A new way to hitch a ride

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For those unfamiliar with the bird in the above picture, this seemingly benign creature is a Black-Capped Chickadee.  They are tiny in stature and extremely friendly once a level of trust has been developed.  I would spend countless hours as a child sitting outside on our deck with a handful of sunflowers seeds charming these little creatures to land on my hand.  I would marvel at the heat produced by their tiny claws as they gripped my fingers and admire their courage to trust a human feeder.

I became much smarter as time went on and removed the actual bird feeder altogether.  I was the only source of food for these feathered friends and slowly became the Chickadee Whisperer.  These beautiful little birds would jockey for positions on my outstretched hands and graze on the seeds that I willingly provided.  More often than not, I would have to leave my perch to fill the supply of food but they were anxiously fluttering around the deck awaiting my return.

On one particular occasion, I had gone inside to replenish the supply of seeds and had unwittingly left the screen door wide open.  One lone Chickadee flew into the house through the open door and, like a Kamikaze pilot on a suicide mission, thrust itself straight into our living room and landed squarely between the shoulder blades of our long-haired Lhasa Apso, Misty.  She had been sound asleep on the couch but the shock of having a foreign object entangled in her fur was immediate and Misty leapt off the couch to shake the intruder loose.  The more she shook, the stronger the bird held to her hair.

Not knowing which creature was more terrified, I watched Misty go from disbelief to panic in milliseconds.  As Misty began  thrashing like a bull being ridden in a rodeo, the bird held fast.  The movie 8-Seconds had nothing on this bird.  It was going for the World Record and the seconds began to tick on the clock.  Misty, realizing that a mere shaking of her shoulders was unsuccessful, jumped off the couch, taking off like a shot into a full run.  She lapped around the circuit from living room to kitchen to dining room and the chickadee hung on for dear life, riding that poor Lhasa Apso like it was going for Gold in the Olympics.  (I had to stop writing for a moment because I’m laughing too hard to type)

If you’ve ever watched a horse race and really concentrated on the jockey’s hands on the reins and position on the horse – this is what the poor Chickadee looked like riding my dog through the house.  I made vain attempts to catch the dog so we could rectify this unsettling but extremely hilarious chain of events but I couldn’t stop laughing long enough to focus on the task at hand.

After I finally caught up with the dog there was a great deal of panting.  I was panting trying to catch my breath after laughing so hard.  The dog was panting because she was probably moments away from having a stroke, and the bird was even panting – perhaps thinking a few more seconds would have garnered that coveted position in the Guinness Book of World Records.

With a great deal of wrestling, we finally held the dog still long enough to cut the hair in the death-grip of the birds feet and finally took that poor Chickadee back outside to give it the freedom it so rightly deserved.  World record or not, that was one hell of a ride!  After this scene, that could only be described as something from a movie, my mother and I both had to change our pants.  It will live as one of the most cherished memories of my childhood and I think about that rodeo ride every time a Chickadee graces my feeder.

What is your funniest childhood memory?

The things I should remember

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I have been thinking about, and talking about, my parents a lot lately.  For a person my age, it is sad that I have to talk about how they used to be because they were taken far too early, both victims of the serial killer known as alcoholism.  I wrote a very heartfelt blog post here telling the tale of what my perspective was like growing up as a child of alcoholic parents.  But after I read it again, and cried again, I realized I had been doing them a grave injustice.

So, I went back to the beginning – back to the days before that serial killer lurked in the shadows of my house, back to the days when life was great and back to the days when no elephant existed in any room in our home.

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My mom and dad were a lot of fun.  My brother and I had many parties at our family home and my parents would remain in their bedroom allowing us full access to the house to host our friends.  But at the end of the night, the number of our friends watching TV with my parents in their room far outweighed the number of our friends in our living room.  Those were my parents.

They played strip ping-pong with the neighbours.  They ran naked from the neighbours’ sauna to roll in the snow and then back to the sauna.  They enjoyed life, they made the most of the good times and they truly loved each other.

When I began to think of what they were like as a couple, I couldn’t help but smile remembering how my dad used to look at my mom.  If my mom was within arm’s length, his hands would make contact with whatever part of her he could reach.  He would pat her bum as she walked by him.  He would kiss her every chance he got.  And when he grabbed her hand, I could see his hand physically squeezing hers several times in a sworn gesture of being smitten by her.  It was all about being able to touch each other, just to remind each other that they were there for the right reasons.

I had long forgotten those moments.  I was so marred by the effects that alcohol had on their relationship that I failed to remember the beautiful connection they had to each other.

And now that I have blinded myself to the painful memories, I will embrace the images of their fingers intertwined without realizing they were holding hands.  I will cling to the thought of how my dad just wanted to be close to her.  And I will forever hold close the knowledge that a simple touch from someone who means so much can change everything about your day.

After so many daily thoughts about so many things that don’t matter, I finally realized…..these are the things that I should remember.

 

 

 

 

Get lost….get really, really lost

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“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”  ~ Mahatma Gandhi

 ~~

There have been many quotes I have used to begin posts on this blog, but none have had as much of an impact on me as this very powerful string of words.

I lead a very fortunate life.  I may not be rich in terms of dollars and cents but I am wealthy.  I have roof over my head, a job that I love and I am surrounded by a wonderful network of friends and family who are nurturing, loving and supportive.  Perhaps that energy is the fuel that brought me to this moment in my life, the moment when I realized I wanted to give more of my time to people who could use a hand, in whatever way I was able to help.

There is no set of standards for helping others.  There is no rule book, no guidelines and no complex set of algorithms.  It is a simple equation.  Time + Effort = Results.   And for some, the results of our time and effort can make more of a difference than we will ever potentially realize.

A group of people spent a little over two hours of our time yesterday and the outcome of our concerted efforts will provide dinners for a deserving family for almost two weeks.  It was two hours out of our Sunday.  We chatted, we had wine and we laughed.  And in that small window of time, we made a huge difference.

Next Sunday, and maybe the Sunday after, we will do the same thing again with some familiar and some new faces and, hopefully, take another small amount of weight from the shoulders of the family we are trying to help.

If I can find myself while losing myself in the service of others, point my compass in that direction any time.  I went to bed last night with a tired body, but with a full heart.   Life is not about what we can do for other people.  Life is about how other people can benefit from the time and energy we are willing to give.

2 Kisses I shall give you

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In the wee hours of the morning,

her visits often happen then,

the charge in the air is palpable

and sleep is still in my head.

Her message hangs heavily in the air,

the words are always the same.

“Two kisses I will give you,

to help get you through your day.

 One kiss is to give you courage,

to help you save the world.

The other kiss is to help protect you

from the curve balls that life will hurl”.

Her words soothe me and give me peace

in the last moments of my sleep.

And on my cheeks, as I face the world,

two kisses I shall keep.

(image credit: santabanta)

~~

This was originally posted in 2014, but I swear I could feel them on my cheeks this morning.

A Sunday well spent

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“I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.”
W.C. Fields

 freezer meals

For those who have read my recent posts about my passion for cooking and my desire to give back to people in need, this post should come as no shock to you.

I recently stumbled on the genius trend of freezer crockpot meals.  These meals are all prepared ahead, placed uncooked in ziplock bags, laid flat and frozen.  When thawed the night before, they can be dumped into a crockpot the next morning and 6 to 8 hours later, a family has a hot meal waiting for them.

I had one specific friend in mind when I decided to do this but as I told people what I was doing, the list of recipients grew a little longer.  I spent a Sunday afternoon, without watching football, and chopped, poured and bagged until I had completed 16 meals.  At the end of the process, it had taken slightly more than three hours from start to finish – a very encouraging pace.

This Sunday, and most likely the following Sunday, I am going to gather with a group of women to do it all over again, with one major difference.  Although many of the women will take some meals home for their families, we will be donating at least one meal per person to a young couple who lost their home and all of their belongings in a fire.  And though the fire is tragic enough in itself, they were at the hospital giving birth to their first children, twins, as their home was slowly destroyed.

It breaks my heart to think of this couple, worried enough about being parents for the first time, now starting their life as a family with absolutely nothing.  It overwhelms me with emotion to think of all the joy they had setting up the nursery, all of the meals prepared by family waiting in a freezer to ease their first days parenting – all of it, gone.

It is through tears I write this last paragraph.  Currently there are about 16 women wanting to help this family by packing freezer meals for them, as well as some dear friends who have donated cash to the grocery bills.  We shall divide and conquer.  We shall chop, bag and provide, not only food but, our support and concern for a family who could really use a helping hand.

Holding my breath

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Without even realizing it,

I had been holding my breath for you,

wishing nothing but good things

and feeling like my heart would break if yours was injured.

looking up

Bearing a weight that was not mine to bear,

I kept my chin up,

looking to the stars for a wish,

relying on the divine breaths of the many who watch over us

to watch over you as you slept.

 It was no surprise when my tears fell,

allowing a small fraction of the weight you must have felt

to lift from my shoulders.

 A burden not my own,

but a burden worth bearing, just the same.

 Your struggle is not mine,

but I keep the pace and walk with you,

there to listen when you need an ear,

and there to be an embrace

in the moments you need a hug.

Your struggle is not mine,

but I will continue to hold my breath

until you feel it is okay for you to exhale.

(image credit)

Brothers will be brothers, and then they make you cry

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I wrote this post last year about a very emotional moment created by my nephew during our 2014 Christmas festivities.  Well, that emotional little apple did not fall far from the paternal tree.

Last year (2014) was the first Christmas without my mother so it was a very emotional time for all of us.  This past Christmas, I vowed I would get my shit together and celebrate the holiday the way my mom would have wanted us to – with happiness and joy and time with family.  And although it was filled with all of those things, my brother threw in a bit of overwhelming sentiment and my tears flowed freely once again on the eve of our Christmas Day celebration.

As I have for every Christmas Eve since 1976, with the exception of the one year I lived in Halifax, I donned my gear and headed out to gather, en masse, at the end of a family driveway to watch Santa Claus go by on the Fire Truck.  The weather was comparatively balmy and Santa was much more jovial than he was two years ago when he was braving the minus 30 C temperatures.  After the truck had disappeared, we went inside and my brother handed me a Christmas gift bag.  I was instructed to wait until I got home to open it and my first question was “do I require Kleenex”.   That question was remarkably redundant.

When I got home, I carefully opened the box and found myself holding what looked like a jewelry box with the words “Dear Daughter” embossed on top.  I thought about what a lovely gesture it was and then I lifted the lid and realized it was a music box.  Somewhat reluctantly, I turned the dial and the song, unrecognizable at first, began to play.

As soon as the familiar strain was recalled by my memory, the first tear slid slowly down my cheek.  It was immediately followed by a torrent of emotion and I was in a full-blown ‘ugly cry’.  The song was Edelweiss.  It was a song I had known since I was a child.  And it was a song that my mother and I would sing together as we continued our holiday ritual by watching “The Sound of Music” together every Christmas Eve.

I couldn’t bring myself to watch it in 2014, but this past year I vowed I would, and I did.  And each time Edelweiss played in the movie, I found myself lost in a sea of tears once again, but they were happy tears.

My brother not only picked the perfect gift but he held onto that gift for a year because he knew I wouldn’t have been ready to receive it a year earlier.  I have remembered a lot of gifts I received during the holidays but this gift, this truly touching gift, is the one I will always cherish the most.  Not only did it come from the heart of someone I love and will fiercely defend, it represents the heart of the person who created us both.   I cannot think of a better gift.