All of My Favourite Parts

In case you missed it, I defamed my mother terribly in my last post, I poked fun at her vanity and her constant need to feel and be perceived as young. But my mother is more than just her foibles. Although my Mom’s peccadillos are what make her into an interesting story, it’s her strengths like her ability to laugh at herself which make her so much fun to write about. And in this post, whether she likes it or not, I’m going to expound upon all of her strengths, and the qualities I love most about my Mom.

What I admire most about my mother is her willingness to be outside of the box. When I was younger, my mother was a hippie with a compost barrel before environmentalism was cool. My Mom always wore these unique, artsy jackets and dresses that made her stick out. But best of all, she was herself, this slightly nerdy lady who loved science and would let the whole world know it by covering our dining room table in overheads of organ systems. It was through watching this person who just delighted in who she was that I gained the confidence to be myself as well.

This sounds trivial but it isn’t – my mother is good at math. It was only after I entered university that I learned about the stereotype that girls struggle with math. After watching my mother, it never occurred to me that I would experience anything but success when faced with numbers. By the same token, my mother demonstrated to me that if I worked hard enough, I was capable of anything.

Earlier, I mentioned my Mom’s ability to make fun of herself. There is nothing which is more likely to elicit a huge laugh from my mother than a story lampooning either an action or a trait of hers. I always try to emulate this, to never take myself too seriously. In that same vein, my mother is always up for an adventure. Traveling or attempting new sports with her is a riot, because to my Mom, every mishap or fall is a story and a story is something to smile about.

Lastly, the quality that most often makes my mother a model to others is her level of fitness. Upon meeting my Mom for the first time, once her back is turned, people will say to me “Your mother is jacked” which is both true and false at the same time. For a person in their late fifties, my mother is probably in the ninety-ninth percentile in terms of physical fitness. However, throughout my teens and early twenties, my mother was actually jacked, with biceps that made boyfriends contemplate picking me up down the street to avoid facing her. She used to wear crop tops every day of the week to show off her rockin’ six pack. My mother viewed every chin up bar that she met as a challenge to be conquered, which, had video games not been invented by then and thus gobbled up the neighbourhood children, would have made walks to the local playground exceptionally awkward. Regardless of whether or not she can still bench press the neighbour’s sedan, my mother lives the adage “use it or lose it”, and has passed on this commitment of personal fitness to me.

While I take great pleasure in teasing my mother for her weaknesses, I love her most for her strengths because they’re what she’s passed on to me. These unique qualities are the ones that I hope my own children will possess. I’m doing my best to be an equally good model as my own mom was and is, but I must confess, those are some big (and jacked) shoes to fill.

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Your Mother Is So

“Here have a look” Sula held up her Blackberry screen which was also a mirror so I could inspect the braid she had just put in my hair. “That’s useful” I commented on her dual purpose mirror/phone cover “Your mother?” I asked using our personal shorthand of “That item looks so useful that only your mother who possesses impeccable taste could have picked it out”. “No, me actually” Sula replied.

I was surprised. Almost everything beautiful and multi-purpose in Sula’s house and wardrobe was chosen by her mother. Her mom’s particular brand of style and elegance are at work in every aspect of Sula’s life and by virtue of being Sula’s close friend, some of Sula’s mother’s good taste spills into my life too. When she lived in my city, Sula’s house was beautifully decorated and artfully arranged, because of this, it was a hub of social activity; people wanted to be there. I remember helping Sula move in and watching her mother direct where to put the furniture to create the warmest atmosphere then heading out to choose drapes to accent the room.

Sula’s Mom prides herself on being a Mom; Sula’s parents live thirty seconds from my Dad’s house so when Sula and I lived in the same city, we would frequently carpool back and forth on weekends. My job once we got back home was to hold onto Maddie while Sula unloaded the endless bags of groceries and things her mother had sent back with her. The weeks afterward, on craft nights, Sula and I would feast on delicious delicacies. “Where did you get this?” I would ask, hungrily eyeing my forkful of salad covered in a layer of delectable bee pollen. “My mother” Sula would say.

Eventually I stopped asking about the origins of items and instead just commented when I borrowed Sula’s winter boots which made my feet warmer and more comfy than they’d ever been in the winter; “I love your mother’s taste”.

Even before Sula’s parents’ home became my go to place and the locale of many a drunken discussion with Sula, I felt I knew Sula’s mom, through her choices of upholstery, through Sula’s stories of her mother’s adventures with her sorority. I saw Sula’s mother’s commitment to her friends and family in Sula by the way she valued our friendship and how much time she devoted to her perfect little spaniel. From bee pollen to a perfectly designed, tailor-made purple dress which is so gorgeous that I beg Sula to wear it every time I see her, Sula’s life in filled with her mother’s charm and care.

Let’s have a cheer for loving women who enjoy nothing more than sharing the best of themselves with others that allow the joke “Your mother is so” to become a conversation piece; your mother is so stylish, your mother is so intelligent, your mother is so kind, your mother is so welcoming.

If you have such a lovely lady like Sula’s mom in your life, please leave a warm comment below because even in the midst of a difficult time, Sula’s mother is somehow finding the energy to help me.

A Heartfelt Valentine

I can’t remember not knowing Nadine*. She’s a family friend that’s been around for so long that she leaped the hurdle of friend and became family. When pushed to describe our relationship we say “mother-aunt” because she is as close as an aunt but she has stepped in to play the role of mother when mine was unavailable. In high school, when I was learning to drive and would get lost returning from the corner store, if my own parents didn’t pick up when I needed directions, I would call Nadine’s house, hoping to hear her soothing tones while frantically searching for missed turns. Her poor husband, Nadine raised two wonderful boys, both of them thoughtful, organized gentleman, while I was a whirling dervish of chaos and even harder to deal with when flustered, sometimes Nadine’s other half would answer the phone. During those fast paced conversations where I would shriek cross streets into the speaker of my cell, demanding when I should turn, it was difficult to say who was more confused by the call, me or Nadine’s soft spoken husband who was accustomed to his calm, mature boys.

Nadine is a person who is set to “warm”. No matter the topic, she has an interested question to ask. In conversations with her, you feel important and valued. It’s a quality I strive and fail to channel. Both of Nadine’s boys have her wry, quick sense of humour; it adds spice to every conversation. Today, on this day that is traditionally reserved for passionate couple love, I challenge you to find someone who has loved you all your life, to send some gratitude and warmth to.

To : Nadine

Happy Valentine’s Day. Yours is among the voices that I hear in my heart, one of the people that no matter how old I am, truly understands and knows me. I value my relationship with you so much. I’ve always felt this way, on weekends when our families would tour gardens together and the four kids; your two boys and Diana and I, would be given the option to ride in either your car or our parents’ vehicle, I would always choose yours. Sitting in the backseat as you asked me questions about school and my friends, I felt so loved. I used to imagine how it would feel to be your child all of the time. It was marvelous.

Now that I am older, I appreciate when you accompany my mom and I to our artisan shows so I can try on beautiful clothing for both my Mom and my mother-aunt. And best of all, it gives me the opportunity to listen to your sage words. You give the best advice of anyone I know.

From : The Great Unwashed

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of ones whom I hold so dear,I am want to share with the world.

Love Letters To The World

I’ve decided to start giving it away for free. Every year February descends upon us like a pack of dark, cold, rabid dogs eager to rip the frozen flesh from our cheeks during a celebration of romantic couple love. So I’m turning this month and the accompanying holiday on it’s ear. To combat the frigid temperatures outside, I am going to warm individual’s hearts, one a day for each day leading up to the mass rose genocide.

Today I’ve chosen a friend who is relatively new to my social circle; Natalie*.

Dear Natalie,

I adore you, from the top of your perfectly highlighted blonde head, (Please share the name of your salon with me again, I’ve forgotten for the eighth time.) down to your perpetually stocking-ed feet. I’m going to join my voice, with that of the masses of people who have met you and inwardly shout “She’s fantastic!” However, it’s no good to merely say those words without backing them up. And unlike the paint covered little people, whose lives you change every day, I’m able to articulate my thoughts.

Natalie you are wonderful (and slightly deadly) because you are the Energizer Bunny.

Natalie and this guy once had a race, the Energizer Bunny lost and had to go to rehab because he started using meth to cover the pain of his disappointment. (Photo Credit aylmerrunner.wordpress.com)

Natalie and this guy once had a race, the Energizer Bunny lost and had to go to rehab because he started using meth to cover the pain of his disappointment. (Photo Credit aylmerrunner.wordpress.com)

You would have made an amazing pioneer; you get up and go, go, go until you fall into bed at night. You are the only person I know who would willingly hop on a bike and have people shout at you to pedal at six am on a Monday morning. Even when I didn’t profess my love for laziness, I would never have done that.

Behind your energy is a heart that throws itself fully into everything that you do- nothing short of your very best is acceptable to you. One day, when I am old, and have figured out all of the shortcuts in the world which make things easier, I hope to do everything half as well as you do.

With that big heart, comes your warmth, this is perhaps why children and people are attracted to you, they wish to warm their hands by the fire of your kindness. Whenever I venture out into public with you, we never fail to meet someone who both knows and remembers you, this I believe, is due to your ability to always see the best in everyone. It’s a lovely quality.

Thank you Natalie, for sharing yourself with the world, keep doing so- we adore you!

Much love, and the occasional nom de plume,

The Great Unwashed

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of those so fabulous that the world would be relentlessly knocking down their door if their true identity were published online.

Bedtime Stories for King Charles Cavalier Spaniels

Once there was a girl. She was beautiful, interesting and funny. For the sake of preserving her lovely identity I called her Sula. But then she began a blog of her own and used her actual name: Lisa.

This is Lisa. I told you she was beautiful. (Photo Credit : Northofthegrid.com)

This is Lisa. I told you she was gorgeous. (Photo Credit : Northofthegrid.com)

Lisa is the modern day Wonderwoman; she makes her own jams, roasts pigs on spits, goes on grand adventures in the wilderness, was scooped up by the government to work on important projects, all the while keeping a spotless house and entertaining no less than fifteen people at a time.

When I see t head scarf, I know she means business. (Photo Credit: northofthegrid.com)

When I see this head scarf, I know she means business. (Photo Credit: northofthegrid.com)

And she was my best friend. And I loved her. And I’m pretty certain she at minimum tolerated me, because we spent every Thursday night together, and some Sundays, often another evening too. Our project nights that were spent working on quilts and scrapbooks were precious. When a mutual friend was asked whether he ever hung out with the two of us he replied “When you get close to them, they hiss and spit.”

I relayed this anecdote to Lisa one night sitting in front of her fireplace while she carefully constructed an ornament to go in her Christmas cards. (It was May, did I mention how organized she is?) Laughing she replied “I can’t refute that.”

This is her boyfriend. His back spans the width of a Volkswagon. I considered fighting him for Lisa, but it didn't seem wise. (Photo Credit: northofthegrid.com)

This is her boyfriend. His back spans the width of a Volkswagon. I considered fighting him for Lisa, but it didn’t seem wise. (Photo Credit: northofthegrid.com)

Then the inevitable happened. Lisa dreamed bigger. Having a Bachelors and a Masters of Science was simply not enough. Universities fell over one another vying for Lisa to study for her Doctorate in their hallowed halls. Eventually she chose a program and a school four hours away. The day Lisa accepted the offer was jubilant, sure it meant she would move, but that was months and months from now. The task of the day was to open a bottle of wine and celebrate.

But gradually, our Thursday Project Nights passed until suddenly it was February and Lisa was to start packing soon. Taking a deep breath Lisa and I reminded ourselves of the many weeks we had left together. But then the dark winter days lengthened and suddenly Lisa’s house was a labyrinth of boxes. My cherished Thursday night hideaway was gone, buried, under piles of outdoor gear and cooking utensils. Then the terrible day arrived when Lisa loaded up her truck one last time and left my city, formerly our city, forever. The only one who was more heartbroken than me, was the young man in the photo.

I comforted myself with the fact that my dear friend was moving onto better things; to study shore birds in the arctic circle, to rub shoulders with the best and brightest of Canada’s scientists, to chase after her dream of becoming a world renowned ornithologist.

 

Ornithologists study these creatures. (Photo Credit :northofthegrid.com)

Ornithologists study these guys. (Photo Credit :northofthegrid.com)

At the very least, I could content myself with the knowledge that Lisa left me to care for the one creature she loves most in the world.

This is the greeting that Maddie receives from most people. She's an exceptionally adorable pup. (Photo Credit : northofthegrid.com)

This is the greeting that Maddie receives from most people. She’s an exceptionally adorable pup. (Photo Credit : northofthegrid.com)

And that I can visit her anytime I like when she returns from her northern adventure.

If you would like to read more about Lisa and her wild, adventurous life, check out her blog:

northofthegrid.com

It’s a great resources for scientists and people who don’t camp in the Arctic circle for months on end alike.