Being Kind

As she parked in the parking lot the nerves started to grow. She hadn’t seen some of these people in years. Would they even know who she was? Would she recognize anybody? The receptionist directed her upstairs to the banquet rooms. She made a quick stop in the bathroom to check her hair and makeup. Did she really need to impress anybody? She was happily married with two great kids and a loving husband. Old habits die hard she told herself. When she finally made her way to the room where her twentieth high school reunion was being held, her nerves seemed to disappear and all she felt was excitement.

At the door to the banquet room there was a table covered in name tags and a dark haired woman was bent over putting them in order. She looked up suddenly and squealed. “Oh my god it’s so great to see you. How are you? You look great. Here, I have your name tag. Wow, it’s been so long but you look just the same. I would know that smile anywhere.” As the greeter rattled on she thought “She has no idea who I am.” You could have knocked her over with a feather. She stood before the table smiling and nodding and remembering. The greeter looked just the same too. She would never forget her. Not after that day so many years ago.

It was grade five and she was in Mr. McBride’s class at West Bay Elementary School. She had been outside at lunch playing dodge ball in the courtyard with a bunch of other kids. A silly school yard game but hey, she was in grade five and that’s what they did at lunch time. When the bell rang she ran up the stairs past the library and janitors room to her classroom. As she entered the room she saw one of her girlfriends and said hi. Her friend looked at her, but then quickly looked away and whispered something to the girl beside her. That’s a bit weird, she thought and took her seat. During the rest of the afternoon she caught them whispering a few more times. She even noticed them whispering to another friend as they came back from art class. Hm, wonder what’s up? She thought.

The afternoon dragged on forever but when the bell finally rang she grabbed her bag and coat and headed for the door. “Forgetting something?” Darn, she had forgotten that Mr. McBride had asked her to stay and go over her multiplication tables. She really needed to know what was going in with her friends so she told a small lie and said that she forgot she had piano that day. “Okay, but tomorrow for sure?” Sure, she said, and turned away quickly, feeling guilty. She burst out the door and ran straight into a group of her friends. “Hey, what’s up? What is everybody whispering about?” They all turned to look at her but only one person spoke. “You. We’re talking about you.” The dark haired girl said. Me, why would they be talking about me she wondered? “We’re all really sick of how immature you are. We saw you today on the playground jumping around like a preschooler. What is wrong with you?”

She looked around at the group of fourth grade girls now surrounding her. Some of them looked away, some of them looked at the girl speaking and some looked back at her blankly. Acting immature? She had been playing dodgeball? She stammered trying to find the words to explain what she had done. What she had done? She hadn’t DONE anything. What was going on? She looked at each of them for some kind of explanation. Her face was suddenly hot and her hands were shaking. She turned away and ran towards the bathrooms. She stayed in one of the stalls for what seemed like hours. When she finally ventured out the halls were quiet and empty. She walked home that day feeling hurt, embarrassed and confused.

It was all flooding back as she stood there at the entrance to the banquet room. It was years ago, but at this moment it seemed like just yesterday. The greeter apparently didn’t remember, as she had already moved on to the next person coming down the hall. It hadn’t happened again after that day but she would never forget the hurtful words directed at her. The embarrassment of being singled out and that the dark haired girl had, for that moment, turned her friends against her. She would never know why and it truly didn’t matter. The damage was done with just a few words in only a matter of moments. As she stepped into the room full of her school friends she reminded herself that The Best Thing in Life is to teach your kids to be kind.

I Need Help.

I have been thinking for a while that I need to find some new blogs to follow.  The problem is that I have limited time right now to search and read and decide.

I’m more than happy to read but I would like to skip the searching step.

Since you follow me, then you know what my tastes are and could, perhaps, help me out?  I mean what are friends for?

So if you have a blog that you think I would like and I am not already following you, leave me a comment and a link to your blog.  If you know of a blog that you think I might like leave me the link.

As my daughter would say….easy peasy lemon squeezy.

I promise to read at least one of your posts (maybe more) and leave a comment.

Really, how hard can this be?  Yes, I am pathetic but I’m all about simplifying my life and if this is what it takes…..so be it.

Let the games begin.

Tradition and Baking

womantearinghairout

Baking is supposed to be relaxing right?  What part, exactly, is relaxing?  The precise measurements that if deviated from can spell complete disaster!  The timing which if off by minutes results in smoke, charcoal briquettes and the occasional visit from the North Vancouver Fire Department?  The hot oven that requires me to remove my glasses every time I need to open it?  What is it?

My husband’s family has a specific traditional cookie that needs to be baked every year.  And when I say need to, I mean HAS to. In our house it’s not Christmas until we have baked  the “Christmas Tree Cookies”.  They are actually almond spritz cookies.  Bright green tasty mouthfuls of almondy sweetness. I know it’s a big part of the impending holiday season so this year I have agree to suck it up and bake.  I’m showing my holiday spirit.

Half a pound of butter mixed with a cup of sugar then an egg and some flour thrown in to hold it all together.  Oh yes, and green food colouring.  Lots of green food colouring.  Sprinkled with red sugar and baked for a few minutes.  Sound good right?

If only it was that easy.

For starters it’s never just one batch.  It’s at least two, if not more.  Granted the cookies are only a mouthful, but in some ways that makes it easier to grab, say, a half dozen and snack away.  The huge mound I make each year disappears like St. Nick up the chimney.  So the kitchen becomes a bit of an assembly line of measuring and mixing the squishy dough.

Then  there’s the actual art of “pressing” them
out.  This involves a cookie press, a strong hand and some patience.  About sixteen or seventeen years ago I was given my first cookie press by my mother in law.  It took a little while to figure the contraption out but I eventually got the hang of it.  The cookie dough that has been chilling in the freezer needs to be warmed up a bit and then stuffed into the tube of the press.  Then the Christmas tree cutout is screwed onto the end of the tube.  Now that your hands are nice and slippery from all the butter in the dough, you need to squeeze the trigger until a perfectly shaped Christmas tree appears in your cookie sheet.

Sometimes it does…….and sometimes it doesn’t.  Sometimes your “tree” looks a bit like, oh I don’t know, let’s say a pigs snout.  Or a green cow patty.  Anything but a tree.  So then you scrape that cookie up and dump it back into the bowl and try again.

Relaxed yet?

Over the years that first press has been used a lot and last Christmas I pretty much gave up on it.  After about half a cookie sheet done my hand started to cramp up and the profanity coming out of my mouth was not very jolly.  My husband had to finish up and I swore I would never make Christmas tree cookies again.

Some months have passed now and for some reason I have agreed to revisit the cookie press.  A quick trip to Bed Bath and Beyond and voila I have a shiny new cookie press that promises easy use and perfect cookies.  We will see.

Things start out well.  The dough comes together easily and the new press gets filled with green buttery goodness.  Then human error comes into play.  As I squeeze the trigger and await the outcome the dough oozes out the side of the metal tree cutout.  Damn.Xmas tree Cookies

I try again.  Same outcome.  As I’m taking it apart for the third time my lovely husband hands me a glass of wine and asks if he can help.  I hand him the two pieces  and explain the outcome.  He asks me if I’ve been putting the disk in the right way.  Double Damn!

Not sure if was the wine or the fact that I had finally put the press together correctly but the next 200 cookies came out without incident.  (Pretty much).

The Best Thing in Life is keeping a tradition alive………no matter what.

 

Where’s the Sandman When You Really Need Him – “Tales of the Momside”

girl not sleeping

A purple glow emanates from the diffuser in the corner of  the room.  The scent of lavender is everywhere.  Low calming music plays on an iPad on the bedside table.  The lights are dimmed and the room is cozy.  If she didn’t know better she would swear that she was at the spa.  But she wasn’t.  She was in her daughter’s bedroom at 9:00 at night and she was desperately trying to get her to go to sleep.

Her eight year old daughter was wide awake and insisting that she could NOT go to sleep.  Her legs were thrashing about under the  covers and her little hands were balled into fists.  A child who was typically rational and easy going had, for the past week, turned into an irrational, agitated, almost incoherent, nightmare.  Ironic that nightmares happen when you are asleep.  Which her daughter was NOT.

“I can’t go to sleep.”

“But you haven’t even tried.” She pleads.

“But I just don’t trust myself.  What if I don’t get to sleep?”

“Sweetie you are eight years old.  Every night for eight years you have gone to bed and gone to sleep.  There’s no reason why tonight will be any different.”

“But……”

“But what?”

“But…….”

“Yes?”

“But I don’t trust myself.”

“Yes, you’ve said that.”

“But….”

“Honey, you wont be able to get to sleep if you don’t try.  Just lie still, close your eyes, take a few deep breathes and try to relax.  If you still can’t get to sleep after, say, ten minutes then come and get me and I will tuck you in again okay?”

She starts to get up from the spot on the floor that she has occupied for the past half an hour.  If she can just get out of the room maybe her daughter would……

“But…..I don’t trust myself to get to sleep.”

Damn.  So close.

It’s all she can do to not scream.  She is trying really hard to be patient.

“Count to ten.” She tells herself.  “Or maybe one hundred.”

She had spent the last few days researching sleep disruption in children and one of the most important things, they said, was not to get angry and make the child think that what they were doing was bad behavior.  In theory this made total sense, but her sweet little sunshine was still repeating the same maddening phrase over and over again and it was hard not to let that annoyance creep into your voice.  Hell it was hard not to scream at her.

Just shut up and go to sleep

“Maybe she’s not tired?” She thought.

“No, she’s had a busy day and it’s an hour past her regular bed time.  She should be tired.  She’s done this every night this week.”

“You know what sweetie?  I’m tired.”  She stretched and yawned in the hopes that her daughter would follow her example.  The truth was that the lavender oil, soft music and low lights were making her sleepy.  Was her daughter immune to this stuff?

“Hey, I’ve got a great idea.  We will both get into our  beds and see who can get to sleep first.”  Good lord why has she not thought of this before?  It was genius.

“But mommy what if you get to sleep before me?  Then I’ll be awake all by myself?”  She had started to cry again. Damn.

Fearing that she might just loose her cool she gets up, kisses the little girl on the head and says.

“Good night sweetie.  I love you.”  Then leaves the room and walks down the hall to her own room.

“Mommy?  Mommy.  Mommy!  MOMMY,”  then silence.  Could that be it.  She held her breathe and waited.  She lay down on her bed and closed her eyes.  Just as sleep start to creep into her she feels her.  Close.  Beside the bed.

“Mommy, I can’t sleep.”

From this point things will go one of two ways….

 

Lest We Forget

poppy fields

Last year on Remembrance Day my daughter asked me if we had anybody in our family who had fought in the war.  My response?

“Ummmmm ya sure.  Quiet, the ceremony is starting.”

Truth be told I felt really ashamed that I didn’t know what to tell her.  I knew that both of my grandfathers had served but that was about it.  No details, no dates, no stories of bravery.  I made a promise to myself to be better educated this year.

World War I lasted just over four years.  From July 1914 to November 1918.  Both of my grandfathers were in their late teens.  About the same age that my son is now.  I can’t even imagine.

I can’t say that I really knew either or my grandfathers.  My parents moved to Canada when they were in their twenties and eventually chose to settle in British Columbia.  As a result, I didn’t have a chance to get to know any of my grandparents as I would have liked to.

Arthur Hamilton, my dad’s father, was called Pop.  I met him maybe three or four times for very short periods when I was young.  What I do remember about him was his energy.  Much like my dad’s, it was boundless.  He and Mop, my grandmother, spent many years living in India (where my father was born) and he was a forester who loved hiking, fishing and trapping small animals.  Don’t ask.

pop

Pop was nineteen when had been in the Territorial Army for about a year.  He was injured for the first time while riding dispatch for the 8th Battalion.  The bullet that ended up in his thigh was still there when he passed away.  After he recovered he served a year in Suez and then volunteered for a tank corps. In 1918 he was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery in leading his tank battalion to a battle by walking ahead of them on a foggy dark night.

Edward Brockman, my mom’s dad, was called Poppa.  He never came to Canada and I only visited England twice while he was alive. I don’t even remember talking to him.  From what my mom has told me he was very much a “children should be seen and not heard” kind of guy.  He was a well-respected orthopedic surgeon who was, to put it lightly, quite stern.  Oh, how am I kidding, he scared the crap out of me as he stood by the fireplace in the library and looked over his spectacles at us.

poppa

My Poppa was at Cambridge studying medicine when the war broke out.  He was drafted into the Royal Navy as a midshipman as he hadn’t competed his studies to be a licensed doctor in the service.  My mom’s not clear on what type of ship he was in or where it was but she knows that at some point a shop close to them was hit and he witnessed people struggling in the burning water.

I asked my mom if she had any more details about her father’s service and she said that many servicemen didn’t want to talk about their experiences.

“We just have to imagine what hell they went through and remember what they did for our country to make it what it is today”

So now I have something to tell my daughter on Wednesday as we thank the men and women who served.

The Best Thing in Life is learning YOUR history.  Talk to your parents or your grand parents.  Go to the library.  Do whatever you need to do to learn what your ancestors did to ensure your freedom.

LEST WE FORGET