January 6, 2017

Oh Friday how I love you.

Even though it was a short week I am still so happy to see you.

It is no longer the promise of two days of relaxation as it used to be as anybody with young children knows. Weekends can often mean even more activity and work than week days. Early hockey or soccer practice, dance lessons, ski trips, birthday parties and more.

So why is Friday such an oasis at the end of the week?

Could it solely be the fact that nobody is going to judge me if I don’t make dinner but instead order sushi and grab a bottle of white from the cold beer and wine store? Is it really that simple?

Yes. I think that’s it.

The Best Thing in Life is a Friday evening with my family eating sushi, drinking wine and watching HGTV.

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The Upside of Technology

technology

Technology is an amazing thing.  It’s a bit ridiculous really, when you think about how far we have come in the past ten to twenty years.  We’ve gone from huge main frames to pcs to laptops to smart phones to iPads to Google Glasses in what feels like the blink of an eye.  Technology has truly changed the way we live our lives.

It does, however, sometimes get a bad rap.

For example, many feel that the increase in screen time has numbed the minds of our young.  I read an article recently comparing screen time to heroin for young children.  I personally believe that if a balance can be found with physical activity and a creative outlet, that it can’t hurt.  Don’t get me wrong, it can suck our little ones in and hold on tight if not managed properly, pulling them into a massive black hole.

Then there is the issue of distracted driving.  Not an problem until a few years ago, but now a growing concern.  The number of fatalities from distracted driving has now surpassed that of impaired driving in Canada.  Yet people still do it. I see it every single day.  Young, old, male and female.  And I know they now better because when they see me glaring at them in their cars at the stop light, they quickly put their phones away.  Ya, I do that.

But today I saw the undeniable upside of technology.  I arranged for my 83 year old mother to Skype with her twin brother who lives in England.  Neither my mom or my uncle have been able to fly for a number of years and as such have not seen each other in a long time.  Being twins they have always had a close relationship and despite regular phone calls my mom felt a bit disconnected from him.

So a Skype call was arranged.  In my mom’s eyes I performed a miracle, but in all honesty all it took was a few emails and the installation of a new app on my iPad.

The looks on their faces as they realized that they could see each another and talk to each other while sitting in their kitchens was beyond priceless.

“Your face looks fatter.”  My mom said not so tactfully.

“You’ve lost weight.  You look more like our mother now.”  He replied.

They talked about my uncles new great grandson and how his wife was doing in the facility she now lived in.  Nothing earth shattering, but you could see, and hear, that they were beyond thrilled to be on the call.  I think my mom wanted to reach out and touch the screen a few times just to make sure that it was real.  That it really was her brother on the screen and not just a mirage.

She kept saying.  “I can’t believe I can see you so clearly.”

Roughly five thousand miles away and eight hours time difference, but to them, they might as well have been in the same room. Today I saw how technology could simply make my mom’s day.  That is The Best Thing in Life and we should never take it for granted.

 

Why Is My Kid Such A Punk?

bratty girl

More than once this past week I have asked myself this question. Why is my kid such a punk?

No really, she is.  She’s behaved in a way that I would expect from a two-year old.  Only with better language skills.  I’ve truly been trying to stay calm and respectful and not lower myself to her level by responding in an immature way, but I have to admit that I have flipped her the bird behind her back more than once. I don’t like to do it, but sometime it’s really the only appropriate response.

I’ve read all the parenting books (there are a lot) and followed their instructions so I wonder how this could have happened.  We’re a pretty normal family.  No major issues or problems.  And I’m not a mean parent.  Although, I’m pretty sure she thinks I am.  Usually after I’ve said something like.

“No. For the tenth time, we can’t go to the park because I’m tired and it’s cold.  End of discussion.”

That’s not really mean is it?  I see it more as establishing my dominance .

When it comes to dealing with an eight year old with attitude I am not alone.  Last night I had an enlightening text discussions with some very savvy moms.  When asked about their girls of the same age, they all responded quickly and enthusiastically.  I was a bit overwhelmed actually.  Aside from the usual “I hate you” and “you’re ruining my life” I got this list of recent altercations.

  • This may take me a while to rank all the bad stuff to find the worst
  • “Yuk, I hate that” to literally every meal, for as long as I can remember
  • She told me that I should move out
  • She face washed her little sister with peanut butter and jelly toast then proceeded to tell me it was an “accident”.  I hid under the stairs
  • Every day about the damn crop tops.  No, it’s not appropriate
  • She yelled at me “You’re just a little piece of poop”.  I’m assuming she wanted to say shit but knew that she wasn’t allowed to swear
  • She told her little brother that everybody in the family had super powers except him
  • She said “I’m not trying to be rude.”  Holy crap can you imagine what it would be like if she was TRYING to be rude

One mom described them as “a bunch of cheeky little shits who are testing the boundaries”.  Yup, she hit the nail on the head.

So what to do with these little punks that won’t be moving out for another ten to twelve years?  Someone suggested an air horn.

airhorn

“Every time they start their crap we just blow it in their ear.”

That got a lot of support.  Others suggested a good supply of wine and tequila and regularly scheduled girl’s weekends in Whistler.  Lots of support for that one too.  Waiting it out was brought up, but wasn’t well received.

After an hour or so of laughter and commiserating I realized that what we had just done was really the only solution.  We had vented our frustrations and come to the conclusion that we are all in the same boat.  Doing our damnedest and trying not to kill them.

At the end of the day they are good kids and we are good parents. So next time your kids being a punk….grab a glass of wine and call a friend.  It’s The Best Thing in Life.

TBT – The House

The House

My mom’s friend Anne painted this picture.  It’s the house I grew up in.  The house is now over 100 years old.  Although my parents sold it over two years ago I still consider it my home.

I grew up in this house.  It has creaky floors, drafty bathrooms and a huge rock in the basement.  It also has so many memories that it’s hard to remember them all.

Like the cow bell.  When my mom and dad were in Austria for their honeymoon they bought a cow bell.  A big ass metal cow bell.  That cow bell lived on the cabinet by the front door of this house.  It had one purpose.  When it was time for us to come home, my mom would stand on the front doorstep and ring that cow bell.  Everybody knew when they heard the cow bell that the Hamilton kids had to go home.  The cow bell had done its job.

Or the living room.  The room where my dad would have his scotch every night after work while he read the paper.  The room where the fire place would  warm us all up after being outside.  The room where we hung our Christmas stocking each Christmas.  The room where I told my parents that I was going to Europe instead of college.  The room that my son learnt how to crawl in.  The room that I used to rock out to Sonny and Cher to.  Ya, that’s right.  Sonny and Cher.

stockings 2

Then there’s the kitchen.  The tiny kitchen that somehow produced enough food for many, many parties, Thanksgivings and birthdays. I can’t remember how old I was when we finally got a dishwasher.  After dinner there were three jobs to do in the kitchen.  Wash, dry or feed the cat.  Accidents happened in that kitchen.  Typically after too much wine.  I learnt how to cook with my mom in that kitchen.  Typically after too much wine.  Wait,did I say that already?

My dad’s study.  The tiny room at the top of the stairs.  Boiling hot in the summer but holy crap what a view he had.  If you climbed out the window you were at the top of fire escape.  When the door was closed we knew to be quiet.  The dreams that were hatched from that tiny room have helped my family be who they are today.  The black rotary phone on the mahogany desk that my dad used to make endless calls getting his business up and running.  Funny how the smallest room in the house may have had the biggest impact.

Perhaps the best part of the house wasn’t even in the house.

The yard.  The tree in the back that my sister fell out of and broke her arm.  The metal pallets that we would put the wading pool on so the water would warm up faster.  The thousands of rocky holes and nooks and crannies where my parents hid foil covered Easter eggs every year for us and then for our kids.  The steep driveway that you had to take a run at to get out of if it snowed.  The cherry tree that we could reach from my sisters bedroom window on a warm summer day.

yard

I wonder sometimes as I write these posts if anybody is even interested in my old house? But then I think that one day I will be old (er) and maybe I won’t be able to remember all the great things about the house.

The Best Thing in Life is going to be reading this years from now and smiling the same way I am smiling today.

Why Don’t The Assholes Die?

This Saturday my husband and I will attend a memorial service for a man we worked with earlier in our careers.  He was forty seven.

In the last five years five young men we worked with at that same company have passed away.  Some from disease, others from sudden fatal accidents.  With the exception of one, all men had children. Some as young as two or three years old.  They left behind spouses, parents and colleagues who cared for them deeply.

Without exception all five men were great guys.  Kind, hard working, decent men.

Why don’t the assholes die?

Have you ever noticed what happens when a young person passes away traumatically.  If the media is involved they interview their friends and family.  The reaction is typically predictable?  “They were always smiling and happy.  Everyone liked them.”  Have you ever heard anybody say “Ya, he was a total jerk.  Mean to everybody he encountered.”

Happy pictures are shown.  Happier times are remembered.  Making it all the more devastating.

Why don’t the assholes die?

Now when I say as assholes I don’t mean the guy who cut you off getting onto the highway this morning.  Or the woman who didn’t pick up her dogs business at the park yesterday.  Not even the boss who fired you just because he thought that he could get some young hot shot to fill the position you’ve given your heart and soul to for five years.

I’m talking about those people in your life that give you consistent aggravation.  Ones that go out of their way to make your life more difficult simply because they can.

Why don’t those assholes die?

The five men that have died in the past five years were not that person.  They were funny redheaded goofballs.  They were gentle hockey loving fathers.  They were guys who always “knew a guy” who could help you out.  They were wizards with Christmas lights and skateboard ramps.  They were work colleagues who boosted you up instead of climbing over you.

They weren’t assholes.  And yet they died.

 

TBT – Love

B&W kids

Yes, it’s that time of year again.  Valentines Day is just around the corner.  Little kids at school are preparing their paper valentines.  Young women are hoping (or praying) that this is the year they get that sparkly ring on their finger.  And guys everywhere are still talking about the Super Bowl.

Love is so many different things to people that I don’t feel that it can be shoved into one Hallmark holiday day each year.  Love is different for everyone because it is personal and cultural and familiar and personal.  Yes, I said personal twice.

Love is crazy and calm

Love is hard and soft

Love is scary and comforting

Love is warm and cold

Love is physical and emotional

Love is color and love is black and white

B&W Everett

This is my love.  These pictures were taken seven years ago but the feelings they evoke in me are so strong that every time I look at them my heart gets all mushy and I need to hold my breath.

B&W Liv

My daughter was about eleven months old so my son must have been almost twelve.  Babies, both of them.  My husband and I had been married for seven years.  Four of which we had spent living 3000 miles apart.

B&W me and Don

So much has happened since then.  I’ve learnt and grown with these three humans right beside me.  It’s been ugly and it’s been beautiful.  Often on the same day.

Love is family

Love is memories

Love is growing together

Love is learning from each other.

Love is never having to say you’re sorry but saying it anyway.

The pictures say so much.  My sweet sensitive son.  My crazy adventurous daughter.  My thoughtful handsome husband.

The Best Thing in Life is Love.  Mushy, hold your breath love.

 

 

Happiness is Welcoming Friends to My ‘Hood

mexico and canada

Immigration is a hot topic these days no matter where you live.  It’s been a point of contention in the current U.S. election and here, in Canada, the influx of Syrian immigrants has caused many heated debates.  I personally don’t have to look much further than the end of my cul de sac to find a great (and happy) immigration story.

My friend Veronica arrived in Vancouver in August of 2000 from a small town just outside of Monterey, Mexico.

She came to Vancouver with her best friend.  They had sat in a restaurant in their hometown and added up their savings on a paper napkin to see if they had enough money for two plane tickets.  She was twenty five years old and wanted a change of pace from her small town life.  They moved into an apartment on the west side of Vancouver with four other young girls, also from Mexico.  Even though she was going to school to learn English she has to admit that they didn’t speak much English at all.  They lived with and went out with other Mexicans.

But she loved her new city.  The mountains, the ocean, the trees and parks.

Things she remembers from that time?  The weather wasn’t always good.  No matter how hard she tried she couldn’t get her hair straightened with a flat iron. Since she’s a bit on the short side, on rainy days she kept hitting people in the face with her umbrella.  Basically she remembers that the weather was a huge change from sunny Mexico.

For the next two years she would stay in Vancouver. Only returning to Mexico every six months to renew her visa.  During that time she met her husband Jorge.  I have always known that Veronica and her husband, Jorge, were one of the sweetest, most loving couples I’ve ever met but I didn’t know the lengths that they had gone to in order to be together.

In 2003 Veronica decided to return to Mexico for good.  She missed her family and it was too expensive to keep going back and forth.  What she didn’t know was that Jorge had followed her back with an engagement ring in his pocket.  He gave her that ring and they got married the very next day.

Even though they were married, the process of getting her papers to allow her to permanently return to Vancouver took over a year.  Devoted Jorge continued to fly back and forth to Mexico as often as he could.  Eventually Veronica moved to Bellingham, WA and stayed at the YWCA.  Just to be that much closer to her husband.

The process was long and the immigration interviews in Mexico City were intense.  They asked her questions like.

“Tell me again.  On the evening you met Jorge, did he drive you home or did you take a taxi?”  Just to make sure her story was consistent.

“What brand of toothpaste does Jorge have in his bathroom?”

Seriously?  Who pays attention to that stuff?  Or remembers it three years later.  Anyway, bottom line, she got her permanent resident card and is now a Canadian citizen.

They best part of living here?

The people.  She finds Canadians to be incredibly friendly.  In Mexico, she says, people are sometimes only friendly to you if they know you.  If you come from a wealthy family you do not acknowledge people who are less fortunate.  In fact you don’t even talk to them.  The division is very clear.

She also enjoys the safety of living in an area with good schools and parks that she can send her kids to without worrying about them.  Over the past fifteen years Mexico has changed and she doesn’t always feel comfortable taking her kids out when they visit.

Would she move back?  Probably not. Obviously, the Mexico of today is very different from the Mexico she grew up in.

So now Veronica and her lovely family live at the end of my street.  Her kids play with my daughter at the park and I get to enjoy the fresh produce they grow in the summer.  Their tomatillos are amazing.  Great friends and fresh veggies.  That’s a Best Thing in Life for sure.

P.S.  Although I’ve never managed to stay up late enough to go, I’ve heard that they have killer parties.

 

 

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.

 

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

TBT – The Godmother

This is my godmother.  Her name was Faith Mahwinney and she was a lovely sweet woman. I remember her being like a little bird and smelling like roses.  She loved a good giggle and always wore heels.

When my parents first came to Canada in the mid-fifties they were introduce to the Mahwinneys and the older couple basically adopted them.  I can only imagine how hard it must have been to be newly married and living in a new country with no family of your own.  It must have been reassuring to have a nice couple to help them out and act as surrogate parents.

baptism

When I was born my parents chose Faith as one of my godparents.  Traditionally three godparents were chosen but I think that with a lack of close family they decide two was enough.  That is her holding me on the day I was baptized.  I still have the little gown I wore packed away in tissue…..somewhere.

Do people still have godparents?  I feel like it is a bit of a dying tradition.  Traditionally godparents are appointed by parents to provide spiritual guidance for their godchildren.  They are present when the child is baptized and make a promise of renunciation, faith and obedience in the child’s name.  In the past it was required that godparents be baptized themselves but the Anglican Church has waived that requirement in recent years.  Frankly I’m not even sure my godparents went to church at all.

Since we only went to church on the big days. You know.  Christmas , Easter and Thanksgiving.  It was a bit more about tradition than wanting us to have somebody teach us about God, but really, it’s a lovely tradition.

Generally speaking godparents are chosen for their interest and ability to nurture the Christian life and faith of the child/adult whom they sponsor.  I can’t say that I ever discussed God with either do  so in that respect she may have not lived up to the bargain.  But in other ways she knocked it out of the park.

Every Christmas we would all get dressed up and go to the Mahwinneys house on Marine Drive for tea.  The grown ups would sit in the living room and have tea and we kids would hang out in the dining room with our own tray of goodies and lemonade.  She made the most amazing cookies and treats and we each had our favorite.  My favorite was the coconut strawberries.  I have no idea what was in them other than coconut and sugar but they were shaped into little red strawberries and holy crap they were good.  My brothers favorite was very thinly sliced home-made brown bread slathered in butter and my sister loved the butter tarts.

After her husband passed away Faith moved into an apartment.  I would go and visit her on my own then as I was older.  She was getting old and frail and didn’t hear well but she still wore heals and smelt like roses.  She would putter around that apartment overlooking Ambleside making me tea and chatting about the people she had met in her new building.  She would always walk me down to the elevator when I left and remind everyone that we saw that I was her goddaughter.

faith

I was twenty-seven when she passed away.  I helped to spread her ashes over the rose garden outside her church.  She may not have guided me spiritually but she taught me a lot by always being polite and ladylike.  Traditions can take many forms and that makes them one of the Best Things in Life.