Sweet Chair-ity

A few weeks ago, I refinished my mom’s super-adorable antique oak chair, one I’ve coveted (yes, I know that’s a sin) for a long time now. It turned out so well, I wanted to steal it (hey, I know my Ten Commandments) and put it in the Girl Cave I’ve been working on; it would go perfectly with the super-adorable little desk I got from my super-adorable friend Holly.

Alas, my super adorable little mommy would miss her little chair. So I had to bring it back to her house.

On my way to the health food store the other day, I popped in to the local Salvation Army Thrift Store, thinking I might—just might—find a chair to keep my new-to-me desk company.

Well, guess what? I totally did! It’s almost (but not quite) as super-adorable as my mommy’s chair. (And it cost a grand total of $12.99!)

Here’s what it looked like when I brought it home:

I can't even begin to tell you how many staples I pulled out of that chair seat. Three recover jobs with nary a one removed. Gah!

I can’t even begin to tell you how many staples I pulled out of that chair seat. Three re-cover jobs with nary a one removed. Gah!

 

And here’s what it looks like now:

This chair is just right. (Well, now.)

This chair is just right.

People, the Girl Cave is starting to take shape.

Pretty sure I'll be getting some serious writing done here. Can't wait to pull everything else together!

Pretty sure I’ll be getting some serious writing done here. Can’t wait to pull everything else together!

 

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Unfinished Projects, Part Deux

After my youngest moved out in December, I thought (a lot!) about what I like to call my Basement Reclamation Project.

Then, I started with her room, which I had previously reclaimed when Daughter Number One (in birth order, just to clarify) got married and moved out. So out went all the stuff Youngest Daughter didn’t have room for (or want) in her new digs. I freshened up the bathroom with a new shower curtain, towels, and accessories. That left two rooms: our downstairs TV/workout area (which is a total disaster, and which I WILL GET TO IF IT KILLS ME) and a little room I like to call my office/writing room.

Oh, hello, little baseboards.

Oh, hello, little baseboards.

When I was a Candle Lady, I kept all my candles and accessories in there in a big wooden wardrobe. Then I decided I didn’t want to be a Candle Lady any more. So the office/writing room became a catch-all for the junk I didn’t know what else to do with. (And also served as an over-winter place for our patio furniture. Because it rains here in winter. Like, ALL.THE.TIME. But I digress.) The wooden wardrobe, although lovely, took up a lot of floor space, so it had to go. And so did most of the candles and accessories I stored inside it. (I just hope I remember that my Christmas candles are now stored in the basement bedroom come December!)

Anyhoo, I decided I ought to turn that little room into a Girl Cave/writing room/library, for when I want to read (or write) without CNN or TSN blaring in the background. (I know what you’re thinking—why didn’t I turn part of the basement into a Man Cave? And the answer is—obviously—that my husband thinks of the entire main floor as his Man Cave.) So unless I wanted to read or write with headphones in (to drown out the likes of Piers Morgan, for example, or FIFA Confederation Cup Soccer, the delightful sounds of which I replaced with Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto as I wrote this post), I needed to carve out a little creative space for myself.

But before I could begin in earnest, there were a few other things we needed to attend to. For example, we hadn’t managed to completely finish the basement—despite being in our home for 10 years now (I mean, where’s the fire, right?). There were a number (six, to be precise) of primed closet doors to be painted. The inside of a storage closet needed paint and its shelves installed. And there were no baseboards in my little room (or in the larger TV area, but WE WILL GET TO THAT IF IT KILLS US).

“Would you please put the baseboards in my little room?” I asked J.

“You should just decorate first, and then I’ll do it,” he said.

“Actually, I’d prefer to do the baseboards first,” I said, smiling sweetly and batting my eyelashes at him (I do that on occasion. It makes him nervous).

So we were off to pick up baseboards (did I mention how awesome my husband is?), which I dutifully painted, and which J dutifully installed. Because we’ve figured a few things out in our (almost) 17 years of marriage, such as:

  1. I am the painter; he is the painting supervisor (most annoying when he points out those little splotches of paint I may have gotten on the ceiling. Do us all a favour and don’t look up when you visit).
  2. I am the chef; he is the dishwasher. (Note: J is an excellent cook—he won my heart with a white chocolate raspberry cheesecake and shortbread cookies—and when he cooks, I wash.)
  3. I do a lot of the indoor stuff; he does a lot of the outdoor stuff.
  4. Sometimes we do indoor stuff and outdoor stuff TOGETHER. (Imagine.)
  5. He is super-handsome and I’m crazy about him.

So far, we’ve crossed a few things off this Basement Reclamation To-Do list. The storage closet interior and doors are painted and J installed the shelves (thanks, Babe!). I’ve also been on a bit of a tear with purging. (“I hope you’re not throwing out anything important,” J said as he watched me take a rather large garbage bag full of stuff up the stairs.) Because once my little room is finished, I fully plan to tackle that larger TV area. (Did I mention I WILL GET TO THAT IF IT KILLS ME?)

Ooooh, paint looks WAY better than primer. (Now to change those pulls--also on "the list.")

Ooooh, paint looks WAY better than primer. (Now to change those pulls – also on “the list.”) I haven’t moved the drop cloth yet, since there are three more closet doors to do. Also, it reminds me that there are three more doors to do.

This Finishing Projects thing is a lot of work. But it’s also a good source of satisfaction.

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Jordan

Yesterday was my son’s birthday. Most people don’t know I had a son. His name was Jordan.

***

OTWTG-Jordan-4'13-3 My pregnancy isn’t planned. I’m not in the best situation, but I’m thrilled to be expecting. This baby will be my mother’s second grandchild.

In my heart, I know it’s a boy, and I know what I’ll name him: Jordan. Like the river.

For 34 weeks, mine is a routine pregnancy—complete with a healthy weight gain and midnight cravings for banana popsicles and tuna melts.

Then a night of frantic, desperate kicks. And nothing.

I know. I don’t want to, but I know. I’m at the doctor’s office. There’s a stethoscope to my belly; the doctor moves it here and there, listening. Nothing.

I’m sent to the emergency room at the then-Salvation Army Grace Hospital. I’m alone. There is an ultrasound. Nothing.

I hear a doctor I’ve never met say, “I’m sorry.”

Is this happening? This can’t be happening. This isn’t supposed to happen!

***

Twenty-four hours of labour. Twenty-four hours of praying for a miracle. Twenty-four hours of knowing it wouldn’t come. Down the hall somewhere, another young mother is in labour. “I don’t even want this baby!” she screams. A nurse closes the door to my room.

It’s time to push. I plead, Please God, let him cry.

Nothing.

***

In my arms, I hold a tiny baby with a head full of downy blonde hair.

He doesn’t cry.OTWTG-Jordan-4'13-2

***

For years, as April 10th approaches, I get emotional. I don’t realize why, until I look at a calendar. Oh, now I get it, I think to myself.

***

In 1995, I write and record a song for my lost son:

Jordan

You’d be nine years old this April

Born on a springtime day

Life goes on and the hurt fades a little

But it never goes away

We awaited your arrival

Dreamt of all you’d be

The silent stillness of your birth

Came unexpectedly

 

Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle

And I’m crying out to the moon

Years go by and I still wonder why

Jordan, you left too soon

 

We wrapped you up and held you

Counted your fingers and toes

Talked about all the hair on your head

And you had your mama’s nose

We should have had a lifetime

But fate tore us apart

And though I can’t hold you in my arms

I hold you in my heart

 

Little boy blue, how I miss you

An empty cradle stands in your room

Years go by and I still wonder why

Jordan, you left too soon

 

Rock-a-bye baby in Heaven’s arms

Angels will sing you a tune

Oh the years go by and I still wonder why

Jordan, you left too soon

***

My son would have turned 27 this year. For the first time in a long time, I cried.

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On the Way to Toronto

It began during her third year as an education major at university—the year she took an improv workshop on a whim. Suddenly, she didn’t want to teach any more; she wanted to make people laugh.

And that’s precisely what she—and her fellow improv-ers—did every other Friday night at 11:07, a comedy show at her alma mater. With her quirky delivery and knack for word play, she gained quite a loyal following, despite being a non-theatre major who discovered her knack for this particular kind of humour late in her university career.

To my immense delight, she didn’t seem to mind being the only player whose mother was in attendance. So, I went to almost every improv show she was in (I’d like to point out that I also attended the plays and/or shows her siblings were in. I’m kind of crazy like that), even though the show started at 11:07 p.m. (hence, the name), and even though that start time happened to be WAY past my bedtime.

For the past six months, my eldest and her husband have been planning their move east—to the city of Toronto. I’ve been really excited for them, since a) moving in itself is a big adventure, and b) moving to pursue a dream is a REALLY BIG ADVENTURE.

This dream is my daughter’s—she wants to pursue her interest in improv comedy by attending classes at and eventually auditioning for The Second City. What I love almost as much as her pursuit is my son-in-law’s support for it. I mean, how many guys would move across the country for the woman they love? (Also need to give some props to my son-in-law’s awesome employer for allowing him to continue working for them from a distance. That’s right.)

The day they left, I was privileged to spend most of the day with them, helping them get organized and feeling like a good mom, since I was tidying up after one daughter, (which ultimately benefitted another, since my youngest moved in to the suite my eldest and her hubby vacated—the beginning of yet another big adventure).

Shortly after 11:00 on December 28th, I waved good-bye as my eldest, her husband, and their two pet cockatiels went through airport security.

Yes, I cried. But I also felt immense pride.

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Too Healthy for Myself

People, you know you’ve reached a whole new level of health consciousness when you start making your own granola bars. Like, from scratch.

Delicious AND good for you.

No, it’s not enough to have completed a 21-day liver cleanse and not have even cheated on it a little. It’s not enough that I have deliberately foisted kale on my (once) unsuspecting family (sadly, with only a 40 per cent success rate). No.

I have to take on the snack industry. At least in my own little way.

It started when a couple of years ago, my friend Irene was feeling out of sorts. She was watching her diet, getting exercise, and taking pretty good care of herself, but she felt tired and drained. “You should go see a naturopath,” I told her over lunch one day. “I’ve heard great things about a clinic in Fort Langley.”

Fast-forward a year or so. Another lunch. “Wen (Rene always calls me Wen. She’s pretty cute, that one),” she said, “I’ve been seeing a naturopath at that place you recommended. I haven’t felt this good in years. Have you gone yet? Because you should.”

Now, to be honest, at that point I hadn’t. Because let’s face it, going to a naturopath isn’t cheap. (And because it’s way easier to give good advice than to actually take it, even if it’s your own.)

But when during a visit regarding my own feelings of general malaise, my family doctor suggested I was depressed and needed to go on medication, I knew I had to make a choice. (Turned out I wasn’t depressed at all—but my hormones were totally out of whack. As usual, that’s another story.)

So, off I went to my first naturopathic visit. (I don’t even want to tell you how much it set me back.  At least it was partially covered by my extended medical plan—thank heaven.) I met with Dr. Willis, whom I like because a) she’s pretty smart and b) for some strange reason, she thinks I’m funny (still trying to figure out if it’s funny ha-ha, or just funny weird. But I digress).

To be sure, it has taken a few months—at one point I wondered why the heck I was taking all these nutritional supplements and doing liver cleanses and exercising and eating healthy, if I wasn’t going to start feeling better—but it dawned on me recently that I’m starting to feel like myself again.

I’ve been feeling much more energetic, have had far fewer mood swings and am feeling an overall sense of wellbeing. And so now, my routine also includes making ridiculously healthy lunches and snacks—hence, the homemade granola bars, which, I might add, are delish!

Of course, there are still challenges—like the stubborn pounds that have crept back on despite my best efforts to banish them forever…grrrrrr—but I really do believe I’m on the right track now. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the part a certain friend of mine had in it.

Thanks, Rene!

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Remembering Evelyn

“She looks just like me!” she said to my mother, upon seeing me for the first time.

Growing up, I certainly didn’t see it. Everyone always told me I looked like my father—her eldest son—who really doesn’t look at all like her. For starters, she had dark hair and brown eyes; I have ash brown hair and green eyes.

But when, a couple of years back, I came across a photograph of her with her uncle Tom Bethune (who later became her step-dad after her own father’s passing), I saw myself in the 12-year-old girl who smiled her sepia-toned smile back at me.

It turns out my grandmother, Evelyn Isabella (Bethune) Delamont, was right.

Evelyn Bethune with her Uncle Tom.

We part our hair on the same side. We have the same long face, similar noses, and eyes that look like half-moons when we smile. We are tall, trim, and small-busted (hey, people, it is what it is); our lips are full, but our cheekbones are (how shall I put this?) undefined.

We had our different likes and dislikes. While my grandma loved to be photographed (she was, quite possibly, one of the most photographed women of her generation. All of her almost 94 years are chronicled in hundreds of portraits and snapshots); I’m far more comfortable behind the camera (in fact, in 2010, I had the privilege of shooting what would be her last portrait session).

And in those hundreds of images, my grandma is always impeccably dressed; I, on the other hand, prefer my jeans and t-shirts. Although I do like to dress up every so often, I rarely lived up to the “Grandma dress code.” (Yes, there definitely was one. Just ask any member of our family.)

Throughout her life, Grandma sent countless cards and letters to family and friends; each birthday, I could count on her to a card and letter my way. I’m embarrassed to admit that I struggle to get cards in the mail early enough to get to their destination in time—and that’s if I get them in the mail at all.

Grandma loved Lays potato chips and bacon; I also love Lays potato chips. (Bacon is okay sometimes, but it’s sausage I can’t resist.)

Two months ago today (July 3, 2012), Grandma joined her Saviour and her beloved Len (my grandfather) in Heaven. She may be gone but she’s still in me.

She’s in me when I count out every single candy (no, I’m not exaggerating) for our movie night treat bags.

She’s in my obsessive need to spend exactly the same amount of money on each daughter for Christmas (something those very daughters, not to mention my husband, find a great deal of humour in).

And she’s in my dearest childhood memory, of the blonde-haired, blue-eyed dolls she sent to my sister Tracy and me one Christmas, complete with wardrobes she had sewn: velvet skirts—one red, one blue—and white blouses with matching trim on the collars; striped pantsuits in orange and purple with coordinating rickrack-trimmed shirts; and tiny brown coats and tams with real fur trim.

Unfortunately, our dolls were lost during a move, but Tracy and I were so inspired by her gift that when our own daughters were around the same ages, we were at our sewing machines, piecing intricate patterns together for the dolls we purchased for our girls—hoping to recreate just a little of the Christmas magic our Grandma had spun for us.

Me with Grandma, September 2010.

I have to say, I don’t mind the resemblance.

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What the Kale?

The other night my super-awesome married daughter and my super-awesome son-in-law were over for dinner (I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I actually have three super-awesome daughters. It’s just that only the married one happened to be to dinner that evening). J and I were still on our 21-day liver cleanse but had finished “vegan week” and were, therefore, celebrating (as an aside, any time this daughter and son-in-law come over, it’s pretty much a party).

This is not a product placement ad for Bertolli olive oil. It just looked pretty next to the kale.

I made chicken breasts, roasted sweet potatoes, roasted asparagus, and sautéed kale (which I keep telling J is a veritable super-food, and which he will eat but pretty much still hates. “Why would anyone eat kale, when they could just eat broccoli?” he asks almost every time. But this night, it was J’s own fault kale was on the menu, since he bought it. “Well, it looked really fresh,” he said).

Because my son-in-law is Dutch, I assumed he would be familiar with kale, and therefore, his wife—who is doing a remarkable job of assimilating herself into her adopted culture. For starters, she loves droppees (salty Dutch licorice) and has even made croquettes (which are basically deep fried meat). And while dating Son-in-law, when his very Dutch relatives would ask her surname, she would answer, “Barradasma” or, “VanBarradas” (I mean, really, who wouldn’t want a Dutch version of a Portuguese surname? But as usual, I digress)—would be also.

Alas, neither had tried kale and I could tell Daughter was wary. After putting approximately a tablespoonful on her plate, she took a cautious bite and—looking like she might actually spit it out—announced, “Kale tastes like seaweed’s cousin that doesn’t wear deodorant.”

I’m guessing that kale won’t become a staple in their home anytime soon.

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