Little Deaths

Thinking about death a lot lately, not from a macabre sense of impending doom but more because our parents are getting to an age where you see that it could be on the horizon. Of course, Alzheimer’s is like a little death every time something drops off the list of “used to be able to.” Last week, my mom was amazingly lucid and I was so excited to know that she could still phone me every now and then and remember who I was. But to know that her brain is shrinking and that won’t happen one day is devastating.

My husband and I are moving in a few weeks and seriously downsizing, so we were going through a huge box of cards we’d sent each other over the years. I was so pleased to see within that box a few from my mother and son, including wedding cards (!) and anniversary congratulations. Looking at them, I realized that there would be no further cards from my mother, that what I had was right in front of me and that pile was finite. Even if she could make her way over to the card store, she’d never know how to find my address, mail it, and get it there in any kind of time. My mother, who knew the birthday of every obscure cousin – second and third – plus their spouses birthdays, their wedding days, and what color socks they liked to wear! I have one thing going for me: I’ve NEVER been good at remembering dates. One less thing to fall by the wayside if this dreadful disease happens to me.

Don’t Do This to Your Kids!

I looked out over more than 100 Matchbox toys and vintage 50s toys spread throughout our living room and kitchen, filling up every available surface, and realized that we were finally, 9 years later, at the end of what amounted to years and years of working our way through all of the dreck that had accumulated in my in-laws’ basement during their lifetime. Thankfully, some of those items might result in a bit of financial compensation coming our way, but that was preceded by several truckloads of stuff hauled away by Junkluggers (god bless them), trips to the dumpsters at night, boxes being hauled or stored with us through several moves, and hours and hours and HOURS spent sorting out the remaining boxes, researching what we had, figuring out if a box of coins would amount to anything and if so, how in hell did we find that out, and soooo much more. The hours needed to go through all of this has made me a bit obsessive about clearing out things that we personally have accumulated, removing this task from our own future generations.

Talking to friends, it seems that most of us grew up with parents of the depression, hoarders of the best kind, intent on ensuring that there would be things left for us to inherit and absolutely no way to run out of items that might, potentially, carry us through another financial disaster. Again, god bless them. They had our best interests at heart. Unfortunately, most of us have very little free time to go through boxes these days, search the internet for possible buyers, investigate the background of potential auctioneers, sort out who’s coming to take this stuff away, and if so, what is entailed in them doing so. I wish I did. Those little cars became quite intriguing and yet I was glad to see them taken away by our auctioneer. I knew that I was closing in on a new obsession and what little free time I had in the evenings was being spent searching for the variations in color of a particular Superfast car, or seeing if the truck we owned was, indeed, the one with the red hook and not the white one. And I’m not even a car fiend!

Our original storage room prior to now has been the size of a small room. Now, we hope to make do with a 4×4 space, fingers crossed. That is, if my husband can tear himself away from the boxes of magazines and memorabilia and hats and sports gear that he, himself, has accumulated. Like father, like son. Sigh.

Listening Hard

I was conducting an interview today and had one of those moments that resonates so strongly, you are immediately pitched back to a moment in time. The candidate mentioned, when asked if her teacher would have an area of improvement for her, that she was often reminded to speak up more often, especially when new to a situation. Her natural tendency is to sit back and watch first. The reason this impacted so much with me is that early in my career I had a direct supervisor who took umbrage with exactly this scenario. My first day on the job, I attended a meeting of my peers – all 17 of them – and as I was wont to do in similar situations, sat back, listened, watched my new colleagues, and took notes. Immediately after the meeting I was hauled into the director’s office and chastised for not speaking up, not immediately making myself known, and perhaps – now that I think back – not “performing” for my new boss. I remember exiting that meeting feeling dismayed, close to tears, and completely taken aback. The unfairness of it spoke to me and yet I hadn’t enough experience under my belt to respond, especially since the attack was so out of left field. Now, I hear this young candidate tell me about this same issue and I can only hope that my former director has come to learn that the quiet listener, the early “reflecter,” is perhaps the best kind of employee. This is the person who watches and learns so as to eliminate missteps early in a career. This is the person who understands that taking things in when new is the best way to take heed of the needs of the department and the client and position themselves accordingly. My mother used to accuse me of staring when I was very little. Even then I had the wherewithal to say that I wasn’t staring, I was “looking hard.” To this day, I firmly believe that this is how I learn and this is why I write. The peculiarities and the nuances of individuals are what continue to interest me, and if “looking too hard” will help me approach them – or my writing – in a better way, then so be it.

In Praise of Real Canadian Peameal Bacon

In my move to the United States some years ago, I expected a number of changes – the health care system, removing all the “u’s” from honour, harbour, and so on, broadening my O’s to omit the “oot,” and it goes on. Many years later, I can get by most days with nary a glance when I asked how to get out of a place (“owt” not “oot), I spell everything perfectly, and I continue to be plagued and frustrated by the American health system.

However, the one thing I cannot find and rue to this very day is a good Canadian breakfast, one filled with a plate of real Canadian peameal bacon. I have ordered Eggs Benedict in a hundred different restaurants, ever optimistic that THIS TIME there will be a real piece of back bacon stippled with peameal poking out of the egg sauce on my English muffin. Time and time again I am dismayed. It’s ham 90% of the time, and the rest is a conglomeration of something “resembling” or “Canadian-like.”

not cb

(Left: NOT Canadian bacon- this is HAM)

I have googled “where to find real Canadian bacon” in New York, have travelled to other states, and the only place that even comes close is a small place in Boston.


yes cb

(Left: REAL Canadian bacon – see the peameal around the edges?)

Now I ask you: in a city that promises to have anything you can want, whose Canadian expat population is in the hundreds of thousands, is there not a great breakfast place that serves REAL CANADIAN BACON. With peameal. Fried fresh. Glistening on a lovely, sauce laden English muffin.


That’s all I ask. Well, that and a good bag of Smarties.

Trust vs Love

old-coupleI was reading a great book by Barbara Delinsky this weekend, not my usual sort, much too chick-lit compared to what I tend to read, but it was well-written and she does have a strong grasp of character development so I kept reading well into the night. On Sunday, as we enjoyed the delight of reading in bed till an ungodly hour, I came across a section where there was multiple cheating going on and it turned into this interesting discussion with my husband about love and cheating and what exactly makes a person decide to cheat? What possesses someone in a good relationship to put themselves in a position where they are vulnerable? Because I don’t think it’s always about a bad relationship. Sometimes it’s just a low point in a good one, and if you go for that drink with a colleague of the opposite sex, or have a late dinner, and it’s under the guise of “work,” does that become the time when you see someone in a new light?

I know that we all get used to our partner. You come home and change into the comfy clothes, not the well-tailored options you wore to work. Your makeup is off, your tie is undone, you shake out the hair and all of a sudden you’re ordinary. That’s what we see every day. That’s what we trust. That’s who we trust. The person without the artifice, the person who allows us to be who we are, who we don’t have to dress up for because they’ve seen us in our finery and they know we can look damn good when we need to. The militant right of homemakers feel that we should put the same effort into our non-work lives as we do during the day but for me, that’s just another kind of artifice. If you have to “look your best” when you’re tired and worn from work, then you’re still putting on the false face you might have used when you were first dating. It’s the years of experience that tell us that this is a person we love, who looks as beautiful to us in their jammies and makeup-free as they do in their lace cocktail dress. I know that I find my husband endearing in his cargo shorts and favorite tee. Do I wish he’d wear a different tee more often? Sure I do. But I don’t expect him to wear a dress shirt and pants to dinner at home. I know how the change in clothes signals a change in how he feels, and that a lot of that has to do with my acceptance of him. Now we’re not talking sitting around in your underwear, either.

Still, I’m missing the point.  Reading these books and watching the stars in Hollywood shift allegiances every second week, I am convinced that it’s easy to find love, or an approximation of it. What is difficult to find is trust. And that, my friends in their softest tees, is why we don’t worry when we’re in the kind of relationship that is more difficult to find and more compelling to keep than any other kind of relationship in this world. Because trust is the Holy Grail in relationships, and finding it is rare and precious. Tomorrow, I celebrate the glory of trust with my husband as we look back on another wonderful year of marriage. This, in all its ordinariness, is love.

The Real Value of Facebook

facebookI’m one of those people who was slow to embrace Facebook. It seemed like a young person’s toy and it was, until the boomers took it over and now the kids have found a thousand cooler ways to interact with each other. For me, though, Facebook has become a link to the future and a link to the past. It allows me to interact with family who are hundreds of miles away, instantaneously watch adorable photos of my even more adorable grandchildren, “talk” to my son and daughter-in-law, read posts from former friends and acquaintances, and share intriguing information with those who might appreciate it. I’m not someone who records every sneeze or everything I’m eating, but I understand now how this becomes another way to connect. Does it displace personal interaction? No. But when I see the smiling face of my grandson at 8 a.m. in the morning, and he’s in another whole country, I realize that it’s something to finally embrace. Just wish I could embrace him more often.

Tea Must be British

Aren’t our tastes, in so many ways, perverse? I love tomatoes, cooked. Stewed tomatoes, baked tomatoes, tomato sauce, ketchup, you name it, I love tomatoes. What I don’t like at all are tomatoes by themselves. Plain. Off the vine. Can’t stomach the texture, hate the taste.

The same goes for marshmallows. I could eat a bagful of them as they are – fluffy, chewy, pure sugar delight. Put them on a stick and hold them over a fire until they start to melt, not so much. Smush them between crackers, add some chocolate and give ’em a cute name like s’mores and still no. Pass me by and hand me a brew instead.

Isn’t that the way with people too? We think we like outgoing people, for instance, until it’s a kind of outgoing that’s just loud. Some prefer those with a gentler nature, those eager to listen and learn from the largesse of their experience. But when they don’t engage in conversation enough to draw out your brilliance, then perhaps they’re just dull.

I remark on this because our perversions  become more pronounced as we get older. I’m not sure if that’s due to a more refined taste or a lack of desire for new acquisitions. What I am sure about is that calamari must be breaded and fried, soup must be hot, water must be cold, and tea must be British. So there.

Life is Good

Just saw someone wearing a Life is Good t-shirt. Isn’t it remarkable that even without looking at the tag you know it’s one of theirs? Their cloth is so identifiable – really good cotton, really soft and sturdy, as is their artwork. The slogans tell it like it is, but in a nicely humorous way. And I can’t help but think that their customer is a bit like that too. Everyone’s a little bit granola-y, a bit outdoorsy, a bit “f*#!” in their  approach to life. Not that they’re aren’t nice. It’s just a more laid back, I don’t-have-to-prove-anything to you kind of nice. A “I like my life life-is-good-logoand I’m living it just the way I want” kind of nice. I have one Life is Good t-shirt. I wear it once in a while but I always feels a bit uncomfortable. I love the slogan. It’s nice and soft. I just can’t wrap my head around how I feel in it. Maybe I’m a bit more uptight than I thought. Or maybe I just like a shirt that’s not so easily recognized.

The Theory of Relativity






Life is a constant learning experience, isn’t it? Here I am tonight, innocently watching Uruguay and Italy play soccer in the FIFA tournament, when what do I see but an extreme example of the theory of relativity. It appears that one of the players, upset about something – and he’s been upset in this way at least three times before – reaches over and bites the person he’s upset with, a member of the opposite team. Does he get reprimanded? Does he get pulled from the game? Does he get a penalty at all? No! While the entire world watched and saw his opponent get bitten – and he flagrantly ran around showing his shoulder to anyone who would look – the referee (is that what they’re called in soccer?) apparently didn’t see a thing and thus could not call him on a penalty. The game continued, and Suarez was even instrumental in his team achieving their game winning goal. Instead of sitting in a penalty box (or at least that’s what they call it in hockey) he was being lauded for his achievements in the game. The bite? That was nothing. Too much fuss made of it, he said later.

Now, I don’t know about you, but here’s what I’ve just learned: If you’re a handsomely paid professional and international player of sports you can bite someone whenever the mood strikes you and put it down to “that’s what happens on the pitch.” (I did learn that word.) You get riled, you take a piece out of someone. With your mouth. It’s natural. We’re men. That’s how we handle the excitement.

If you’re a three-year old child,however – and don’t forget they’re watching all this nonsense right along with us – and you take a bite out of someone – and you do it consistently, as Suarez has – you are quickly labelled with a character flaw, sent to specialists, and perhaps even put on some kind of tranquilizing drug because of course, as we all know, biting is antisocial and very aggressive behavior. Unless you’re a professional athlete. Then, you’
re simply excited.

This is making me very sorry for the state of professional sports (as
if I wasn’t already), and very upset about how this all went down. Excuse me a moment. I need to bite something.