Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: 20 Things to Love About Yourself.

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At the end of November my beautiful daughter-in-law (DIL) sent an interesting Facebook message to my two daughters and me. This message was actually a challenge. It was something she herself had been challenged to do in her fitness class that week, and one that she found extremely difficult. When I read that, my first thought was that “if this incredible young women finds a “fitness” challenge difficult,” then I’m dead meat. No way Jose. Not going to happen for this Old Broad (OB). Then when I read “the challenge” I was even more convinced that this was something I could not do.

What was so challenging about “the challenge”?

Everything. Why? Because it requires that you take a long hard, uncompromising, honest, candid, truthful and LOVING look at yourself. Both physically and non-physically. And come up with ten things for each that you like about yourself. I’m not even talking love here. Just, like. A little nod to one of your more redeeming attributes, a mere mention of some cute little trait or charming characteristic. You know the thing I’m talking about. That endearing eccentricity that your family mutters under their collective-breath at family gatherings, “There it is.” We all have those, right. But as my DIL said in her note, “It’s amazing how in 2 seconds you can name a million things about family, friends and even people you’ve just met, but to name 20 things about yourself is HARD!”

She’s right. It’s easy-peasy to find 20 things about someone else that are admirable and praiseworthy, both physically and non-physically. But try pointing the lens back at yourself and it is damn near impossible. At least for me.

But this is a new year. And I’ve decided that this is the year that I will challenge myself more. Go out on that fragile limb and do things. Face uncertainty head-on. Take some risks. Do things a little, or a lot, differently than I have in the past. Some of these things I know are going to scare the shit right out of me. And at my age this could seriously happen.

Other things, I’m going to do because they’ll be good for me. Like eating more vegetables and less meat, especially the stuff that causes the unnecessary death of cute animals. This is a dilemma for me because I think all animals, and many plants, are cute. And if you think I’m being facetious, check out Marimos. They are freakin’ adorable. So are Baby Lichens. Then there’s Venus Flytraps. Not all that cute but extremely interesting. Like the dark-haired girl wearing uncool glasses in a roomful of Barbie’s with big boobs. I can relate to the V-Flies.

And then there are those things I’ve been putting off for years, decades even. You know the things, the “I’ll do that someday” stuff. All the stuff you make excuses for, that possibly involve some kind of weird time and space continuum. I have no idea what that is but it sounds like it may apply here, and very likely every aspect of my life to date. But I do plan to make a heroic attempt, and at the very least, confront some of these things that I’ve been putting off and maybe quite conceivably, should all the stars line up just right, get around to it. Perhaps.

As for the 10 physical things and the 10 non-physical things I like about myself? I haven’t a clue. I only know that it will require me to be as kind and loving with myself as I am with others. I will need to be as gentle and gracious, understanding and big-hearted, caring and compassionate, forgiving and magnanimous to me as I am to you and you and you, and the person I’ve just met. For this is all the great big important stuff that is at the very heart of “the challenge.” Maybe, just maybe, that’s why it’s so difficult.

And as my wise, witty and wonderful DIL said, it’s easier to come up with these things about someone else then it is about yourself. So I thought I’d do it for her.

10 Physical things that I LOVE about my DIL (in no particular order and just for starters):

  1. Big beautiful smile
  2. Gorgeous hair
  3. Killer abs
  4. Cute freckles
  5. Dazzling blue eyes
  6. Tiny waist
  7. Artistic hands
  8. Infectious laugh
  9. Melodic voice
  10. Magnificent fit figure

10 Non-Physical things that I LOVE about my DIL (in no particular order and just for starters):

  1. Loving-kindness
  2. Generosity
  3. Compassion
  4. Thoughtfulness
  5. Gentleness
  6. Intelligence
  7. Creativity
  8. Humor
  9. Courage
  10. Warmth and wonder

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: A Mother’s Prayer for Peace.

boo + tom on stairs 2

Dear God,

It’s the middle of the night,

And I cannot sleep.

The rain is pounding on the roof

And the wind is howling outside my window.

But I am safe and warm,

Comforted by my feather duvet.

My faithful dog curled up at my feet

And my husband breathing softly next to me

Our children safe in their beds

Surrendered to dreams,

Sweet sweet dreams.

Yet my heart is not at peace,

It is broken with sadness.

For out there

Somewhere in a world I do not know

In countries I’ve only seen on TV

Are other families

With mothers just like me,

Who but for your gentle grace

Live a different life.

One not privileged with

Warm safe beds to rest,

To sleep, to dream of tomorrow.

Their lives, every bit as precious as mine

Are torn apart and shattered –

By fear

And hate

And hunger

And disease

And disaster

And ignorance

WAR.

I pray for these loving mothers

And for their dear families

That they ALL

Each and every one

Have what I have

And know, truly know

What it’s like

To go to bed at night

And NOT be filled with fear

That their beautiful child,

Every bit as precious as mine,

Won’t be harmed

Or blown to pieces

By an enemy no one really knows.

God, I pray that all these mothers

Know at least one moment of peace.

And that that moment grows and grows

Like a wave across the world.

A graceful, gentle, loving wave of peace.

It begins with one moment

And grows from moment to moment.

It begins with one mother

And grows from mother to mother.

And it saves one child

And grows from child to child.

May we share this moment of peace

Mothers of the world.

Now I lay me down to sleep.

Amen.

In gratitude and love,

boo king

Photo on 2015-05-09 at 11.57 AM

 

 

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: The Maple Tree.

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I have a Maple Tree in my front yard.

I brought it with me from Ontario as a tiny sapling.

I removed it gingerly from its mother tree the morning I left to return to BC.

I wrapped it in a wet paper towel and a plastic baggy.

I placed it carefully into my purse where it journeyed across Canada with me.

I loved it so and made a promise to my parents to take good care of it.

I planted it temporarily in a small terracotta pot.

I replanted it and replanted it into ever-bigger pots that sat on my sunny patio.

I watched as it grew and grew until it was the same height as me.

I bought a little white house after my parents died just around the corner from the rental.

I lovingly removed the Maple Tree from its final pot made from a wooden barrel.

I planted it permanently in the front yard deeply anchored in the solid earth.

I called it Marion after my mother.

She is well over twenty feet tall now.

She is far bigger than my mother could have ever imagined.

She is a faithful reminder of my mother and the life we shared.

She provides a welcome canopy of shade.

She keeps my front room cool and comfortable in the summertime.

She is beautifully naked and oh so graceful in the winter.

She quietly stands guard and watches over this little white house.

She is eternally helpful and obliging that way.

She also makes me feel safe in the shelter of her branches.

She changes color with the seasons but not the way her mother tree did back in Ontario.

She wonders about some of those autumn colors of her lineage.

She ponders the reason they are missing from her leaves.

She thinks her mother tree looked divine in a particular shade of red.

She mourns the loss of the things she did not inherit.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: The Dream.

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I’m not much of a dreamer. At least not at night when I’m asleep. I do a lot of daydreaming. But the other thing, not so much. I guess technically, I do dream. We all do. I just have poor recall.

When I do remember a dream though, it’s usually a doozy. Nightmares. Being chased and can’t run away or scream for help. Embarrassing. Forgot to dress and find myself on a crowded bus stark freaking naked. X-rated. Stark freaking naked. Enough said. For the sake of my three adult children I will spare all the sordid details. Some make me sad and I wake up crying. Usually involving the death of a beloved human or pet. Sometimes myself. From others I wake up laughing. Like I was in bed with Louis C.K. Enough said.

But every now and again, there’s one that flat-out leaves me believing. In wonder and amazement at just how stupendously miraculous this thing called life and afterlife really is. It’s the stuff of good science fiction. Time travel. Parallel universes. Eternal connectivity. The never-ending story. The stuff that bears truth to statements like, “She/he is still with me” or “I feel her/his presence.”

On Thursday night I had a two-part dream like this. The first part was kind of a silent nightmare. I was in a subway car with my daughter M and her best friend A and we were headed to some unknown destination. The strange thing was that neither girl was talking, which I suppose is proof that I was indeed dreaming. The even stranger thing was that the subway car was actually a rollercoaster car, which I am terrified of. I was sitting between the two girls. We went around a hairpin curve at lightening speed and somehow I flipped out of the car and was hanging on to the side of the car like my life depended on it, because it did. I called out to one of the girls (who shall remain nameless) to hold onto my arm so I wouldn’t fall off and be crushed by a million tons of fast-moving steel. But it was as if she was deaf. Much like our waking relationship. Then I grew very calm. I knew I would be fine, that everything would end up okay. I hung onto the side of the car, cool as a cucumber. Fearless even. I just love how you can manipulate dreams to make them work in your favor. We arrived safely at the next subway stop and all was well. End of part one.

In part two I’m still at the subway stop. My young female travelling companions are gone. They left without a word, which made perfect sense since this was a silent movie. In the next scene, a door opens and it’s The Old Man. Finally someone speaks. He says, “Look who I brought.” He steps aside. And there’s Ma. It was a younger Ma. The one from when I was about eight or ten. She looked beautiful. I ran into her arms. We embraced. I hung onto her for dear life. Just like the rollercoaster car in part one. I could feel her. And smell her. I cried into the collar of her faux fur winter coat. I told her how happy I was to see her. And that I missed her dearly.

And that was it. I woke up crying. But I wasn’t sad. I was happy to have had this moment with Ma. To be hugged by her again. No one, and I mean no one, hugs you like your mother.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve dreamt of Ma since she died 14 years ago. We’ve had “visits” before. Most of the time they are sweet and simple and far too brief. Much like our time together on earth. Sometimes we’re shopping or having lunch. But mostly we’re sitting together at the kitchen table at 204 enjoying a cup of tea and a good chat. Nothing has changed. We talk about the “daily things” that fill our days with meaning, hope and love. She still refuses to tell me why we’re here, what it’s all about, and where we go after this is all said and done.

One of the wonderful gifts of these visits, or close encounters from the other side, is that I get to have “the one mores” with her. One more kiss. One more hug. One more cup of tea. One more conversation. One more chance to say, “I love you Ma.”

Is it real? Is it just a dream? Are we living parallel lives now? Am I able to traverse from here to wherever she is? Cross borders and meet-up with her in my sleep? Slip from this reality to hers? Is this possible?

I don’t know. And I don’t care. I only know that seeing Ma on Thursday night comforted me. Brought me peace. And made me happy. I look forward to one more.

Ma Girl Warrior - Feature Alt

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: It’s in the Blood.

IMG_3kk234lljI have bad blood. Not really bad, as in deadly. But not normal either. Just another one of those things that I came by honestly. This little doozy came compliments of Ma. She most likely inherited it from her father. Blame it on her Italian heritage.

Little back story. Since I was a kid every time I had my blood tested, it revealed that I had anemia. Ma was always giving me iron pills. Or worse, yet cod liver oil. I don’t have to tell you how disgusting that shit is.

I spent my entire childhood, and a better part of my young adulthood, believing this myth and popping iron tablets. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my youngest child, that the truth was discovered. I did not have your regular garden-variety anemia. I was a carrier of this peculiar sounding blood disorder called Thalassemia Minor. Like Ma and my Italian Grandfather. Other than occasional fatigue, bruising easily, and being aerobically challenged, I’m fine.

Good thing The Old Man was Finnish because if he too was Italian, or from some other Mediterranean country or Asia, things could have gotten ugly. It takes two to tango with this blood disorder. With one parent a carrier, you may or may not end up a carrier as well. With two, the odds are 50-50 that you’ll have full-blown Thalassemia. And like it’s evil cousin Sickle Cell, things can be pretty dire, if not downright heartbreaking.

Young MomBut happily that isn’t my story. Nor was it Ma’s and my grandfather’s. My two older children have both been tested, and although they are both carriers as well, they are healthy. And most importantly, they know what they are potentially passing onto the next generation.

My youngest daughter has yet to be tested. At the beginning of summer, I wrote her this poetic letter with the thought in mind that the time has come. Now that she is moving into the stage in her life where she could easily fall in love. Big, hard, deep and forever. She needs to know, what’s in her blood, beyond the unconditional love of her parents.

Hey Beauty,

It’s time to get your blood checked to make sure you aren’t a Thalassemia carrier. Like your Italian grandmother, your mother, big brother and sister.

Even though there’s nothing to worry about right now because you only fall for Anglo-Saxon boys with blue eyes and blond hair.

But one day you may fall hard for a guy who is tall, dark and handsome, the front man for an Indie band, who plays acoustic guitar and writes lyrics worthy of a tattoo on your torso, drinks tequila, rides a 1952 Harley he inherited from his grandfather, eats organic peaches, and most importantly, is of Mediterranean descent.

When you fall, you fall hard.

Boo in B+WJust like your Italian grandmother, your mother, big brother and sister. And because you fall so hard, you might even dream of having a child one day with the guy who is tall, dark and handsome, the front man for an Indie band, who plays acoustic guitar and writes lyrics worthy of a tattoo on your torso, drinks tequila, rides a 1952 Harley he inherited from his grandfather, eats organic peaches, and most importantly, is of Mediterranean descent.

You can picture this child with his father’s dreamy soulful brown eyes, olive complexion and thick dark hair with soft curls around his ears.

And when this happens, you’ll want to know for certain whether or not you’re a Thalassemia carrier. Because if this beautiful guy, who is tall dark and handsome, the front man for an Indie band, who plays acoustic guitar and writes lyrics worthy of a tattoo on your torso, drinks tequila, rides a 1952 Harley he inherited from his grandfather, eats organic peaches, and most importantly, is of Mediterranean descent is also a Thalassemia carrier.  Then Beauty the odds are 50-50 that the child of your dreams will have full-blown Thalassemia.

And Beauty that isn’t something you’d wish on your worst enemy, never mind the child of your dreams.

http://www.thalassemia.ca/

 

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: I Will Always Remember You There.

560852_10150626889916644_990312550_nShe called me Agaluk. I called her MF. Beautiful One. Sweet Butterfly.

I also called her my friend. We were Soul Sisters.

One of my most strongest, steadfast, courageous, creative, bold, brilliant, intelligent, inspiring, wise and wonderful, in every conceivable way, a true Girl Warrior to the core and beyond, died last week.

Receiving the news so abruptly. Incomprehensible. The loss for those who loved her. Immeasurable. The gaping hole in our hearts. Irreparable.

Little Back Story. We met in the most unlikely of places. Old Fort William. Decades ago. Free spirits. Wild hearts. Fierce warriors. Intelligent and introspective young girls on the cusp of becoming the women we are today.

530446_10150626890261644_650726391_nMF and I were from different worlds. She was from Southern Ontario, the part of the province with the big cities and prestigious universities. She was an intellectual. Well-read and world-wise, even then. Sophisticated beyond her years. She was eloquent and articulate.

I often wondered what she saw in me. I was smart enough but by no means an intellectual. I loved reading but in a million years I couldn’t tackle the books MF read. I was far from sophisticated, more of a small-town bumpkin. My speech was typical of the region, with its Scandinavian-Canadian twang, every sentence peppered with the non-word utterance, “eh”. And I was born and raised just across town from where we worked. I was all too familiar with the summer stench and acrid bitterness of the Abitibi Mill.

We managed to stave off adulthood that glorious summer by the shores of the Kaministikquia River.

544764_10150626890401644_450351427_nMF and I were part a ragtag troop of young vagabonds and hippies, who dressed up every day like it was 1815. We worked, and played, in the Tradesman’s Square at Old Fort William.

The young men in The Square worked as blacksmiths, tinsmiths, carpenters, coopers, and of course, the birch bark canoe builders. Many came to The Fort with these skills in tow, but by summer’s end they all knew how to handle the tools of their historic trade.

MF and I were among the “Native” wives of these rough and ready Tradesmen. Dressed in traditional garb, with our long hair braided in side pigtails or down our backs, we spent our time hand stitching garments and beading necklaces. We were called Historical Interpreters, which basically meant we told the story of the Fur Trading Post belonging to the North West Company, and the men who worked in The Square. We regaled the flocks of tourists, who streamed in and out of our log buildings, with tales of life in 1815 Northwestern Ontario.

OFW-Tradesman 5MF and I often worked together in the Tradesman’s sleeping quarters. Between tourist visits, we gabbed endlessly about all the grand things of life, all the while our hands were ever-busy making the wool felt leggings and strands of colorful beads that we wore so ubiquitously.

In this backdrop of historic Old Fort William, our friendship grew. Born out of conversations that were deep and engrossing. Sometimes silly. Often extraordinary. Yet so divinely unforgettable.

MF and I lost track of each other after that summer. There were the occasional blips on the radar. But for the most part we moved on with our lives. It didn’t help that geographically we would end up thousands of miles apart, with MF in Southern Ontario and me on the West Coast.

Then, a few years ago through the wonders of social media, MF reached out to me. First on LinkedIn and then through Facebook.

It was like no time had passed. We picked up where we left off. It was as natural as the flow of the Kaministikquia River. Although many years had passed, and on the surface our personal and professional lives appeared so very different; but in our hearts, and all the places that mattered, we were kin.

It was no surprise to discover we had both spent our lives embracing all things spiritual and creative. We were both wisdom seekers, with love our abiding compass, the beacon in the dark, the light, and the way.

DSCN1131For the past twenty-four hours, I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around MF not being here. In this very physical place we call earth. Then this gentle thought came to me this morning, upon the first delicate rays of early morning sunshine. Like a heart-gift filled with grace.

Since I’ve known her, right back to the days of Old Fort William, MF shone from within. Her face literally glowed with the lightness of being. She was adroit at traversing both worlds. MF possessed a huge life force and energy field. She was always growing and ever-expanding, crossing boundaries and skipping borders with ease. There was this earth place that she loved so dearly, and embraced with wide-open arms, and then this other place where she is right now, which she understood with a breathtaking profundity. She did not fear it. Not this place. Nor that. For it is all the same. One.

And she encouraged us all to do the same. This was her mantra. Fear not. For we create our own lives. Weave our own destinies. Manifest our own worlds. Hug life and squeeze every ounce of joy out. Then push it back out. Pay it forward.

MF was/is one of the rare beings, who possessed the key to the door to wonder. She saw it all. This and that. Here and there. Now and forever. Eternity in the palm of her hand. Her hand in the hand of the everlasting.

See you later Sweet Soul Sister Beautiful Butterfly.

Love you always, Agaluk.

Footnote:

The night before she died, MF made this last post on Facebook, including a link to Hallelujah – Choir of King’s College, Cambridge live performance of Handel’s Messiah.  Extraordinary.

Posted, September 24 at 12:42am: Taking an exultant drive to my place on the water for sunrise, NOW!. Been stuck in the city waaay too long.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C3TUWU_yg4s&list=PLlsiuiVOpp3pMgv0vDVk3g2fChthCLbYY

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: The Photograph.

ma me dog on back steps at 204I love taking pictures. It’s just another one of those things that I come by honestly. I’m not a Pro, nor do I aspire to be. I just like to take pictures. Plain and simple.

My parents loved to photograph the sundry events of our domestic life. Both momentous and intimate alike. All the milestones were covered. So were the trivial, trifling and trumpery.

While browsing through our old family albums, it’s always photos of the small everyday things that captivate me the most. The prosaic and mundane events capture my imagination like no other. For it is in these ordinary images that I see the unguarded details and accidental gestures. They become the grand movements that spawn wonder, and where unexpected beauty dwells.

Everything from Ma in the kitchen stirring the Saturday night pot of spaghetti, with the food-worn wooden spoon that had grazed many lips and touched all of our tongues with its tanginess. Or The Old Man sitting in his favorite orange velvet swivel rocking chair, with his oversized horn-rimmed glasses perched on his nose, engrossed in the evening edition of the Times Chronicle. The exquisiteness of the waning summer light glinting through the living room picture window upon my unwitting father takes my breath away and stills my heart.

There were the bigger things too.

Like the photo taken of me on the Sunday I got Confirmed. There I stood in front of the Kodak Brownie camera looking more like a reluctant blushing bride than a religious devotee, who had just received the Gift of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps it was the combination of my not-so-holy Mona Lisa smile, the newly sanctified white leatherette Bible that I was clenching so fiercely to my precious budding bosom, and the unfashionable translucent off-white organza dress Ma bought from a secondhand shop just for this pious rite of passage. In the same cream-colored album, just a few pages later, there shines the real bride photo of my luminous sister-in-law in her fairytale wedding gown looking beyond radiant on the day she married my big brother.

Then there’s all those birthday party photos of me surrounded by my little friends in our fancy dresses and Sunday-best shoes. Sitting cross-legged on the grass or standing side-by-side posing, smiling and squinting into the glaring midsummer sun. Ma really knew how to throw a good party.

The silly lighthearted things were captured too. Like the night my sister decided to pin curl both my brothers’ hair. All the crazy amusing family antics. Giggling. Hoot and hollering. Laughing our guts out. All there. Perfectly preserved.

Pictures were taken everywhere. From the bathroom to the beach. Around the kitchen table and all around Lake Superior. In front of the Christmas tree and behind the back porch. Sitting on the front steps, the front lawn, the front seat of the car, in front of the TV, and in front of God.

Ma, in particular, had an abiding love for capturing the events of our lives. She had a Polaroid camera that brought her endless hours of fun and fascination. Its ability to seize a fragment of time instantaneously was a marvel to her. Holding the print in her fingers as the picture appeared within seconds. Right before her eyes. Pure magic. A modern day miracle. A wonder of wonders. Oh how she loved it so. I feel the same way about the photos I take on my iPhone. Mind blowing amazement.

As a result of all this finger-snapping photo-taking, I have a glorious visual documentation of my life. One that covers the panorama of events and emotions. From the bitter to the sweet. Snared at the intersection where joy meets sorrow. Where the profound punches the profane. The everyday and the spectacular events in the life of a regular ordinary family. Nothing special. Yet remarkable.

I have looked at these photos hundreds of times over the years. More so lately as I record the stories of my life growing up at 204.

The cracked and tattered black and white images from the early days. The washed-out color photos from the seventies. The blush-inducing eighties pics. All the nineties farewell kisses. Ma and The Old Man both died in early 2001, and with them went all the interesting, eccentric, peculiar, wonderful, joyful, melancholy, and magnificent photo ops.

There is a photo that I looked at this morning, as if for the very first time, although I had seen it countless times over the years. One of the black and whites taken by The Old Man.

My recollection of 204 was of a lovingly well-kept freshly painted white wartime house, with an enviable vegetable garden in back and beds of sunny happy Marigolds under the front window, with a beautiful Lilac bush that bloomed every June.

But this picture told a completely different story.

Staring down at the image in my hand I thought, “Holy shit. Were we really that fucking poor?” And then, shaking my head in disbelief, I thought, “The place was a run-down beat-up crummy shack.”

But as quickly as these thoughts passed through my mind, I saw this treasure of a photograph through my father’s youthful eyes.

Everything he held dear in life was in that photo. Ma, his beautiful Italian girl looking so lovely in her flowing cotton skirt of flowers. His shy baby girl with curious dark eyes just for him. The sweet gentle caramel colored mutt, with her ears perked up and dialed to his whistle. And of course, the leather baseball glove on the bottom step, ready for a game of catch.

Not so shabby.