The Birthday Suit Special

Photo courtesy of Beer Street Journal

As a child when it was my special day I would get up early on the first of June, bring my pillow still warm from my head and place it outside on the cold concrete steps of my house. I would sit on my fluffy down pillow and just listen to the frantic trilling of bird songs which I felt were singing just for me. This was before everyone was up and about. Before the demands of my mother, before my little sister was up, before tearing open my package of Carnation instant breakfast that I would stir into a cold glass of milk, lumpy and sweet, swallowed in a rush to beat the school bell for nine o’clock. Before all the neighbours were up doing their noisy grown up things, before the machines roared to life, cars whisking neighbours away to their jobs, before the high whine of the lawn mowers started by a pull string, and the sounds of the children in the schoolyard across the lane, yelling and shouting exuberantly.

This was how I liked to start my day when I was eight. And I am trying to remember that child. In her honour, I will sit quietly listening to the sounds of nature that are still here despite the traffic, despite the urban sprawl, despite the noise of airplanes and the potent smell of pesticides sprayed from trucks with hoses.

Walking my favourite path at Nose Hill the other day I noticed a coyote walk by me at the top of a ridge. We both stopped to look at each other. But, after noting that I wasn’t threatening—it just went on its way, joyful that winter was over, ( I imagined this thought of course). It pounced on something playfully with its large paws, perhaps it was a nervous mouse trapped under its claws. It didn’t occur to me to be afraid, it was a wild animal, after all, the size of a large dog. Every day I see hawks sitting on the tips of the tallest lampposts along Shaganappi and think, despite us, despite the city, the animals remain, and I am grateful.

I will think of this as I sit quietly— grateful for the sounds of nature, my gift to myself on my special day.  (But I no longer need a pillow for padding. )The birds are still here doing their frenzied thing!

Lucky me.

The Time Before Email

The Time Before Email

I have been going through a lot of boxes in anticipation of a big move. My intention was to cull unnecessary junk. I have managed to recycle quite a bit of old books and papers. But what I found is a treasure trove of written material.

It was a time before emails. I have poems written on crinkled paper Hallmark bags, I have an orange envelope with my progress reports from Seven Oaks School Division No.10–apparently in 1973,  I was “sometimes dreamy’ with a good imagination.

I found postcards from friends on trips to London or Hawaii. Words of love from faces I can no longer recall. Letters I sent to my baba from summer camp. I recall reading a book with her late on a Saturday night– Letters From Camp. We would laugh so hard that I wet myself and my baba fell onto the middle of the linoleum in her sparse kitchen.

I found Love letters that are as thick as a Russian novel—day-to-day happenings, written neatly with small drawings in pen— a kind of handwritten Instagram, but much slower. How can I get rid of these precious, precious items?

I can’t.  So into a box they go. I encourage everyone to pull out a pen and write a letter to someone. Write words of love or just any silly thing. I know your friend will be overjoyed to receive it. Your words will be a welcome surprise from junk mail and bills.


Those Happy Golden Years

I have never been to the Calgary tower. But I enjoy looking at it from the C-Train. It is tall and alien looking and when the coloured lights shine on it at night it is like it is beckoning beings from outer space to come on over and say hello. I wonder if kids hang out at the tower and just run up and down the stairs for fun. It reminds me that as a child I often would spend a whole day with a friend running through the halls of the Manitoba legislature building. It was like it was our own private castle to play in. And it was totally open to the public. I am sure the security guard loved listening to two little girls peering down over the railings saying, Hello? Hello?” Giggling as we waited to hear our echoing voices.

We desperately tried to find a stairway up to the Golden Boy. Oddly enough there was an  unlocked door to an open stairway, but it disappointed us when we found another locked door after many tiring steps. What did we imagine we would do once we got up there? Hang onto his big old golden leg as we surveyed the landscape?

I loved the large bison that flanked the staircase. I would pat them and pretend they were my pets. I was lucky enough that my own father worked there and would sometimes take me on a Sunday if he had work to do. That’s why I felt comfortable there, it was once my dad’s workplace.

I suppose the proprietary feeling I had for the Manitoba legislature building is how Ivanka Trump feels about the White House. It’s her dad’s place of work. She probably wanders around in her bathrobe and fuzzy slippers down those empty waxed floors at night, just ’cause she can. It must be fun to order pizza and give the address… ” Yes- hello ? Can you make sure to add pineapple and a side of extra sauce?, oh and just ring the bell, at the White House!”

And I am not talking politics here. I am just mentioning that we feel comfortable where our family is. Even if it is the legislature buildings or the White House . I felt comfortable in the back of my grandfather’s furrier store- Boston Furs where I would sit and watch all the men sit at their roaring sewing machines making fur hats and coats to keep all the Russian ladies warm in the cold dark winters of Winnipeg. Often on weekends, I would stand in the front window next to the mannequin, remaining still for what I imagined was hours, pretending that I was a small mannequin.

What I am saying is that I really hope that children today get the same freedoms we had as children growing up in the seventies.


Musings on the Mat


Sometimes the only place I want to be is in a yoga class on my mat. This is the only environment that I wish to be. I am surrounded by other women, I get to look outside as nature does its thing, i.e. watch the rain or the snow swirl around in traffic as I am safe and warm in the studio.

I love the props –the soft egg-shell coloured blankets that we wrap ourselves with during Savasana or relaxation pose. I love the little cork blocks and even those crazy sand bags that they sometimes throw on top of our legs for reasons that I can’t recall.

I love the eye pillows and that  little bell that the instructor surprises us with its little TINGGGGGG….. which reminds me to not think about what to make for dinner that night. It is bringing me out of my rush of thoughts and forces me to rein them in as I continue to relax and breathe.

I am told to breathe in joy and breathe out peace. What a lovely idea. Or was it breathe in peace, breathe out joy? Oh well, that doesn’t matter. Either way is good. I have been taught pull air through one nostril and out the other, for reasons that I forget as well.

Sometimes if I am lucky I get an instructor that sings a little song during Savasana. The first time she sang in what language I am not certain, but my first thought was to snicker. But soon I settled in with my eyes closed and let myself enjoy it.

On the way home as I was singing along to that song Stressed Out  by Twenty One Pilots-  I finally understood the meaning of the words that say, “I want to turn back time, to the good ol days, when the mama sang us to sleep- but now we’re stressed out!”

I believe that is why yoga is so popular now. We can turn back time if only for a moment. We feel safe and snug under our blankies like nap time in preschool, while someone sings us a lullaby… we are little, small and loved for a brief moment, before we have to get up again, find parking at the grocery store, pick up dinner and continue on with our adult lives.  If I think that life sucks driving on my way to yoga, on the way back I feel hopeful that maybe life isn’t so bad. It may even be pretty good.

click here for the YouTube video

Stressed Out by Twenty One Pilots….

Fool For Love -the Halloween Special

Fool For Love -the Halloween Special



Did you know, It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, came out in the year of my birth.

The year was 1966, when Beatlemania was in full swing and Batman and Robin was a new tv series,  not just a cartoon- just men in funny costumes.

If anyone is a romantic like me, they will have sat watching this Charlie brown Halloween special- all alone, because I couldn’t bear to miss it. Nobody else was interested- they claimed to be too mature for this kind of show.  I sat, happily snacking on salted pumpkin seeds and a cup of tea in my old blue fuzzy bathrobe, rockin’ out to the cool beat of Vince Guaraldi.

Okay- now that you all have music playing in your imagination, think of this- it is a very romantic story. Linus is sure that there is the great pumpkin coming to give him presents, so he opts out on trick or treating to hang out in the dark tangled pumpkin patch. Because Sally loves him , she hangs out in the cold pumpkin patch with him, missing out on the free candy. Sure- she is a little upset when reality sets in later, but I don’t think this made her love him any less in all the other cartoon strips that she was drawn into.

This is true love. Believing in someone. And now I must tell you this, it is true. Linus’ myth may become a reality. The great pumpkin is about to pass by in the night skies tomorrow October 31st. It has been named The Great Pumpkin. So there! All you nay sayers.

You just had to be patient. So get outside, and unfold your lawn chairs-curl up with a warm blanket and a cup of hot peppermint tea while you sit listening to Vince Guaraldi blasting on your blue tooth speakers.  It’s time to watch the dark starry night around you and get ready.

The great pumpkin is finally arriving. It is only fifty years overdue.

Ice Scrapers in the Night

Ice Scrapers in the Night


Photo courtesy of IMGUR

The sound of ice being scraped off of car wind shields throws me back to memories of my childhood.  I think of it with a kind of reverie, it was a sound I had forgotten. It has not been easy for my BC born daughter to get used to Alberta winters, but I don’t find it as difficult, seeing as I grew up amidst long Winnipeg winters.

I think of this as I am watching NOVA- a family of reindeer herders in Mongolia are being filmed, lassooing their reindeer, making clothes from their fur. Fur from different times of year, the thicker fur of winter, the softer lighter fur of spring for different layers to their handmade suits. The children’s skin looks fresh and windblown. They don’t see the cold as something to fight against, it is just there, the same way I felt as a child growing up in Winnipeg, you just put on a scarf and mitts and gloves and a snow suit and you were set for the day.

I recall long lineups in kindergarten, sweating in our layers as we waited for the teacher to bundle us into our gear. Our heads bound up with our long scarves, one wrap over the forehead, the other for the mouth. Just enough room for your nostrils to let air in and out. But it was all we knew. Winter came every year whether we wanted it or not. But what kid didn’t want it? Snow ball fights, tunnelling into giant snow mountains that existed on the edge of parking lots. I recall hours upon hours of snow fort building. I made snowmen and snow dragons, snow angels and maple syrup candy frozen in the clean white snow of the backyard. Sword fights with giant icicles broken off from the roof. I had a little red saucer made of plastic that flew me down the hill in dizzying swirls.

Yes- that sound of car windows being scraped in the cold dark night certainly brought me back down memory lane, and I sure was appreciative of my seat warmer as I drove off, turned on the radio and watched coyotes dart across the dark road on my way home.


Hope Chest

Hope Chest


I recall hanging out at the end of a friend’s bed, lolling about counting how many whacky gum cards she had and which ones she had that I didn’t. The cards always smelled sweet, like the sugary thin gum that it was sold with. I was always surprised when someone’s mom actually let them affix these obnoxious stickers to the headboard of their beds. I guess I was lucky in a way -to have nice enough furniture that my mother would beat me if I defaced it with whacky packages stickers.

At the end of her bed was a large wooden box that she told me was her hope chest. She told me that she was collecting household items that she would use when she grew up and got married.

I was surprised about this hope chest. I could never imagine farther than a week ahead in my life when I was eleven. I still can’t at fifty. What would I have put in that chest that I deemed important to my life as a married woman twenty years later? I realize after pondering this, that yes indeed, if I opened up that chest and found my stack of whacky package trading cards I would be thrilled, and if there was some nice linen in there to boot, I would take the old quilt that is in tatters on the end of my bed and gladly replace it with the most likely pink fuzzy one that I would have chosen as a child. I guess I haven’t grown as much as I had hoped.

What would you – dear readers have put in that chest for your future self?

I feel that children of today should have some interesting collectables, but perhaps in the form of a healthy snack, say some Kale chip packs that come with funny environmental slogans inside the bottom of the bag. Little bumper stickers that state- Say NO to the Oil Pipeline! with a sad oil slicked penguin on it in bright colours. This will become all the rage—on Gabriola island anyways!