Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lest we forget

On May 15, 2010, Private Kevin Thomas McKay was set to ship home after his first tour of duty in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, he never made that flight, and instead ended up with a free ticket to ride the Highway of Heroes.  He died on the 13th May serving our Country by helping others who do not enjoy the democracy and freedom that we take for granted.

I sat on the edge of my bed watching TV that day and I cried. My daughter came into the room and asked me what was wrong. Barely able to contain myself, I nodded towards the TV and she sat with me to watch the rest of the report. Lauren, hating to see me upset, looked at me with her wondering eyes and asked "mummy did you know that soldier?"  I shook my head to indicate no, and she looked at me puzzled and asked why then, I was crying.

I was crying because I could picture Mrs. McKay cleaning her home in Richmond Hill, planning a welcome home dinner, and possibly even stocking the fridge with her young man's favourite brand of beer in anticipation of his return. This is not entirely different from my anticipation when Andrew, who is only a year younger then the youngest soldier to die, came home from college a few weeks ago. My heart broke for that woman because only a mother can understand the anticipation turning to relief that comes when her children are home safe, whether it be a school trip for 6 hours-30 km away, 8 months in college 3 hours away, or 10 months on the other side of the world. A relief that she will never experience.

And let's even suppose that my imaginary scenario is completely wrong and a little too "June Cleaver".  Consider for a moment that Mrs. McKay is a senior partner in a prestigious Bay Street law firm, and she had the housekeeper clean, her favourite caterer prepare a lavish meal, and a delivery service stock their bar with the finest liqueurs and imported beers.

Either way, she'll never have the opportunity to embrace her son and tell him how proud she is of him. An even though her little boy became a man a long time ago, she will never again share in his accomplishments and beam with pride at his successes in life.

And when I explained all of this to Lauren, she cried too and gave me a big hug and said "mummy please don't be sad". But it is hard not to be.

146 mothers have experienced a pain that no parent was ever designed to endure.  The youngest soldier to make this supreme sacrifice was 20 years old (I could be his mother) and the oldest was 45 (my age). And whether their mothers are 45 or 70 their pain is unfathomable.

To the 144 men, and 2 women who have died in combat roles since April 2002; to the sole female in Afghanistan in a non combat role to have her life taken; to the male civilian and the female reporter who also served and died: Thank you.

It is at times like this that I am happy to leave the political arguments about Afghanistan to the politicians, at least for a moment, while I pause to shed a tear for the human tragedy, and share in the agony and grief of 149 mothers across our great nation, while at the same time I selfishly pray that I will never totally understand how they feel.

Because they are there helping others find some kind of workable democracy, I am free to pursue my dreams and goals without fear of oppression, discrimination and persecution.  Because they are there promoting peace and teaching others to become self sufficient I am free to dress as I wish, express myself freely and and participate in my country's democratic process.

We do not need to wait for November 11th to remember.  In fact, we must not relegate our gratitude to one solitary day of the year, preceded by two weeks of wearing poppies on our lapels. It is only when we take our freedom for granted, that we risk losing it.

I will never forget.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

And the Oscar goes to.....

Helena Guergis! In what has to be the most impressive theatrical piece I've seen on television in quite some time, Ms. Guergis managed to skillfully blend a number of personalities into one slick PR package with the ability to elicit reactions ranging from sympathy to sexual arousal from every male in the country, all within the span of 20 minutes. And the contrived little emotional breakdown during which no mascara was ever smeared - nice finishing touch!

I mean, who wouldn't  be turned on by those beautiful brown eyes, wide in disbelief, straight out of some schoolgirl fantasy porn flick, saying "what did I do, please, please tell me. I don't know what I've done". I can just picture her boss walking into the room telling her she's been a bad girl and has to be punished. But I digress, and that imagery is beyond disturbing.

Peter Mansbridge asked her if perhaps, in spite of being in and around politics all her life, she might have been a bit naive? Ok, that's one word for it. Personally I'd say the chick just doesn't get it. Exactly when did she think she's smack her pretty little head on the glass ceiling of the Conservative Corporation? Never? Honey in that misogynistic world, your charming personality and that sexy little girl voice gets you a ride for as long as the big boys aren't tired of you. Flavour of the month.

The sad part is, throughout the interview Ms. Guergis asserts that she's just been completely engrossed in working hard and doing a good job, yet the media and Ottawa have no interesting in examining her record and accomplishments. And beyond the titillating tales of airport temper tantrums, sex, drugs and hookers, the rest of the country doesn't care. How sad.

And ultimately this three ring circus serves to divert attention from the real issues. Issues like the treatment detainees who are tortured in undemocratic nations, the choice by this government to take women's reproductive health a step back, by, oh 30 years or more globally, the cessation of funding for women's groups, gay groups, and a list of other offenses as long as my arm.

Helena Guergis is an interesting woman. She's stupid and brilliant at the same time. Stupid for believing that a bright, attractive, sexy, successful woman in a bi-racial marriage would ever go places in an ultra right-wing social conservative political party, and brilliant for realizing how to use those same attributes to get even when it got ugly. Her political career doesn't have to be over. She should run against the Conservative candidate in her own riding and show them all.

Who knows who is telling the truth here. We may never know. But the diversion sure creates one helluva screen behind which Mr. Harper can continue to do his dark and dirty work, out of the spotlight, dismantling  the rights and freedoms of those of whom he, in is infinite right wing wisdom does not approve.

Be very afraid.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Flat on the Floor

I own a pair of flat shoes!  Yes of course, I have running shoes for physical activity, but I'm talking about actual flat shoes, actually sandals - as in something to wear 'dressed up' going out in public.

Its crazy how these things happen. I'm 5'1" and long ago vowed that I'll do my best to avoid being the shorty in my family for as long as possible.  With 4 or 5 inch heels I may make it to Christmas if I'm lucky.  So it is actually surprising that I bought flats! Tracey doesn't like them... oh the sandals are hot enough, but when I walked into the office she kind of wrinkled her nose and said... hmmm I'm not sure I like you short! Oh god, she doesn't like me short? I AM short - I just hide it well!

But really, this is a two part story - first the fact that I ended up with flats, and second, how it came to be....

Doing my part to ensure the success of Lauren's grade 8 year, I found myself in a shoe store last week. Actually not just any shoe store but one that I frequent on a regular basis. 

But I'm telling it all backwards. On the weekend, I was informed that a large papier mache project was the focus of the weekend's homework, due Tuesday. Required items included a whole lot of white glue and two shoe boxes.  Hmmm no glue. No shoe boxes. No really... no shoe boxes! ALWAYS hide the evidence is my motto!

So off to Staples in Newmarket for a huge tub of white glue. And, rather gratuitously located a mere 200 metres across the parking lot is The Shoe Company. I hadn't been in for a while, and well, I DID need two shoe boxes.

In less than 3 minutes, I had found a very hot pair of black platform shoes - zipper, open toe, to die for sexy with a pair of jeans. I found my size. Done! One down....

I found a second pair, candy apple red, and beyond the first pair in sex appeal into the dimension of 'these definitely look better in the air'. Oh baby! And guess what - they didn't have my size.  I am, to this day, disappointed beyond belief.

Wandering the rest of the store it occurred to me that, with summer pretty much here, I could use some cute footwear to pair with shorts. And then it happened, an adorable pair of Steve Madden gladiator sandals jumped off the shelf and right into my path, making it impossible for me to continue walking. They were my size! I stopped, set the first shoe box on the ground and tried them on. It was at this moment that the very store manager who was witness to a two year old incident which has made me legendary in the store, happened down the aisle and almost fainted. Luckily I caught him and stopped him from hitting the ground and grievously injuring himself.  As he regained both his balance and his composure, he looked at me and, shaking his head in disbelief, said "honey, you are in the wrong aisle!"

I bought the sandals! I have no clue whether I'll wear them often, but they're just one of those things worth having in the closet.

The rest of the weekend was very busy, and Lauren was left to her own devices to finish her model of the Grand Canyon (I've never been one of those moms who does the kids' homework). Monday night, after a long brutal day at work, I came in late, kids already in bed. There in the kitchen was a spectacular paper model of The Grand Canyon. And I smiled, knowing that I had done my part to assist with my daughter's education, and that Steve Madden helped save the day

Monday, May 3, 2010

Sleepless in Simcoe County

I hate these kinds of nights, and boy am I grateful they are not a very regular occurrence!

Stupid me, for falling asleep at 9:00 p.m. 

12:30. Wake up from a crazy dream and look at the clock. Ouch, I was SO sure I had been asleep a lot longer than 3 1/2 hours.  I think it could be a long night.

1:00. Downstairs to watch TV for a bit.

1:30. Back up to bed.  1:40. Have I only been laying here for 10 minutes? Isn't it amazing how slowly time moves when I can't get to sleep.  1:45. Send a message to Tracey to see if she's awake too!  Cool, she is, so we message back and forth on Blackberry messenger for a while, but she's tired and tells me to go to sleep.

My brain won't turn off, and I wish I would just stop thinking about thing. Work, money, my health, the kids, how busy this week is going to be, how much I need a vacation, the fact that my real estate license is up for renewal on Tuesday and I still need 13 more credits.... and other thoughts of people, places and events that are not suitable for public consumption.... The noise won't stop!

2:15. Log onto face book and see if anyone is online to chat.  Of course not-everyone else is in bed - like I should be.  2:27. Fix up my profile on Linked In and see that a fabulous client has written a wonderful recommendation for me - read it over 3 times and feel gratitude....make a mental note to ask her if I can also publish it on the website.  2:42. I get this brilliant idea to set up a new twitter account for real estate - Tracey's gonna love this, although we both know I'll be the only one who will keep it up and running.

3:10. Go grab some orange juice and pause for half a second to consider whether adding a shot of Grey Goose will help me get to sleep.  Better not... bad idea....

Walking back down to the basement to resume my night prowling on the computer and the stupid cat jumps on me and scares me half to death -man, if it wasn't for Lauren this cat would be dropped off at the back door of a Chinese food restaurant.... (get over it Tracey, I'll never be the animal lover you are!)

3:42. It occurs to me that I could have been making good use of this time by completing some of those credits that have to be finished by Tuesday so I don't temporarily lose my real estate license like I did two years ago. Hmm... I'm noticing a pattern here, and beginning to wonder of my ability to procrastinate to the point of peril may just kill me some day.....

4:28. I wonder if any of my early bird friends are awake. Notice the talk about procrastination and how easily the ADD kicks in and I'm off to something else.

When I was really sick and taking lots of terrible medication that kept me awake almost around the clock, I used to bake every night. My family was stuck in the cross hairs of mixed emotions: feeling bad that I was so ill, but loving that they were waking up to fresh muffins and bread every morning.  Mmmmmmmaybe not.  It was a good thought tho, which, fortunately passed almost as quickly as it came into existence.

4:37. It occurs to me that if I publish this blog, that all the people on the distribution list might send me a nasty note and ask to be removed. Or maybe not. You all know I can be quirky and off the wall right?

My I-pod died so I can't even sit here and groove. Nobody to message; I think either Paul will kill me if I call them this early....It's almost 2am on the west coast so Matthew won't be impressed. Tracey needs some sleep so I won't bug her. I've talked about having a very short list of friends in a past blog, and it seems the list of friends I can talk to at 4:43 is even shorter.

The birds are chirping... omg they are annoying. I have a headache - the kind I get when I know I should have been sleeping for the past 4 hours.

I think its gonna be a long day, and an even longer week.....

4:45 If I try now I can maybe get in 2 hours. Goodnight!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Clean Slate

No, no no..... I'm not confessing to a 20 year old murder, revealing something very personal about changing my life, or quitting my job. 

The clean slate is a new journal. I picked this one up because it had a sexy cover.  A high heeled shoe and a shopping in New York theme.  It has a nice side flap with a magnetic closure.  Oh, and the pages are deliciously blank and just waiting for my thoughts, reflections, musings, rantings, wit, and scribbles. And a journal is not like this blog. Here, I test my ability to write for an audience.  Here, I'm a wannabe columnist hoping that someday an editor or publisher will stumble across my public missives, find them to be relevant, poignant and amusing,  and offer me a job at the Toronto Star, or Maclean's Magazine. (Heck, I'd even consider the Sun).

But the journal, now that's private. My deepest, (sometimes darkest) most intimate thoughts. Something that almost no one ever gets to read.  I can write things in a journal that I could never say aloud. And that is empowering, and maybe a little scary if my writings were to found after I had left this world.

Much is made of the new electronic gadgets which can hold dozens of books in memory. It is like carrying around a small computer with an entire library. I guess that's practical for people who travel or have limited space to keep a library.  But there's just something about a book. When it is bound beautifully it is, to me more appealing than a piece of jewellery. The smell, the texture of the pages, the hard cover - something to be cherished and represents the hard work, intellect, eloquence of some very articulate people.  It also represents freedom. The freedom to be creative, to say anything, to express one's opinion for the world to consider.

And even more beautiful are the blank pages of a new journal. I've held this new one, opened and closed the flap and flipped through the pages.  It is a solid little book and I just love it.

Now I stare at page one. What do I feel like writing about?  At this moment I do not know for certain. Even thought its content may never face the scrutiny of an audience, it is a monumental decision, and will set the tone for months of scribbling and musing.  And it is kind of like this blog in that there is no schedule for when I will write, or what the topic might be. Sometimes I will be in the middle of something and a completely unrelated thought will beckon me to the keyboard and I will just start typing spontaneously. Actually, this is the way it happens most of the time. And sometimes, there are dry spells - times when there is nothing inside me to pour out on to a piece of paper, or to make my fingers dance across a computer keyboard. Those can be frustrating times because creativity, and the gift of expressing myself with the written word is just part of who I am.

My new journal - I will hold it and caress it for days, flip thought its pages, and then, all at once, I will open it to page one and begin writing spontaneously.  I can't wait for that moment. Until then I will carry it with me everywhere I go so that I am ready.

I love the clean slate of a new journal.