Monday, December 9, 2013

A Message from Molly

Last month, I posted about my friend Molly, who has opened her home and her heart to her nephew, Seth. Molly and her family have been struggling financially since then, as Seth's arrival put a strain on their already tight budget.

I asked for help from all of you, as several local agencies could not find the resources for this amazing family. And, my friends, bless you, you came through - for me, for Molly, and most importantly, for Seth.

As of this writing, you have donated, either in cash or gift card or gift, almost $800. To help out a family you don't know, simply because you were asked to do so.

I am proud to know you. Prouder still to call you my friends. THIS is what love looks like. THIS is what community truly means. THIS is what being the good feels like:


When Seth came to us, we knew we'd make it; just not sure how.

Already raising 3 children on a tight budget, overnight, we had a fourth. We were told immediately that we would be his guardians until further notice. There was no ceremony, no time to prepare and no instruction booklet. I navigated all the resources I could think of.

After doors repeatedly closed in my face, people turned their backs, I told his story....and someone listened.

She heard my words, felt my feelings and cried my tears. Her beautiful heart took our story to bed with her. Finally!! Someone was going to help us.

That help was just going to come from the community; rather than agencies. I slept better that night knowing such good people do exist. Compassionate human beings.

Thank you on behalf of my children, for making life a little easier to live. Thanks to all of your kindness, our load has been lightened. Now that our worries have been spread out among so many people, they are much lighter to carry.

We can spend time laughing with our children and forget some of our troubles.

Your kind hearts are beautiful; and your love is felt. You have brought joy where there was struggle.

 Please know that your gift of compassion has been received and has found it's place in the hearts and eyes of our little ones.

And thank you from an angel of a boy, Seth, who gets to be a kid this Christmas.

Bless you all and your families this Christmas!

 Love, Us.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Why I Don't Want Baileys For My Birthday...

I have a friend who is beautiful and bright and loving. She is raising beautiful, bright and loving children. Three of them.

And as of a month ago, a fourth.

Seth* is her nephew-by-marriage and due to circumstances beyond his control, he is, at the tender age of 10 and a mere two years into his new life here in Canada, without a home. Without family.

When the police called my friend, Molly*, because she is one of two "kin" close by, she raced to the station to get him. The police officer handed Seth over without ceremony. Handed over the boy's backpack as well - all that was left of his old life, tucked inside.

Into her car, into her heart, she tumbled the quiet, doe-eyed boy, promised him the safety of her home, the solace of her arms, the love of her family, for as long as he needed.

A month in, Seth is indeed loved and seems content in their sphere. He is polite and helpful and achingly beautiful. But he doesn't speak of the reasons he now shares a bed with his cousin and must be content with a winter coat he didn't choose and that doesn't match the snow pants Molly managed to find in his size.

As for the other things that hurt her mother's heart, Molly can barely speak of it at all, but I can:

While Molly's home is filled with love and light and laughter, it is not filled with enough money.  Not nearly enough.

Of course, there are social workers involved because Seth's life has been fraught and difficult, since coming to Canada, for the chance of a better one. And so naturally, there are meetings and visits and calls and follow-ups several times a week. There is now endless driving for Molly and her husband, who ferry Seth to visits with his case workers and his stepsisters, three, sometimes four nights a week, from our city to another, half an hour away.

But there is no money.

Molly receives nothing from social services, for S's keeping. She doesn't want to need a dime from the people who are supposed to help, but the plain truth of it, she does. There is no money to be had - not now, not for Christmas, not to fill Molly's car with the extra gas needed to drive Seth to his appointments, for school trips or new shoes or a bed of his own.

Not. one. penny.

If Molly was a foster mother, vetted and approved by the very agency that hastily approved her lovely home as suitable for Seth only after she'd tucked him into it, it would be fine. Then, there would be a monthly allowance for his care, for gas, for clothing, for living. But because she is "kin", there is no funding. There is nothing in place to ease the financial burden that a growing, active boy can place on a household budget already stretched thin.

A little while ago, I sat with Molly at her kitchen table - the same one around which three social workers sat when they told her that Seth would likely be hers for several months yet.

Photo courtesy of: Pinterest

 I sat and heard this story and watched Seth play, joyfully, laughing, with my own sons....and I cried.

I cried because Molly is trying so hard to do the right thing by this boy, who has lost everything. She remains gentle and loving and is trying to stay positive, but finds it hard. Harder still when those closest to her have begun to question whether this was the "right decision" for her family. Is there nowhere else for him to go?

She is taking on too much, they say. This is too much. He is too much.

And here is where I may have lost the plot a little and slammed my hand, HARD, upon her table, furiously wiping my tears away:

"Molly! You made the right decision when you flew down to that station to get him. You made the right decision when you promised him a soft place to land, for as long as he needs. Is it hard, doing the right thing? Absolutely. Right doesn't mean "when it is convenient, when it doesn't interfere with other plans, when it isn't too much."

Molly was speechless, so I took a deep breath and plowed on:

" This boy isn't too much. For God's sake! This boy needs you. He needs a family, a community....he needs a village. And it SUCKS that the very services designed to help create that, won't. It sucks balls, to be frank about it. But since they won't, let's find people who CAN."

In the larger scheme of things, dear readers, Seth needs more than you or I alone can give him and I hope that, in time, he will be reunited with his parents, but for now...for now, Molly is doing her best to give him a home and the love of family. They just need a little bit of help.

And so, my friends, here I am, asking for yours.

Molly could use gift cards for the following:

Phone cards (Seth's bio-mother lives out-of-country and he misses her very much)
Clothing stores

Seth has discovered road hockey and loves it, but doesn't have a stick of his own or any equipment. Do you have any that your children have outgrown? Can you get it to me so I can get it to him?

Do you have any Belleville Bulls tickets that you might be willing to part with, to give this family of five - now six - a fun evening out?

Any other suggestions, ideas, small and grand gestures will be happily, gratefully accepted.

Will you be the village this boy deserves?

Please. Be the good.

Message me at if you can help.


P.S. I'm turning 40 this month. In case you were thinking of getting me a little something...

In lieu of Baileys, wine, chocolate or anything else delicious I might love but surely don't need, would you consider a gift card for Seth, instead? I can't think of anything that would make me love you more.

Just sayin'.

P.P.S. Have set up a separate-from-mine bank account at Scotiabank. Any/all email money transfers can be sent to and they will be funnelled directly into that account. I can/will provide confirmation #s and am so beyond grateful to all of you who have already sent gift cards, dropped envelopes by my house and contributed to "Molly's Magic Account"

Thank you, thank you, thank you! You're making life better for an incredible family!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Love, 10 Years Later...

A decade has passed since I became Mark's wife.

October 11th, 2003

Had anyone told me, back in high school, that the boy with the gorgeous curly locks would one day be the father of my children, I'd have run away, laughing.

"I mean, yes, he's adorable," I might have said, "but marriage is not in my plans. Kids? No way. Besides, he drives me crazy and we argue too much."

A lifetime later, we are married with kids. He still drives me crazy and we still argue too much.

And yet...

This man, who once drove his boxy Chevette so fast over back-country roads, I think I peed my pants a little, now sometimes steals my car and fills it up with gas and always leaves money in the cup holder so that I can fuel up with to-go coffee without scrambling for change.

This man, who can sometimes go days without speaking to me, will happily sing duets in the car, while in the back seat, our children laugh in delight, especially when he deliberately warbles off-key.

This man, whose temper is fierce, spent the week after my brother died soothing me with gentle words and tucking me into bed when I simply could not stand a moment longer.

On the anniversary of Andrew's passing, he knows to run a bath with bubbles and presses a tissue into my hand, even before my tears begin to fall. Of all the things he has said to me about the loss of my only sibling, this is the one that both breaks and soothes my heart the most:

"Your brother was mine for a little while too, Liz. I was proud of that. I loved him. Miss him, too."

We are not a perfect couple, despite 10 years of trying. Most of the time, we're not even close. Instead, we stagger through the lows and float through the highs and bring each other coffee in apology or affection, depending on the day.

We can have a conversation without words, make each other laugh with a single one, with a glance, with a memory.

He accepts - for the most part - that I will move the furniture around every month and I have resigned myself to planning for his habitual lateness and inability to notice that the toilet paper roll needs replacing.

Sometimes, he brings me a book for no reason, just because he can.

Sometimes, I shave my legs for no reason, just because I can.

And day by day, year by year, decade by decade we are muddling through.

We have just had the best summer of our marriage, despite the stress of preparing the house for sale and then the wrenching process of NOT moving.

We spent most of our evenings together on the porch, listening to our world settle into sleep and listening to each other. We spoke of things long-buried, we laughed at our own foolishness and shared hopeful dreams for our future.

One night, towards summer's end, I turned to my husband and said, simply: "This is the first year in a long time that on our anniversary, we'll have something to truly celebrate."

And this man, he got it. He knew it, too. And he took my hand and smiled. "I think you're right. It feels good, doesn't it?"

I snuggled closer and sighed. "Yep. Sure does."

Sigh. Typical shot of the two of us...

Happy 10th Anniversary, Husband!

I love you.


Friday, October 4, 2013

Luke is SIX!

Darling Luke,

This morning, when I crept into your room, I found you already awake. And grinning. (Neither thing happens regularly. son, so please forgive my surprise.)

"Happy Birthday, SIX-year-old!" I crowed, diving into your bed intending to cover your face with kisses.

"Mummy! I've been six since midnight, you know. That's almost six hours already!"

I covered your face with kisses anyways, in between giggles that I couldn't hold back.

 Six going on 12. Seriously, kid. You crack me up like no one else and I wouldn't have you any other way.

A "modest" Luke, suiting up...

I love your fire and your shy - they are a potent mix of traits that will always draw people to you, often despite your best efforts. I love the way you seem to know, instinctively, who needs a gentle touch...and who needs a swift shove, instead.

Trust your heart, Luke. Though you might be hurt by letting someone else hold it, I hope you will
never regret the decision to do so. It takes enormous courage to be vulnerable and every day, in so many different ways, you show your brave self countless times. It's one of my favourite things about you.

Luke the Brave
I love your deep loyalty and affection for a select few. From the moment you were born, you have always known your own mind and planted your feet firmly. And while I know it is not easy being the younger Red, you wear your adoration for your brother well, my boy. He is lucky to have you. We all are:


Brudders McLennan
You amaze me, Luke, with your quiet observations - often bang-on - and with the absolute delight that blooms on your face when you are pleased: a favourite song in the radio, matching socks, non-rumbly sheets and realizing that you read an entire book all by yourself. I cannot tell you what it does to my heart, to see your smile, watch it reach your gorgeous, soulful eyes. It's like seeing the sun on a cloudy day - how could anyone not look at you and feel joy?

Dancing like no one is watching...

You are growing up so quickly, my baby boy. Thank for random hugs, whispered words of love and for thinking that everything I cook is delicious. For asking if you can help, for folding the laundry exactly the way you've been taught and for singing harmony in the car. I hope that one day, you will let the rest of world hear your clear, beautiful voice. It is a gift. You are my greatest gift.

Without you, I might never have known the excruciating pleasure of hearing your rare, though utterly contagious belly laugh or the soft, gentle way you slide your way into my arms when you need comfort. What a privilege to be your soft place to land and the person whose hand you reach for first.

Thank you for your trust and your guidance and for choosing me. You are absolutely my most favourite Luke of all time in the history of ever.

My favourite Luke

You complete me. Us.

I love you.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Mean Moms

This is the story of a little girl called Lori.

Lori is eight and cute as a button. She is wise and chatty and good. She is full of affection and laughter and light and frankly, I adore her. I want her to be mine. Thankfully, she belongs to Monique, who is a friend of mine and who lets me pretend.

Lori, daughter of my heart, has a little friend named Muriel. They've been friends for several years now - BFFs, actually. Best friends forever.

At the end of the school year in June, Muriel's mum promised the girls that they'd see lots of each other. With Monique's happy blessing, they made verbal plans for a cottage visit, a trip to Great Wolf Lodge and unlimited play dates.

Summer came....summer went. Toward the end of August, Muriel's mum called to ask if Lori could visit. Alas, Monique's family had already made plans but could they meet another day? Sure, was the reply. I'll call you.

But no call came and then summer was over and school started. The girls met in the playground, delighted to see each other, bravely muddling through their disappointment at not sharing a classroom. They'd play at recess and ask their mothers about after school and the weekend.

And then, inexplicably, Muriel began to avoid Lori in the schoolyard. Started snubbing the girl who'd been her BFF since Senior Kindergarten. Lori carried her baffled hurt home to Monique, who tried to soothe and comfort with all the words parents say when their child's heart breaks:

"Are there other little girls for you to play with, Lori? Something must be going on with her, sweetheart. Be patient. Try not to let it bother you. I'm sure she'll come around."

But one morning, Muriel marched up to Lori in the playground: "My mum says I'm not allowed to be your best friend any more. I'm supposed to find new friends."

That was weeks ago and Lori (and Monique) have been riding an emotional roller coaster ever since. Thankfully, Lori is, by nature, a positive person. While devastated by the loss of her friend, she eventually moved on and seemed to be faring well.

And then this:

"Mummy, Muriel's mummy says you're fat. And she says that I'm a weirdo and I don't pay attention and I'm not smart."

Monique, stunned, drew her daughter onto the couch. "Let's start at the beginning, Lori. What's going on?"

Apparently, the girls had resumed their friendship, but in secret. They were BFFs again, but only some of the time, but Muriel was afraid her mum would find out and then she'd be in trouble. So, she plays with Lori on the days Muriel feels certain her mum won't drive by the school and see them together in the schoolyard.

But on Monday, the pressure got to be too much and Muriel, torn between love for her friend and loyalty to her mother, blurted out some of the things she'd been told, crying the entire time.

On Monday night, settled into her mother's arms, Lori cried too, missing her friend and feeling sorry for her.

"Mummy, I'm smart, right? Do you think I'm a weirdo? And what does she mean, "I don't pay attention?"

Monique had only this for her brilliant, amazing daughter:

"Lori, Muriel's repeating her mummy's words. And she listens to them because it's her mummy. But they are still bullying words. They are not true. They are not true. They are bullying words."

Later, over the phone, I added my own rage and indignation to hers: "What the EFF was she thinking, saying those things out LOUD, to her child? Seriously. Who SAYS that?"

Monique sighed, exhausted from the retelling and the ache in her heart. "I don't know, Liz. What am I supposed to do with this? Should I do anything with this? I mean, really, it's mean and horrible but IS it bullying? How should I handle this?"

Neither one of us have a clue.

Do you, dear friends? Please share in the comments!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Matthew is EIGHT!

Darling Matthew,

Happy Birthday, my sweet heart! Today you turned eight and in your honour, I wanted to share with you eight of the many, many, MANY reasons why I love you.

1. Your Heart

Matthew, you are a wise and sensitive boy, with an empathetic heart. I love how you always seem to know when someone - adult or child, stranger or friend -needs a little extra compassion and you find quiet ways to give some. Even as a baby, your heart knew.

Matthew, age 1

You are attuned not just to me and your brother, but to the world at large.

You may find that the world is not always a kind place for a heart like yours, my darling. But I hope and pray that you don't let the world's dark snuff out your heart's light.

Instead, I hope that you can find a way to let your light be the world's hope.

2. Your Light

My boy, since the moment you were born, you have been surrounded by an incredible light. That's your spirit and it is wild and bright and SO full. I love the energy you bring to my world, even when you've managed to talk more than me (which is no small feat) and you really should be sleeping.

Matthew, hurling himself with glee...

I love the way you hurl yourself into new ideas and schemes and play with absolute faith  that everything will be OK.
The world might not always be yours for the having, my pet, but never stop believing that it might.

3. Your smile

Your toothy grin lights up your face, a room, my heart. It is often the first thing I see upon awakening, the thing I look forward to seeing every day as I wait at the school gate, watching for you to burst out the door and tumble, laughing, into sunshine.

My boy and his glorious, gap-toothed grin!

It is sunshine and hope, right there in the middle of your face. I will always, always help you find it if it's lost and believe that it will continue to draw the good your way.

4. Your drive

I have never met another kid so willing to throw himself into learning something entirely new. Over the past eight years, I have watched you - awed - walk, run, climb, skate, leap, bound and soar.

Dreaming big dreams, this boy...

It is an absolute privilege to bear witness to your enthusiasm and your dogged attempts to master a new skill. Tenacious, you are. Determined, you are. Amazing, you are.

Never lose it. Any of it.

5. Your quiet

Admittedly, you are not often quiet, Matthew. Mostly, you chatter and yell your way through your days, not unlike your mama. But, there are moments - when you're contentedly still with a book, a game, your thoughts, when I can see contentment on you.

Some of the best moments of the day happen in the early hours, when the house is still and we are too: you sneak into my bed and wrap yourself around me, place a hand on my cheek, the way you've done since you were a wee, wee leprechaun - these quiet, heartbreakingly tender moments with you let me know that all is right with the world. Simply because you are in it.

6. Your loud

Child, you are loud. SO STINKING LOUD!!! You sing loudly, play with high-pitched shrieks of laughter and indignation, especially if Luke's involved and no one could ever, EVER accuse you of being shy.

Future rock stars, right here...

I can only pray that while life teaches you to temper the loud, that you always be willing and able to shout your truths and your dreams and your hopes from the highest places - proud, confident, free.

7. Your eyes

You've inherited your gorgeous, heavily-lashed eyes from your Daddy, Matthew. Like him, you see the world with clarity and a not altogether unhealthy bit of cynicism. This is a good thing, son, to let your eyes see truths that can help you along the way.

But your eyes are often filled with mirth and wonder and stories...oh, the stories they tell, even before you've said a single word. I love that your carry your heart there, Matthew.

8. Your faith

Thank you for your faith, darling Matthew. Your faith in me, in all of us who love you, in tomorrow. I have never known a child so quick to forgive, to offer comfort and to seek the good, as you. Your - often unspoken - belief that the world is a good place will bring you enormous solace as you grow, even when - especially when - it is tested.

A very serious Matthew at his First Communion

You believe in a kind and benevolent Father, the spirit of the Golden Rule and that there's nothing that a little bit of kindness can't heal. I could not be prouder of you if I tried, Matthew. Nor could I be more grateful for all that you bring to my life, the lives of those who share yours.

Thank you, as always, for choosing me.

I love you.



Sunday, September 22, 2013

Great Expectations...


"I need your help today, boys," I said, scurrying about, spritzing the air with Febreze and kicking shoes into the porch. "Nanny and Papa will be here in an hour."

"I need you to make your beds," I said:

"I need you to put your dirty clothes in the tall hamper and take the clean ones from the short one and put them away," I said:

"Please, boys, try to do so quietly because Daddy's not feeling well," I said:

Thursday, September 19, 2013

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood...

Walked about the neighborhood this morning, ended up on the street behind mine, admiring the pretty porches while easing my way around cracks in the sidewalk.

A man beckoned from the not-so-pretty porch of a home that has seen better days, so I stopped and went halfway up his walk: "Good morning!"

He grunted and flicked his cigarette into a rusted bucket at his feet. "Nothin' good 'bout winter comin'. But that's not why I stopped ye."

"Oh. Do you need help with something?"

"Nope. Got my chair and my smokes and my cat. I'm good. I wanted to talk to you about yer boys."

" sons?"

"Yer boys got red hair, don't they? And they wheel 'round here some nights, hootin' and hollerin' on their bikes and that stupid little plastic thing..."

Luke on his "stupid little plastic thing..."

 "It's a Big Wheel," I said, apologetically. "I'm sorry they've bothered you with their noise. They get noisy when they're excited."

He waved a huge hand, dismissively, and then spat. " Kids're having fun, doing what kids do. I don't mind."

"Oh...well....good. I'm glad."

"It's just that your kids - they wave to me every time they see me and sometimes they go 'round four or five times, ye know? And every time, they smile and wave like they've never seen me before and they're happy to. See me."

I blinked and then smiled. "They're pretty friendly kids."

"Most folks don't look my way at all. Your kids...they smile like I'm Santa Claus or something'. I like it."

 "I'm glad. Wouldn't it be grand if everyone felt like Santa Claus every day? How'd you know the boys are mine?"

"Well first off, I seen you with 'em, walking here and there. I mind my own business, but I see lots. And when I called you over here just now? You smiled at me just like they do. They teach you that?"

I grinned then and laughed, completely smitten. "They sure did!"

He grinned back. "They did good."

Friday, September 13, 2013

Finding the Good

One of the hardest things about being a mum is watching my kids navigate social relationships. More specifically, social relationships over which I have no control.

The Reds had a rough night, so I let them sleep in and brought them to school late. As we were signing in, two of Luke's classmates - one of which was S, the little boy who has given Luke a tough time for three years - came wandering past.

Luke, still giddy from reading a book ALL BY HIMSELF on the way to school, smiled at them and gave a small, shy wave.

 The blond boy with S. sneered back and then nudged S, saying, "Finally, Luke's at school. He's late. What a loser!" And they snickered their way down the hallway.

I glanced down at Luke, whose face, so bright and proud only moments before, had fallen. He stood there a moment, uncertainty now hunching his shoulders underneath his too-big backpack.

"Have a great day, Luke. Great reading this morning!" I said, forcing false cheer into my words, hoping they would carry him through.

"Yeah. Sure." His steps, usually buoyant, now slowed as he walked away and as I stood watching, he hesitated at the door of his classroom, no longer certain of welcome.

And then his teacher appeared, reached out a hand and offered him a beautiful smile. "Good Morning, Luke! I'm glad you're here! Come on in!"

God bless teachers who take my child's hand, as his mama struggles to let it go.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Dear Village of Newcastle

Dear Village of Newcastle,

This is it, people. This is your opportunity to stand up and show the world - more importantly, to show a family in your midst - that the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child," is true.

It will take all of you - all of your indignation, your outrage and your ire - to show a misguided few what inclusion really means, what it looks like, WHO YOU ARE.

But mostly, it will take your hearts and your hands, open in friendship, doors open in welcome, streets accessible for all - to show this family (and yourselves) that you are worthy of being called, "Home."

Home is where children are meant to feel as though they belong, inside and out.

Home is meant to be - oh, I love this- a port in the storm.

Be the port for this child, this family, each other, yourselves.

Home is NOT a place for hatred or anonymous letters filled with hate and vicious ignorance dropped into a letterbox, on an otherwise glorious summer's day.

A letter sent to a family in Newcastle, Ontario

So as you gather close this evening, on lawns, on porches, on the very streets where you live, know that you are committing to a lifetime of support for this family, those children, everyone who loves them.

You got this, Newcastle.

Be the village I know you can be.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

To Everything There Is A Season...

Summer days at the trailer have always been about sand and water and being a "fun" mummy. I pride myself on being entirely present for the Reds in ways that I am not, in our "regular" life:

At the trailer, we eat more snack food, read more comic books and play more games.

We stay up later, around the campfire and I let them eat marshmallows by the handful.

The Reds are still - or were, until this summer - charmed by the idea of sleeping in a bed that magically gets pulled out of the couch.

We spend long afternoons at the water's edge, playing in sand and paddling out into the cool lake whenever the sun's rays get too hot.

I do not spend a single minute on the computer, shushing their requests with a harried, "In a minute, guys...just give me a minute here!"

I don't have a cell phone to distract me from being their mum, entirely present in each and every moment.

And I love every single one.

On Monday morning, I gulped down my coffee, eager to greet the day with them.

Hauled towels and noodles and water-wings and snacks down to the water, prepared for a full day of making memories for my sons.

Instead, they met two brothers around their age.

Instead of watching them play at my feet in the shade of a tree, I watched them race off to play in the full sun with their new friends.

Instead of piling muddy buckets upon muddy buckets and digging out moats for sandcastles, I settled back with a book...and didn't turn a page.

Instead, I nodded when the Reds bounded over, pleading to visit their new friends' cabin ("It's number 8, Mummy, in case you need us for anything!") and felt my heart swell...and quietly break.

My sons are indeed making memories.

They're just making ones that don't always include me.

I smiled bravely and waved back when they stopped and turned in unison, waving,  as though they sensed the shift, too.

The Reds at the Buck, in Buckhorn, Ontario

And then they were off, out of my sight, their laughter drifting back to where I sat, thinking, "But weren't they just born?"

And you?
What are your bittersweet memories of letting your children go grow?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

On Coming Home

Dear Homeowner,

You met me at the door of your home when we came to see it last week. I was a little bit early and you were dragging your heels, both of us wondering the same thing: could your home become mine?

I took the hand you offered and we clung to each other, smiling. I asked why you're moving and the light dropped from your eyes, for just a moment.

Your wife died, you said and you're planning to move far away, to be closer to your grandchildren.

I nodded, as though in approval of this life's plan that has nothing to do with me. Truthfully, I was nodding to try to keep the smile on my face because the look on yours broke my heart.

With a gentle, welcoming sweep of your arm, you ushered us into your home and simply disappeared out the back door. In the meantime, we tiptoed inside: marveled at the furniture, the photos, the fanciful, exotic sculptures and prints that filled your home: all of it proof of a well-travelled, well-read, well-lived life.

And the smell. Oh, the lovely, gorgeous smell of Europe - I breathed France in Fall into my lungs as I let my fingers trace the backs of your chairs, arranged just so in the main parlour. 

As I peered at the books lining your bookshelf, I was not surprised to see the Netherlands on their spines because suddenly, I could smell  coffee and my Dutch father's meatball offerings on a rainy November night.

Our real estate agent, himself the child of English parents grinned and nodded when I said this all aloud. He'd just been through the kitchen and said it looked like those he'd visited on a trip to his parents' homeland, many years ago.

On we moved, reverently now, from room to room, space to glorious space.

I felt my throat ache when I spied the banister leading to the second floor - heard my own children's laughter as I imagined - nay, saw - them sliding their way from top to bottom.

On the landing above I heard your children's laughter too and for a moment I stood utterly still, enchanted.

Such love lived here.

In every photo, of your children throughout the three decades you lived here, I saw it.

In every bedroom, I felt that time was standing still, holding the secrets and memories of those who slept there, dreamed there, loved there.

Love lives here still.

In the master bedroom, I saw your wife's funeral card and - forgive me - took it gently in my own hand. Felt a soft shift in the air around me, above me, beneath me. And I thought, "How he loves her."

And then I slipped back downstairs to the family room - the room that felt like the heart of the house, to me - and simply sat, gazing out the bay window. Imagined watching my own sons play in the shade of the porch, slam their way in through the grand front door only to tumble out the one at the back.

Tilted my head to the ceiling and watched my own dreams of a home filled with love and laughter and walls filled with memories play across the cracked plaster and wondered if your wife, Elizabeth, had done the same, 30 years ago?

Thank you for allowing me into your home, to dream awhile, to bask in the beauty you've created.

Know that whomever ends up buying your house is lucky in ways they might not even realize, now: that they are inheriting a space filled with grace and beauty and lives wondrously lived.

I can only hope that the next family who lives in mine - whenever that time comes - feels the same.

The Reds exploring another old house that captured their mama's heart.

Blessed be.

* * *
And you?
How did you choose the house you now call home?
What were the scents and sights that drew you in?
What would you say to the previous owners, if you could?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What a True Teacher Looks Like...

When the Reds began school last September, they did so with confidence: Matthew headed into Grade 2 and Luke marched into Senior Kindergarten a proud "Super Senior!"

Lucky Luke was able to begin his year with his previous year's teacher, the newly-married Mrs. O'Connor, so he was a happy boy.
Watching Sarah become a Mrs. August 2012
His mama was happy, too. I am as invested in Mrs. O'Connor's happiness as she is in my children's.
That he was able to spend more time in her sphere comforted me, pleased me - Luke is my baby boy, no matter how old he gets and he is does not warm easily to people or experiences that are new. So, another year to grow and spread his wings with a teacher who loves him, made this mama's heart rest easy.
Mrs. O'Connor is due to give birth to her first child this weekend, but
she made time to visit her students at their end-of-year celebration, bringing
her own special light and love to the day.

When Mrs. O'Connor announced her pregnancy early in 2013, we were all excited for her. She will be an amazing mother - what a joy it will be to watch her welcome her own child into her heart, as she welcomed both of mine.
Midway through the year, however, her doctor ordered her off work, which was sad for everyone. But she had assembled a fabulous team in her room,  awesome Early Childhood Educator, Mrs. Wannamaker and  superb Educational Assistant, Mrs. Whalen. Along with brand-new-to-us Mr. Pachecko, this trio kept learning momentum going and Luke continued to thrive.
To all four of them, I extend my heartfelt thanks for keeping my boy's smile intact, his spirit free and for filling his mind with all things wise and wondrous.
Mr. Pachecko, Luke, Mrs. Wannamaker, Mrs. Whalen
Matthew, meanwhile, bounded into second grade full of bravado. He is normally fearless and headstrong,  but he was emerging from a year fraught with frustration and too many days ending in tears and so I was concerned.
 I needn't have worried, for into his life came two AMAZING teachers.
I cannot say enough about Ms. Sabean and Mr. Hartnell - a dynamic duo who made learning fun, who engaged and cheered Matthew throughout this year, whose dedication to and pride in their students I witnessed every. single. day.
Matthew's First Communion: Ms. Sabean, M. Hartnell
 Matthew was barely reading when school started last September, but buoyed by success found in a summer reading program at the school, he was eager to learn. His teachers encouraged him all year long and now, my boy is devouring chapter books and weaving incredible tales of his own.
The ability to read is such an enormous pleasure and while I am a lover of words and stories, I was not great about reading nightly with Matthew and was even worse at sitting down to fill out his book logs. But his teachers persevered - with him AND with me - and together, we gave birth to a reader.
My pride and delight in all that he has accomplished this year is surpassed only by theirs for him and for that, especially, I am grateful.
It is a wondrous gift, to a parent, to know that their child is safe and happy and loved by his teachers.
 On this, the last day of school for the year 2013, this is my thank you to them, these incredible teachers, who've guided and cajoled and encouraged my sons to grow and reach and surpass their own potential.
With much love,
Matthew and Luke's Mama
P.S. The rest of your "thank-you" gifts are courtesy of the LCBO.
Cheers, all - you've earned it!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

To Whomever My Son Loves...

Dear Matthew's-Future-Partner,

Matthew got up first this morning, made his bed, got dressed and washed, laid out Luke's clothes and toothbrush, made waffles for the both of them and made coffee for me.

Then he stood at the side of my bed and rubbed my back until I woke up.

So, when you're having a no-good, rotten, terrible day, remember this. Eventually, my boy will be yours to love and cherish and you will know this kind of love, too.

So hang in there!

Your Future Favourite Mother-in-Law

And he's a fabulous big brother, too!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Let Them Eat...Cake?

There's to be a real estate agents' tour of my house today - they should be here within the hour.

Last week,  I received the email from our awesome real estate agent (and my Back-Up Husband), Steve about the tour.

Steve, our real estate agent.

  I immediately volunteered to make banana bread. You know, something warm and delicious to entice the other agents to bring their clients here and convince them that it's home.

Welcome Home!

I make a mean banana bread, if I do say so myself. I've made it so many times, I no longer need a recipe, I just pour and mix and mash and bake.

Easy-peasy, right?


As soon as I turned the oven to pre-heat, I could smell something burning.  Warily, I peeked into the oven, expecting to see a plastic spoon or cup or plates or something, because I sometimes jam dirty dishes in there when people pop by and I haven't done the dishes.

Don't judge me, people - just admit you do it, too.

Nothing. No dishes, no spoons just a sickly-sweet smell of....burning plastic.

Determined to ignore the smell, I turned up the radio and began throwing ingredients in a bowl. Then the phone rang and while I was chatting, I swept a bit in the living room and mentally replaced all the windows on the first floor...

 Time passed and then I suddenly remembered the banana mixture on the counter and rushed back into the kitchen. Dumped the mushed-up goodness into a baking pan, set the timer and waited for the glorious smell to fill my home.


Not 10 minutes ago, I pulled a slightly overdone but delicious-smelling banana bread from my no-longer-burning-plastic oven and left it on the stove to cool. In the meantime, I set the coffee-maker to brew and began gathering up plates and mugs.

Cut the banana bread into delectable slices of yummy, snuck a piece...



Apparently, I, the goddess of banana bread, the one who makes it blindfolded and upside down?

Forgot to add sugar.

I dumped the whole stinking mess into the garbage....

...and thanked my lucky stars that we have cake left over from Matthew's First Communion this past Sunday.

And now they've come and gone, just like that, leaving me here with half a cake and some freshly-brewed coffee. I think I'll sit here awhile and bask in the glory of  a clean, great-smelling house and wait for the offers to just pour in.

Nom, nom, nom....

P.S. If you know anyone in the Belleville area - or anyone looking to move here, who wants to buy a lovely little house in East Hill, my your door is always open!

P.P.S. I am SUPER good at buying cookies and warming them up in the oven...

The door is always open...

And you?
Any angst-y "selling a home" stories you'd like to share?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Happy Birthday, Andrew!

Today would have been my brother's 35th birthday. To honour him, the Reds and I headed to Lakefield this morning to help my parents plant fresh flowers in Andrew's Garden. We also brought balloons, so we could tie message of remembrance and love to them and send them up to Heaven.

Some of the messages came from Andrew's friends, who shared their memories with me via Facebook, some came from the Reds and me, and one very special one was written by my mum.

From Shara:

 My parents lived on the farm in Lindsay and I came down from the city for their annual pig roast. The backyard had been designated for the younger crowd (made up mostly of BHU, whom I was meeting for the first time) so naturally that is where I migrated to. Most of the crowd was packed into the backyard, but not Andrew. He was inside the garage apparently planning his entrance.....then out he pops with the biggest porky pig paper mache head on his shoulders, prancing around like a fool...but everyone laughed hysterically...his mission accomplished!

Andrew was never that great at sharing his heart-felt emotions...but making people laugh, that was where he  truly shined!

Some memories, printed out and ready for rolling into scrolls.

From Shauna:

When I got my g1, I called him up to tell him he was stoked...didn't know why ...he met me after work and showed me why...he wanted to teach me how to drive lol he figured 11pm was safer for other ppl because Bowmanville was a dead town after 9 , it was going fine until we got to the stop sign before the 401 turn ramp on liberty. He was goin' over some safety thing and I was nervous and attempting to listen intently after 5 mins there he asks laughing "what are u waiting for" I didn't know what he meant ...he was losin' it as i was trying to figure it out...i was now petrified I screwed up lol finally I answered the light isn't green...he couldn't take it...we got out and switched spots...he then pulled over into the gas station and tells me we were at a stop sign...stop signs stay one colour

From Shay:

1: when I was 11 years old and him and my mom first started dating, we were at the farm and I had seen him walking up to the trailer, I ran to him yelling KANGAROO!!
2: when learning how to drive, dad took me out in the truck and let me drive, we got to the house and he told me that he would pull into the driveway for me as it was pretty narrow, I didn't listen and pulled into our drive way on my own (at full speed) slammed on the breaks and dad told me I must never drive again lol
3: I could always count on dad to make my sorrows go away, we took my little rescue cat to the vet to be put down and it was a sad moment for me, dad Cranked the good ol' rap music (50 cent) and allowed to stick my feet out the truck and didn't give me trouble once lol

From my mum:

"Happy Birthday, son.
It would be your 35th today.
Hope you are
sharing your
birthday celebration
with all of us.
Love, Mum"

We planted pretty flowers, to make his space a bright and happy one:



My dad barbecued steak. And my mum make dessert:

Did you know that balloons with tiny memories attached to them don't go airborne easily? We suspected as much, but gamely threw our memories skyward, hoping Andrew was watching:
Up, up and...


In the end, we tucked all the balloons that didn't pop into the tree pictured above - it was given to my parents after Andrew died: a memorial tree. Seemed fitting to plant our love there.

And because it was a celebration, there was dancing:

There were some tears, because Andrew is missed and loved, every. single. day. It doesn't get easier, this missing him. Not for any of us. But, today I think we did the right thing, as a family: today, we celebrated him in the place where his ashes rest, where his mother's gaze can fall upon him, where his father can sit and chat quietly, in the middle of the day.

In the end, it felt right and good to remember him with light and pretty flowers and good food and dancing. I hope he saw us down here, missing him. I hope he smiled and knows how very much we love him.

Happy Birthday, Bamboo.
I loved you before I even knew you. I love you still, every day.