Monthly Archives: November 2013

Why Have a Party?

My parents were the party people. They would host parties given practically any excuse. Their friends were great – all steadfast family folk who got silly when they drank – they didn’t do it very often – they couldn’t afford it in post war Canada.

We kids, the three of us, were sent to our rooms – banished from the good times of our parents and their friends. Little did they know we would listen through the register and at the door to the raucous goings-on in our unfinished basement. Those old western songs they danced to and the precarious steps they took as they climbed the steep basement steps to our bathroom were of great interest to our young ears eager to know the business of adults.

I loved that my parents were so welcoming and that they respected their times as “non-parents” to be private and not a part of our lives as their kids. They did teach us, though, that there is a place for a party in every life.

Let me explain…having a party…

1. Forces you to clean the house.
2. Allows you to find those earrings you thought you lost two years ago.
3. Lets you show off your new appetizer recipe.
4. Gives you an excuse to go shopping for a new outfit.
5. Promotes the idea that it’s OK to over-eat and over-drink.
6. Forces you to put up the Christmas lights or decorate appropriately given the season.
7. Encourages you to reach out to others that you might only see rarely.
8. Lets other people know you actually do care about them.
9. Provides you with a positive picture of your house that could last for months. (Or until you vacuum again, whichever comes first)
10. Allows you to smile – with others or at yourself.

Hosting a party opens up your life to scrutiny, make no mistake. It lets other people enter your world and visit with you in that place that is uniquely yours. It is a gamble. It is a risk. What if they don’t like what they find here in your nest, your home? Wow, I never thought of that!!!

So much for thinking…


Getting Goofy Again

Although many people would not realize it, I was the crazy one at my house. Yes, I was a teacher for many decades and then an administrator (how did that happen?), but the truth of the matter was that I was goofy. I don’t mean stupid or thoughtless – I mean carefree and my own person – regardless of the consequences. I never thought about that before…
My husband was the meticulous one, the detail guy, the accurate thinker and my straight man – yes, he was the foil to my foolishness. He guarded my comments, my expenditures, my appropriateness at all the right times in all the right places. He provided names of people I had not set eyes on for years and kept me from the sure-fired embarrassments of being in the wrong place at the wrong time or saying the wrong thing to the wrong person. Yes, he was definitely my guide on the side. Do I ever miss that now!
During his illness and dying days and in the year since that almighty loss, I tried to live up to his standards. I found myself second-guessing decisions about everything from purchases to what I was going to eat. I especially watched my language – he frowned on fowlmouthing. Things that I thought about saying during conversations with friends were often swallowed back and not uttered because I was trying to adopt his ethic of “think first and regret less later”.
Well…I can’t stand this anymore!!
Thank you my husband for 40 years of care and attention.
Thank you my husband for the training that I am sure has not totally worn off in a year.
Thank you my husband for the love you shared with me which kept me going even with my foot in my mouth.
I am now retaining my goofy side. I am going to test the waters. I am going to utter words of challenge to the guy who walked in front of me at the Tim Hortons. I am going to question why I can’t take my dog into the post office when I pick up the mail. I am going to create a scene the next time I work at the Humane Society and some idiot comes in with 6 kittens from her barn which could not possibly be hers because her tomcats never leave her property.
I am going to call my political representatives and have a conversation and that really won’t be pretty. Most of all, I am going to resume those quips – some audible and some under my breath – that may not be polite and may not be politically correct. Sometimes I may have to be purposefully rude, but it is going to feel good.
Time to get goofy again.

How About That!


I watched my puppy slide across the snowy deck today with great joy She bounced and skidded and twirled and almost appeared to laugh with tongue hanging out and front legs prancing highly and fancifully. She grabbed leaves and carried them around the yard. Then she tried to walk across the partially frozen pond. While the pond is only 12 by 12 feet and I knew her life was not likely in danger, I ran, screaming and trying to frighten her off the now-cracking skim of ice. I am sure she thought I was nuts – I never yell at her. I was so frightened that she was going to fall through into the icy water below. There I was, pink pyjamas, no housecoat, no slippers prepared to run to her aid on a subzero day. I suppose a dunk in the cold depths would have been a good lesson for her. She would only have done it once…I think. I just can’t let her be so frightened. She is so innocent and trusting. But….
She made me yell out loud. How about that!
She made me laugh out loud. How about that!
Over the space of the 4 months I have known her, she has made me live.
How about that!

Thank you, puppy!


A Widow at Christmas

This is Christmas number two since the death of my husband. I thought about this a lot today after setting up my Christmas decorations for the season. I remembered last year – I was like the headless horseman preparing for the season completing each preparation step like an Automatron, just one foot in front of the other without thought or emotion. I organized the neighbourhood Christmas party, and hired strangers to put up the outside lights. My home looked like it always did at Christmas, like nothing had changed. The most distinguishing moment for me came as I finished putting up a thirty foot garland atop the kitchen cabinets. No easy feat for me. It was at this moment I remembered that each year when this particularly difficult task was completed, Jim and I would stand in amazement and enjoy his favourite Christmas drink of Baileys to celebrate my success. Christmas could now happen because we were in awe of our house, our beautiful decorations, and our love for each other. The Bailey’s was also very good!

In my first “widow Christmas” last year, as you can imagine, I stood back ready to be applauded – but- no applause – my fan club was gone. Even Baileys was no consolation.

It was clear to both me and my family that somehow the heart of my home and of our Christmas spirit was missing, absent, gone.

This year is different. I am prepared for the lack of comradarie. I am prepared for the loss of love and back-slapping “way-to-goes”. I know those days are over. However….

I have to tell you that I love the look of all of the lights.
I love that I am going to have my friends and neighbours in for a party to enjoy these lights.
I am happy that, on Christmas morning this year, my grandkids and my kids are going to see them and go “ooh and ahh” because I cared enough to take the time for beauty in my life .
I am satisfied that I am doing the right thing for me.
I think I am beginning to love my life again.
Hooray! At least for today things are looking up!

Get a Patent!

Here is a suggestion for anyone out there who wants to make a million dollars in one Christmas season – invent a low weight, electric or battery-powered staple gun. Putting up lights on the deck and numerous other home repairs can be accomplished through the simple use of a staple gun unless you have the hand strength of a women – that’s me.
I have just spent the afternoon stapling 10 sets of icicle lights on my deck railing. My thumb doesn’t have any feeling any more. When I tried to hold my fork at supper, my thumb would not work. It just sat there on the side of my hand as if to say – staple or eat – your choice lady. I guess my thumb has spoken.
Actually, I not only used my thumb and right hand, but also engaged both hands in concert to compress that “spring-loaded staple gun – you know, the one I bought because the advertising said it was 30% easier to compress. Sure – NOT!
In attempting to get a light weight electric stapler, all I was introduced to ( by this 260 pound contender for the next WWF) were really heavy tools used to staple together whole walls and houses.
I have a five pound trimmer, a five pound sander and a seven pound chain saw and they all worked great this summer. They put me in charge of my yard.
Well, I still have to staple more icicle lights to the top of my gazebo – that would amount to an overhead squeeze without the benefit of body weight, good balance and a second hand to compress that damn thing. HELP!
Invent me a woman stapler!!!

Thoughts on Monday

I will apologize to my regular readers right now. I have many thoughts flying through my head this morning and a realization that quite frankly needs to get out.
I have been a volunteer at the Humane Society all summer and the supervisor – who by the way was fired – told me one day that he likened this place to a processing plant. In other words, hundreds of animals would arrive and only a few of the lucky ones would leave – alive. It was a harsh statement to make to an animal-loving volunteer for sure – but isn’t reality harsh too?
I have just re-read a former blog of my own about cancer treatment in Ontario and it suddenly dawned on me that these places are our Humane Societies – the modern day processing plant – but for people. What a horrible vision that is, and I could never have acknowledged that view while we were fighting to exist, to live.
Now, in hindsight, it was my husband and I who were needing help and shelter and he was the one who didn’t get to leave.
Once again, my apologies for such a sour thought on the first day of the week. I will put this idea in an imaginary bubble and throw it out into those 100 km. winds today…..gone.

Have You Ever????

Have you ever wondered what it feels like to …..

Have you ever wondered what it would look like if you……

Have you ever wondered  how it would sound if you…..

Have you ever wondered how it could change you if you…..

Have you ever wondered what it is you want more than anything else – ever – in the whole world?

Are you going to do it?   try it?   see it?   believe it?   say it?

I am…………

Joys That Float the Boat

The eyes of Madeleine – eight months old and glittering like the sun

The smile of Benjamin – innocent, uninhibited

The wiry gymnastic moves of Sophie – sure and unmistakable

The strength of Annabelle in everything she does

The beautiful wide-eyed trust of Cristian – looking to me for love

The confidence of Michael – playing with his favourite toy as only he can

The stomping steps and intelligence of Naomi – who acts beyond her years.

These young folk represent the next generation of our family.

We are very lucky

To have such joys in our lives

To keep our boat afloat.

The One Pushing the Wheelchair

My husband and I spent four years in treatment for prostate cancer.  We dutifully stuck to the regiment of our “every three weeks” for this treatment and “every three months” for that treatment.  Our household calendar took a prime position  on our kitchen counter and those appointments, both in our town and in a major cancer treatment centre an hour away, took priority over everything else and everybody else in our lives.  Jim’s life depended on this – and so it was.

For the first three years of this priority-changing evolution, he drove and we were comfortable in the waiting room, even though our waits would be long and boring. We would often be there for six to eight hours.

Trying to make the best of it, I would sometimes go to a nearby mall, my cell phone in hand, to look for this and that, all the time feeling like I had a huge hole in my gut and unable to truly enjoy the shopping experience – and I the “extreme” shopper.  I would scurry back to Jim’s side and commiserate with him about his boredom or how often he was poked for blood.  I retrieved coffee and an old fashioned donut for him – always trying to make the nasties go away and replace them with better memories.

I would often look around the waiting rooms and see people in wheelchairs in various states of deterioration.  They looked wrinkled, gaunt, sad, and struggling to breathe.  They often had oxygen attached to them and urine bags hanging from the backs of those wheelchairs.  My attention was always drawn to the patients not the ones behind the chairs.

How things changed.

It was obvious that I would soon be the one to drive to these appointments when, as we were flying down the freeway at break-neck speed,  I noticed that Jim was required to lift his right leg off the gas peddle with his hands to put it on the brakes. Not good.

Things changed again.

We arrived at the hospital one day and he could not walk into the hospital.  I was able to procure the last wheelchair inside the entranceway and ferry it to the car – of course we were in a no-parking zone – I think that is all they have at hospitals nowadays.  I rushed like crazy to get him comfortable in this contraption I had never used before, afraid of him being embarrassed by his lack of mobility, afraid I would be chided by the security guy for staying in that place, embarrassed that I did not know in advance that Jim was becoming so debilitated.  I should have had things ready – I was always the organized one.

It was raining that day and we got soaked even as we rushed, wheelchair-bound through the entranceway.

As treatment days wore on, I began to look behind the wheelchairs.  Thus began my awareness of those forgotten companions we call caregivers. I now understood that it is those people walking behind the patient who were also taking a hit from this disease.  No, they may not be the ones with the cancer cells, but they were forced to carry on and to bear a very heavy load.  They too looked wrinkled, gaunt, sad, and struggling to breathe. It seemed like it was all they could do to go from one station to the next, to taxi the coffee or tea to their loved one, to protect that loved one from drafts, pain and embarrassment of any kind.

These brave people are called caregivers.  I was one and always will be.  It is built into my cells now to sustain others and work to relieve them of pain and worry.  I am now a  reluctant expert.

I was………………  the one pushing the wheelchair.

The Waiting Room Ethic

Don’t ask, Don’t tell.

Sit quietly.  Look relaxed.

Be a classy Canadian.

Deal with hardship expressing stalwart courage.

Keep your mouth shut.

Do what you are told.

Sit in your chair.

Watch and listen to your “buzzer”

You are now, only a number

Let’s protect your privacy

You are, after all, in the regional cancer clinic

So there is a possibility that you have a bad cold – right?

What is so private here?

What is so noble here?

There is nothing noble or private –

It is, let’s face it, horrible, boring, a waste of the last of the time we will have…

Eight hours later, exhausted from sitting and waiting, we are dismissed

As though from detention

We are given permission to leave others who  tell us we are dying

Give me a break and learn to treat Canadian patients with respect – really!

Ask me now what we needed then and I will tell you………………