has occurred in my life in the year that is about to expire. I see some beautiful and amazing things and I feel some deep heartbreak and sadness. I wonder will the next year be any better or will it be worse knowing it can go either way - it's a crap shoot really.

What I hope for is to keep all the people I love safe and sound and for their lives to go on and on and only grow in happiness and blessings. That's always my New Years wish. I make that wish, I don't bother with resolutions because they are about things that we want to change and my wish is about things I don't want to change and the latter is far more important.

All the same, I know that another year will come and go and there will be another Rosh Hashannah and another Passover with everyone around the table smiling, laughing, eating and secretly wishing there would never be another empty chair.

So when you have a chance, close your eyes and remember the way they looked when they were happy, the way they laughed when they thought something was really funny, the way their eyes loved you when they looked at you and they way they made you feel you were the most important person in the world.

It hurts, it heals, it flows like a river on a sweet Sunday afternoon. It's life and yes, it does go on.

Happy Holidays to all of my readers near and far (shout out to Romania, Slovakia, Japan, China, Israel, Australia and others who honour my words and feed their curiosity by visiting my Blog)and to my kin at Montreal Memories.

Dec 14, 2011

Float don't Walk

Sometimes when I go for a walk I feel as if I am floating above everyone else. I can see their faces passing me by. I can hear their thoughts and feel their feelings.

And as I defy gravity and freeze time, I wonder what weighs heaviest on their minds. What is the source of their pain?

If we could all hear one another's thoughts just for a moment on a given day, how much noise would that make? Would we be surprised by the thoughts in the minds of the people we love?

What if we all had the chance to bring back one person who had passed? Who would you bring back and if you only had 60 seconds with them, what would you say? What would you do?

Do you ever catch yourself in yourself? You are out buying groceries or waiting in line at the bank and you "land" in the purest, clearest form and are able to tap into how you are feeling right there and then.

Try floating some time. It's trickier than walking. You have to allow yourself to be suspended in the air - something that you are not accustomed to and will not feel natural at first.

But it's well worthwhile - you'll see what is happening all around you and it's one of the few times that it's good to look down. You'll freeze while everyone else is in motion and you'll discover how much more happens in the stillness.

You will also learn that contrary to popular belief, you don't always have two feet on the ground.

You have one foot on the ground while the other slowly, gradually climbs upward knowing that you will one day, inevitably - float.

Dec 11, 2011

We are ALL AMAZING and this is OUR Amazing Race

First let me start by congratulating YOU along with myself.

Not only do WE run our own "Amazing Race" on a daily basis but we have won many times over.

We've all gotten lost and argued with our partners in the car, we have all missed flights, made flights, missed connections and eaten bugs (intentionally or otherwise).

We all juggle a zillion different tasks in a single day and when we finally get home and are ready to have a good meal, a glass of wine and a sound sleep; it's completely  unfair that Phil isn't waiting in our bedroom with a million bucks in hand and a free trip to Spain.

I'll tell you what's harder than The Amazing Race - OUR AMAZING RACE.

How AMAZING is it that we take care of our children, spouses, parents, spouses parent's (there should be a jet ski thrown in for that one), house, career, dog, cat, Goldfish (constantly needs replacing), health and wellness (make that another glass of red wine and some dark chocolate) the pick ups and drop offs, the sleep outs and sleep overs, the special occasions that include the entire whacked out family and let's not forget intimacy (which is really something that may only exist from our late teens until about 40 at which point it becomes difficult to figure out whether intimacy is defined by love making or eating dark chocolate).

I love the part at the end of the Amazing Race where one of the team members has to complete some sort of puzzle showing all the countries visited and the order thereof.

Listen, if you pay me $1 million, I will recite for you all of the countries I have visited, all of the schools and camps I attended, all of the jobs I have had, all of the boyfriends I have endured and when I reach that red carpet in the middle of nowhere but always by a magnificent castle and I am greeted by Phil and some poor innocent person who has been uprooted from their home and forced to wear a costume they never actually wear; I'll gladly accept the win and I will do so for ALL of US.

This is my boy "Bam Bam Rubble" after I have told him that we are partners on the Amazing Race - Leonberger Edition - Clearly he is not impressed.

And by the way,  I still haven't figured out if  Phil is real or just a hologram but what I have figured out is that HIS taxi driver and HIS flight are far superior to anyone else's and that is why he is always at the finish line first and that my dear friends is truly AMAZING.

PS: Bam and I strongly agree there should be a Leonberger edition of the Amazing Race because this remarkable breed would win - paws down. WOOF!

Dec 5, 2011

Cancer - Life vs. Death

I was recently approached by a friend of a friend who had been diagnosed with terminal Cancer. She asked if I would collaborate with her on a Life Journal. It would be for her children to read when they were older and she was gone. She also asked that I share some of her story through posts on my Blog. Her feeling was that others in her situation may find comfort in knowing they were not alone.

At the same time, Iris (from my post - A Face a Mother Never Forgets)also battling Cancer, made a similar request so she could share stories with her Grandchildren. It seems I have suddenly become the Blogger for people who have been diagnosed with this dreadful disease.

So they will provide me with the details and images and I will carry the weight of their words while they carry the weight of their battle between life and death.

Shades of dark and light dancing like shadows on a blank wall. May their shadows continue in motion and their stories fill the surface of the wall.

All names have been changed (Iris wasn't a real name either) and only the parts of their story they wished for me to share are posted. This will be an on-going series and I hope for their sake, many, many chapters in the making.

Cindy's Story

Cindy is a young, vibrant mom, a graphic artist who is married to her second husband David. Her first husband died tragically a week before she gave birth to their daughter Alicia who is now 4.

Cindy met Gary in a sandbox when they were both 3 yrs old. She still remembers having an argument with Gary over a Tonka Truck that she was driving over a hill she had constructed by pushing sand together between her hands. Gary tried to take the truck away and she hit him with the small plastic shovel cutting his lip. He ran off crying to his mother (who was watching over them with Cindy's mother - the two women being close friends)and Cindy felt awful. Her mother made her apologize and she did so followed by a kiss to his cheek which he tried to wipe off and then continued to cry. It was not a great success in terms of the beginning of a beautiful thing but it went upward from there.

By Grade 9 they were inseparable. They could finish one anothers sentences and were already dreaming about the family they would have and the house they would live in.

Other than 6 months they spent apart when they were "exploring other options", they remained together through College and they got married when they were in their early 20s.

Cindy began a career as a Graphic Designer and Gary as an Architect. Every thing was going as planned - life was theirs for the taking.

They were like any other couple - they fought, they laughed, they loved and they wanted nothing more than to have a family of their own and to continue to enjoy life's journey as one.

And that wish came true when Cindy became pregnant with their daughter. They were so excited to be having their first child. They would stay up in bed at night imagining what she would be like. Would she be healthy? Would she be artsy? Would she have lots of friends? Would she like herself?

But before that miracle of life would appear, another life would disappear.


"In the movies, they always show the surviving spouse regretting the last thing they said before the other died. I have no regrets. He was driving back to town from a meeting and I told him I'd wait up and we would have a late dinner. I was 8 months pregnant and constantly hungry and had taken an Italian cooking course during my pregnancy - big mistake - I felt I had to keep practicing my pasta dishes and my pastries and I had put on lots of extra weight! (laughs) But we were having fun with the whole thing and enjoying late night dinners because he was working long hours to ensure we could afford the house we were about to buy as well as what we hoped to be a growing family.

I waited until 11:30pm and he wasn't home. He had said that he expected to be back by 10:30pm or so. I didn't want to keep calling him while he was driving and I figured I was always worried for nothing anyway. I was the kind of person who would think something awful had happened if someone was late for anything. This time I was right. The phone rang just before midnight - it was someone from a police station - it's all a blur now - I think I have managed to block out most of it but I do remember being asked if he was my husband and being told that he had been in a fatal car crash and that I should call a relative and have them bring me to the morgue to identify the body.

I will always remember "morgue", "the body" and feel sick to my stomach.

We buried Gary that week. Once again I don't remember much of it but I do remember holding my pregnant belly and rubbing it in circles as if to ease the babies pain in seeing her father being placed in the ground. I believed that she could feel my sadness and I wanted her to know everything was going to be alright even if that wasn't true.

There were the practicalities that come with the death of a partner such as life insurance, the lack of finances, the house that we were about to move into that we could no longer afford,the matter of bringing up my unborn child as a single parent while having to return to work full time and all sorts of stuff that quickly takes ships your mind off of the tragic loss and into the tragic reality.

I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy girl.I named her Alicia as we had planned and held her in my arms and my arms only as I had not planned.

In terms of companionship, I had been spending most of my time with Gary's best friend David. We had all met in College and David had become an architect as well. We were pretty much a foursome, Gary and me and David and Cathy. However things changed in ways we never would have imagined. Cathy left David for a woman and Gary was suddenly gone. David and I made a pact that we would protect each other and shelter each other from all that was bad in the world and together we would love and care for Alicia.

We were true friends and eventually that bond grew stronger and we became initimate and then another suprise - I found out I was pregnant.

Our wedding consisted of a small ceremony with just close family and a few friends. Our honeymoon consisted of the continuation of life and its every day demands and then our son Aidan Gary arrived into the world gloriously.

Alicia was growing so quickly. I saw Gary in her eyes, heard him in her laughter and felt him in the room every time I sang her to sleep. Did she feel him there? Would she ever have any sense of who her father was and how much he would have loved her?

Aidan was a huge character, always singing and humming. He was just starting to walk and for some reason it looked more like he was dancing to a rap song. He giggled at everything and I couldn't stop holding him and kissing him. I felt happiness again and I felt fulfilled.

David and I were more like best friends than lovers. We would fall into deep conversation over coffee by a dim light sitting on stools in the kitchen, elbow to elbow. I knew I could count on him and he knew I loved him but not in the way I loved Gary. Somehow though, like most couples - we squeezed the lifes lemons and made lemonade.

Life went on as it does and one day, I can't specify which day or when but I remember where I was - reaching for laundry detergent at the store - I felt this vibrating pain in my upper arm and it ricocheted down the side of my body pulsating in my right rib cage. I stood up and reminded myself of all the times I strained my back lifting and carry the kids and just figured I had pulled something. Then a few days later I woke up one morning and it felt like someone was standing on the right side of my upper body crushing everything beneath. Still, I figured I was just stressed or had lifted something the wrong way.

In any case I knew how long it would take to get an appointment with my Doctor and then how long it would take to see which ever Specialist and then all the tests, wasted time and discomfort for what would probably turn out to be nothing. So I ignored it and never mentioned anything to anyone.

Then came the breaking point. I was at work late trying to complete a project so I could move on to another and I got up to go to the water cooler and I could barely breath. I struggled to get oxygen into my blood and felt like I was choking to death. The last thing I remember is waking up in ER staring at the bright lights on the ceiling and then the touch of David's hand.

There were tests and then there were more tests and then they lost some tests and then they took the wrong tests and the diagnoses were given and they were wrong and then as I felt more and more crushed between my right rib cage and my left rib cage, the right Specialist at the right time figured things out and I was told the most impossible, unbelievable thing - the worst news aside from one of my children being in such a situation - but still, as a mother, the worst case scenario - I was diagnosed with terminal Lung Cancer.

I thought - this is a mistake - this can't be possible - I never smoked - I never worked in an asbestos filled office - and then I thought - I bet everyone who is not a smoker and is diagnosed with Lung Cancer says the same thing and then I thought - I'm not everyone - I'm me - and I'm dying.

..................Cancer - Life vs. Death- to be continued -

Nov 29, 2011

A Face a Mother Never Forgets

I had the distinct pleasure of going to the hospital for some routine blood tests -  post check-up.

I wasn't paying attention and got off the elevator on the wrong floor and wandered into Neurology. No one there looked happy.

I got back in the elevator and this time got off at the right floor and I have to say, no one there looked happy either.

Everyone is walking around lost. They're on the wrong floor in the wrong department and since it's impossible to get the attention of any staff, they are asking other lost people where to go. It's a sad, pathetic situation.

I arrived at the test centre where I located more stranded people without any hope of rescue in sight. I started to read my magazine and then looked up several times to see what number the screen was showing (even though I could easily figure out there were at least 20 people before me) and then I gave up my seat to an elderly woman.

Seeing someone elderly and frail wait alone in a hospital for any reason is sad. I could see that she was evidently chilled even though wearing a winter coat. I thought to myself, "Is this someone's mother? If so, where are her children? Do they all live out of town? Are they not able to get away from work? Why is she here? Is she sick? Is she about to find out she is sick? How long did it take her to get here - she can barely walk?"

As these questions circled in my head, she looked up at me and smiled and I smiled back. Then a pack of medical students marched by and stopped in front of her, blocking the entire hall while they discussed in unison their schedules. When they finally moved, she was no longer there.

Eventually my number came up and after being stuck with a needle several times, it was finally time to leave. Given I had fasted for 14 hours (plus the 2 in the waiting room)I was hungry. So I headed to a nearby café and as I entered I spotted the same woman at a table nearby reading the paper and drinking a glass of orange juice.

She noticed me as well and gestured I come join her which I did once I had my coffee and sandwich in hand.

As I sat with her and she spoke, she captivated me for some reason. It was sort of like when you meet someone for the first time but you feel as if you have met them in another life.

Her name was Iris. She was 86 yrs old and had 1 daughter and 3 grand children who unfortunately all lived in Toronto. Her husband, Mel, passed away 4 years ago. She was an elementary school teacher for 35 years and was born in California and educated at McGill where she met Mel who was a Montrealer and so they settled here.

She was diagnosed with bone Cancer 5 months ago and every day she felt it eating away at her body leaving her more and more incapacitated. Her daughter Susan came in as often as possible but was busy with her own life including a child with health issues.

"My happiest days were when my children were growing up and my husband and I were caring for them and we were all under one roof", she explained.

"More often than not these days I am beginning to forget things but something I know I will never forget is my daughter's face - all the faces - through all the stages of her life. There is no image more beautiful to a parent than the face of their child."

"I'm not afraid of dying. I have had a great life. I am a mother, now and forever."

We chatted a little more and then I insisted on bringing her back to her apartment after which she gave me a warm hug and I wished her good luck.

As I was walking away she said one last thing to me and it was this:

"Call your mother if you haven't already today and ask her if she remembers what you looked like when you were 3 yrs old" and then she closed her door.

As I made my way out of the building I gave my mother a call.

"Hi mom - how are you?"

"Good and you dear?"

"Fine - I have a question - Do you remember what I looked like when I was 3yrs old?"

To which she responded:

"Of course, I'm your mother, I remember what you looked like every day of your life"

Nov 18, 2011

Your Life is Now

We all experience it at some time in our lives. There's this fantastically delicious person - a friend - a co-worker - who you've been hanging out with for years. On the outside, you're cool and breezy having drinks, cooking dinner, deep talks over coffee and wine, a quick lunch and always saying "Goodnight" instead of "Stay".

You have kissed their cheeks a million times yet never felt the sensation of their lips against yours.

And although there were those nights when you fell asleep together on the couch or even in your bed, both in a drunken stupor or after having comforted one another through a tough time, you have never been skin to skin. Your bodies have never been intertwined and tangled in the glorious and raucous rolling of love making.

You've said "I love you" but you've never said "I'm in love with you" and you've listened to all their stories about the spun and spoiled romances that have come their way while yours just pass you by.

You've wondered what it would be like to wake up in their arms - a place you know how to get to but have never visited.

Remember that your life is now. Everything you think and feel is significant when it relates to someone you love.

Take the chance...

Say "I'm in love with you"




And then ask them to "stay"

Nov 14, 2011

J.F. Pelland - A life well lived - A life cut short

Death is tragic. Death is final. Death is unfair.

I spent over two decades in the Camp industry. As a Director, I recruited and hired thousands of staff to lead our summer tours.

Other than an ability to communicate and lead students effectively, the main characteristics I looked for in a candidate were individuality, selflessness and quite simply "street smarts."

So many incredible young people came and went through our door. They were not just educators but really great educators who cared about their students/campers playing an active role in their development and growth. Through travel and adventure, they opened their eyes and raised their awareness about the world around them and how they could make it a better place.

J.F. (Jean Francois) Pelland was one of the brighter stars to shine in the sky that held up our teams world. The day we met, he arrived for his interview wearing his Rollerblades. He did not have on a helmet or pads and he had bladed from the opposite end of the city. The first thing he said when he walked through my door just a few moments late was "Sorry, I caught a few red lights"

He was a Francophone who was student teaching (physical education) at the time and his goal was to improve his English so he could later teach abroad internationally.

He was handsome, charming, smart, funny and possessed unbridled passion and energy for his work with students.

Just a few days ago, while on his way to a temple outside of Luxor (he was serving as the Vice-Principal of a private international school in Cairo, Egypt), J.F. was in the wrong place at the wrong time. His driver failed to stop at a check-in for an illegal road block that was the result of a local tribal feud. Shots were fired and J.F. was seriously wounded. He was not a member of either tribe nor was a willing participant in the feud.

For J.F. teaching students in Cairo or anywhere for that matter was another adventure sure to be followed by something even greater. Tragically, he will not have that chance.

Chance, faith and destiny - all game changers in life. For some, a chance taken is faithed for the next destiny and for others like J.F. there is only a final destiny.

Efforts were made to save J.F. but he lost his battle and his meaningful and significant life was ended but not silenced.

For all that he accomplished for all of those he supported and guided, his presence will be felt and his words will be heard forever.

I can't fathom what it is like for a parent to learn of the death of their child. I am sure that it kills them on the inside and causes them to vanish on the outside. I can only offer my sympathy and words to his family.

J.F. your smile, your spirit and your magical ways flow through the air casting a gentle spell on all the hearts you graced with your kindness.

Rest in Peace.

Nov 12, 2011

Brad Pitt and Me at Costco

So I'm at Costco because I need some essentials in bulk. Let's see there is toilet paper, paper towel and laundry detergent. The problem with going to Costco is that Brad Pitt and always end up getting other things.

The whole place is like a smorgasbord of temptation. The minute we enter the store we are bombarded by products that we don't need - Plasma TVs, Cameras, Leather Jackets (that aren't Leather), Jewelry, Pajamas, Espresso Machines. It's almost as if the stuff is free because there is so much of it and you feel like Oprah just went and gave it to you just for being there.

It's also tricky and dangerous shopping at Costco because if you allow yourself to get sucked into buying food/candy or the like, you need to stop and ask yourself "Can I really see myself eating the same cereal or chewing the same gum for the next 8 months?"

It all makes perfect sense for those people who own convenience stores and re sell the stuff but for me and Brad - it just doesn't.

The thing about Brad Pitt is that he is always calm and cool. He's what my mom likes to call "A Steady Eddie". So he doesn't get all excited or wrapped up in the whole rush of the place. Not like those people who skip a meal before going because they plan to pig out on the taste demos. What are these people thinking? First of all, the samples are tiny and they just don't mix. If you are going to head to the salsa table and then the cereal table, that just isn't going to work. Yet, people line up for the stuff. The person serving is supposed to smile and be really outgoing and I believe they are for the first 30 minutes but after they have been there for 6 hours straight, standing on their feet and feeding all these people who don't need to be fed, well they ain't smiling any more.

Do you know what the smart ones do? They carefully and quietly eat all of the samples so that they can say they did such a great job that they ran out. It's true. Sure they go home after and they are sick for a few hours but you know how you feel when you try to pull something off and you succeed? Well that's worth a stomach ache - isn't it?

I think they should leave a few forklifts around so Brad and me can reach that stuff that is really up high. Do you ever look for "Life" cereal but you just want the plain version and all you can find is the "honey cinnamon" but then you look way up in the sky that is the ceiling of the air hanger that is Costco and there it is "plain"? What to do? Well you can't find anyone in the aisles to help you because the employees are either at the cash or the most important Costco position "Boxing" -yep the dudes who decide which of our items are box worthy and what kind of box - could it be a big one? or a little one that doesn't have enough depth so as soon as you put the stuff in your car it spills all over? They are very serious these box people - try disturbing them by talking to them or perhaps making a box request - forget about it - they are machines, they don't have time for you - they are boxers.

Yeah so Brad says to me, he says "Lisa, I have no idea why I'm in this Blog post and Angelina and I never go to Costco however I really need some soap"

So Brad and I head over to the soap section. There are 1000 varieties of soap (of course including Goat Soap - made by a Goat - like milk - except you rub it all over your body - cause it's soap). Brad and I are confused. We realize how vital this decision is and the obvious consequences - what if we choose the wrong soap and then have to wash ourselves with it for then next 14 months? I mean really - what if it smells bad and then we end up smelling bad? Well it won't matter for Brad because even if he stank, women would still love him. He would still be respected but me - I need to smell good - I have enough working against me!

This is where a variety pack would come in well. But there is none - it's one type - go with the Irish Spring or the Dove or that Goat stuff? I start to think, what if we chose one and we didn't like it - could I give individual bars away as presents? Could I bring a bar of soap over if a friend invites me to dinner instead of a bottle of wine? Why not? Whomever is having me for dinner - bathes - don't they? Actually I'd be doing them a favour because then they could try that one bar of soap and if they really like it, they could go to Costco (but not with Brad cause he only goes with me) and stock up on it big time. I wish someone would come to my house with a bar.

Brad likes to chew gum. If you've watched his movies he is often chewing something - he is a chewer. So there we are in the gum section and once again - it's a tough call! Then - relief - Trident has a variety pack available which would be great if it didn't consist of 20 packs of each flavour and what's with the kiwi mango passion fruit? If I want fruit, I'll chew a mango. I mean I am going to be chewing this stuff way past retirement. I look at Brad and he gives me that smile that's not really a smile and we decide to get the gum and when we are sick of it to put it away until next year and give it out on Halloween.

The other thing about shopping at Costco is that although you had good intentions and you only meant to spend $80 somehow the cashier (who has their own boxer and just has to stand there staring at you and looking at the stuff you've bought with a smirk on their face) hands you a bill for $480! Then the best is when Brad and I are trying to high tail it out of there (because we can't wait to get home and try the soap), we have to stop at the exit so some pimple covered kid who suddenly becomes a powerful Costco security, customs agent - has to check our items against the bill. By the way, they just pretend - they really have no idea what is or isn't in your jumbo carriage - especially the Trident cause it's squished under the 25 lb box of high fibre cereal that is going to make your ass explode after you have been eating it for 5 months.

Everyone always says the same thing when they pack their car... "It doesn't look like $480 worth of stuff"

Anyway Brad had to bounce so he let me off at my house. He put all the stuff on my front porch - I gave him the gum as a Thank You and then he was gone. I rang the doorbell and my husband answered. He helped me carry everything in and then he asked if there was anything to snack on (why do husbands ask what there is to snack on? why don't they look in the pantry or fridge and find out?)? I handed him the "blast your ass" cereal and told him to throw in some berries.

I was taking a bath in this awful smelling soap when he came in and informed me that our friends had just called and invited us over for dinner.

Then he looks at me and he asks "What should we bring?"

To which I reply "I'm soaking in it".

Brad - call me - I ran out of Qtips.

Nov 9, 2011

Souls That Visit Us at Night

So it's the end of a long day and you are finally getting cozy in bed. By the dim light of a lamp, you read a few pages of a book you never seem to finish and the need for sleep overwhelms you. The light goes off and there you are staring at the ceiling.

Darkness. It conjures up thoughts and images we manage to avoid or ignore in the light.

I find that right there in that very moment, I think of those who have passed on from this life and left me with my heart in my hand missing them always. I wonder where they've gone in the afterlife. I close my eyes and I see their faces. Memories rush through my brain turning the cog wheel at such a constant, powerful pace that my heart starts to beat faster. I force myself to remember the good times when they were healthy,vibrant, laughing the way they laughed and very much a part of life in its entirety and a part of me.

I think of my Grandfather who fought in two world wars, traveled the world, a painter, a sculptor and a pharmacist by profession (having attained graduate degrees and lectured up until the age of 94).

I remember him saving to pay my airfare so I could come visit him in Florida at Christmas break. I remember him adopting a dog because at the time we weren't allowed to have one. I remember him taking us on outings so my parents could have some time to themselves. We'd pack a picnic lunch and go hiking, boating or just for a drive to the nearest flea market. I also remember the last year of his life. He had to be moved into a long term healthcare facility after a stroke left him incapacitated, his independence gone. Then his last remaining friend who also had been his best friend for over two decades died suddenly.I think at that point, no longer able to paint or sculpt, or teach or simply be free to go about his way; he stopped fighting the illness that was dragging him down and he died at 2AM without us ever getting to say goodbye.

I remember my Grandmother struggling to hold on to her dignity and pride as she suffered from Multiple Sclerosis. I remember my mom getting the call on an early Sunday morning. After 30 years of being bedridden suffering terribly, she was finally given a pass to leave. We arrived at the hospital shortly thereafter, she was still in her bed and I reached over the side bars and kissed her on the forehead and brushed my hand across her cheek. She looked beautiful, rested and finally at peace. I had no doubt she had gone to a much better place, a place where the kindest and warmest of souls belonged.

I think of 3 dogs thus far who I have lost, who enriched my life on a daily basis, and who were my best friends. I hope that they are in that place where apparently dogs go - Rainbow Bridge. Their faces, their expressions, their eyes will remain clear in my mind forever because I won't let them go.

As I fall asleep I find myself worrying about what the future will bring. Will the people I love still be here?

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night.It's like I'm stuck in this big fluffy cloud and I keep trying to push through the gray so I can escape but it doesn't happen. I focus and tell myself keep trying - wake up - get out of this and then suddenly as if coming up for air from the depths of the ocean, I am back in reality, back in the light of the morning where everything is clear.

Darkness - we do all we can to escape it when we are young, yet we learn to expect as we age.

I don't know why souls visit us at night when all is quiet and the day is done. Maybe they just want to be with us as dancing shadows and silouettes that waltz across the ceiling knowing we are always looking upward in search of them.

I believe in rainbows.

I believe in bridges that connect us to the souls we loved in our lifetimes.

I believe that those who have gone miss us as much as we miss them.

And I believe that if they could write our names in the sky - they would.

Nov 7, 2011

"Montreal Memories" - Happy Birthday to You

It was one year ago today (Nov.8th) that former Montrealer, Barry Zbar created a face book page/group called Montreal Memories.

The first person to join was Sara Leber (rock on Sara)and slowly but surely, more and more ex Montrealers (as well as those of us who never left) requested Barry's blessing to become one of the chosen that has since grown to 1888 members (at the exact moment of writing this post).

Barry's original intentions were to provide a place where Montrealers removed and otherwise could gather to reminisce about this incredibly vibrant and amazing city.

Some joined as Alumnus of Northmount, West Hill, Wagar, Baron Byng and others simply with a healthy appetite and appreciation for Montreal food such as poutine from Lafleurs, smoked meat from Schwartz's, steak from Moishes, Squished Knishes from Blossom Pool, Orange Julep from... well you can figure out that one, cheese cake from Dunns, and steamies from Montreal Pool Room.

The music of the 60s and 70s is celebrated through shared You Tube videos and long lost lyrics to songs such as Meatloaf - Paradise by the Dashboard Light - Styx - Babe - James Taylor - You've Got a Friend - Elton John - Saturday Nights Alright for Fighting, Paul McCartney and Wings - Band on the Run - Kiss - Rock'n Roll All Night -Supertramp - Take The Long Way Home and many more.

And how about those Habs and Expos fans who never gave up on their home teams even if in the case of the Expos, they lost their home.

That's where the "memories" of Montreal Memories comes in.

What are memories really? Black and white film footage and flashbacks in the far reaches of our minds that somehow are preserved and relived again and again? It's funny how you can't remember what you were supposed to pick up at the grocery store after work but you can remember:

The sun rising at the top of Mount Royal on your graduation night and the taste of an ice cold Orange Julep on a summer's eve while you hang out in what was really just a parking lot by a giant orange on Decarie, the taste of cheese mixing with gravy over Lafleurs crisped to perfection french fries, your first Habs game in the old Forum where you cheered them on perhaps by your Dad on a father/son night or by your buddies on a boys out night that you followed up with a bite at Kojak's Souvlaki, your first night clubbing at Thursdays on Crescent, the sound and sparkle of fireworks from the old port in Old Montreal, the first ball you caught at an Expos game at Jarry Park, your first roller coaster ride at Belmont Park, skating on the rink near your house taking slap shots to the net and checking your friends into the boards, tobogganing at Murray Hill Park back in the day when there was nothing between the bottom of the hill and the cars passing by on the street below, dancing and inhaling to the Tam Tams at Mount Royal Park on a lazy Sunday afternoon, biting into your first smoked meat on rye at Schwartz's after waiting your turn in line and truly earning it, listening to CJAD, CKGM,CHOM and Aaron Rand and Terry Dimonte - real music, real talk radio, driving to the cottage up in Ste.Agathe, Trout Lake, Ste. Adele, Ste. Donat and starting up the BBQ, the boat and the endless summer night parties, going to camp at Pine Valley, B'nai Brith, Hiawatha, Pripsteins, making new friends and sitting beneath a starry sky by a bonfire while a guitar plays "Fire and Rain", hitting one out of Wentworth Park and running the bases while your parents cheer you on, taking the 161 bus and walking from wherever it left you off to wherever you and your friends were going - aimlessly yet spectacularly, eating a slice of pizza from Tasty Food and being served by the same blond haired waitress who put up with all of our shenanigans for over 3 decades, brunch at Beauty's after a big Saturday night out - bagel, lox and cream cheese so fresh it melts in your mouth, guessing what is in your mish mash at Cosmos besides the cigarette butts and then realizing there is no point - just eat it and go from there - burning your fingertips as you grab a Montreal Bagel from a steaming paper bag, shopping for a new pair of Levis at Cavendish Mall and heading to the Cattleman for a burger.

These are memories. They move, they haunt, they speak and they go on and on as does our love for our city, our home base, our first playground, school, friend and shot at being whomever we wanted to be - Montreal.

Thanks Barry for bringing us all together in honoring and celebrating all that Montreal was, is and will be and all of us who no matter where we go, who we go with or what we do, will remain Montrealers forever.

I hate to quote Bette Midler but here I go - Barry - you are the wind beneath our wings.

By the way, can anyone tell me how to get to the Olympic Stadium?

Oct 31, 2011

Relationships That Stand The Test of Time

When my husband and I met we were both younger, in better shape, somewhat more attractive and a lot less tired. We took the leap, the chance that all couples take and headed off into the horizon never looking back, always looking forward.

That was 17 years ago and let me tell you, we had no idea what we were doing or what was coming our way.

The thing is that none of us know what the future holds. Partners face all sorts of changes and challenges. One gets fat, one gets thin, one gets sicker, one gets healthier, one gets richer, one gets poorer and so on.

So what is the glue that affixes us to one another no matter how many negative forces try to pull us apart?

Here is what I can tell you. When I have something I need to talk about, he listens. When I have been sick, he has been there to support me, hold me and motivate me to scrap it out.

We do little things together like he cooks brunch on sleepy Sunday mornings while I read to him from the UK edition of Men's Esquire. I like the stories because this particular magazine hosts some great journalists and he likes the cars, the watches and the tech reviews. We eat side by side, flipping through the pages and looking at the pictures, some times in silence, some times in continuous conversation. We move as one.

He knows what stresses me out and what puts me at ease. I need a routine. I need to know what is going to happen next. I need to do everything NOW and I need to work out and write every day. He is extremely laid back and knows whatever doesn't get done today will get done tomorrow. He needs to cycle and ski. He needs to be around people, the fuller the room the better. I need quiet and time to myself, the emptier the room the better.


Yet somehow we make it work. We have explosive arguments like any other couple. Sometimes we say awful things to each other. It's as if the words leave our mouths and speed through the air without time to take them back. The thing is the closer you are, the easier it is to say something that is extremely hurtful.

It's the love that grows, develops and evolves through true friendship, through really knowing someone as well if not better than you know yourself and it's the acceptance of their imperfections and your differences, the loss at times for any understanding of why they did something impulsive to hurt themselves or hurt you. It's the chance you give them to fix things, to fix you, to make it all okay - that makes for a marriage of the souls, a bond that is unbreakable and reinforced simply by the promise to never stop trying, to never give up on one another.

A truly great partner is a best friend you hang out with for life knowing that if you are in trouble, hurting or lost; they will hold you, guide you and never leave your side.

And on a sleepy winter morning, over coffee, eggs and a magazine, they will be your Sunday.

Oct 30, 2011

A Baby is Born - For Camden

A baby is born
More spectacular
Than the moon
Than the stars

Tiny fingers that somehow fidget
Tiny toes that somehow wiggle

A smile
A tooth
A giggle
A word
A step

A bit of Mom
A bit of Dad
A blueprint of change

Watching him drift into a sleepy dream
Far Better than any play, concert or show

Grandparents transformed from Parents
A magnificent full circle

Souls join and free fall through the air
They tango, they sway and they dip

The gift of life
The gift of health

Freezes us in the now
Forces us to rethink everything

It's not all that matters
It's just that nothing matters more

Welcome to the world Camden. Your journey has just begun.

Oct 28, 2011

My New Wheels, Hazel and the Big Race

I made a purchase yesterday. It's very exciting and hip. I bought one of those carriages on wheels that many seniors use to pull their groceries home. Let me tell you those shopping bags that we have all been forced to buy have handles that are way too long and when I carry my stuff home in one of those its almost taller and bigger than my entire body plus it keeps smacking me in the knees like a ball crane. That's not good.

Anyway I wanted mine to be nicer and more fashionable (because I am such a fashionista) than everyone else's so I customized. First I chose a neon green sack that shows I am environmentally (and other type of mentally) conscious and I like to disco dance (don't we all). Then I figured I should get some mean wheels so I went to my favourite skate board shop (of course I skate board - actually I own a long board with a great design of dogs playing cards - I can almost guarantee you that I am one of the few if any middle age Jewish women who grew up in Cote St Luc - or as I like to call it - Cohen St. Luc - who skate boards, doesn't brush or blow dry her hair and whose idea of dressing up is wearing a lumber shirt that still has all the buttons and is long enough to fit like a dress which works well when people ask why I never wear dress because then I wear my longest lumber shirt and well they have to take the comment back -sort of)and I chose a pair of fat knobby wheels and get this - I bought some shocks as well.

So I put together this gangstered out trolley and took it for a ride to my nearest friendly grocer (actually they are not friendly at the nearest grocery - the guy at the fish counter doesn't like to be asked to cut the fat off the tuna and the woman at the meat counter doesn't like me asking if there is anything behind her counter that did not involved animal cruelty and the cashier well she's standing on her feet all day (what's with that expression - how do you stand without your feet?) having to say "Do you have airmiles?" 1000 times and "Swipe your card the other way or push your card all the way in" so she is in no mood for me. I only really needed a few things but I wanted to test my wheels so I figured I'd stock up on canned soups for the Winter. I paid $5 for one of those salad kits. I have no patience for washing lettuce, cutting up veggies, choosing a dressing and besides the kits come with funky stuff like pineapples, oriental noodles, sun dried tomatoes and instructions.

People were checking out my "ride" and it got me thinking maybe I should start taking orders and sell these babies for some serious cash. As I was nursing that thought a little, crunched up old lady banged her ride into mine. I was shocked. I wanted to see her license and registration and her insurance information. But all she did was shoot me a dirty look and move on. I couldn't believe it - not even an apology.

Once I was out on the street she faced me off and we made our way to the corner. I moved my wheels back and forth in front of me. She did the same and then BAM we were off to the races. She was a lot faster than I had imagined however I knew there was no way her old battered cart could keep up with my techno machine. And then it happened, we were 65 seconds into the race when one of her wheels popped and I must add not very adventurousness (I made that word up and it's wonderful). That was it, I was clearly in the lead and going to be the winner. People were clapping and yelling all along the sidewalk. I had fans.

As I made my way home I decided I would multi-task and in addition to walking, talking to myself (the usual), pulling my cart and having disturbing thoughts that I would also whistle and skip. Whistling bothers some people but others rather enjoy it. As for skipping, well I hadn't done that since I was a little girl. It was actually quite early on when I acted and looked like a girl. I would be sporting this pink dress and these white leotards (awful things) and my Buster Brown green shoes (I was quite the matcher) and I would be holding hands with this boy that I liked who lived on my street and we would be skipping to the park (the fact that he was skipping is much more disturbing than my outfit).

I arrived home exhausted from skipping, whistling, pulling my cart, the big race, shopping, making decisions (all the right ones) and well from just being me. I emptied my cart and about 50 soup cans later closed the pantry door. Just then my doorbell rang. Now I don't usually answer the door - I mean what for? If I don't have plans with someone and I am sure that I did not invite anyone over - why would I go to my door? Instead I peaked out the window and saw this older woman (like 110 yrs old) that lived across the street. I had never spoken to her but seeing her standing there hunched over I couldn't help but let her in.

She introduced herself as Hazel and said that she had seen my new cart and was wondering if she could borrow it. I was thinking what is she going to do with it? She's like 120 yrs old and can barely walk and she doesn't look like she eats so why would she need groceries? It killed me to give up my ride even for a few hours but I just couldn't say no to her so I pulled it over and placed it in her hands.

I went back upstairs and looked out the window again (because that's what you do when someone leaves your house - you watch them leave - why? - well maybe they will be talking to themselves or whistling or skipping and hey that would be interesting)and I couldn't believe my eyes, that woman who had smashed into my cart and raced with me on the street was waiting for Hazel. The wheel on her ride had been repaired and they took their places, side by side on the sidewalk and the next thing I knew they were racing down the street. I ran out and yelled "Hazel - you're 180 yrs old - stop - you're going to break my cart" She was leaning on it like crazy - like it was a walker and then it happened, my cart split in half and caught Hazels fall saving her life.

The other woman being the kind, warm hearted soul that she was just kept running and yelled out "I win, I'm a motherf**ker and I win"

I hurried to Hazel and helped her get off the ground. She was surprisingly springy and flexible for a woman of 150yrs. My cart was totalled - a write off - a wreck.

I walked Hazel home and she kept apologizing. I told her not to worry as I examined my mangled cart. I wondered if I should work on a new design and then it came to me - what if I drove my car to the grocery store, parked in the lot,had my items placed in bags and then placed them in my trunk? This was genius. There would be no walking, racing, skipping or crashes but I would still whistle. I was on to something for sure so I brewed some tea, invited Hazel over and we watched re-runs of The Golden Girls.

It was a great day, all in all and me and Hazel, well we're tight even if she is 100 years older than me.

Oct 27, 2011

Montreal - you taste great! A tribute to classic Montreal food.

Note - This post was inspired by recent conversations with friends who left this great city of Montreal back in the 80s. We spoke of the amazing food we grew up on (all noted below). We started with the golden, delicious, piping hot, Egg Rolls from the Yangtze and there was no heading back from there.

But let's begin at the beginning -


My brother and I would go to school each day with a well balanced lunch in a bag. This would consist of a sandwich such as tuna or my mom's homemade chicken salad on rye or Challah, a Ziploc with 2 Oreo or chocolate chip cookies, a piece of fruit and this really great juice in a plastic bottle that they don't seem to make anymore.

The first thing we would do when the lunch bell rang was to get out there in the school yard and


That's right (I hope my mother is not reading this post and if you are Mom - it's completely fictitious) we would sell our lovely lunches for cold hard cash and then we would take that cash to Cantor's Bakery near our school and buy a much more nutritious meal consisting of a bag of chips (Munchos preferred - do those taste just like french fries or what?) and 2 kosher chocolate donuts (we're talking lick the bag).

As we grew older, we became wiser (or stupider - I can't really decide) and we stole my older brothers lunch (he was never much of an eater) and boy then we really made a profit.

I didn't want to eat my mother's lunches because I was a kid growing up in one of the best cities for  some serious get down and lick your lips, chomping all out food orgy sessions. I never left Montreal so when I get a "yen" for something Montrealish (I made up that word  and it's great) - here are some of  the best:

I want a bag of Cantor's Kosher Chocolate Donuts. I want Bar B Barn Ribs. I want a mille feuille from Bifteque (they closed and re-opened and closed and I would like to buy that machine with the candies in it that everyone lined up for because they were free), I want bubble gum ice cream from Elmers Dairy (on Sherbrooke West - sorry folks - gone - the cows heads too),

I want a Pizza Burger from Delly Boys , I want a Squished Knish from Blossom Pool, I want a Pogo from the Cattleman, I want a Poo Poo Platter from Pumpernicks, I want Poutine from Ti-Jean across the highway from Camp B'nai Brith, I want a smoked meat on rye from Schwartz's,

I want one of those dry, hanging Karnotzles, I want a slice of Pendellis Pizza (still there and still with the bun in the middle),

I want cotton candy from Belmont Park, I want a Harvey's Burger and I want it "My Way", I want BBQ Chicken from Cote St. Luc BBQ

and don't forget the roll which is really a hamburger bun that if you are a serious fresser - you dip it in the gravy and it still tastes great, I want the lunch special from "Le Picinic" in Cote St. Luc Shopping Center, I want to know why those women that worked at Laura Secord in the Cavendish Mall dressed in white uniforms like nurses and I want to know why they never smiled, I want to know why the manager at Pumpernicks got so angry at my Grandmother when she felt the best place for the buns from the salad bar was her purse?

I want to wash it all down with a giant piece of Dunn's Strawberry Cheesecake.

I want a tiny grilled deli sandwich from Wilensky's with extra mustard.

I want Lafleur's French fries and an all dressed Michigan (why should you have to choose between a hot dog and a burger when you can have them together at the same time?).

 I want a hot Fairmont bagel fresh from the oven that I eat out of a paper bag while driving home at 2 AM knowing I am going to regret everything that happened that evening come sunrise (except the bagel).

But mostly - I want to pull up at that giant Orange on Decarie, order me up an OJ (orange julep - think creamsicle, sugar, cold and it comes out of tubes connected to the giant fake orange) on a hot summer's night surrounded by my fellow Montrealers with great music from the 60s and 70s blasting from the speakers and the same skies above, the same stars as when my parents took me there when I was 5.

There are a few sweet memories we have throughout our lives and food is one of the strongest. The scent, the atmosphere, the times we have been there in the past, the present and the future - first as kids with our parents, then as parents with our kids and our parents suddenly grandparents and then in our later years as comfort as something good and fine that never changed.

And if Montreal was or is your city - those are some pretty damn delicious memories.

Thank you Montreal - You taste great!

Statement of Release of Liability re Life is Your Story - Lisa Audrey Cohen - The author is in no way responsible for the very strong possibility that this Blog post will cause you to run out no matter what time of day or night and gather as much of the aforementioned food and eat it all resulting in a very serious calorie intake and a very blissful food buzz. 

And let's not forget Kojak's Souvlaki!

Oct 25, 2011

As Beautiful as a Mother

Nothing is as beautiful as you
No field of wild flowers
No wild running river
No rainbow
No summers kiss

You are beautiful as a person
You are everything as a friend
You are my past, my present, my future
You are my beginning, my middle, my end

I carry you with me wherever I go, wherever I am
I know you support my every decision as much as my every mistake
I see you when you are not there or here or anywhere
I strive to emulate you in gesture, kindness and compassion

You are beautiful
You are irreplaceable

You are my Mom
I love you

Oct 23, 2011

Footloose, Kevin Bacon, Me & My Parents

"ROADTRIP!" That's what I yelled out to my husband before he left to work (he just nodded and said "I'll see you tonight hun").

But he wasn't going to see me on that night because I was off on a journey, no not a journey, a mission - yes, I was going to find a small town and go completely "Footloose" on them.

I looked at a map, packed my tights and my dancing shoes and then my mother called. I told her I would see her in a few days and that I was off on a "business trip" to which she replied "What business?"

As she would say, I explained my plans to her in a "nutshell" then I hung up and ran outside, got into my car and it stalled and then it stalled again and then I realized I would need a lift to my mission. So I was about to call a friend when my father called (even though I had just spoken to my mother and he was sitting directly across from her having a piece of pecan pie).

"Leeza (once again, has no idea my name is Lisa), what's this your mother tells me you are hitting the road? I'm coming. Do they have good restaurants where you are going?"

"Dad, you're not coming" And then miraculously a crazy thought went through my head (imagine that?), I would need my parents and their car. The car - to get there - wherever there was and them to register me in the local high school where I would be busting loose in dance. They would play the part of my parents and I would be their teenage daughter (not too far fetched at all). So I told my father to pack, grab my mom and head to my house immediately.

They live 14 minutes away so 2 hours later they arrived at my house and I could hear my mother screaming my name from outside. I looked everywhere and couldn't find them or their car, then I called their cell phone but they don't actually ever have it on and then I saw my mother's head sticking out in between parked cars about a block down. I yelled "pull up in front of my house" to which she replied (while everyone stopped and stared) "There's no damn parking spots on this street"

It took a few minutes until they realized they could pull up in front of my driveway. Then an argument ensued. My father refused to let me drive. Here is why that is a problem. My father believes that if he drives with his foot constantly on and off the gas, he will get wherever he is going sooner and it will cost less.

So I got in the back seat of their puke brown Toyota Corolla with the wind up windows and my mothers nail polish painted on the bumper where my dad constantly smashed it into the driveway wall. I sat on one of those cushions that people put down at outdoor stadiums so their bum stays warm. Why do they have those in their car? I have no idea - perhaps they give lifts to their friends many of whom have big hemorrhoids.

We headed toward the highway and just as we were about to make some moves my dad decided to stop at Lafleurs for his second lunch of the day. (For my readers in Latvia, Lafleurs is a little snack bar by the highway in Lachine. There they cut potatoes all day and have excellent french fries. They also steam hot dogs and toast the buns and place raw onions over the dog or if you are really adventurous meat sauce. You can feed your entire family there for $20. However you have to eat standing up in a shack like building along side some very large truck drivers (not that there is anything wrong with that) or in your car (which will stink if you do so).

After my dad finished his fries and michigan (that's the dog with the meat - you bet), we were on our way.

1.5 hour later (about 1.5 hour more than I could take being in the car with them), we arrived in a town called Joli (completely fictitious) and found a Hampton Inn. Once we were checked in, my dad went to the front desk to ask when the continental breakfast was being served to which they replied "Tomorrow morning sir" or actually they replied in French which translates into "Tomorrow morning sir".

After that my mother kicked my father out of their room so she could read and correct papers (Professor) and my dad set up office in the lobby where he went on to interview anyone and everyone about their lives (former reporter)and of course to wait for breakfast.

I took a tour of the town and found the local high school. I then returned to the hotel and dressed up like a teenager which involved nothing since I dress like a teenager. Then I grabbed my parents and had them rehearse what they were going to say to the Principal about us just moving to town and my needing a school. My mother called and made an appointment and the Principal agreed to meet with them after school.

There we were in front of Madame Sheusta (fictitious). My father told her she was a beautiful woman and then asked where the nearest dessert place was particularly a frozen yogurt place where the handles come out of the wall and you can eat cotton candy and pina colada. My mother went on to tell her that I was very feminine when I was little and she really wasn't sure when things went awfully wrong.

Anyway the next day I showed up at school and met some nice friends. We went to the cafeteria at lunch and it was time for my big dance - this was my chance - so I got up on a long table and I blasted my boom box and I footloosed all over the place - I mean I was twisting, jumping, spinning - just ripping up the place - and you know what? No one cared. This was extremely disappointing. Where were the people that don't allow dancing in their town?

When I returned to the hotel my parents were ready to go for dinner (4pm). They thought there would be an Early Bird Discount somewhere. We ended up at a local diner where my father told the waitress she was the most beautiful woman and my mother told him to shut up. We ordered our food and about an hour later a bunch of locals starting coming in (they missed the Early Bird).

Again, this was my shot at foot loosing - so I got up on the front counter and started to dance. I didn't have my boom box but the sound system at the diner was playing "Rain drops keep falling on my head" so I jiggied out to that and really started to get into it. And you know what happened - no one cared.

We returned to our hotel and I realized that perhaps I had made a huge mistake in thinking that all small towns do not allow dancing or loud music. Just then my mother asked me if I wanted to go play Bingo at the local church. My father only agreed to come if snacks were being served so my mother packed some cookies and some chips in her purse and we were on our way.

There were alot of older people playing Bingo and it was very, very quiet as they concentrated intensely (as if you have to concentrate on Bingo - there is no strategy - just wait for them to call your number and stand up for God's sake). There it was the shining opportunity. I ran to the car, grabbed my boom box and just as someone was calling out Bingo (my mother) I began to dance in front of the whole crowd. They went crazy - throwing their Bingo boards at me blocking their ears - a riot ensued. My parents headed for the door (well my Dad first went to the snack table and grabbed some cake) and I followed suit.

It had worked, I had made a name for myself in Joli. I had caused a Bingo riot. I was Footloose and loving it.

We arrived home later that night. My husband was watching the news with the dogs on the couch.

"How was your roadtrip?"

"It was great. I ate a Michigan, I made it on time for an Early Bird Special, went back to highschool, danced on a table in a cafeteria, danced in a Bingo church hall and hung out with my parents"

He didn't hear anything I said because the TV was blasting and then a news story came on about this girl who decided to play her boom box and dance in the middle of Sherbrooke St right in front of the McGill gates. There were all these people honking their horns and yelling at her. Students were blocked from crossing the intersection so they were throwing things at her. Everyone was up in arms and she was the rebel, the devil, yes, she was FOOTLOSE and all I had done was show up at a Bingo game in a small town.

I went to bed that night feeling like a real loser however when I awoke the next morning, a brilliant thought came to mind - what if I could be the next American Idol even though I'm past the age limit, not American and can't sing - yes, this was the perfect plan. I called my parents, they were on their way and I was about to be a star.

Kevin Bacon - call me - I know a Bingo hall where you can dance and a diner that serves excellent Pecan Pie.

Oct 22, 2011

What happens when the ground beneath you crumbles?


Many years ago my dog and I fell through the ice on a lake in the country. My husband was away patrolling at a ski hill and the house we rented at the time was in an isolated area.

The moment I fell through and started to go into deep freeze - I heard my late Grandfather telling me to fight and survive.

I equate the depth, darkness and overall tone of this post to the traumatic events we all experience within our lifetimes and the spirit that arrives and takes us by the hand and saves us from everything and everyone including and most importantly ourselves.

We all fall - here's to hoping we all get back up again.


What happens when the ground you stand upon falls out from underneath you? Is an ambulance sent to the scene? Is there a trauma team on call waiting for you in an operating room? Are your loved ones contacted and gathered together? Are you able to express what is happening and why? Is there news coverage of your story at 6pm? Does the whole world stop and pray for you? Does it become a national day of remembrance? Is the flag hung at half mast?


What does happen in no particular order is you slowly but surely lose your mind,your perspective, your understanding of the world around you. You are not able to express or communicate to anyone exactly what has taken place. You want to find a dark corner in a deep cave to crawl into and wrap your arms around yourself while you shiver and shake. You forget simple things like your phone number, the street you live on, the name of your dog. You become so anxious that the shakes turn into convulsions that rock your mind and pinch and twist every muscle in your body.

And that ground that bottoms out and fails you...that same ground that has allowed you to walk upon it your entire life thus far...ceases to exist.

There is an aura you feel before the ground shakes and falls apart. It's a feeling that something very awful is going to happen and there isn't a damn thing you can do about it. No one - not your friends, family can prevent this from happening or catch you as you fall through the deep crevice.

Once you fall - there is nowhere to go. You are stuck; the teeth are clenching your soul, your being. There is no going up, no going down, no going anywhere. There are no search and rescue teams shouting at you from the top, there are no heroes rappelling their way down. There is no light only dark and it's uncomfortably cold.

You know you cannot survive this predicament for long. You try to think of ways to save yourself but your mind is in fragments and colours like a Picasso painting and you can't make sense of what is left of you on the canvass.

Hour go by and no one is calling, then you hear a familiar voice, it's someone you loved very much and has passed from this world but is always there overseeing your every accomplishment, your every mistake. They are telling  you to make like a snake and slide your way slowly and carefully to the top. Don't push, don't pull, just become a snake.

So you visualize and you take your mind far away from the negative thoughts and you tell yourself, "I can become a snake. I can slither my way up to the surface using the path of least resistance. I can let go of all the anger, resentment, frustration and disbelief" and you hear your loved one repeat "Move, never stop moving - there is nothing for you in the stillness."

You twist your arms and legs around your body and you start to slither along the side of the crevice. Moments pass like days. Then you see a crack of light and you find yourself within inches of the top. A vision of your loved one appears and their eyes are as deep as the ocean. They look good in the afterlife; refreshed and strong.

Your hands reach the ledge and with one final movement you pull yourself onto the surface. You look around and all you see is vastness...miles and miles of salt pans in the midst. This is not the ground you previously stood upon but you are happy just the same. You gather yourself, your mind still baffled and confused and you find the courage to take one step after another.

You reach the edge of the salt pans and see the sun is rising in this newly found world. You seat yourself down and with your right hand gather a handful of the sparkling white crystals. You pick up more with your left hand and you throw them up in the air. You wish you were that salt, flying freely in the air, no worries, no sadness, no heavy load to carry, just air and sparkles.

You grow tired so you snuggle up and pull some salt around you. The sky is dancing in a spin of shades of purple and you see your loved one waving goodbye, But just before they disappear, they scrape a message in between the stars and the sky and it reads:

"We all lose our grounding. Some of us never get up again because we believe that there is only one ground to walk upon. Those who do rise, find a new surface and they walk, dance, live, love, sing upon it for evermore."

In every life, the ground will break. But like the salt on the pans and the shades of purple in the sky, you must rise again, fly through the air and land spectacularly upon a new ground.

Oct 21, 2011

A Dog Named Chance

We take chances every day. Actually we take chances every second of every day - we just don't realize it and we therefore do not always weigh the consequences.

We take chances in allowing ourselves to fall in love for the first time. We are vulnerable and we let someone into our deepest, darkest secrets and share with them the most intense of intimacies - love making.

Many people believe that life is but a chance. It may sound Shakespearean but think about it... how many times has something happened to you that seemed like less than a coincidence? Maybe it all is one big chance sort of like leaping over a large puddle between the corner of the street and the road and you either end up in a smash landing or you make it safe and dry onto the sidewalk.

It's sometimes good to take chances because in taking them we change the path we are on and turn onto something new and refreshing and we even discover a part of ourselves that had been hidden or lost. Other times we take chances and well, we don't do so well with them but at least we tried.

When we were young, we constantly took chances - we were the greatest "risk takers" ever. That's because we were curious and we were doing most things for the first time. It's exhilarating and scary all at once to take a chance and to do something new. Chances help us learn. We learn what it feels like to fail and what it feels like to succeed. We take chances again and again no matter how many times things do not turn out as planned.

Sometimes we find ourselves asking a friend, "Should I take that chance?" Although usually when we are asking we already know how much of a chance we are willing to take.

Here's a little story for you about "Chance". Many years ago, a friend of mine (let's call him Harry)was driving to his cottage on a snowy, winter's night. He was on a dark road and the snow began to fall heavily, so much so that there was barely any visibility. He had a choice, he could either continue driving and take a chance of possibly having an accident or he could stop by the side of the road and wait the storm out. As he was pondering this decision, he saw a parking lot appear on his left. He recognized the abandoned property as a former B&B that his parents took him to when he was little for the best banana and chocolate chip pancakes.

He then chose to get out of his car and seek shelter under the awning at the front of the building. Once he was there, he chose to see if the front door was unlocked and it was so he crept inside lighting his way with his cell phone.

There was a ghastly stench of must and rotted food. He could see the breakfast benches and dining room had pretty much remained intact. Just when he decided not to venture any further, something ran by his feet and hid under a table. He had a choice, he could run like hell and get back to the safety of his car or he could beam his flashlight app from his phone under the table.

He bent down and found a dog, his fur matted, his leg cut and bleeding, shivers running through him and no tags. He had a choice, he could leave the dog there and not bother with him or he could carry him out to his car. He chose to take the dog with him. He carefully lifted him and carried him in his arms. The snow had subsided and the road was clearly visible. He placed the dog in the back seat and put the heat on full blast. Then he got in the back seat and covered the dog with a blanket and held him close. The dog was shivering and short of breath. Harry hoped that he was not going to die in his arms but if he did, at least he would not die alone.

Within 30 minutes or so, the dog was almost completely respondent and sitting up placing his muzzle into Harry's neck. He was leaning his entire weight into Harry's side and he moved toward his face and gave him a big, wet kiss. Harry drove off and they arrived at his cottage shortly thereafter. Once the house was lit up and warmed by a crackling fire, Harry placed the dog in the bath tub and gave him a good scrub down, dried him and bandaged his cut. Then the dog suddenly appeared in his entirety and Harry was able to recognize that he was some variation of a Golden Retriever. He had chocolate brown eyes, a coat that looked like it has been sprinkled with brown sugar and a tail disproportionatally large for his body. His left eye was partially splashed with a white blaze that made its way down to his nose.

Throughout the next week Harry visited all the local shelters, police stations and posted signs and but no one called to reclaim the dog. Harry felt badly for whomever had lost him but it seemed more likely he had been purposely left out in the snow to fend for himself. It didn't take long at all for Harry and the dog to grow closer. He decided to name the dog and in doing so to recognize that this was now his dog and his dog only.

He named him "Chance" because that's what he initially was - a chance that Harry decided to take. And for the "Chance" that choice saved his life.

I would have taken that chance - would you?

It's hard to say what chances we will or won't take because as much as we think we weigh the consequences, we are actually quite impulsive when our emotions are in play and when another "being" is part of the chance, it's all about emotion in the end.

I am all for taking chances. Most of life adventures have come my way because of the chances I have taken. I'm not afraid of losing because no matter how many times I do, it's the winning that brings me back to chance time and time again.

Chances...take them, don't take them, but never underestimate them because in doing so you are underestimating yourself. And who knows? There may just be a goofy, brown sugared Retriever out there waiting for you to take that chance.

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