April 2, 2024

Oh, Canada!

In college I flew with my French class to Quebec. After exploring beautiful, bright, and historically rich Quebec City, we drove in a rented bus to our destination of Sept Iles on the Gulf of St. Lawrence. I distinctly remember a day at a cabin further up the gulf. The cabin belonged to the family of one of our  student exchange partners, and we had been invited there to celebrate all things maple syrup, it being March and the time of the running of the sap. We ate fried ham and eggs smothered in syrup, and curled golden ribbons of maple taffy around sticks in the snow. The day was radiant with early spring sunshine which bounced off the snow on the shore and lit up the blue water, beckoning me outside. I trudged by myself to the shore and put my hand into the Gulf, thrilled to have finally reached the Atlantic.  I stood by the water for a while wishing I could sail across to New Brunswick and tour the Maritimes as well (something I have yet to do). I thought of the four large provinces I had crossed to get to where I was standing. I felt a connection to the vastness and variety of my country right then and there, and I think that is the moment I truly fell in love with Canada. I have been a proud Canadian every since. I care deeply about what happens in this country.

Canada recently lost our 18th Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney. He is an important figure in my memory because I had just started to pay attention to politics when he was running for election in 1984. I was fifteen at the time, and had become friends with a girl whose parents were Progressive Conservatives and fans of Mulroney. To say my parents were not was a bit of an understatement. They had been Pierre Eliot Trudeau fans and fairly staunch Liberals up to that point. I remember coming home from my friend's house and saying I liked this new Mulroney candidate and hoped he would win. This caused a few raised eyebrows. Meech Lake and Free Trade were the buzzwords in Canada at the time. When I started to pay real attention to what was at stake I changed my mind about Mulroney's policies, but that does not mean I decided he was a terrible man. He had won the right to be Prime Minister by our democratic process, and was serving his country in the way he thought right and good. Not only that, but he gained the respect of his colleagues, whatever political side they were on, simply for his intelligence, his passion for his country, his sense of fair play and respectful discourse.

These days, we can be incredibly vicious when it comes to the members of the opposing political 'teams'. It is not enough to disagree with another party's policies. We have to hate them for them. Growing up, this approach seemed to me unique to the US or Britain, not to Canada where we have a reputation for politeness and mutual respect, even in politics. Politicians who would shout opinion from opposite sides of Parliament could often be friends outside of it. That is not so true anymore; I cannot imagine Pierre Pollievre, right wing leader of the Opposition and PM Justin Trudeau having enough in common to be friends. The pandemic exposed the nasty underbelly of political opinion in this country. We have seen some ugly scenes play out here in the last few years, scenes I never thought possible before now. Even though I am in favour of political satire to keep the powers in check, the vitriol aimed at Trudeau these days is shocking to me. Is our Prime Minister my favourite person? No, but he doesn't need to be. Do I think people are justified to slap "Fuck Trudeau" bumper stickers on their vehicles for everyone, including children of reading age, to see? Hell no. What kind of example does that set to the younger generations?  I'm ashamed every time I see one of those stickers or flags. We can do better than that. We can disagree with our current Prime Minister on his policies, even lack respect for him personally, but the office of Prime Minister demands our respect, and for now, Justin Trudeau inhabits that office. He serves his country, just as Brian Mulroney did. Holding office is not for the faint of heart. In fact, it seems one needs an inflated ego to hold that office in this toxic climate we have created, which is a real shame. An election is looming and we all have some soul searching to do regarding what we want our leaders in Canada to be and not to be. That really is the question.

I love my vast mosaic of a country. I love Canadians for our self-deprecating humour, our official bilingualism, our concern for others globally and at home, and our devotion to both education and democracy. We only have to look south of the border - where the two options for leader are an 81 year old who should be living out his retirement in peace and tranquility, and a megalomaniac who, on one hand threatens violence if he loses the election, and on the other, sells Nationalistic Bibles to try to pay off his huge legal fines - to see what not to do. As Robin Williams said, "Canada is like a really nice apartment over a meth lab." We need to do everything in our power not to get sucked into dealing that meth here. 

'Til next time, 


February 4, 2024

Musings on Modern Mid-Life Friendship

I  have someone I call 'friend' with whom the entire dialogue between us consists of sending each other memes, funny or sweeet videos, and the occasional tidbit of personal information. We have seen each other briefly, and only once, since high school when she turned up at my workplace with her kids. I didn't even know her that well in high school, but she found me on Instagram a few years ago and we struck up a friendship of sorts, mainly based on making each other laugh. She's very smart (science and math smart, unlike me), adventurous (I'm not really), and very glamorous (don't laugh). I have let her lead our relationship and so far it has been a fun nearly daily check-in that makes me smile in surprise and delight. I mean, if you'd known the two of us in high school you might say, "Who knew?"

My relationship with my internet friend is contrasted with the ones I have with my childhood friends. I have known Toni and Rachel since we were six. Our relationship consists of talking on the phone about once every six months, yearly visits if we're lucky, but we always sink into our usual conversation and laughter like its a comfortable old sofa. I love them very much and they remind me of who I used to be. Maybe I remind them, too. We had a larger circle in school, and I still consider those others women friends, but we only seem to communicate through commenting on each others posts on Facebook. I have a feeling if we saw each other again, we would still find something to talk about. They are all such smart, accomplished women, but none of us live near each other anymore. Some relationships persist into adulthood and middle age, and some fade a bit from sheer geography. 

Then, there are the friends I made in adulthood, mainly through college and university, motherhood, working, and volunteering situations. Not all of those friendships remained as steady. I am always happy to see any of these friends, but perhaps there isn't enough in common anymore to sustain an active friendship. That's how it goes, doesn't it? There's nothing wrong with that, really. Sometimes friendships make the most sense during a specific phase of life - perhaps our children played together  when they were little, and drifted apart as teens. We did move a few times as well. I am so grateful for the women in the above category with whom I have maintained active friendships. We were/are present for each other when our kids were growing up, when we lost parents, and when we have dealt with health issues. I am grateful for Facebook, which allows me to keep up with the lives of other friends I would otherwise have mainly lost touch with. 

There was a time fairly recently when I thought I would never make another friend, that I had gathered to my heart all the people I ever would. Part of the reason for such a sad feeling was due to my major burnout of five or so years ago, and my turning into something of a hermit. I honestly felt awkward around new people, which was a new and odd sensation for me. Slowly, however, little fledgling friendships began to form with people in my current city as I got our more. While not fully flown yet, these friendships are worth encouraging, so I try to put in the work. Making new friends in middle age is not the easiest. People are often set in their routines, are busy with family, aging parents, and work. But, it is possible if you are open to it and not too demanding of others' time, I find.

The last category of friendship I am blessed to write about is the kind I have with my siblings. We understand each other deeply, because we grew up together in the same house with the same parents. We went through stuff we don't talk about with anyone else. Most of us (and that includes our various partners) have only grown closer over the years as we plow into middle age and beyond. I am the youngest, so I have the most to be grateful for when it comes to love and support from my older siblings. They paved the way, and I benefitted so much from their work. I treasure them more every year.

A huge thank you to my kaleidoscope of friends, no matter what our individual relationships consist of. If you send me a meme now and then, thank you! You thought of me. If you call, thank you! I have missed our conversations. If you visit, thank you! I love talking, laughing, and walking with you. I strive to be a good friend, too.

Until next time, 


P.S. And to my husband: I hope it goes without saying that you are my best friend. I love laughing and solving the world's problems with you. 

January 3, 2024

The Case of the Missing Sunglasses

Since we are still within the Twelve Days of Christmas I feel like it's okay to tell a funny little Christmas story. 

A couple of weeks before Christmas I misplaced my magnetic clip-on sunglasses. I say 'misplaced' rather than 'lost' because the times I thought I lost them I have always found them, usually in an odd place. My clip-ons aren't the kind you buy at Walmart or Shoppers Drug Mart. They are specifically made for my glasses' frames and are one of the reasons I choose the brand of glasses I do. They are the only sunglasses I wear, and I especially need them up at the resort on bluebird days when the snow is blindingly white. I looked everywhere for my sunglasses but had no luck. My husband told me to order another pair from the eye doctor's; even if the originals turned up he thought a second pair would be useful to have. I didn't like spending the seventy dollars, but I didn't have much of a choice at that point. I suppose I could have walked around with my ski goggles on if worse came to worst.

I was already at the resort where my family was to spend Christmas when the eye doctor place called me to say my order was in. I told them I would pick it up the next week and hoped for cloudy-ish skies. I lucked out. The weather was perfect - just enough cloud to keep the sun from blinding me, but still lovely and conducive to many winter rambles in the woods. 

My kids arrived and our five day party started. Morning visits over coffee and lingering breakfasts, lunch with their dad on his break, then afternoons spent doing our own thing, either in pairs, or alone. We fueled our activities with the cookies I had made and soon started in on the pan of my husband's homemade and very delicious Nanaimo bars. Christmas morning arrived. My husband had to make his rounds first thing, so the rest of us opened our stockings and started making brunch. We would open our gifts after my husband returned and we had all eaten. 

Our bacon and eggs, mimosas, and panettone enjoyed, we gathered near the Christmas tree to open our gifts. We took turns passing out our gifts and watched each other open them. When it was my turn I handed my husband a box which contained a new pair of slippers. He's been having some trouble with his right heel and I thought some slippers with cushy memory foam would be a welcome replacement for his old ones. My husband tore the wrapping paper off and un-taped the old shoe box I had used. He lifted out the slippers and made an appropriately appreciative noise. I remember my eyes were cast down when he said, "Um, Rebecca?" I looked up. He was holding my sunglasses. In the whirlwind of acquiring, organizing, and wrapping gifts I must have dropped them into the slippers. I laughed. We all laughed. "It's a Christmas miracle!" I said. 

You see? I had only misplaced my sunglasses, and true to form, they showed up in the oddest of places. 

Happy New Year!

'til next time, 


October 24, 2023

Moms: Grief and Gratitude

Last week was a tough week. Nothing outwardly calamitous happened to me, it was just a week of reminders and anniversaries of not so great things. 

My mom died on October 20, 2021. I had been thinking about her, and our relationship, as I do when something like her birthday or Mothers Day comes around. About ten years before she died I felt her pushing me away a bit. She didn't want to answer tough questions or talk about difficult subjects anymore. I resorted to simple, low stakes conversations about my kids, my work, her retirement activities, etc. in order to connect with her. When she developed full blown dementia, four years before she died, I couldn't help feeling ripped off. I still had so many questions to ask her, so many things I would have liked answered. Now, when I look back on my perception of her pushing me away, I recognize it, along with some other indicators, as the beginnings of the slow cloud of dementia starting to cover her thought processes. She simply lacked the capacity to 'go deep' with me any longer. 

I loved my mom. She was a good mom for the most part, and I miss her. I wish she had been tougher on me, and fought for me a little harder. I gave up on things too easily, was too flighty. Maybe she had her reasons, but I could have done with a bit more coaching. I took that into my own practice of motherhood, and perhaps I overdid it a little with my own kids. (Violin practice was almost the death of my son and me a few times.) I was a fairly typical GenX hippie kid,  left to my own devices and allowed to honour my whims for the most part. My family went through some really tough times during my upbringing, and I think I paid a bit of the price for that. My mom was a hard worker, an intellectual, a philosophical person and somewhat of a local celebrity. She was a lot to live up to, and thinking about her often leads me to facing stuff about myself and becoming conflicted. Still, we were close, and she was great in so many ways that I forgive her for any and all shortcomings she may have demonstrated in mothering me. On our last visit together, when she was able to walk downtown with me, I took her to a lovely craft store full of handmade, artistic creations. We walked around the store hand in hand, looking at pottery, jewelry, woodwork, ironwork, and fiber arts. She couldn't say much, but I could tell she was enjoying looking with me, and holding my hand. We held hands a lot on that visit, and I hold on to that memory when I am missing her most. 

There are other ways the week was a tough one, but I won't go into that now. When some personal hard things are in progress, we prefer to talk about them only once they are resolved.

Saturday night my husband and I had tickets to a band we have seen several times, The Paperboys. After a hard and emotional week, I was ready to let my hair down and have a good time. Our son had given us a gift certificate to the local Greek restaurant months before, so we decided to go all out and go out for supper as well. Mojitos go well with Greek food, I found out. After supper we quickly took the leftovers of our generous 'Greek Platter for Two' home and put them in the fridge. We drove to the hall where the concert was to take place and quickly found a table at the back. We were soon invited to sit with some friends who were seated closer to the stage, which would be less of a trek to and from the dance floor. After a couple of songs, my husband and I, and one of our good friends, got up to dance. The Paperboys' music is an enticing blend of Celtic-inspired Folk, Rock, Jazz, with Latin roots - very danceable. We only sat down for the ballads to catch our breath and quench our thirst. At one point, Tom Landa, the band's leader for all of their thirty years as a group, introduced his mother. He said she had been coming to their gigs and supporting them unequivocally for all of those thirty years. "If you want to know what support looks like, she is it," he said to an appreciative crowd. Tom's mom looked about eighty, but she danced all night. After the encore, because of course there was an encore, we were all cheering our hearts out. Tom's mom was right next to me. She caught me up in a surprise hug, and I was so honoured. I suppose she could see how much we were enjoying the band, and her son, and wanted to share the moment with us? I'm not sure, but it felt great. We chatted for a minute or so, and I thought how lucky she was to have a son like Tom, but also how lucky he was to have a mom like her. I remembered how my mom and I used to go dancing to my brother's band back in the late 1980's.

Motherhood is a journey, that's for sure. Most of us do our best and we still screw it up sometimes. We can also be hard on our moms, but, I think as we get older and have our own kids and our own trials as moms, we understand our own mothers just a little bit better. We may even feel a kind of solidarity with them. I heard it said in a movie once: "Even people who hate their mothers love their mothers". I certainly didn't hate mine, and I am eternally grateful for all the support she gave me over the years. 

Until next time, 


September 11, 2023

Will Elvis Leave the Building for Good?

When the current elderly generation expires, will Elvis Impersonators be out of a job? 

The above question occurred to a friendly acquaintance and me, pretty much at the same moment the other evening, at a 50th wedding anniversary party we attended with our respective husbands. 

I was so tired. I had been away working all week and driven home in the dark the night before - an hour plus of scanning the road for wildlife with exhausted eyes and a throbbing head. When I got home my husband reminded me about the party, which was on our schedules for the next evening. "Noooo!" or maybe some curse words escaped my mouth. I can't remember. Cancelling was not really an option for this particular event, though. I decided not to think about the party, brushed my teeth, and fell into bed, sleeping hard all night.

The next morning I woke up, still tired. I managed a half-hearted shuffle around the lake, had lunch and then, a nap. The party was back down in the valley, and was to go from 4:30 to 9:00 pm. At least it won't be a late night, I told myself. The theme for the party was the 1970's, in honour of the decade our hosts were married in, and also, we found out later, the decade in which they saw Elvis live in Las Vegas for ten bucks a ticket (and that included two drinks! said our host, enthusiastically).We had been invited to wear costumes. 

We arrived at the venue and changed into our costumes in the truck. I went for a 'Rhoda from Mary Tyler Moore' look, while my husband wore fake leather pants and a polyester satin shirt for a 'disco sleezeball' look. We had found our costumes at Value Village a couple of weeks prior. While we began to get into the spirit of the event I knew we both needed a drink. We opted for rum and cokes. We both needed the caffeine boost. 

The majority of the crowd were elderly peers of our hosts, but a small group of 50-somethings and assorted younger relatives rounded out the group. After drinks and mingling to the best of our ability (I admit to sitting down and posting photos on my phone after an hour of standing around making small talk), dinner was served. Our small table of four shared a bottle of wine and waited our turn at the buffet.

The evening's entertainment began after dinner. A local Elvis impersonator in a gold jacket entered the room and began his performance. While our table had misgivings about what to expect, none of us being Elvis fans, we soon had to admit our entertainer was a pro. He soon had the room singing along with the golden oldies, and a few couples, including the anniversary couple, got up to dance in the old way. 'Elvis' sang well and interspersed his Elvis material with some Neil Diamond. Roy Orbison, and Louis Armstrong, but it was his rendition of CCR's 'Proud Mary' that got us 50-something women on the dance floor. The alcohol and food had worked its magic and energized me briefly. A couple of spry older women were inspired to join us. The elderly folks unable to dance themselves, enjoyed watching us. We became part of the entertainment. 

After the cake, made to replicate the original two-tiered wedding cake, was served, my husband and I said our goodbyes. As we made our way through the crowd after stopping at the head table, an elderly woman grabbed my hand. "You all looked great!" she said, smiling widely. I covered her hand with both of mine, holding them for a moment, and said thank you. It made me glad to know she'd enjoyed herself so much.

The party, although I had approached it that night with a 'grin and bear it' kind of attitude, ended up being fun. I observed and appreciated how the Elvis impersonator had figured out his evolving audience needed more than the dated Elvis material (sorry, fans) to be entertained. In fact, he didn't really sound much like the original Elvis to me, just did his hair like him, danced a bit like him, and drove a pink 1970's Cadillac. He told us he was going to be performing at a big classic car show the next day. 

I also concluded I am very much in favour of parties starting early and ending at 9 pm, especially when the drive home is over an hour on a dark, curvy mountain highway. 

July 21, 2023

An Ode to my Eldest Sister, on her Birthday

Happy birthday to my bookend sister, Monica

Whose very existence for me is a tonic - ahhhh

I am the youngest, she is the oldest

I am the most hesitant, while she is the boldest

She's a good listener and also a talker

With friends and dogs she's a very fast walker

She makes a great meal, really loves to share it

She buys a nice wine with which to pair it

She has six children, all grown, most flown

A generous mom who would give her last bone

Three girls, three boys, a dog and a cat

A home always welcoming, no doubt about that

A grandma to two girls, she loves them to pieces

I love them, too though they're only my nieces

She calls her long hair colour 'Arctic Fox'

Her energy belies her age, she totally rocks!

When I was a kid and nine years her junior

She was the planet, I semi-lunar

She paid me five dollars to tidy her sock drawer

Always nice to me, never giving me what-for

As we grew older we became such good friends

She talked me through motherhood, the job never ends

Our husbands are friends, too, talking shop for, like, hours

While Monica and I sip coffee among their flowers

A journalist by trade she writes for the papers

An editor, too, now, no time for 'the vapors'

Her writing strives to always uphold the truth

She'll research and write 'til she's long in the tooth

(I believe she also has a colleague named Ruth?)

Mon's a great mother, sister and friend

To help you with issues over backwards she'll bend

She's super good fun and tells a great story

And if she goes before me, I'll be ever so sorry

Happy birthday, big sis! I love you so much.

June 25, 2023

Generation Cell Phone

I've been thinking about how each generation of children we raise lives in a different world than the one before it, and how that affects parenting those kids. I have three kids who would be considered young Millenials and one that would be considered GenZ. I know various factors contributed to their style of upbringing, but with the rate of change being as drastic as it is in this age of rapidly advancing technologies, even in the five year gap between my third and fourth children (both being girls) I noticed a difference. This main difference was the hand held pocket personal computer and communication device known more commonly in this country as the cell phone. And, I'm not just talking about my youngest's possession of one and how that affected her life, but of my own. 

I put off having cell phones in our home as long as I possibly could. My husband was issued a flip phone for work, but the rest of us did without phones, and no one thought to ask for one because they were yet to become commonplace among their peers. We did have the family computer in the living room, and we all took our turns to do schoolwork or writing projects, play games from DVDs like Magic School Bus and I Spy, Lego Harry Potter and LOTR, watch YouTube videos, download music, and play Club Penguin when those online activities came along. Often there would be more than one kid sitting at the computer at a time, sharing their experience together. One of my kids was loaned a Game Boy in Grade Five from a friend, and when I saw how addicted he became I asked him to give it back and never borrow it again. My older daughter somehow talked us into letting her get a Nintendo DS with the digital pen thingy when she was a pre-teen, but she never seemed to become as addicted as her brother had to the Game Boy. My goal was always for my children to develop their 'real world' interests first and use the digital gadgets as a tool for relaxation and entertainment on a limited basis.

I remember waiting in the elementary school yard for my youngest. A woman asked me if I was on Facebook. I told her, ugh no, that if I wanted to communicate with people from high school I would do it the old fashioned way - I wouldn't. A couple of years later my eldest who was in high school asked if he could get a Facebook account. I told him yes, but I would get one, too, and then he would have to be my 'friend' on the site. Facebook was this scary unknown to me then, and I feared losing awareness of what my son was up to. Little did I know the only thing he would use it for was posting music videos and messaging friends about social gatherings. He was the first to leave the site a few years later, too. To him, Facebook was lame already. Not so for me, I found. To my surprise, it was actually really fun to reconnect with old school-mates, my large, scattered family, and acquaintances in this limited way. For many of us it became a way to cheer each other on from afar, and to make each other laugh. People were sharing their travels, their kids' achievements, their health struggles, and their hilarious daily foibles. I soon became rather addicted to all the daily updates, and anyone who is 'friends' with me on Facebook knows I am a regular contributor. I do know my life would be lonelier without it, especially during Covid when digital connection became so vital to many of us. I know it seems I digress. We were talking about cell phones, but social media is a huge part of their use. 

I remember the day I told my husband I couldn't put off having a cell phone any longer. My job was requiring my use of one. We went to the Koodo kiosk at the mall and signed me up. By that time, flip phones were not the norm any longer. The phone I chose had a touch screen and so, in addition to being connected to the cellular network, it hooked up to our home WiFi. My carrier was Shaw, so free WiFi was available in lots of places. Unlike with the computer, I could lie down on the couch and read articles, scroll Facebook, and message people. I'm not going to lie, that was a revelation. One by one, my three older kids got phones as well, although they were well into their late teens. When all three of my older children had moved away to attend college or university, my youngest and I thought, with her busy schedule, that she should get a basic phone, too, so we could communicate on pick-up times from her theatre rehearsals in the next town. If I remember correctly, she was thirteen when I got a new phone and she inherited my old one. Fortunately, my youngest was too busy at the time to become completely addicted to her screen, and she was very handy as a tech assistant when her dad or I couldn't figure something out on our phones. 

The other day I was remembering my youngest and I sitting in our living room when she still lived at home, both looking at our phones. I compared it to the days when she or I, or other members of our family, would sit at the computer in the living room, whatever we were doing open and available to the rest of the family, opposed to both of us isolated with our little screens in our own little worlds. Most of the time she was chatting with her friends and theatre colleagues, while I scrolled social media or read articles, or chatted with family and friends of my own, losing track of time. I wondered how this change had affected our lives in a deeper sense. I know teenagers deserve to have privacy at times, but to be honest, I think personal phones have  given them too much privacy and too much information available 24/7 to absorb - a lot of it sad and/or alarming. Of course, the difference from my own girlhood is huge. I couldn't even have a private telephone conversation in our house, the corded phone being on the wall in the very center of a small house full of up to nine people at any given time. And, TV news was limited to an hour or so a night. I also wondered how my time spent isolating myself with my phone made a difference to her life, or was it just normal to her - part of the culture of the late 2000's that she took for granted? I know there are scholars out there studying the effect of technology on our brains and we are still learning. I know I have made changes in my own consumption. I turned off the Facebook and Instagram notifications on my phone, and I have learned to recognize in myself when I have become over-saturated with information and screen time. Fortunately, I feel like I have struck a balance with the devices in my life, but it took a long time. That we expect our kids to figure this out on their own is a big ask in my opinion.

I can't help but wonder how the younger moms and dads raising Generation Alpha are doing dealing with all that the world is throwing at their families. Probably their best, as most of us have done before them, learning, failing and winning as we go. 

Until next time,