Friday, December 7, 2012

Lost in the Stars

November has not been documented here.  

It should be enough to say that it was a difficult month.  A brutal month.  But that is what the season calls for.  The leaves fall and the branches are laid bare, the hidden landscape emerges.  A time for reflection and truth. 

And just in time for the season of love and giving.  I am ready for some fun.

But first, I need to share my reaction to a book.

I read Robert Fisk's The Great War for Civilization:  The Conquest of the Middle East, all 1200 pages, and feel like I never have to read another newspaper again.  

History repeats itself, and right now, we're in the part where we don't see history repeating itself.  

In short, I feel strongly affected by his reports of illegal occupations, torture and the use of chemical and nuclear weapons, especially on the innocent.  

Here is a song, quite out of season, that expresses some of what I feel after reading this book.

WARNING:  there are some disturbing images of war in this video.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Interpretation

The kid has an imagination.  (It came mail-order.)

Henry's concept of Halloween as a two year old, is well, rather unformed.  Explaining that he would dress up in a costume and go to people's houses to be given candy somehow turned into: if I a wear a firetruck hat, then I am a fireman.  Ergo, I should have a firetruck and go fight fires on Halloween.  

Maybe that's why he rejected his horse costume.  Maybe he thought he would really turn into a horse, and that quite frankly did not appeal to him.

When people offered him candy, he asked for a firetruck.   "Where's my firetruck daddy?

S took him trick o' treatin' while I manned the front door.

Here's the documentation.

Monday, October 22, 2012

My Son ~ Two Years Old

My son in quiet at first.

He likes books with a lot going on.  

He likes to name, identify; count.  

He likes to make connections;  how music is made.  

He likes cats.  He likes talking to cats.

He likes making his stuffed cat kiss pictures of cats and real cats.

My son sits in his bus seat, doesn't want to be touched.  He wants to see; to be.

My son looks up a street and sees all of the trucks.  Many of which take me a while to find.

He loves to run.  He can run the length of 2 bus stops laughing.  

He is loyal to his friends, except when he wants "my truck/ my ball."

He likes routine and order.  The trains move in one direction only on his train table.  Mummy must have a sip of orange juice before Henry has a sip of orange juice.  Daddy must wait on the front walk until Henry has done a "big jump" off the edge of the walkway.

My son is fair, he's blond, he's thoughtful.  Does that make him a beta male?  Will he be the toughest, the most aggressive, the most stoic, the one who never cries?  

What if he turns out to be a scientist, or architect, or musician or scholar, or teacher, or veterinarian, or lawyer, or astronaut, and not be an alpha male?  

Why would I care whether or not he's a beta or an alpha, so long as he is himself and is enjoying a fulfilling life?  

I love how complicated he is, how I must tune in, watch, wait and be patient.  What is growing inside him is an amazing possibility to learn to be anything he wants to be.  

Lucky kid.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Lament for the Republic

However evolved and modern I might think the world has become, it is firmly rooted and coded in ancient life.  Like a bird perched in the branches of a  towering oak tree unaware of the roots and trunk, so have I enjoyed the freedoms and the fruits of the Western lifestyle, without fully understanding the foundation and why it was built in the first place.

It is doubtful I will ever make the effort to even get close to fully understanding the history and politics behind modern Western civilization.  But that will not stop me from musing. 

I have spent my 30 odd years of life ping-ponging between Canada, England and the United States.

Each time, I expect more similarities than differences in the cultures, and I find exactly the opposite.  

In the taxonomy of countries, surely these 3 would find themselves in the same genus?  

England: ok it's Olde Worlde and has a millennia of history compared to the few hundred years of the New World.  The UK was an Imperial Empire and was  a colonial master of both Canada and the US.  It is still a constitutional monarchy...ok so the differences are immediately evident here.

So then, what is the difference between Canada and the United States?  Why do many of my American friends and family not feel at home in Canada and why do I not feel at home in the United States?

Before diving right into this musing, I must confess that I'm hot on the heels of a 3 day visit to Charlottesville, Virginia to see my dear childhood friend tie the knot.  I moved to Charlottesville from Toronto, when I was 10 years old.  I held Canada close to my heart throughout my 10 years growing up there, and then returned to Canada for university.  It has been 10 years since I have been back to visit Thomas Jefferson's academic city nestled in the bosom of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Instead of that feeling of connection and reminiscence, I felt detached and withdrawn as I skimmed past old haunts and schools.  I had never felt like I fit in, that I could relate to the way people thought and viewed the world.  

At the time growing up, I thought it was me.

Now I know it was not just me being a weirdo.  

The first 10 years of my life were lived in the culture of a constitutional monarchy, and the second 10 years were lived in the culture of a republic.

It sounds silly to say.  But I now understand how significant a model of government is in shaping the psychology of an individual, and by extension, an entire nation.

Moving to the States as a sensitive and sometimes shy girl, I was unprepared for the assertiveness of the Republican mentality.

I characterize the Republican mentality as nationalist, patriotic, individualistic and competitive.  I believe these characteristics are born out of the founding principles of a Republican system, which is necessarily seeking to create an effective government to grow and protect a group of people under a powerful ideology.  In the States, the results gave rise to amongst other things:  the American Dream, a legacy of competition and excellence in business and education, discovery and innovation in the arts, science and technology.  

I characterize the Constitutional Monarchy mentality as more introspective, less decisive, more dependent on allies, a quiet sense of pride, a strong belief in freedom and education.  More incorporating different cultures and previous systems of power, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.  Larger government bureaucracies, but a higher overall quality of life through the investment in a social safety-net.   

Some Constitutional Monarchies:

Australia, Barbados, Belgium, Cambodia, Canada, Denmark, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, UAE, UK.

Some Republics: 

Afghanistan, Austria, Brazil, China, Cuba, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, India, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Nigeria, Palestine, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Slovakia, Switzerland, Turkey, United States, Zimbabwe

In short, it is like 2 children in a family who have very different personalities.

The republican child leaves his mother and father, and through his own hard work and beliefs, establishes himself on his own two feet, and therefore does not need to take their advice, and need not pay fealty to his roots. 

The constitutional monarch child stays in close contact with his parents. Perhaps takes over the family business or continues to share the same beliefs and stays in close contact.  The relationship is more symbiotic.

Not perfect analogies, but for me, it captures the contrasting types in essence.

And so America today.  

I feel, and felt as a child, that it had gone astray from its founding principles.  The classical principles of checks and balances, the civic involvement of citizens and the premium on equality, education, freedom of speech and religion, the pursuit of happiness, etc...

What I believe is happening now, America is turning towards a new form of feudalism/dictatorship with Wall Street pulling the strings.  The income disparity, the social divisions, the violence, the over-consumption, the fear...the unanswered questions...I believe that most all Americans know something is wrong.  

What made America truly great is not wholly gone.  But it is in grave danger.

My proposal is for Americans to reacquaint themselves with the founding principles of the nation and visit the historical examples of what happens when these principles slip away out of reach.  

Thomas Jefferson had a vision for what the country might be.  He designed and built the University of Virginia, of which the Rotunda you see below is the star of the show.  This vision of America, contrasted with the Wall-E reality, is enough to break my heart.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


I wanted to wake up and neatly apply my make-up, smooth my hair into sultry waves and smartly walk out the door.  Walk a block and I would then congenially hop onto the streetcar to the Danforth GO station, where I would seamlessly catch a commuter train for a 7 minute ride into Union Station.  I could grab a cafe au lait and a croissant, and with not a hair out of place, I would sit down at my desk and work diligently until 4pm, gracefully handling all of my phone calls, emails and papers.

A life of control, predictability and oddly bereft of irritants. 

Irritants:  noise, crowds, excessive waiting, bad hair day, heavy bags, rushing, fuzzy brain

What really happened today:

I woke up, tried to leave home early but after putting drops in toddlers eyes and calming a brewing tantrum, having Henry holding my legs down and whining non-stop.  After 2 slices of toast and no coffee, I left the house hauling recycling and compost out to the curb, while carrying a heavy backpack full of clothing/laptop/books/food.  Walking up to the subway, I kept pace with a smelly and noisy skid steer loader while road crew tore up both sides of Woodbine.  Get to the subway and find myself on the platform with the ward city councillor.  My nerves were already shot.  When I got to work, I did a quick change in the bathroom, exchanging my grubby trousers for a sheath dress, and b-lined it for the Flavia coffee machine, where I inserted one of the last packets of Barista's blend and supplemented breakfast with a Quaker Oat bar from the vending machine.

Maybe someday I will control my life and achieve my desired scenario.  

But then, I think that the collective "we" of the West don't seem to care that our drones, our bombers, our bombs, our weapons are making thousand's of men, women and children's lives a daily living hell, something they must wake up fresh to each morning.   

It is disproportionate, to say the least.

In this increasingly connected globe, this kind of disparity, where some human lives are not valued as highly as others, there is a correlation to the growing income disparity.  

Whatever happened to morality, principles and human rights?  Hell, whatever happened to the Declaration of Independence?

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Sunday, September 23, 2012

2 Years - It's Party Time!

The celebration is never-ending.  And why should it?  It's too late to keep him from being spoiled rotten, don't you know?

The birthday fun all started on Sunday night when daddy starting putting the train table together.  Henry knew something was happening as he kept on repeating "Daddy's building!  Daddy's building!"

On Monday night, we carried the sleeping, unsuspecting Henry out of his room and lay him in our bed while we took over assembling his table and train tracks in his rather snug room.

Once everything was assembled, we lay Henry back in his crib and got to work wrapping gifts and putting up a few decorations downstairs.

6:15am:   "Mommy!"   silence    "MOMMY!"

We went into his room and he was standing on his bed staring at the train set, asking to "get out."  We popped him on the floor and he immediately took to pushing the trains around, until it made noise.  I eventually had to take all of the batteries out of the tracks so that there would be no more offending sounds.

Then as a special treat, Henry went out with daddy to ride the subway to the Scarborough Town Centre, which involves a small amount of light rail.  While they were out I threw the cupcakes together, in the midst of typing furiously on my laptop as it was a work-from-home morning.

Henry went down for a nap and slept until 3pm.  We ordered curry (Henry loves butter chicken), played with his train table and opened more presents.

A couple of tantrums here and there, but for the most part he was one happy 2 year old.

Then, four days later was his birthday party.  This had been hyped up for at least a month.  He knew all the guests that were coming, he knew he would have face painting and decorations and juice, cake, fruit, games, etc... he was not disappointed.

We received some very useful advice to only invite as many children as the number of years being celebrated, plus one.  So we invited 3 children and a baby.  One child couldn't make it in the end, and we were left with a very manageable gang.

While we didn't end up doing much face painting or playing games, it seems that the boys had a lot of fun just playing with trucks and the train set of course.

It is such a wonderful feeling to see your child so happy.  He has actually been more receptive to our commands of eat this / brush your teeth/ get dressed / time to go since his birthday.  I don't know if having such a good birthday created some kind of understanding or increased trust, but whatever the reason may be, I love it!

Some Pictures:

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Time to Every Purpose

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:  -Ecclesiastes 3:1

Right now, as summer fades into the autumn, I am feeling very much in sync with the seasons.  

Cooking soups, buying warmer clothes, browsing chutney recipes, thinking about Halloween costumes and which plants I can keep indoors.  I have even bought my first flower bulbs, daffodils, to plant after the first frost.

In the mornings, as it is now darker, Henry & I walk out to the deck and look up at the stars, catching the last glimpse of night.  

The moon disappeared a couple of days ago, after we had tracked its progress across the sky for weeks.  Where did it go?  How to explain this to a toddler?  "The moon is hiding behind a shadow.  It will come back out in a couple of days."  When it comes back, perhaps he will begin to understand.  But as in life, knowledge is built in a cyclical foundation, each time round being slightly different.  

Sometimes we walk through the ravine on the way back home from day care.  We saw the first red leaves of the season.  Henry has been watching the tomatoes ripen in the neighbour's yard and can now see and touch gourds and pumpkins at the market.  I hope we will soon make some pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie.  

I love seeing the world fresh, through his eyes.  Everything looks just as it should, but somehow without him, I can't see it clearly.

I love my son, now 3 days away from his 2nd birthday.  He is truly a little boy now, looking so grown up and wanting to be so independent.  

I will show him everything that I can.  

And soon, he will be showing me things and eventually will fly away.

And then what?  

Having only one child means this period in my life of child-rearing will be a relatively short one.  

And I must learn to live my life as the better version of myself.  And for this I am grateful.  And for this, there is a symphony in my heart.  

Some pictures.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

When Push Comes to Shove

Last weekend's grey weather did not stop us from going to the annual Taste of the Danforth, which as far as Henry needed to know was a Street Party.  He loved it.  We went both Saturday and Sunday and saw tons of people, food, music and meat.  He saw a (small) Ferris wheel, carnival games and best of all, a toddler-sized locomotive ride.  Henry could not pass it by and so mummy and Henry rode together on the train.  It was very real for him.  When it came to the end of the ride, Henry was rudely awakened and burst into passionate tears.  Luckily there were a few ice cream trucks around.  

I've been messing around with Garageband and iMovie and threw this together today.  My goal is to refine everything and get a more polished collections of songs/ videos together, maybe for  U Tube, but mostly for fun.  

In other news, Henry was bitten on his face yesterday.  The story, from what I can piece together is that he was in a disagreement with another toddler at daycare, a friend who usually is very good, and because of a disagreement over a toy, he pushed him/her.  Then Henry was bitten in the face.  You know what they say, when push comes to shove...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Summing up Summer

I'm starting to think about winter now.  How much Henry will love the snow, sledding, slipping around on ice and throwing snowballs at Daddy.  Not at Mommy, no no no.  

And then I think about making soups and enjoying lots of hot drinks...


It's summer!  It's the best time of year and Toronto is magic.  

Generally we've been rotating Henry between the park, the beach and the museum. 

Below, Henry eats ice cream at city hall while watching the ice cream truck and hot dog vendors at work.  

Then Bob the Builder's friends came over & fixed our flat roof.  Good-bye tax refund + $$$.

Ashbridge's Bay...look at the grass from the really dry spell in mid-July.

Throwing rocks.

Testing out the water--very warm from all the sunshine and no rain.

We should have taken his clothes off before going in the water.  

More ice cream at the original Licks in the Beach, which is soon to be relocated to make way for condo construction.  I remember eating there as a child.

Summer fashion at its most charming.

A visit from Taid and Bubby.

More summer fashion.

Ashbridge's Bay on a perfect holiday Monday morning.

Ever since seeing and hearing a trumpet at church, Henry has been obsessed.  He's watched youtube videos of trumpets, marching bands, Canadian brass, sesame street with Wynton Marsalis, etc...we finally caved in.  

In other news, it is with great sadness that we learned of Tricia-Louise (Gurley) Millard's passing last week at the age of 30.  I never met the wife of Stephen's high-school friend, as they were just married in June in NYC.  It is sudden, tragic, and an unwelcome reminder of the senselessness and unpredictability of life.  Not only a great loss to friends and family, she was a tireless advocate for youth mental health.  

On a happier and opposite note, it is with great joy that we welcome Tallulah Violet Sharp into the world.  

Henry will be turning 2 in a little over a month and our focus is now on this little boy who is both pushing boundaries with authority as well as developing so much with his speech, manners, curiosity and love of getting out and about.  He can walk all the way from the subway to our front door unassisted, and that includes a large staircase at the end of the street.  

So life trucks on.   

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Calgary / 31 / Fun


Saying goodbye to Henry for 4 days was not as difficult as I feared.  He generally understood what was happening, and I had already had my blog & cry the night before.  I got to the airport with about 40 minutes to spare, but then the flight was delayed another hour and a half.  Lots of reading time!

My observations from the taxi window between the Calgary airport and the Kensington Riverside Inn were that:

1.  Everything looks new.
2.  Everything is green.
3.  Everything looks clean.

I checked in and was shown to my room and instructed on how to work the air conditioning as well as the fireplace.  Air conditioning is not standard in Calgary, as if one taxi driver is to be believed, there is only about 6 weeks of warm weather in the year.   We were far north enough for the sky to still be light after 11pm.    

My co-worker & I met with 3 clients on Monday and 4 clients on Tuesday.  These were the likes of BP, Enbridge, Talisman....basically the big energy companies.

On Monday evening we checked out the Stampede grounds.  Lots of rides, lots of meat on a bun.

In the mornings, pancake breakfasts are held at various locations across the city, where people will line up an hour or more to have pancakes and eat them in public spaces.  It's just tradition.  We had pancakes at the hotel.  Also daily are the mini parades that snake through the downtown.  Here are the "Indians" or so they are commonly referred to in Alberta.

Then Tuesday night was the company party.  This is a vodka luge.

Yee Haw Calgary!

31 & FUN

When I came home, there were flowers on the table.  The house was clean.  There was food to eat.  Henry had only minor changes in behaviour, like pushing a kid at daycare, but no big tantrums or meltdowns.

I first saw Henry when I picked him up from daycare on Thursday afternoon.  He ran over to me and gave me a big hug and said "Ice cream truck."  I was choked up and couldn't speak, but when we kept repeating it, I had to laugh.  We made our way over to the farmers market and bought strawberries and peaches.  

On my birthday, both Henry & I took the day off daycare and work and met up with my good-friend-practically-a-sister- who was visiting from St. John's, Newfoundland.  I finally got to meet her other half as well as her 2nd baby.   The three boys could be their own Dickens novel:  Edwin, Henry and George.

Saturday was a full-on Mummy / Henry day.  We started the adventure at the Woodbine / Gerrard bus stop.  

The new face of the East End.

We took 11 subway stops to St. George and went to the museum, only to find it was not open for another 20 minutes.  Up & at 'em Henry!

So we trundled down the Philosopher's Walk & had a snack.  When we did go inside the museum, we were  practically the only ones there and Henry was in his element.  We ran through the rocks and crystals exhibit, ran through the armour displays and through the Beethoven 1-32 exhibit.   He did like the dinosaurs this time.

As we were leaving, Henry saw his first double-decker bus, and the conductor hanging on at the rear entrance gave Henry a big wave.  

An outdoor piano, in front of the ROM.

By 11am, we arrived at my friend's apartment for a birthday brunch.  She had us dress up in party-gear before feasting on blueberry muffins and Caprese salad.  While Henry napped, we snuck out for a coffee and chin-wag, while her fiance stayed and kept an ear out for ol' Henry who never stirred.  

To round-off this exciting day, we met up with my brother at Dufferin Grove park where Henry played in the splash pool, climbed the jungle gym and enjoyed going on the see-saw with his doppelganger uncle.  

Sunday was also fun, but more low-key:  church, nap, rainstorm, groceries, neighbor's good-bye party. Now it's back to the grind.  Bring it on!  Yee Haw!