Hats Off…

Similar to a random thoughts post, this is a sampling of people and places I want to tip my (new, gorgeous plum cloche) hat to, from the past few days:

  1. The Saucy Milliner – Art in the form of handmade, lovely hats housed in the distillery district in Toronto. If I could have tucked in a corner and just observed I would have been content. As it was we were on a tight timeline so I quickly bought a gem and now feel saucy indeed.

2. The guy behind The Vented Spleen – he’s why I’m back blogging. We dared each other to reinvigorate our blogs and it’s been strangely refreshing. There’s so much to do, sometimes the good stuff gets pushed to the side by shoulds… this is me pushing back.

3. Brian’s Record Option – I guarantee you’ve never been in a store like this. I’ll be back next month to pick up my National Record Store Day pick (Springsteen). This guy wrote an excellent piece about the store here. Highly recommend stepping in if you’re ever in Kingston.

4. Kingston Axe Throwing – it’s awesome fun – and even though kid1 beat me 18 to 1 (he went on to win the whole tournament), the thrill you get from sinking an axe in a bullseye (which I did, by total luck) is worth all the misses and hammy moments.5. Canada’s National Ballet. The performance of Sleeping Beauty is magnificent. The work of the dancers and artists to stage such a production boggles, and standing ovations make me teary, especially when I hear a man behind me yell “Bravo” and have his voice crack as he tells those around him his son was in the show.

6. My family – as I type this, kid1 is teaching kid2 how to play rummy. Hubby did his re-cert as my hero for taking care of me when I was super sick last weekend. I get to spend a lot of time with people who I think are wonderfully cool. How lucky am I? I think very.

7. Friends who like board games. We’ve come to know and love Catan, The Game of ThingsThe Big Bang Theory game and more, because of friends. We’ve laughed, blushed, pretended to be shocked, and mortified our kids because of these games. Friends share interests. Real friends throw down and play games together.

8. Ladies who stop to help – we play the alphabet game when travelling or to kill time. We have to find A-Z around us and were looking for a “Q” when a delightful older lady asked if we were lost, and if she could help. I told her what we were doing, she smiled and told us to “have a nice time, dears.” She made me smile. People are nice.

9. Yams – My sister makes mashed sweet potatoes but substitutes maple syrup for milk. Kid2 declares them Buddy’s favourite vegetable and as part of a meal where we caught up, laughed, and commiserated, they weren’t the sweetest thing of the night, but they were close. *sweetest thing was my niece making us place cards for dinner

10. People who get it – spent 48 hours in Toronto with friends and their kids. We picked totem spirits for each other at Gallery IndigenaGrace and Joy for the dancers, Honour, Joy, and Creativity for the moms. A little piece of art to reflect what’s in each of our hearts. It was a nice moment in an awesome weekend. 

Whether your thing is gratitude journalling, giving daily thanks, or if you haven’t stopped to ponder what you’re happy about lately, I strongly suggest you try supporting local, exploring art, making time for family and friends, and trying something new. You will find yourself with a list of moments to tip a hat to as well, am sure.

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Mapping Memory Lane: Winter Thaws

The twins must have been about nine. My older sister about to turn 12. Our cottage was only accessible by boat – and in the winter, ski-doo. Not speedy, flashy snowmobile. Think orange twin track, single headlight, looked like a train, could go through anything-skidoo. Towing kids and groceries in a caboose as we disappeared into the woods for days at a time. It had snowed the night prior but the weather was starting to warm up. The ice on the lake was thick and safe. Dad made sure of that. The inches of slush on top didn’t bother him – his skidoo could go through anything! Except, as we were to discover, inches of slush covered by inches of fresh powder. We made it all of twenty feet.

Stuck on a lake with three kids, four days worth of groceries, an unimpressed wife, and no one around. What’s a guy to do? Get unstuck. To lighten the load, kids and wife were sent off walking. Our lake was long, our cottage in the very last bay. Dad said he’d pick us up when he got going – but we were to walk, because there was no point in standing around. And while we were at it, we could grab some groceries to carry.

This was the days of real skidoo suits. The ones you could zip from your ankle to your chin. Skidoo boots were all the rage then too, but had started to be replaced with cooler lace-up tan Cougar boots. I had mine on. Smart little leather boots. Great for prancing around. Not great to wear hiking through slush. After ten minutes the laces sported ice balls the size of grapefruit and my feet were soaked through.

We leapfrog hiked – or alternated forced marching depending who you ask. One person would push along the line of us, trading their grocery bag for the heavy bag of milk so that awkward load was shared. You would walk 200 paces or so, then get to rest, laying flat on your back so the slush couldn’t soak up to you. There was one of us every 50 paces, so as you walked you came alongside either a sibling or your mother before continuing on. The degree of encouragement you received varied based on who you were passing at a given moment… and so we continued on up the lake.

An hour later, when the cottage was in sight, we heard it. The skidoo sounded distinctly smooth, like nails in a blender. We turned, seeing the single headlight like a premonition of the Polar Express which wouldn’t be written for another three years. Dad was coming! I remember my smile crinkling the frost on my eyelashes. I recall my sister dropping the milk, sure it was the final time she’d have to carry it. I registered his speed as he drew near, excited for the wood stove and cookies. Dad yelled as he blew past us – “can’tstopwillsink” and the four of us turned in slow motion to watch him streak around the corner, standing stock still until the skidoo was turned off a few minutes later.

We thawed out. Our clothes dried and I went back to wearing felt-lined rubber boots. All in all it was an everyday adventure. I think of that day around this time of year, every year. Especially when the first melt hits and false spring arrives, or when anyone says “when I was your age…” because my kids have never toughed out such an afternoon. I think it contributed to the adoption of “onwards” as my motto and it absolutely influenced my belief that the shoes/boots should match the occasion.

A colleague and I are reinstating our blogs. He to rant, me to capture. I can’t believe it’s been two years since I published anything. I always write like no one is watching – but I do have to wonder if there is anyone still out there? It’s nice to be back, either way. 


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Two years later…

It’s picture night tonight at Quinte Ballet School. Ballerinas posing in their pointe shoes and strong legs, all smiles and quiet pride. Two years ago tonight kid2 and I had a moment.

Fast forward two years, I am experiencing a pang. It’s a good one, the kind where you sigh and your heart feels tender but you know it’s really just time marching on. In her third year of this camp she now stays over and messages us periodically. There’s always an adjustment the first few days, and some misty eyes when the cat walked in front of our FaceTime screen – but overall she’s happy and on picture night I’m thinking back… on a kid who’s learned to take a deep breath and roll with the punches. A kid I saw on Sunday for an hour who wanted to buy gifts for two girls on her floor who needed a boost. A kid who makes me feel like I get to see wishes come true when I see her joy at dancing in pointe shoes for the first time.

I hope picture night went well. I hope she had what she needed and felt strong and graceful and lucky to be there. And if she didn’t, I hope she remembers life is the imperfect pursuit of happiness, and that’s why we can still be happy even when things don’t go our way. Onwards to the next moment.

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Everyday adventure – on pointe

I like everyday adventures as much as the next mom. I like wandering to see what we can find, trying new things. Exploring… I knew it was going to be a busy weekend so asked kid2 to scribble random notes in my trusty always-present notebook, while we road-tripped to buy her pointe shoes in Toronto. Here’s how we/she did at the stream of consciousness.

9:00 a.m. Making fun of mom 🙂.

Whenever I get flustered, as I was when trying to get out the door Saturday morning, my family calls me Hermey the Christmas Elf. They think I sound like him and ask me why I’m not a dentist at the exact moment I start to grit my teeth. I wish I could say it makes me laugh every time. It does not.

9:10 a.m. Mom cut a hole in my tights to make them convertie-foot

Finding out a dancer needs convertible foot tights when you’re already late is not that big of a problem. You simply get them to put tights on, take nail scissors and slice the ball of the foot open on the $20 otherwise perfectly-good tights. You grit your teeth and fight the Rudolph ear worm out of your head that your family put there. You throw the kid and the tights in the car and you take off.

9:16 a.m. On the road. Car is moving so my writing is messy.

Kid2 was at a loss for what to write. We were busy playing Harry Potter person/place/thing where you think of something obscure from the Potter books and the other person has to guess it using only yes or no questions. Hannah Abbot. Fenrir Greyback. Mandrakes for instance. Epic fun for Potter nerds. Makes the miles fly by!

11:02 a.m. Pit stop at Ste. Anne’s Bakery. Delecious treats. (whoops I spelled that wrong)

Seriously, a sweet stop not even five minutes off the 401 with gorgeous views and wonderful healthy baked goods and local treats. Bought Memere some wildflower honey. Ate all four types of macaroons. Decided then and there to avoid enroutes for the rest of the summer. Fooey on them, we’re going local as much as we can!

In this span of time we also visited Primitive Designs in Port Hope, another amazing pit stop worth taking a sidebar trip for. Seven minutes off the highway, but miles apart from any other store you’ve been to. Life-size carvings of komodo dragons? Glass topped table with a base in the shape of Sigourney’s Alien? Sinks made from raw hunks of marble? They’ve got that. We also ate at the enroute here but in our defence we spent so much time shopping we couldn’t hunt up a local spot. In related news, Harvey’s lemonade is lovely.

5:57 p.m. The F in Ford standing for effing stupid.

As we breezed home, pointe shoes, bodysuits, and new (real) convertible-foot tights in tow and laughing about the mini-adventure we had while exploring downtown Toronto, I commented to kid2 how I felt bad for people who get stuck on the side of the 401. Twenty minutes later, I was stuck on the side of the 401. I’m not a mechanic, but when a car’s temperature gauge is past the red and it won’t accelerate, I think that’s a bad thing. I pulled over, conveniently 1km from an off-ramp. I drove on the shoulder (if going 20km/hour is driving) to the off-ramp, which conveniently took us to the security gate for the Darlington Nuclear station. I waited 15 minutes, blindly optimistic the car just needed a rest. I then headed over the 401, seeking non-radioactive civilization, and then I had to admit defeat. As we were sitting waiting for CAA to arrive, my phone died. Kid2 could sense this was no time for a Hermey joke. Instead she asked what she should write in the notebook to document this new development…. She quoted me verbatim. Afterwards I was patting myself on the back for not freaking out, but when I saw this entry I should probably own that I did, a little bit freak out.

6:20 p.m. We are in a tow truck and the man is really nice. Heading home!

Even though the universe handed me an overheated car, the fact I was 196km from home, (therefore within the 200km free tow limit of our CAA membership) means I have to still give thanks and feel lucky. Our driver was a terrific guy, he and his family came to Canada from Afghanistan 20 years ago. We had a great coast-to-coast, it snows in Afghanistan, Ramadan, no he doesn’t watch Star Wars, is now going to try muscat grapes and ranier cherries conversation.

As I re-map logistics for our household being down a car, and fear the repair bill that’s coming, I honestly can’t fret because the final entry in her one-page mini documentation of our day together summed up kid2’s take on things, and reminds me of all-important perspective:

7:38 p.m. Happy is back. I repeat, happy is back!

Onwards – on a day that started out being all about pointe shoes and ballet, instead kid2 and I were reminded that the adventures life hands you, and how you choose to handle them are the real point.

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Mother’s Day Onwards….

We leave early tomorrow morning for more dance comp craziness. It’s a good crazy. It involves great friends, amazing kids, and musical moments that squeeze the heart and inspire. Kid2 asked if she could give me her Mother’s Day gift tonight, as we won’t be home Sunday until super late. I had no problem agreeing. It’s been a long week and I was needing a boost. I once again find myself thankful for the universe. Just when I needed it, I am handed perspective in the form of a card, and a lift to the spirit that could carry me through a hundred more weeks like this one (but seriously, no more crazy k, thx).

She read it out loud to me. According to kid2, I am “benevolent” which she pronounced “benvolent… At 11 the child has an impressive vocabulary – and you should never make fun of someone who can’t pronounce something properly, it means they read it in a book first. She knows what it means, and she thinks that’s me. That’s awesome.

I’m also a “bright bubble of cheer” which warms my heart. At times I feel snaggle toothed and snarly, but to kid2 I’m a great adventure buddy and she thinks I’m amazing. That’s awesome too.

The part that made me cry was this:

“Mom’s mottos is Onwards! Onwards means that even when the going gets tough, you keep going, and everything will eventually turn out fine.”

In a tough week and in the midst of life logistics swirling around, when seated with a blank piece of paper and asked to write about her mom, kid2 thought of adventures we’ve shared, times we’ve laughed, and the single most important thing I’ve tried to teach her, which is life will knock you about and the road might be bumpy – but it’s all how you look at it and how you move on that matters.

Happy Mother’s Day to anyone who shares their wisdom, tends a soul, or loves so purely they lose themselves.

Rainbow Onwards

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Cue: onwards.

I’m watching her sleep, and it’s all I can do to not try and scoop her into my lap like when she was two. She’s my height now, this walking talking piece of my heart. I’m watching her sleep and hoping the sadness in her face will ease into peaceful rest, because tonight her spirit took a hit.

Simple enough idea, fun enough plan. Kids sign up for a dance improv line – they pin a number on, and get 30 seconds to perform to a piece of music. They’re to express in movement what the music makes them feel. She was her usual thrum of excitement about a chance to dance. To her, moving to music is happiness. This the child who said “dance makes my heart feel energied” when she was six and didn’t have words to express herself.

She missed her cue. Not the cue to start, she stepped forward and danced according to plan; she missed the cue to stop. It’s technically not a big deal. Rationally it’s just 30 or 40 seconds. Some confusion, and a little bit of trying too hard. She was dancing like no one was watching, except she was on stage in a ballroom full of people and the longer she went past the repeated cue to stop, the louder the ripple of laughter became.

I tried, when she was off stage and our eyes met. I tried to be the chipper voice of reasonable cheer and brush it off as “one of those things” but I think my face betrayed me, her scared confusion and then embarrassment had made my heart break. She needed a good cry and I let her have it. As I cupped her face and dried her tears, I asked her if she knew what I was going to say. “Onwards…” she gulped. She knows what it means, she hears it all the time. She knows tonight was not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. She knows life hands us situations that steal our breath and senses, but leave us stronger on the other side. Tonight we both wished getting there didn’t sometimes involve a gut punch to the self esteem.

Now I’m not sure the next time opportunity knocks, she won’t run scenarios first. I’m sad she put her heart into something to the point of getting lost in it, and it led to how she felt tonight. I mostly hate seeing her confidence shaken, especially related to something she has loved for more than half the time I have known her. Tomorrow (today as I am writing this) is another day. The sun will shine, the music will surge, and we will resume the ridiculous madness that is competitive dance. It will be onwards. As always.



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RuckusMakersChallenge – day… (I’ve lost count)

I missed a day in the writing challenge.

Bygones. I’m still writing, riding the tail of comet energy that was RuckusMakers. I’m also watching The Voice right now, with kid2. No excuses, no banal guilty pleasure mumblings. I unabashedly love this show. I love it for showing people taking a deep breath and going for it. I love it for showing people don’t win everything, all the time – but they come away enriched by an experience they showed up for.

How many times have you been there lately? Taken a deep breath and stepped off a cliff – trusting you will learn to fly on the way down? I did it recently at work, taking a new undefined role. The transition is ongoing, and it hasn’t been easy but I’d rather be here looking forward, than back there averting my gaze. I guess that’s key to it all. That’s why, when I sit here with my 10 year old, and she asks if I’ve ever done something like try out, or aim high I can reply “Yes indeedy.”

I’ve tried out, showed up, and taken deep calming breaths before walking through doors, on stage, and even into conferences. Each and every time I came out the other side alive and well, with a story to tell. So! As I like to say, and as the tattoo on my arm reads, “onwards” – always in good cheer and with curiosity for what could be next.

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