St. Patrick's Day

This holiday was always important in our family with us being mostly Irish and all. Our parents insisted we wear green, and as much as possible. No excuses. Looking back at photos like the one above brings back memories of our dad's really ugly clothes, though very stylish at the time. Our mom was always a snappy dresser and had lots of cool scarves she wore either around her neck or in her hair. And look at the carpet in that photo...even it is green. I know the appliances were green too. You know, to match the carpet in the kitchen. Who would put carpet in a kitchen?

Our mom would make corned beef and cabbage. We would come home from school and sports and I always thought the house smelled like a leftover fart. One year she learned she could make corned beef in the Pressure Cooker. That thing always scared the shit out of me and I was no where to be found when she opened it.  She once asked if I wanted one and I said "hell no". She did buy me a Crock Pot the St. Patrick's day after I was married when she happened to be visiting us in Louisiana. I used that Crock Pot today and can't believe it's lasted almost 20 years and several moves. It makes me think of my mom and her helpful tools and suggestions. She was, after all the first person we knew with a microwave back in the 70s. When she started making meat loaf and cupcakes in the huge box on the counter -- we were so OVER it and begged her to stop.

I always thought it was funny when St. Patrick's day fell on a Friday during Lent which meant we had "dispensation" from the Pope and we were allowed to eat meat on Friday. I looked forward to this like I looked forward to a Christmas Eve falling on a Saturday or Sunday. But during Lent it meant a reprieve from tuna casserole, soggy fish (in the microwave) or a Filet-of-Fish if we were on the run. However, there's nothing more disappointing as a kid in the days before fast food was common then to end up at a McDonalds on a Friday during Lent with my parents.

When I was in college I discovered that the Filet-o-Fish was a fantastic cure for a hangover, often on the morning of March 18th. Oh, my parents would be so proud.

Right here, right now

Creative Writing workshop five minute write
Prompt:  Right here, right now

I often have these moments when I ask myself, how the heck did I get here? If anyone had asked me back in 1987 if I would be living in Montreal, be a stay at home mom for the most part and be raising a child with special needs, I would have said no effing way.

Sometimes I'm resentful when I look back and wonder, what if I didn't move to Louisiana from California, what if I didn't give up this or that job for another? Was it wise to move for love? I used to justify it by saying that I could have the best job in the world, but if I didn't have anyone to share it with, what's the point?

I guess, that is the point. I guess I have given up professional opportunities and made sacrifices for the sake of my family. But does it all matter? I know I am fortunate in that I have been able to make these choices.

I don't believe in coincidences. I don't know what I believe in per se, but I do believe in purpose. There is a reason why we moved to Montreal and I gave up yet another job. There's a reason why I'm "staying home" again. There's a reason why for the first time in my life I have time on my hands and have the opportunity to explore new adventures. There's a reason why I found this creative writing workshop. There's a reason why I'm sitting in this class, right here, right now, trying not to focus on this butt-ugly table cloth* that stares back at me week after week.

Right here, right now. Right now I'm right here where I belong.

*for the past year the workshop/class has been held in a classroom where we sit around a table adorned with the ugliest vinyl tablecloth with the most annoying countrified blue flowers. 

Thursday Travels - Owl's Head Skiing

We've been fortunate to travel, thanks in part to Paul's frequent flier miles. We're frugal travelers and I can navigate my way through the system like a travel agent. I decided that on Thursdays I would feature a travel piece. Short essays or stories on a particular place or experience...some here in Canada and many other places we've been fortunate enough to visit over the past 20 years.

Owl's Head Ski Resort, Mansonville, Quebec
We travel to Owl's Head each Sunday during the winter for Special Olympics skiing. About an hour and a half from Montreal, a bit longer from our house in Beaconsfield, Owl's Head is in the Eastern Townships, east of Montreal. The Eastern Townships are known for skiing, wine, country homes, quaint villages, hiking, boating and more.

Owl's Head is a great ski area for our family...not too small and not too big. There are never any lines and the lift tickets are affordable compared to other places in Quebec. It's a very down to earth place and very family oriented. The bar is very simple, but perfect for apres ski with a pool table, big screen TV, air hockey and music. We enjoy a beer after skiing while the kids hang out with their friends and we catch the end of a football game or the Olympics. Owl's Head supports Special Olympics by offering discounts tickets for the family volunteers and a place for the athletes to practice with the gates. Separate from Special Olympics, they also support adapted skiing for those with physical handicaps. We'll support any company that supports those with special needs.

What makes skiing at Owl's Head special is the view from the top. The runs are not long, but let's face it, after the age of 40 we don't need a two mile run. Our theory is that we're tired by the end of the run anyway and before we know it, it's time to sit on the chair lift for a rest.

We've stayed over night only once but would love to do it again. We had a condo right on the hill and it was nice to ski out and get on the lift. While picnic lunches are welcome at the lodge, the food is not too expensive.

Life in Canada

I’m often asked, “do you like it in Canada?” While the first couple of weeks were logistically challenging, we’ve done a good job adjusting, I think.  We're almost half way through our work permit/visa now. To answer the question, yes I do like living in Canada. I like the people, I like the pace, I like our home and I do like our life here.

Don’t get me wrong – we liked our life in Naperville too. We made great friends, the kids went to really good public schools and it was a wonderful place to raise our kids when they were younger. They had access to unbelievable sports opportunities, music classes and more. They made really good friends. Most of them still live in Naperville and some of them have also moved away. But we were running around a lot. It was hard to have family time when there were times we felt like we lived in a commune.  There was no anonymity.

I remember a summer night, just a few weeks before we knew about this move, Paul called me from New York City. He was in Time Square or someplace busy and he said he noticed all the kids taking public transportation and enjoying the city and he said, “Can you imagine kids in Naperville doing this?” Not really. We drove them everywhere, even to a friend’s house in the neighborhood. Kids didn’t readily use public transportation. Okay, mainly because it was not that available. But because they didn’t have to. Danielle takes a train, to a subway, to a bus each day to school here in Montreal. And she does the same thing coming home and in all kinds of weather. Is she more adjusted? Yes. Will this experience help her in the future? Yes. Is her schooling in Canada better than it would be in Naperville? That’s hard to say – but it’s just different.

We have more time at home as a family. We have more meals at home. We have different experiences. We're learning French. We're learning about Canada. We're in a culturally diverse city. We live 15 minutes from the airport. We've made new friends. The kids are happy. The dog is happy. We are happy.

It’s a slower pace and I have to say, it’s a welcome pace.

I wish he could stay 12 forever

Normandy, France

We were sitting on the plane on our way to Paris and Louis was grinning from ear to ear when he was presented with a kid’s meal when dinner was served. I’m not sure why I even ordered it for him, I guess because I could. Many typical 12 year olds wouldn’t be that excited for the silly toy and applesauce. But Louis was.

The age of 12 is such an emotional intersection for kid. Part child, part adolescent, part teenager. While Louis is intellectually not typical to his peers, in so many ways he is typical. In Paris he was excited to see the lighted sign for a Tony Hawk exhibition. In Normandy he was fascinated with the tribute to American and Canadian soldiers and learned about the war. At the art museums he was patient and picked out his favorite paintings. At the Eiffel tower he was in awe and checked out the construction of the structure and didn’t complain after climbing many, many steps. At the Anne Frank house he kept asking why she had to stay in the room for two years. Yet during all that he had a name tag on a Spongebob Square Pants cord with our name and phone number in the event that he was to get lost and not be able to communicate how to find us. 

Louis is getting older and I’m part excited and part panicked. He was a great traveler and it occurred to me on this trip that for Paul and I to travel as we get older, Louis will most likely to be with us. That’s okay. Yet I’m also panicked for the young man part and the typical challenges of raising a pre teenage boy.  He’s found a new fascination and annoyance with his penis. When he was a chubby little boy it was well, stuck in the shell as Paul said. “The turtle is coming out of the shell now,” he said a couple of weeks ago when the teacher called me at home to have me talk to him about the appropriateness of touching it during class.  Fortunately it was from the outside. A few days before that he had been complaining that it was hurting and they called from school too. I had to explain that he has suddenly…well….emerged and we are working on it.

I can’t even imagine what lies ahead when it comes to this subject. I mentioned to Paul that hey, I handled Danielle’s "emergence" (and teenage emergencies)  and he’s going to have to handle this department. I’m a patient mom, but not that patient. I’d rather be the turtle and hide in my shell.

originally written 29 November 2009

It's called GLOBAL warming

I’m not a scientist. I’m not a talk show host. I’m not a meteorologist. I’m a mom, and I’m an American living in Canada. You know, Canada? The country hosting the Winter Olympics? The ones where they have had to postpone events due to the unusually warm weather? The place where it’s rumored we live in igloos? It’s called Global warming….not just U.S. warming.

When I read that even Donald Trump is getting in to the Global warming witch hunt, I wanted to take a snow shovel to a snowman. But, I can’t. See, here in Canada, we’re experiencing a lack of snowfall. A sort of, dare I say, Global warming? Or, is it just a Canadian warming?  And don’t even get me started on Rush…I mean, really, environazis? Now I have yet another one of his words to add to my spell check.

I live in Montreal. I can count on one hand the number of times our pre-paid snow removal company has had to come and plow our driveway. I’m seeing patches of grass (and lots of dog poop) that we’re not supposed to be seeing until mid-March, at the earliest. Some of us new-Canadians actually want snow. Perhaps because I grew up in Arizona, I’m a sucker for snow and it’s still a novelty. My friends in Chicago, where we moved from 16 months ago, are tired of the snow, understandably.  

So, to the naysayers, the right wing pundits like Beck Limbaugh, Trump and Hannity and whoever else is seeking publicity…I’m sorry if this Global warming "myth" has rained on your Florida parade. Okay, I’m not really sorry.  It’s just not all about you. Nor is it all about the U.S. It’s a big, Global world out there. Why not stick your head in a snow bank, or send the snow up north to Canada. We’re starting to sweat up here, eh?


I'm still testing things out and learning a lot along the way. This is what happens when you leave the work force just before the internet, web pages and computer technology explodes and you try and master it by yourself. I'm trying not to ask my teenager for help. I can do this! I just mastered my iPhone, sort of. This is a work in progress....