Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Taken at lunch on Philosopher's Walk, University of Toronto

Sunday, May 27, 2007

My nemesis

I keep hearing the sound of raccoons fighting (or perhaps, sending mating calls?) from behind the house as I type. It scares the hell out of me, especially since I like to go out on the deck/balcony, and now, I just can't relax. ARGH.

So much to celebrate...

We went to Sadie's for a late lunch/brunch today with J's sis. Sadie's is this cozy little eco-friendly greasy spoon that has amazing huevos rancheros (vegan available) and a wall display of Pez dispensers. J had made a delicious vegan chocolate cake last night in preparation for today's surprise celebration for his sister's recent acceptance into a PhD program in Nursing. [She is one of those wonderful sorts - kind, intelligent, active, fun - a true beauty (both inside and out)]. It was great to be able to share in this amazing accomplishment and wish her all the best.

Another recent celebration we just had was the extended birthday celebration of our little person who just turned 8. My parents and sister flew in from Winnipeg to join in the fun and J's parents drove in from Kingston, as well, to join in the occasion. Coincidentally, some relatives were also in town from California (for a wedding) and were able to join us for one of the dinners. It was nice to see the families mingling and even more special to see how happy the little person was. I think the highlight was the "friend" birthday party which was held at the neighbourhood scrapbook shop. The little people had a blast making scrapbooks with hidden pockets and personalizing their treasures with paper punch-outs, stickers and all sorts of papers and ribbons. On a scale of one to ten, "little person" rated the weekend a 9 because it was "an almost perfect birthday but everyone had to go home at the end of it".

Coincidentally, J's sister in Indonesia (yet another one of those wonderful/beautiful sorts - must run in the family!) has the same birthday as the little person so she was in our thoughts throughout the weekend. J and his sister compiled a beautiful little birthday message for her of people saying, "Happy Birthday, L". It was really lovely. I hope you enjoyed the little vignette of wishes and your day, L. Happy Birthday to you!

Other things to celebrate... how about sitting back and realizing that for the first time in your life, you're in a good place with a special someone you want to grow old with and a wonderful little person who never ceases to teach you about yourself and the virtues of patience (and parenting). Despite those days when all you want to do is retreat under the covers &/or when everything seems to annoy you (much like me this morning!), I remind myself that there is still so much to celebrate and be grateful for - my little family, love, my parents, J's family, siblings, old friends, my health, my family's health, handwritten letters, beautiful paper, special teachers, books by Julia Cameron, a good laugh, a good cry, yardsales with vintage papers and cardmaking books, rain, fresh flowers, art, a good meal, a long nap, sour candies, Ryan Gosling with facial hair, photographs, my senses, and nonsenses.

This picture was taken just before the little person went to bed. I promised her that we could light sparklers and wave them around in the night. I've decided that I'd like to have these on hand as much as I can. You just never know when you want to break them out and celebrate...

Saturday, May 26, 2007

I'm still alive...

The meeting with the artist was amazing. Update to follow. In the meantime, here are some pics that make me smile...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Chance meetings

Ah, the glory of the internet... Lastnight, during my "trolling" on the 'net, I came across the email address of a woman who was selling handmade papers. Intrigued, I quickly fired off a message but anticipated the worst, as it had been a few days since she had posted the selling of her wares. To my suprise, she had several of her handmade goodies left over BUT that isn't even the good part... It turns out that she is retiring from the cardmaking business (which she'd been a part of for 10 years!) to focus on graphic design and illustrating. Oh yes (and here's the fantastic part!), she just so happens to be getting rid of a lot of her supplies!

Long story short, I gave her my work phone number and she called me, asking if "Ima" was there which was funny and cute (it's part of one of my email aliases). We had a nice chat and she filled me in on why she was selling her papers and supplies, and what she was actively pursuing now. She was thrilled that someone was interested in taking over the goodies (at a cost, no less) but thrilled, all the same (even more so, I suppose!). We made plans for me to visit her home studio after work where I can look at her precious supplies and workspace!

It's quite exciting... What was even more exciting was the fact that I realized she is quite an accomplished artist (judging by her blog). She makes beautiful watercolor paintings. I felt inspired and giddy at the thought of meeting a real live artist.

My only regret is that I left my camera at home today. (Boo) I guess, it might have seemed strange for me to ask if I could take pictures since we've never met.

I'll let y'all know how the meeting goes. And for those of you who might be having similar reactions as some of my fellow co-workers had when I told them, I left her address and phone number with my partner.

[If you don't hear from me again, please send out the troops. I only hope that you don't discover my body covered with papercuts] ;)

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

One person's trash, is another person's treasure...

I was late for work by 10 minutes this morning, but it was 10 minutes well spent, I assure you.

There is a crazy phenomena out here in Toronto that I absolutely love - at any given time, on any given street - there are treasures to be found for FREE! Unlike Winnipeg (where I moved from and where people will try to squeeze a dime from you, however they can!), people will place well-loved items at the end of their driveway or in front of their homes, begging to be taken away. It's fantastic! AND... might I add, these items are often one-of-a-kind treasures. Often times, they are barely used items or items that have been taken such immaculate care of. So far, we've come away with the following:

- two bedside tables (one, a retro-sixties style dark wood stand with black metal base; the other, a traditional-style, cherry wood two drawer stand with gold accents from the Bombay Company)
- a small vintage sewing cabinet with two drawers (the little one uses this for various craft supplies)
- a vintage five-drawer dresser with brand new pewter, whimsical handles
- an unfinished wooden, craft table with a shelf underneath
- an oversized reproduction of a Toronto Art Exhibition poster done by a fabulous artist
- our first couch (a tanned, plush little number)
- a white bookcase (which happens to fit perfectly behind our bathroom door and now houses towels and miscellaneous supplies)

[...not to mention the many, many items ranging from vintage music papers to a robin-egg blue little shelf of boxes to books and good ole records!]

And today - a beautiful white desk with large round handles!

For those that have not been initiated to such a phenomena or those who hate the idea of using items that belonged to people they don't know, it's something that a recovering germaphobe, such as myself, has grown to love! My partner, who is the complete opposite of a packrat and who likes to refer to the phenomena as "free poison", has gotten into it, as well (somewhat). And, of course, the little person loves it just as much as I do! We will often troll Kensington Market in search of vintage stores or seek junk shops and antique fairs in Kingston, so you can just imagine what a delight this phenomena is for her! At the same time, it also gives me the opportunity to show our little person the value of well-loved goods and that shiny, brand-new items are not necessarily, the most valuable. Above all, it is time well-spent - turning a simple walk into a sudden scavenger hunt as we search for treasures and later, recall the silly stories that often accompany each item...

"Remember the time we wheeled the dresser three blocks?" or "...that time we teetered the couch on the wagon down the street?". One of my favorite memories was the time we were given a tour by one of the guys moving out of this huge house. He took us through the entire place, showing us what was up for grabs and then, telling us a bit about each person that was moving out. It sounds strange and perhaps, even unsafe, but think of it as sharing (yes, with strangers, no less but still sharing). And, of course, the key is safety but this particular situation was quite unique... Normally, the items will sit by themselves, free agents, if you will.

Next time you have an item that you no longer need, why not place it at the end of your drive? Think of all the pleasure someone could derive from this very simple act of kindness.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Heal Thy Self...

I began my Counselling Level I Certificate last month and have been thoroughly enjoying it. Our facilitator is amazing - both in presentation and as a professional - and has me engaged during each of our classes. Besides lecturing, he uses practical exercises where we can apply the philosophies and strategies we've learned, on one another, along with video clips from both movies and actual counselling sessions. He is a MASTER at using questions effectively - in a way that is both constructive and gentle to the individual seeking support. He places a great deal of emphasis on language and the powerful effects it has on outcome, as well as how it shapes the way he carries out his own practice. As well, he tends to focus on bringing out the positives during counselling, not in a way that minimizes or invalidates a person's problem or "issue" but rather, offers the individual guidance and recognition of their own strengths and tools, resulting in a more meaningful experience, perhaps, with more succesful results.

It's been a real eye-opener and he's provided me with much food-for-thought with regards to every day life situations. Because I am not currently practising in the field of Counselling, I relate what I've learned in parenting and relationship situations. While it may seem simplistic or obvious to use positive language and be a good listener, the ideas and philosophies are much deeper than that. One of my favorite strategies is scaling where you ask an individual to rate how they're feeling with regards to what they see is an issue or problem from say, 1-10 (with 10 being great and 1 being horrible). Instead of focusing on the deficit, you would ask how the individual managed to stay at that level instead of falling below it and how they might be able to get to a higher level (say, even just .5 up the scale). You might ask them what is the highest they've been on the scale and how that day looked and ask them what they might do different to get back to that level. This is only one of the many examples that he used but I felt it was something practical that I might be able to use with my own child and one that I hadn't employed in the past.

[He also suggested using (smiley) faces with children, as an alternative. You might use a range from sad to happy faces or even include an angry face, if appropriate.]

Another wonderful strategy is to externalize what the person considers their issue or problem is. By referring to the problem as "the problem", it seems to take a life of its own - one that is outside of the individual. He showed us a session with a child and her two parents where the family managed to externalize their issue and gave it features, almost as if to humanize it. The child was then able to see it as something of an entity beyond her and not just a problem within her, as did her parents. In one portion of the session, he asked the child if she visualized the problem and asked her to draw a picture of how it looked to her. It was quite fascinating and again, a method I could see myself using in my own parenting.

I haven't even mentioned what the participants in the class have to offer! Many of the individuals are seasoned counsellors already in the field with a wealth of experience that they've been kind enough to share with the rest of the class. The communities they serve range from those with eating disorders to men whose lives are entrenched in the justice system, petty theives to mothers experiencing domestic violence, and walk-ins who believe they need help.

Of course, there is so much more to what I've already learned that I'm not giving any attention to AND... this is really only the tip of the iceberg (ugh - cliches!). I can't wait to learn more... and in doing so, I hope to become a better parent and partner, and consequently, better to myself.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


I can't believe its taken me so long to finally post about my little jaunt to Montreal. I flew out for the day on Saturday, April 14th and had a lovely time strolling around Old Montreal taking pictures and shopping on St. Catherine's Street.

Almost immediately after getting off the shuttle bus into Old Montreal, I stumbled upon a huge sale featuring Quebec designers. It wasn't open until 10 am so I continued on the cobblestone streets, taking in the beautiful architecture and feeling as though I were in a little corner of Europe. The buildings were stunning and overrun with tiny boutiques and art galleries. After spending some time at the designer sale (I left with only a small yellow purse), I found myself at a creperie across the street from a funky little art gallery. The gallery featured work by contemporary artists including Gary Taxali, Pete Fowler and Gary Baseman.

I eventually made my way to St. Catherine's Street which is a really fun street lined with trendy shops and restaurants and great for people watching. I think my favorite "character" from this trip was the little man in a cowboy hat dancing on a pedestal while another man dressed up in a Spiderman costume and a sailor hat cranked some tunes. And my least favorite... the man that was urinating (full frontal, no less) in-between two parked cars. 'Nuff said.

I discovered Simon's, a fantastic retail store with great style, where I managed to pick up a few notable goodies (think: purse, spring jacket and top). I also visited Archambault, which is a bookstore similar to Chapter's or Indigo except everything is labelled in French.

While it was a nice way to spend the day, I think it would have been even nicer had I been with my little family or a group of my galpals. At the creperie, I noticed a table full of friends - laughing and chattering away - and it made me realize how much I missed having my galpals here in the city.

All in all, it was a wonderful little excursion and "Artist Date" (as suggested in the Artist's Way by Julia Cameron). However, I was more than happy to get home to my little family and share my day with them.

Dear Grandma...

It seems like ages since I last wrote... So much has happened since the last entry. The most significant event has been the death of my Grandmother who passed away on April 26th at the age of 85. While she had been struggling with Ovarian Cancer, it was pneumonia that eventually took her life.

The three of us went back to Winnipeg on Saturday to spend time with our family, friends and relatives and celebrate her life. On Sunday, a viewing was held from 6pm - midnight at the funeral home. In the chapel of the funeral home, family and friends paid their last respects to my grandmother. She lay in her open casket so peacefully, as if in an extended slumber. My Grandma had many friends, as evidenced by the number of people in attendance. The evening brought many visitors who expressed their sympathy and participated in various prayers and hymns. As per our culture, the food was endless and much of our celebration was fueled by lumpia (vegetarian rolls), shanghai egg rolls, pancit (noodle dish with shrimp and vegetables), various traditional dishes and desserts, and many different beverages.

The evening was bittersweet - sad, due to the occasion yet happy because of the celebration and the comfort our family/relatives found in each other. We shared many stories with one another , mostly, those that kept us in stitches. In many ways, it felt like we were kids again... Laughing uncontrollably with one another, all squeezed together at one table.

At the end of the night, our family gathered together, hand-in-hand, in front of my Grandma, to say our goodbyes. Our final words to her were, "Aloha", as Hawaii was a special place for her, which she visited frequently.

The following day, we gathered again, this time at the church. The service was beautiful as it began with my Uncle's eulogy, a heartfelt tribute to my Grandma and to motherhood, in general. He spoke of her early years as a widow at age 34 and how she struggled to care for five small children. She never remarried, instead, devoted her life to raising five wonderful children, two of whom had predeceased her. Her Great Grandchild had prepared a speech for her, as well. It was a lovely acknowledgment of my Grandma's lifelong commitment to education (she was a teacher) and how she had impacted many people's lives. Even in her twilight years, my Grandma continued to do crossword puzzles and Jumble, and was a voracious reader.

We proceeded to the cemetery where the interment took place. Everyone placed a flower on her coffin before she was buried and said their final goodbyes. Despite my tears, I was comforted by the fact that she was now reunited with my Grandpa and her two children, not to mention many relatives and friends that passed long before her.

After the reception, we went back to my parents home and pored over dozens of meticulously organized photo albums. My Grandma had documented and labelled almost every photograph with the dates and little blurbs. Photographs were dated as far back as her childhood and it was amazing to see the richness of her life unfold on those pages. We all had a great time sifting through the photographs and keeping those that were special to us. The pictures from the eighties were the most provocative and elicited the most discussion (and laughter). We were in tears (from laughing so hard!) as we looked at pictures of my cousin during his long-haired, glam-rock days with tight jeans and all the cousins with their teased out hair and painted faces. We recalled days spent at my Grandma's house where we chased dragonflies by the creek and admired photos of their over-sized cat affectionatedly named, Brawler, who guarded the front door where he sat on a kitchen chair. There were even pictures of my Grandpa that my Dad had never seen. It was a wonderful way to celebrate my Grandma's life through her eyes.

"Grandma, thank you for everything, especially the lessons you taught me in strength and in love. You struggled to raise your five children as a single-mother but did so with such integrity and success, and continued to thrive despite being in a new country with all of the new challenges that came along with it.

I'll treasure all the times we had together, especially those as a child when we would watch Lawrence Welk and listen to thunderstorms. I'll never forget the day you introduced me to that quirky little culinary delight - condensed milk sandwiches - and the times we spent in your house with all of the cousins. I'm glad that you were able to spend time with my your Great Granddaughter (my daughter) and happy that you were able to meet the person I'm going to spend the rest of my life with.

You are home now with your husband, daughter and son, and your sister. Enjoy this new life with family and friends that you have missed for years. I'll see you again some day. Until then, I'll miss you and love you very much."